Aug 4 2020

Instagram Reels: What to Know & How it Works

Instagram Reels: What to Know & How it Works

Hey, cuties! if you haven’t heard yet, Instagram is rolling out a new feature: INSTAGRAM REELS! I’ve seen some articles about it but nothing from a blogger/creator POV so today’s post is telling you what I have learned and observed from 1 having access to this feature early for the past week 2 talking to Instagram about it directly and 3 how I will be operating to make the most of this new opportunity.

Disclaimer: I’ve been testing this for about a week and I can’t wait to tell you ALL the things I know about the new feature + my recommendations for how you should be using it going forward. I do not work for Instagram nor do I claim to know everything about the app. Usually, I just study it, draw conclusions, and have conversations with people smarter than me who know more. I just like talking about what I do know in hopes of growing, and I share everything I know to be true or mostly true about Instagram wit you. Instagram often feels like a game that you’re playing without knowing the rules or how to win, so I try to write a manual for you guys. I spend a lot of time info sharing and trading facts until I get the clearest picture I can – but to be transparent, I have been testing out this feature and I am solely sharing my opinions and recommendations, not facts.

Something New: In all cases, if your goal is to grow, increase exposure, and be more successful on the app you have to take advantage of the new features. When Instagram rolls out something new it prioritizes that content over everything else, as a result, if you’re failing to try the new feature while everyone else is getting on board you aren’t setting yourself up for success. With that being said, I believe that this launch will be the most important one in recent Instagram histories. Comparable or potentially even “bigger” than stories. Failing to participate in this launch as soon as possible could really set your account behind in the long run, so don’t miss the boat here.


How to Make an Instagram Reel


Instagram Reels is a new feature in the rollout. It has been live in 3 countries for the past few months. Starting August 5th it will be live in the USA. According to a conversation I had with Instagram a few weeks ago, everyone will wake up with access to it on August 5th. 


A IG “REEL” is a short-form video content, 15 second videos often set to music or overplayed audio … if this sounds familiar its bc it is, Reels is essential a TikTok clone at its core, but living here on IG. You’ll be able to create & share Reels to stories or have them live in their own “Reel” feed like IGTV!


Reels has a grid of its own and will not show up in your main Instagram grid when you post at this time. BUT it will show up on your scrolling feed / explore page etc. So to be clear, when I post a Reel you will not see it if you go to @colormecourtney and look at all my little squares in my main grid … unless you swipe over as you would to my IGTV tab to locate the Reel tab and see my Reel videos. BUT If you’re just scrolling through your personalized feed made of all the people you follow, you might see my Reel video right below the photo of your best friend’s cat and above that selfie your nephew posted on his finsta. You will also see videos from other popular accounts that Instagram thinks you will like, similar to the explore page

Instagram Reel How-To

Here’s the feed of two of my friends: Glitterandlazers and Mandy


are 9:16 sizes (think Instagram stories) but they show up as 4:5 in the feed when people are scrolling so keep this in mind when you’re creating them. You need to make sure 90% of what you are doing fits in a 4:5 size so you don’t have a head cut off in the preview, BUT, keep in mind that the video is actually 9:16. You could upload a 4:5 size if you wanted but I’ll assume Instagram will not prioritize this content as much as it will the correct 9:16 videos – especially in the beginning.


You’ll be able to create your video in the app or upload a previously edited video (without any penalty) and overlay music. You can also include your original audio but I recommend adding the Instagram to provide music to prevent Copywrite issues. I will say adding music on Instagram right now is not easy, it doesn’t work the way TikTok does yet and you can’t actually hear your song and see the video at the same time. I assume this will be fixed quickly because it is very annoying from a creator POV.


one cool thing about TikTok is that you do not need hashtags to grow, the algorithm works differently. I think it’s safe to assume that Reels will not be changing the Instagram Algorithm to a more TikTok based system. So you should use hashtags here. I would recommend using 3-5 including but not limited to #reels & #instagramreels before adding 1-3 more that are relevant to what you’re sharing. #reels already has 1 million posts with the tag


You create a Reels by staring in stories, then swiping right to reveal “Reels” once you’re there you can swipe up to upload from your camera roll as either a completed video or clips you string together in Reels. You can tap to add Audio, change speed, or add effects, and you can also film in Reels this way by holding down the Reels circle as you would film a story. Then, you can add Instagram filters to your Reels, but add them before you film. So in stories, swipe to add the filter, then swipe to Reels and start shooting. You can use the timer feature when you’re filming as a countdown clock. All of the features here are really similar to what you will see in TikTok so if you have no problems uploading there, you’ll be fine here. Even if you’ve never opened TikTok it is pretty user friendly, playing around with it for 5 min will teach you everything you need to know about creating and uploading Reels

IG VS TikTok:

… psych, I’m not in the comparison game. Tiktok is a powerful platform with over 800 million monthly users each active for about an hour a day. It continues to perform (& some would argue outperform Instagram) in specific markets (hi gen z). Many creators (including me) have started to create on TikTok & have been able to grow to 100K in a month or so with minimal effort, doing the same took me a year on IG. TikTok has some downsides and quite a few critiques against it, I won’t turn this into a political post debating TikTok VS Instagram in terms of which option is best ethically because that is a decision you need to make on your own.

I will say that I don’t think any social media app is perfect and you outweigh the risks vs the reward for you, but please do your research! I will also urge you to remember Snapchat? Or maybe you still use it? TBH I hated the app & it wasn’t for me but users were craving that instant & expiring connection we now get with stories, so I did it & begging my following to come over to a new platform (the hardest thing to do). BUT then stories rolled out & I said goodbye forever to Snapchat

… My thoughts? IF Instagram Reels will give me an opportunity to share the work I’m doing on TikTok with my built-in Instagram audience on Instagram, I’m intrigued. Instagram is the monster I know, I’ve been doing it professionally for 5+ years & I have a connection with all of you, where TikTok is a new monster & most brands feel the same way. It doesn’t mean one is better then the other, if anything I think the growth opportunities on TikTok are better BUT the sense of security associated with Instagram is higher Before Reels I was spending hours on content my Instagram community would never see bc they didn’t want to download another app or follow me to TikTok, & that sucks. BC I LOVE MY CUTIES

EITHER WAY, If you’re a creator that said “TikTok isn’t for me” fine, but now you need to get comfortable with the idea of creating these short-form videos on Instagram Reels. It was okay to say “Snapchat isn’t for me” BUT, when it lives here as Instagram stories you have to add it to your content structure as a creator or you fail to deliver content your consumer is demanding and the app is prioritizing. I think the same applies to this, even if you think that Instagram reels sucks. Even if some things may be buggy right now, the people at Instagram know what they’re doing and will likely fix these issues within the coming weeks.


As I mentioned, Reels launches August 5th in the USA and will roll out to 50 other countries, so you might be wondering how you should respond to this as a creator. I highly recommend you upload as many videos as possible a build up your Reels feed. I would say a serious creator should upload 10 videos before august 8 and aim to have 30 reel videos up by 15. I’m starting on August 5th with 30 videos uploaded. This is because when something is new, there are fewer people in the space. This gives your content the best chance to be seen, growth opportunity, and gives you a really unique position in the app that you will never get again. Ever. SO TAKE ADVANTAGE.

Although I’ll never tell you to create garbage content, I do think until Reels evolves you can get away with producing more content that maybe isn’t up to par with your Instagram feed and sharing it to Reels in order to get more out there. See if you can reuse old videos and tweak them for the app if you were on TikTok repurpose some of those videos (without the TikTok watermark). Producing videos will give you the opportunity to grow in the reels space and take advantage of this early time before Reels is oversaturated.

GET OUT THERE AND START CREATING!!! I hope you enjoyed this first look at Reels! cant wait to see what you make of it. For more creator/influencer tips & tricks check out my blog about 15 things that will help you become an influencer!

8/5 UPDATE: This post was written before Reels launched, now that I’ve spent a day with the feature live and heard a lot of your questions I wanted to share updates in blue for your reference.

LOCATION – Reels has been live in Germany, Brazil & France, today it was added to the UK, US, Japan Australia & more. Check the Instagram @creators account for more updates about your country roll-out

WHY DON’T I HAVE REELS  – Reels has been rolling out today every hour, you should have it soon please be patient. You can also delete & re-download the app 

NO SOUND – If you have Reels but no access to sounds /music you should check and see if you have music features in your story. If not, check and see if you’re a business account. If you’re a business account you need to be a creator account to have this music feature, switch over. Also, make sure you haven’t broken any Copywrite rules musically on your page (posting videos with sounds you do not own either in highlighted stories, igtv, or feed posts). Delete any posts with stolen music and hopefully, you’ll get the music feature back soon

YOU CAN PUBLISH REELS TO YOUR MAIN FEED IN ADDITION TO YOUR REELS FEED – you can also choose to have it just on your Reels feed. If you choose to have it in your feed or not, you can make this adjustment after you post. I suggest adding to your main feed to start.

TRY SOME FEATURES – make sure you test out the features (I suggest green screen) this will give you a better chance of getting your video featured

VIDEO EDITING – this was just a personal FAQ people asked how to edit videos outside of the app. A lot of TikTok people reference slice but I don’t like it – I prefer VLLO or Adobe Rush depending on your skill level. I often just edit on my computer in premiere or final cut depending on my mood

PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW ON YOUR FEED – I think I freaked you out when I shared that you might be exposed to people you don’t follow. I PROMISE THIS IS A GOOD THING. growing on Instagram is HARDDD now and sometimes almost impossible for new creators. It’s really a losing game, this feature will bring some of what’s wonderful about TikTok (the exposure ratio) to Instagram. You’re not going to see something widely inappropriate because Instagram won’t feature a video like that. It’s going to be fun things from diverse faces, videos hand-picked by Instagram for being “featured” don’t worry about it!!! My video that got “featured” was the tulle rainbow video lol so it’s going to be good things I think



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