By Tiffany Nieslanik
This one’s for the newbies. As a new creator, you most likely know the basics of Instagram Reels. Video clips that are usually between 15 to 90 seconds but can go up to 15 minutes in length. These videos can be shared as Stories, posts, and/or featured in the dedicated Reels tab on a profile. And, as a creator, you no doubt aspire to produce attention-grabbing, highly engaging content. Since Reels are one of the most powerful tools to convey whatever message you want to send, you should know the fundamentals of making a good one.
You should understand the basics of Reels
Reels can be used by businesses and creators alike for a variety of things, from making announcements to simply being creative and showing a bit of your personality. Unlike the Stories options, Reels don’t disappear, not after 24 hours, not ever. Once posted, a Reel is available on Instagram until you delete it.
Some of the basic dos of creating a Reel include using vertical video, including closed captions (75% of video is watched without sound!), and experimenting with creative tools such as filters, effects, and music. If you’re new to adding closed captioning, Insta makes it easy: After your video is ready, tap on the sticker icon at the top of the screen. Select the blue “Captions” sticker and get them in there!
On the flip side, you should not publish Reels with watermarks from other sites (ahem, TikTok), use too much text or low-res videos, or do the same boring thing every time. Reels should be fresh, fun, and creative.
To delve further into what makes a great Reel, we spoke with an expert, Taylor Stonack, owner of Sweet Potato Social, for her top tips and tricks.
You should take advantage of the easy stuff for Reels
Quick question: When was the last time you cleaned your camera lens? If you answered, uh, never, you are in the majority of folks. First up in Taylor’s top three lowest-hanging fruit options for making a good reel: “Good lighting and a clean camera. Face a window with lots of natural light, or invest in a ring light to increase your Reel’s aesthetic. And bonus tip. Wipe your camera lens! You’ll be surprised at the difference that makes.”
Number two on Taylor’s list is “You need a quick, attention-grabbing hook that gets people invested to watch more. And have your hook happen in the first three seconds. Examples of this could be ‘Here’s the one thing to invest in…’ or ‘I can’t live without [X] because [Y]!’” This is especially important because Instagram’s algorithm punishes Reels that get skipped in the first few seconds. And viewers have short attention spans. So you need to get your hook out early and clearly.
Finally, Taylor recommends anyone on Instagram, whether a business or creator, “gets clear about your target audience. Who do you want to sell to? Why? And what are their pain points that you’re solving. Create your Reels around this answer.”
Beyond these tips, you’ll want to share your Reel in as many places as possible to increase your reach. You can share Reels to your feed and/or your Stories to help increase reach. And don’t forget your hashtags. Including 3-5 hashtags can be a great way to help the Instagram algorithm “understand” your content and serve it to relevant audiences.
You should balance your content types
“Reels have a longer tail in social media with longer reach, but posting should always feel easy,” Taylor tells us. “Personally, I aim to post five times a week or so, and two to three of those posts are Reels. However, I have a theater background, so Reels are fun for me.
Taylor says that “video content is queen, but other forms of content are important, too, which means you can figure out what balance feels right for you. There aren’t any hard and fast rules about how much to post or how much of your content should be Reels. You have to do what feels right for you and your brand.”
Taylor mentions for her own brand and the others she works with she often does a mix of Reels, carousel posts, and single images.
Taylor also stresses that the content should also be a good mix of old and new ideas. “I tell my clients that around 30% of your content should be fun, new things you are trying or playing around with. The other 70% should be a mixture of things you know are already well-received by your audience.”
If you need help creating various kinds of content, consider using a third-party tool like Canva, which supports video and still images with a large library of templates, images, text, and more.
You should be real with your Reels
Taylor is a big proponent of being yourself across all your social efforts. She says, “Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or show yourself to your audience. Reels don’t have to be perfect. After all, making mistakes is part of getting better. The more you try and practice, the more confident you’ll become.”
Revisiting the idea that there are no hard and fast rules, Taylor also says, “If you don’t want to show your face, you don’t have to. You don’t have to be live. Film several options and edit or stitch them together. Remember, you always have the option of just not posting a reel once it’s filmed if you aren’t feeling it. And you don’t have to dance or use trending music. The best way to be successful is to be true to your style and your brand. Find your audience and learn what resonates with them.”
You should not focus on going viral
Taylor leaves us with an important point about the ever-increasing desire for creators and brands to go viral on social. “Don’t create Reels because you are trying to go viral. Focus on quality over quantity and what your actual goals are. And you definitely don’t want to go viral for the wrong reason. Once, I did a fun intro Reel for myself and my company that the algorithm started showing to older men looking for dates. I gained a ton of new followers, but since I represent women business owners, none of them were the kind of followers I was looking for.”
As Taylor says, Reels should be fun. They are meant to help you tell a story about yourself or your brand. Don’t overthink it, and be true to yourself to make the best Reel you can (with the proper sizing, of course.) When creating videos for your Reel, be sure to film in the aspect ratio of 9:16, with the dimensions of 1080 x 1920 pixels.