Today’s consumer trends favor short-form content that aims to entertain. Technology has shaped every part of our lives, leading to an increased demand for instant gratification. After all, about 81% of Americans own smartphones. And digital natives — Millennials and Gen Zers — value relatable, authentic, bite-sized content from brands, especially on social media.
Social media platforms are constantly evolving, and brands that maintain an active online presence can get a firsthand look at and even help shape that evolution. If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to move away from traditional sponsored content and join the TikTok era of viral videos and owned media, then Instagram just gave you the green light.
With its Reels feature, the Facebook-owned app allows users to create 15-second video and audio clips. It’s no secret that the success of TikTok resulted in Instagram launching a brand Reels. But where Instagram comes out on top is through its distribution options: Reels, Stories, and curated images. Because Instagram has already built a strong foundation with the creative community, it beats TikTok, which is still just getting started and acts more like a media distribution channel than a social platform.
Major brands are already using Reels to participate in trending social media challenges, collaborate with influencers, and sell via Reels’ shopping function. If your digital footprint is still relatively small, this represents a great opportunity to grow. By becoming an early adopter, you can significantly expand your reach because Instagram will prioritize videos created on its new feature over other content. With that in mind, here are four strategies for creating engaging short-form content for Instagram Reels:
1. Deliver unique, exclusive content.
If you’re releasing a new product or service, Reels is a great place to give fans a first glimpse. The popular streaming service Netflix is a great example of this. The company’s Reels provide another way for its 25.3 million followers to experience TV show teasers and trailers. Rather than overwhelming viewers with a barrage of videos, Netflix aims for quality — and so should you. Give your followers an engaging and exclusive look at a product, service, or event.
2. Educate your audience.
There’s a reason people flock to sites like YouTube to learn new things. Video is a great medium for sharing knowledge, and Reels is long enough to allow you to impart something useful but also short enough to keep viewers’ attention. If you’re an expert in your field and know something that might help others, don’t keep that wisdom to yourself. Think about what you know and what you’re good at, demonstrate those skills in a short video clip, and then share it. If your audience appreciates your helpful content, it will boost your credibility.
3. Aim to entertain.
If you can consistently make followers laugh at your jokes, wow fans with your stories, or delight viewers via your comedy routine, they’ll keep watching. And don’t worry if you don’t succeed right away. Short-form videos are perfect for trying new ideas and seeing what resonates without spending your entire marketing budget. Once you have a sense of the type of content your audience wants to see, develop a content strategy that can cater to their preferences while remaining flexible enough to allow you to grow as a creator. National Geographic, for example, knows that its audience wants to see the wonders of the world we live in. Most of the brand’s Reels feature breathtaking scenery or playful animals.
4. Feature others.
Social media is all about connecting and sharing online, so get others involved in your Reels activation. Partner with influencers, other brands, or customers as part of your strategy and leverage their networks to amplify your reach. Walmart, for instance, created a Reel that highlighted its influencer partnerships throughout the year. And don’t limit yourself to just one platform. If you want to succeed on Reels, you’ll probably need to have a presence on TikTok as well. Trends, challenges, and viral videos shift from one platform to another, so monitoring TikTok will help you become a better brand leader on Reels.
Social media isn’t a golden ticket. Most brands that succeed online have thoughtful social strategies and disciplined approaches to creating and sharing content. If you want to expand your brand presence on Instagram and maybe even go viral, you’ll need to create content that meets the wants and needs of modern viewers.
David Ciccarelli is the founder and CEO of Voices.com, the largest marketplace for audio and voice-over products and services in the world with over one million business and voice actor registered users. David is responsible for setting the vision, executing the growth strategy, creating a vibrant culture, and managing the company on a day-to-day basis. He is frequently published in outlets such as The Globe and Mail, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.