Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Reels, TikTok’s Rival

Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Reels, TikTok’s Rival

Instagram Reels is a content format that allows you to create and share 15-second videos with others in a new dedicated Feed on the Explore page. It’s Facebook’s attempt to compete with TikTok, which is also aimed at short-form video creation and is especially popular for Gen Z.

First launched in Brazil in late 2019, Instagram Reels are now available for over 50 other countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan, on both iOS and Android.

Despite being criticized as a “TikTok copycat,” Instagram Reels has gained positive responses from influencers and brands. Many creators said they planned to experiment with Reels while maintaining their presence on TikTok. Brands like Sephora, Walmart, and Beardbrand are already using Reels.

So, what is Instagram Reels? How does it work? How can you, as a brand, use it in your marketing strategy? We have the answers to all of your questions below.

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What is Instagram Reels?

Much like TikTok, Instagram Reels offers you a set of creative tools to create fun, engaging short videos on Instagram. Record and edit 15-second multi-clip Reels videos with audio, text, special effects, and stickers, then share them with your followers.

If TikTok has the “For You” page, Instagram gives Reels a dedicated landing spot at the top of the Explore page. Just tap the first reel at the top, and you can access the Reels feed. From here, you’ll see Reels from popular and trending accounts on Instagram.

Instagram Reels Explore page

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok

Since Instagram Reels is TikTok’s rival, it’s worth discussing how they’re similar and/or different.

The essence of Instagram Reels and TikTok is the same: providing users with a creative space to create and share short videos with others. They come with creative options, allowing users to make their best possible clips.

Instagram Reels and TikTok comparison

However, they also have significant differences, as shown below:

Instagram Reels TikTok
A new feature inside the overarching Instagram ecosystem A platform
Users can create a 15-second video only Video time limit up to 1 minute
Reels shared to Stories will disappear after 24 hours All videos stay on TikTok
Duet and local file upload aren’t currently supported Users can “duet” with each other and upload songs directly into the app’s system

Instagram Reels vs. Instagram Stories?

Don’t get confused between Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories. Even though they sound a lot like each other, they have some key differences:

  • Reels offers several editing tools, including AR effects, speed controls, and the option to align multiple clips for cleaner transitions.
  • Reels can be shared to Explore and Stories. When you upload a reel, you can also choose to post it in your Feed. All the reels you create will also appear in a dedicated section of your profile, similar to IGTV posts.
  • If you include original audio (sounds you end up recording in video), your audio will be attributed to you, and other users can use it to create new reels.

Now that you understand what Instagram Reels is, let’s move on to how to use it in real life.

How to use Instagram Reels

If you’re familiar with Instagram and/or TikTok, you’ll find it easy to create videos with Reels.

How to log in to Reels

To access Reels, simply open the Instagram Stories camera and choose REELS.

Instagram Reels button

You’ll work with this button to create a reel.

How to create a reel

Instagram Reels gives you two options to create a reel: (1) press and hold the record button to capture footage, or (2) upload video footage from your camera roll. Reels can be recorded in a series of clips (one at a time), or all at once.

Follow these six steps to create your first reel:

Step 1: Scroll to REELS at the bottom of the screen and tap it.

Step 2: Use tools to prepare for your recording. Tap Audio (1) to select audio from the library and add it to your video. You can even choose to add your favorite part only.

Instagram Reels Audio

Tap Speed (2) to change the speed of your video, tap Effects (3) to apply special effects, and tap Timer (4) to determine how long your video will be.

Instagram Reels Speed Effects and Timer features

Step 3: When you’re ready, tap, and hold the record button to record a clip. If you set a timer early on, there’s a countdown before the recording starts.

Instagram Reels recording

During the recording, you can tap the record button to end a clip, and then tap it again to start a new clip. Then, the Align button (5) will appear, allowing you to line up objects from the previous clip before recording your next. This is useful to create seamless transitions for moments like changing outfits, adding new music, or adding new friends into your reel.

If you want to watch, trim, or delete the previous clip you recorded, you can tap the clip (6) and edit it.

Instagram Reels watch trim or delete clip

Step 4: Once you’re done with recording, you can add stickers, drawings, and text to edit your reel.

Add stickers and drawings to clip

Done! You’ve known how to create a video with Instagram Reels. Let’s move on to find out how you can share it with your followers.

How to share a reel

Once you’re satisfied with your clip, you can tap the Next button (7) to access the Share page. Then, tap Cover (8) to edit the cover photo with a video thumbnail or add a cover from your camera roll. You can write a caption, too. If you don’t want to publish the clip right away, you can save it as a draft.

Instagram Reels share pageInstagram Reels allows you to:

  • Share your reel to a dedicated space in Explore or post it to the Reels tab on your Feed if your account is public. When you share reels using certain songs, hashtags, or effects, your reel may also appear on dedicated pages when someone clicks on that song, hashtag, or effect.
  • Share your reels with your followers only if you have a Private account. In this case, Reels follows your privacy settings on Instagram. Your followers won’t be able to use original audio from your reels and can’t share them with others who don’t follow you.

When you’re done with sharing, you’ll see your reel like these:

Instagram Reels completed

How to find a reel to watch

There are four ways to find reels to watch on Instagram:

1. Use your Feed

You can browse your Feed to see reels created by people you follow. A Reels icon appears as a small clapperboard in the left-bottom side corner of all reels. It’s meant for differentiating reels from other Instagram videos.

Find Reels to watch2. Use the Explore tab

Go to the Explore page, and you’ll see a reel right at the top of the screen. Tap the video to watch, and then scroll down to see more reels. Some reels will have a Featured label, which indicates it’s selected by Instagram.

Explore page featured clips

Note: If your reel is featured in Explore, you’ll receive a notification.

3. Find reels that use particular audio or hashtag

Tap the audio name or hashtag at the bottom of the reel you’re watching, and you’ll see a page with other reels that use the same audio or hashtags.

Find reels with audio or hashtag

If you like the audio, you can click Use Audio to record a new reel with that audio.

4. Find reels by searching for hashtags

Type a specific hashtag into the search bar, and you’ll probably find reels using that hashtag:

Search using hashtags

5 ways to use Instagram Reels for business

When Instagram Stories was first launched in 2016, it was called a Snapchat clone. But Instagram Stories quickly surpassed Snapchat in daily users and has become an effective channel for brands to build their audience.

With that in mind, brands should grab the opportunity to be the first creators on Instagram Reels and engage a new kind of audience—people who prefer quick-and-easily-digestible content. Besides, brands can collaborate with new creative talents to experiment with Reels content they create.

And, one more thing: Reels sit in the Explore page—a place that more than 50% of Instagram accounts use every month. If your reel is shown on this page, you have a huge chance to expose your brand to new followers.

If big names like Maybelline, Sephora, or Louis Vuitton have been using Reels from day one, and if you’re already using Instagram for your business, why not give Reels a try?

Convinced? Then, here are five ways you can use Instagram Reels in your social media marketing strategy:

Reuse Tik Tok videos

If you’ve published content on TikTok, think about reusing them for Reels. Take ColourPop Cosmetics as an example. This brand did an excellent job of reposting their TikTok videos on Reels.

Repost TikTok videos on Instagram Reel

By reusing TikTok videos, you can either bring your followers—who haven’t used TikTok—a new type of content or help expose your content to new audiences.

Share educational content

Creating educational content is a great way to start on Reels. Top 5 skincare recipes, a secret to make delicious pancakes in 10 minutes, or 5 tips for styling a skirt—there are so many things to share with your followers that can help them learn a new skill.

Rena Awada, the owner of Healthy Fitness Meals (@healthyfitnessmeals), used Reels to share delicious, healthy, family-friendly recipes made with real food.

Healthy Fitness Meals educational content

Her video was short, simple, and easy to follow, which explains why it gained in popularity. She also included several relevant hashtags like #healthy, #snack, and #lowcarb.

Showcase products

I’ve said it before, but let me repeat it again: Reels are located on the Explore page, meaning Instagram users who don’t follow you will see your content—this is gold!

But because it isn’t clear how the Instagram Reels algorithm works just yet, you should use hashtags, text overlay, or descriptive captions to let Instagram know what you’re talking about.

Below is a good example from @elfcosmetics. Notice how the brand focused on the benefits of their Luminous Putty Primer and used emojis to show them clearly.

Elf Cosmetics showcase products

Another example is from Deborah Ruiz. She used her personal Instagram account to post a Reel demonstrating how she wore lashes from her small business @deborahcosmestics.

Deborah Cosmetics lashes demonstration

Besides, you can collaborate with Instagram influencers to promote your product, as FLOWER Beauty and Revlon did:

FLOWER Beauty and Revlon Instagram collaboration

Share behind-the-scenes content

Behind-the-scenes content helps your Instagram followers understand who you are and why you’re selling those products. It’s personable, it gains trust, and it builds relationships.

Take a look at two examples below. Fast and Food shared a moment of their staff preparing food for guests during Covid-19, and Benefit Cosmetics US created a reel to show how a day in the life of their graphic designer.

Fast and Food and Benefit Cosmetics US Instagram Reels

Some behind-the-scenes ideas you can try:

  • Share how you choose materials for your product
  • Share the process of making products
  • Share the day-to-day life of your team
  • Share your brand story—how you came up with your business idea and what you’ve been through.

Announce your sales

How about using Reels to announce your sales and exclusive deals? IT Cosmetics US and Tarte Cosmetics applied this tip successfully, as they gained a lot of engagement from Instagram users.

IT Cosmetics US and Tarte Cosmetics sales announcement


Stay genuine, and don’t turn your videos into overt advertisements!

Think this way: many brands have been successful on TikTok because they show their human side and give up being perfect all the time, which is exactly what TikTok users want to see.

So, try to maintain the same level of authenticity in your reels. Focus on originality and fun, rather than the quality of your videos. It could be highlighting staff individuality or bringing an ordinary aspect of your brand to life through music and motion. Doing this will lead to high engagement for your Reels videos.

Are you ready to try Instagram Reels?

It can be too soon to say Instagram Reels will be successful as its predecessor, Stories. But one thing for sure is that it gives you a new way to create more compelling content, better understand your followers, and increase your reach on Instagram. So, just give it a try.

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