How to Use Instagram Reels to Grow Engagement

  ●   April 26, 2022 | Social Media
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April 26, 2022 | Social Media

When TikTok exploded in popularity back in 2020 with their short-form, viral videos that were infinitely binge-able, traditional social media platforms had no choice but to take notice. And after taking notice, they quickly moved to replicate it, hoping to keep people on their platforms and eat into TikTok’s now 1-billion strong user base.

As a platform with the reputation of having their finger on the pulse and with the ability to implement new features well, Instagram was one of the first to properly roll out a TikTok rival: Reels. Their new Reels function has joined Stories and Lives on the platform, with Instagram looking to move away from just being a photo and video sharing site and have a more rounded service offering.

Reels can be a great tool in the marketer’s arsenal to produce content that is engaged with by their audience, along with the great advertising capability Instagram offers. Best of all, is the Reels tab – all Reels are hosted by Instagram and incorporated into a TikTok-style algorithm, meaning if your content is good, it’s easier than ever to get a viral hit.

But it can seem daunting to get started and produce content that is going to do well – luckily, we here at Semetrical have compiled our top tips and guides to Reels, so you can get started in the short-form video space!

Specs & Formats

It’s important to follow Instagram’s guidelines when creating content, as they are one of the only platforms that will reject posts with media not fitting their aspect ratios. And Reels are no exception!

How long should I aim for my content to be?

At the moment, Instagram limits Reels at 60 seconds. Anything after that point will be chopped off, so be careful to keep an eye on the timer! Instagram is looking at upping this limit to 3 minutes, but this hasn’t been implemented yet.

As always, though, make sure you keep your content as snappy as possible. If you can tell your story and give the information in 15 seconds, don’t lengthen it out to take the full 60. The best performing TikTok videos are rarely longer than 20 seconds, and audience drop off after this point is usually pretty brutal.

What aspect ratios should I use for my content?

Instagram is a vertical scrolling platform that doesn’t change orientation with the user, so this is one of the rare cases where you should absolutely film vertically. 9:16 is an ideal format, with the perfect resolution being 1080×1920.

Deciding On Your Content

What sort of content should I make for Reels?

As with TikTok, you can try pretty much anything on Reels, and the algorithm is fairly accepting of almost any kind of content.

If you’re a news site or public body, try short explainer videos on the big stories of the day, or breaking down complicated topics. A great example of this is The Guardian, who use their Reels function to feed their fans bite-sized news of all types, from climate protests to parrots stealing GoPros, and everything in between.

If you’re an influencer or growing a brand, and use Instagram for cost-effective advertising, try using Reels to showcase your product or brand via quick tips and secret content that other users will miss out on. Not only does this aid your interaction rate via providing value to peoples’ feeds, the sense of FOMO for your followers will mean a lot of them will also follow you on Instagram to ensure they don’t miss the latest video. Candle brand Mala does this incredibly well, covering everything from behind the scenes content to their top tips on candle care.

Already on TikTok? There’s no reason why you can’t use Reels too. TikTok’s vertical scrolling platform lends itself perfectly to crossposting on Reels, so it’s incredibly easy to export your TikTok masterpieces and grow your Instagram following too. A prime example of how this can be successful is Munya Chawawa, who has translated his massive following on Twitter & TikTok through sketch comedy and song parodies into success on Instagram, simply by reposting his TikTok videos.

Semetrical’s Top Reels Tips

Plan your content out thoroughly

Reels give you the option to edit, stage and plan your content more so than Lives, so it’s important to make the most of that. Storyboarding is your best friend!

Enter every Reel making with a clear aim and focus on the video. Be sure you’ve written down the things you need to film, the order it would be best to film them in, and what you’ll need to film to fulfil this. There’s nothing worse than getting to editing and realising you’ve missed something in filming.

Similarly, make sure you check each shot as and when you finish filming it! Similarly to finding you’ve missed something completely, it can be just as bad to find the shot is blurry, out of focus or over exposed. It’s time consuming, but it’ll be more time consuming to set back up and re-film big parts of your video.

You don’t have to have a Hollywood budget, but invest in some decent gear

If you’re working in social media, chances are you have a phone with a high-quality camera, or someone in your team does. With this, you’ve been able to cover the most expensive part of filming video content!

However, your setup isn’t ready just yet, and while you can point and shoot now, you can up your Reel game hugely by investing in:

  • A desk tripod – It’s very easy now to get a decent tripod with a phone holder for £25 or less. We recommend one such as the JOBY GorillaPod, which offers a solid grip on all phone types, and legs with multiple adjustment points so you can also get great angles no matter what you’re filming.
  • A phone microphone – While your phone’s microphone is decent enough for most work, it always pays to have the best audio. Not only will this help you stand out and make your video more ‘watchable’ as a result, but bad audio is one of the only things that can’t be fixed in post production, so it’s important you get the audio spot-on. You can get a great phone microphone kit for as little as £15, which includes adaptors (for those of us with newer iPhones, which run audio devices via the Lightning port), clips to attach it to a subject, and a wind ‘sock’, which is a must for filming outdoors, even if it’s not that windy.
  • A light box/ ring light – They’re the hottest thing on TikTok for a reason! These nifty little things provide consistent light that isn’t too harsh, making for some brilliant filming conditions. While it’s always great to film in daylight, this isn’t always doable depending on the weather or if you have to film inside, so it’s a good idea to keep one of these in your kit bag just in case.

Make yourself the star!

Getting in front of the camera yourself and speaking to your followers can be daunting, we get it. But a personal touch is a recipe for success on social media!

Faces are brilliant for engagement on social media – the presence of another human being really dials up the personal feeling between your viewers and your brand, making them feel more like a friend than just a company. A study from EE Gilbert found that the presence of a face in social media photos and videos significantly increase their engagement rate – in some cases, by as much as 38% more likes and 32% more comments. So, say cheese!

Make it accessible

Accessibility should be a given on social media, but not enough brands are taking the simple steps to make their content accessible to everyone. Always make sure that any text is read out via a voiceover and has subtitles on the screen, to make people who are visually impaired or hard of hearing able to engage with your content. If possible, include image descriptions in the caption below the video to aid screen readers. And don’t use flashing lights or strobes where possible, and if you do, be sure to put a flash warning at the start!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start to make sure you’re making your content accessible for all and reaching the biggest audience you possibly can.

Don’t be afraid to admit you need help

There’s no shame in admitting you can’t get the results you need with your own setup! It’s less damaging to your image to not put a Reel out as it would be to put out a Reel that is out of focus, doesn’t flow well, or has poor lighting.

A videographer can be hired for reasonable sums for the day, which will usually be more than enough time to plan and shoot your reel, with an extra half day if you also need editing help. It’s an extra cost, but one that is worth it to get the results you want!


If you’re in need of help refining your content and social media strategy to include Reels and videos, get in touch with our team today and see what we can offer you and your business.

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