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September 3, 2020

What does Instagram Reels mean for Brands & Marketers?

Instagram is doing it again. The all new Instagram feature Reels has burst into the Instagram Marketing scene. Just like the IG team came up with Feature Stories to compete with Snapchat a few years back, Instagram Reels is the comeback to TikTok. The social media addict’s favorite TikTok gained a huge following due to its fifteen second videos. TikTok users built a massive audience and fan following, ultimately becoming celebrities and stars, receiving more and more attention. Consequently, Instagram has leveraged the format to come up with Instagram Reels. 

One of the major reasons behind the release of Instagram Reels is that it confirms that videos are the way forward. It is also a result of more people spending time online creating and consuming content. This is obviously a side-effect of the global lockdown and due to people staying at home during the pandemic. 

The introduction of Instagram Reels in India also coincides with the banning of TikTok due to the anti-China wave. This brand new Instagram video content format has given brands a chance to tap into the platform. They can also redirect or revive their efforts that were previously focused on TikTok.

Fact Check:  Instagram usage has increased by 14% during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Learn what the hype is all about?

Reel has been widely consumed within a day of its launch. The format garnered massive coverage and enjoyed substantial engagement on posts from brands, content creators and digital creatives.

Does this mean we will see more brands tapping this format?  One thing that is certain is that its launch will introduce new challenges and branded lenses. It will also be initiating a hell lot of user-generated content. Another thing to keep in mind is that Reels holds potential for production houses, studios, fashion brands, and publishers in particular.

A quick look into the history of Instagram Stories can be instrumental in predicting the embracing of this new format. After Instagram stories was introduced not that many people thought much of it. Although it did not create a stir initially, it became a massive game-changer. Stories became such a popular feature that Facebook and Youtube rolled out their own versions. Instagram Stories usage has now skyrocketed way beyond Snapchat’s. The question is will Instagram Reels follow the same illustrious trajectory as Instagram Stories? 

Does this mean that social media managers and brands have to create an all new Reels strategy? What do you need to understand about Instagram Reels? Is all the hype relevant?

Find all your queries resolved below!

Instagram Reels – A brief introduction

Instagram Reels allow users to create fun and short videos for engaging viewers. Using a catalog of music and user-generated Reels media on Instagram opens up a whole range of creative output. Their main feature is to allow videos synced to music and audio. Another amazing way this feature can be used is through a green screen. Users can also use this trick to create movie-like footage and videos.

Instagram Reels is a direct competitor to TikTok. Despite the implications of copying, their main purpose is to entertain and they don’t fail in that regard. Reels comes with the opportunity to go viral. This is all thanks to the Explore page, just like stories or posts. Like Instagram Stories, Reels last 15 seconds which might be a bit tricky to master.

However, you can expect Instagram Reels to be a platform for amazing creativity because of the limited time frame. Especially important is the marketing factor. Reels may become a great source of revenue for Instagram through brand advertising just as stories before them.

Fact Check: Tik Tok experienced a  78% growth in 2019. 

How Reels work – A simple guide

Reels, to be honest, at its core quite similar to TikTok. It is interesting to note that Instagram has made this feature neither much different nor more complicated to use for a better user experience.

The easy way to access Instagram Reels is a major plus point. All that users need to do is just open the Instagram Stories camera. Here they can find the Reels icon on the right. It is available just after “live” and “story”. Next, film a 15 second video. Then add audio from the Instagram in-app catalog. Anyone using Reels can access audio through a hashtag search.  You can also use the Explore tab or source audio by searching trending sounds, popular jingles or whatever genre of music you fancy.

We know that TikTok is mostly known for its special effects, green screens and in-app filters. Instagram has done something similar. Reels also offers exclusive built-in tools, ensuring users can edit their videos. 

Right now, only four of these special tools are available, namely audio, speed, effects and timer. However, this might soon change with future updates. 

Another aspect that is quite similar to TikTok is that users can start and stop recording multiple times. All that you need to do is press and hold the record button during the 15-second video. Reels can be found on the grid in a dedicated and separate tab just like IGTV, even though it films like a story. 

A game changer or just a rip off?

Instagram does not want to TikTok users to leave so no drastic changes have been made. However, Instagram is bent on taking TikTok head on. The methodology seems to be working in countries like India where TikTok has been recently banned.  This latest innovation by Instagram will make the social media app more comprehensive. It may also help bring back growth and get more TikTok users to turn to Instagram. 

From a brand’s point of view, Reels is not that big of a game changer. It will mostly depend on what brands do with it. Popularity will be influenced by how brands integrate Reels into their Instagram marketing strategies. Marketers need to consider whether Reels brings anything new to the table. 

If Reels misses the mark, then brands can leverage many other Instagram tools. Remember, Reels is one feature among many. Some brands will definitely struggle to incorporate music into their video content strategy. Reels may not fit their tone of voice or image at all. 

The bottom line is that there is no urgent need to compromise an established brand image. Marketers should always be wary of jumping on a bandwagon without any prior preparation. The intelligent move is to study the market carefully and come up with a strategy based on ample research and background study. Do not follow trends mindlessly.

A new space for content creators 

Reels is clearly an indication that video content is numero uno. It is a widely acknowledged fact that the average netizen’s attention span is three seconds or less. Internet users are turning to content that is catchy, attention-grabbing and captivating. While still images can definitely achieve that, there is a greater likelihood of scrolling past them than videos.

Videos or moving content make people stop in their tracks. Video content’s popularity is exploding, just as watching TV is dwindling. By now we are aware that Instagram Stories soared in global popularity shortly after being rolled out. 

Reels are a new way for Instagram marketers to make use of video content popularity. In the end, it all comes down to brand identity, voice and content.

Fact Check: By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic, which is 15 times higher than in 2017.

A whole new avenue for brands and marketers

Instagram Stories made Instagram content more authentic. It marked a major shift in how brands create content, share and interact with audiences. Stories began as a way to show the behind-the-scenes snippets of daily lives. Today, they have become more curated but are still used to show raw content.

The transformation and monetization of Instagram Stories happened with the advent of the swipe up feature. Even the ads and product tagging on stories changed how they are used by brands and marketers. The Stories feature eventually turned into a full-on marketing and advertising tool. There are brands that exclusively use Instagram Stories to promote and sell their products now. This is done via ads or influencer partnerships.

The history of Stories is important to keep in mind and could be a pathway that Instagram might follow with Reels. Reels are quicker than feed posts or stories. They represent an opportunity to increase brand authenticity and transparency and also give brands the opportunity to connect with users and their followers in new ways. This novel method can prove to be more effective than the ones currently in use.

The analogy with Stories is important for marketers to remember for learning about Instagram Reels. It is a new feature that marketers will definitely need to learn about. In order to master it, they can play with it and make the leap to adapt to it. There is a possibility of Reels becoming a huge marketing tool for businesses and, thus, it cannot be ignored.

Fact Check: According to experts, only 47% of 17 to 49 years-old consider themselves “light” traditional TV users.

Conclusion

In order to engage with their audiences in a new way, brands are making a debut on Reels. They are putting out multi-segmented videos to make announcements and make the most of the available music. 

While most consumers seem to prefer video content, Gen-Z seems to specifically favor authentic content that’s creative and expressive. Reels will empower brands to build new audiences on Instagram.

Major brands that initially kicked-off the use of Reels are from the entertainment industry, such as production houses, music labels, TV channels and publishers. While Instagram Reels may seem intimidating at first, netizens will likely embrace it in large numbers. 

Finally, Reels presents a great opportunity to enhance authenticity, transparency and communication. In the future, it may also become a great advertising tool.


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Aditya is the founder of Digital Polo a unique design company that provides unlimited design work for a simple, affordable fee. He also heads a full-service digital agency called Nico Digital.

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