Instagram Reels | Everything You Need to Know To Grow Your Business

October 14, 2020

It was only a matter of time before Instagram, or should we say Facebook, had something up its sleeve to compete with TikTok.

Over the past decade, Instagram has become an essential social media platform for marketers. It continues to be a channel of preference to a critical, younger demographic who prefer its visual-heavy vibe and user-friendly interface. One of the many ways Instagram has been able to remain relevant with users is its continual reinvention. As new tools, features, or other social platforms come online, Instagram has been quick to adapt and evolve.

In fact, Instagram has been smart to learn from and adopt elements considerably from emerging social media platforms. With Instagram’s financial muscle and clout in the social media space, the platform has been able to do what others do better. Instagram’s Stories may have been a clear copy of Snapchat, but it actually ended up becoming more popular than the service it imitated.

Now, Instagram hopes to replicate a similar turn of fortune with its latest offering Reels, a short-form video editing channel-within-a-channel that aims to bottle the viral magic of TikTok and integrate it into the native Instagram experience. And, as TikTok has become the most downloaded app of any kind, in any quarter, ever, the big questions marketers have now is how Reels can be leveraged for their brand.

TikTok Basics

Since Instagram Reels intends to steal market share from TikTok, the best way to conceptualize Reels as a potential tool for your business is to take a look at TikTok itself and what makes it such a draw.

Although TikTok has only been available to American users for two years, it has quickly become a household name. Previously, it was a service only available in Asia. TikTok, as we know it today, arose from Musical.ly, a popular social media platform in which young people lip-synced and danced along to popular songs and sound effects. Once TikTok bought Musical.ly out and merged the two services in 2018, users were given access to a new suite of options. Musical.ly was rebranded as TikTok, and users could use filters, slow down or speed up video, and create their own sounds.

These advancements gave TikTok users — predominantly teens and pre-teens — the ability to essentially put themselves into the very videos they saw influencers creating. They could imitate dances, experiment with effects, and edit fragments of videos into one smooth 15-second clip. Combined with the For You Page — the main TikTok feed that uses algorithms to display videos by accounts both followed and not followed — TikTok enabled accounts to quickly amass followings.

TikTok for Business

All of these features mean a lot to a teenager whose friends are on TikTok constantly, but how do they translate to the marketing world?

First and foremost, marketers must always go where the people are. And while TikTok isn’t close to Facebook in terms of the number of users, it’s clear that for Gen Z, TikTok is absolutely the place to be. As such, in an attempt to curry favor with the younger audience, brands have created their own TikTok accounts.

Theoretically, companies on TikTok could just use content from their other social media accounts. But that’s not how TikTok works. The medium itself relies solely on video content. And more importantly, TikTok users crave authenticity and a willingness to embrace whatever challenge or trend that’s just gone viral.

This is where marketers have run into difficulty. We all like to think we have our finger on the pulse of what’s happening. But thinking we know what to do on a platform, and appealing to actual young people that are more averse to advertising than any generation in existence, are two completely different things. Therefore, while many brands have a presence on TikTok because they feel they have to, far fewer have actually gained any traction on the platform outside of paid ads.

Transitioning into Instagram Reels

If you felt old reading the last few paragraphs, you’re not alone. But it’s also important to realize that the rules that govern TikTok popularity aren’t necessarily what will determine success on Instagram Reels.

For one thing, Instagram’s core audience is older than TikTok’s. Although millennials are beginning to embrace TikTok, their go-to social media platform is still Instagram. If nothing else, this means you don’t have to try so hard to appeal to the younger audience and risk coming across as the “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme.

instagram reels

Additionally, Reels isn’t the main focus of Instagram, which still relies on traditional photos and videos. So there’s plenty of time for you to play around with Reels and figure out how you can use it to emphasize the stronger points of your brand.

However, that might not be the case forever. Instagram is already testing out a new layout that puts Reels as one of the options on the front page. In a short while, Reels may become significantly more important. Therefore, it’s a good idea to start incorporating it now.

Using Reels to Grow Business

As a marketer, Reels is only important to you if it can help you make money. So, can Instagram Reels help you to grow your business? The short answer is yes.

One of the best things about TikTok is that unless you’re using paid ads, it costs no money. A smartphone and in-app editing techniques are all that’s needed to become a viral sensation. The same is true on Instagram Reels. You can think of Reels as an expanded version of Stories — bite-sized content with the potential to go viral, but that doesn’t disappear after 24 hours.

The great thing about Reels, as is the case with TikTok, is that your posts may become visible to people that don’t even follow you. Reels has its own version of the TikTok For You Page, meaning that the algorithm just might pull your brand’s content into the feeds of users that Instagram feels might be interested in your posts. This is without you having to pay for advertising or specify your desired demographics.

And if you do decide to use ads, you’re in for a treat. Your posts will appear within the Reels feed as though they appeared naturally, similar to how Stories works. Whether you get there organically or through paid ads, there’s a way for you to get your Reels content seen by the viewers you want to target.

An Uncertain Future

Based on everything we’ve discussed so far, there’s a lot to like about Instagram Reels. It provides the energy and youth of TikTok, without forcing brands to go out of their way to appeal to people younger than their target demographics. It uses a platform on which most brands are already advertising, requires little to no investment, and gives any brand the potential to increase their following quickly.

There’s also one incredibly important factor we haven’t discussed, one that could determine the ultimate popularity of Instagram Reels. TikTok has been targeted by the United States Government for potentially shady privacy practices, to the point that it was once scheduled to be banned. While the issue has been rectified for the time being, it may only be a matter of time before things flare up again.

Should TikTok be banned for any reason, those billions of TikTok users will be quick to embrace Instagram Reels. That’s a huge audience, not only for Instagram but for the brands that use Reels to advertise their businesses. And even if TikTok doesn’t get banned, we only need to look at Instagram siphoning off users from Snapchat to see the potential for the popularity of Reels.

Because they might not be after the TikTok demographic, or because they simply want the platform to prove its worth, it’s easy for marketers to overlook Reels in its early days. However, those same marketers may look back a year from now and wish they weren’t so behind the curve. The fact that Instagram is already testing Reels as a major part of its platform is evidence that the company is taking Reels seriously, both as a competitor to TikTok and as a potential replacement. Brands that want to be seen as contemporary and fun should embrace Reels and start experimenting with what’s possible. It’ll be a crowded landscape before long, and a business that gets in on the ground floor will be well-equipped to ride the wave once Reels becomes more mainstream.

To learn more about how you can incorporate Reels into your brand’s social media strategy, and ultimately grow your business, contact Commit Agency today.

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