What Are Instagram Reels?

By Tinuiti Team

Instagram recently released a new feature called Instagram Reels. The feature is currently available in the United States and 50 other countries. Even after only a few months in the marketplace, brands, marketers, and users are already well-versed in how to use Reels effectively across Instagram.

Today, we’ll cover some of the basics of what Instagram Reels are and how you can leverage it for your marketing efforts. 

What are Instagram Reels? 

From a high-level, Instagram Reels aren’t that different visually from other Instagram-related video content. Spanning just 15 seconds per clip, Reels are brief, engaging videos that feature effects, text, and other creative tools. However, their functionality is what makes them stand out.

All Reels are available both in-feed and as stories. If your account is public, make sure to take advantage of Instagram’s new Reels and Explore page algorithm. You can make your message heard across the global Instagram community, and reach audiences in a completely new and catchy way. At the moment, Reels are only available in the mobile version of the app, and not on desktop. 

The future of Reels is definitely looking bright for marketers. Take a look at Instagram’s previous experience with Stories. In 2016, there were about 100 million Instagram Story users. Four years later, Instagram reports almost 500 million daily users and continues growing at a steady pace. We can only imagine where Reels will measure up in the coming months!

Why is Instagram Launching Reels? 

Whether launched as a direct competitor or simply taken inspiration from, Instagram seems positioned to take over TikTok’s popularity as a short-form video sharing platform and to bolster its significant Millennial following. 

Reels were actually first launched in Brazil in 2019. Currently, it is available on iOS and Android versions of the app. Let’s take a look at a few TikTok statistics, to set the scene for why Instagram might want to leap on this ongoing trend. 

As is evident by current market trends, young social network and video-sharing app users all around the globe are embracing new methods for interacting with their audiences. Instagram wants to capitalize on this energy, by providing an accessible platform for their already-adopted users. 

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok 

Unlike TikTok, the user-base for Reels is still growing. Both apps offer creative spaces for editing video and sharing with your followers 

There are a few differences between Reels and TikTok that are worth exploring. As the name suggests, Instagram Reels is not it’s own app, like TikTok, but rather an offering on the IG platform. Each video clip in a Reel is limited to 15 seconds; on TikTok, video can last up to one minute. If uploaded to IG Stories, all Reels will disappear–make sure to keep a local copy if you At the time of writing, duets and file uploads are not supported by Reels.

But, your social media strategy doesn’t need to be Instagram Reels vs. TikTok. If you have an already established presence on TikTok, we recommend resharing your TikTok-native content on the Instagram Reels platform. Or, if you have a strong following and high engagement with your Instagram Reels, maybe it makes sense to expand your messaging avenues and find a new audience on TikTok. 

How to Create Your First Reel 

If you’re familiar with Instagram, the process of creating Reels will feel natural. For the uninitiated, creating a Reel is still simple. For example, to get started, a user has to choose Reels at the bottom of the Instagram camera. Once inside this menu, users can edit the video however they wish with a suite of tools available, like: 


As with Instagram Stories, you’ll see a ring indicating the progress of your recording. To end the clip, just stop recording. Users can also add video clips from their camera roll to Instagram Reels. 

As with any marketing medium, content creation is only the first step. Instagram Reels are meant to be shared, and any brand will get a greater ROI on their Reel by sharing across the platform. Make sure to post your Reel to your feed to share with your followers. Additionally, there’s a dedicated space on Explore where you can showcase your Reel. There are many ways to go viral here, so try to hop on trends, use specific hashtags, or video effects.

On your profile, all your Reels will live on a separate tab, meaning followers will be able to watch all your reels in one space. To promote your Reel, repost it to your story and post it in your feed so you can capture your audiences’ attention with different methods. 

How Do Brands Use Instagram Reels? 

Brands like Netflix, RedBull, Revlon, and e.l.f. are using Instagram and the Reels platform to advertise their products in a way that is completely unique. Despite only being 15-seconds long, each Reel is painstakingly custom-tailored to each brand’s audience. The more on-brand your messaging, the better your rewards. Take a look.

For the most part, Reels are similar to Stories, IGTV, and feed posts. You want to make sure that your video is branded appropriately, and that the message you have crafted will resonate with your audience. But focus on the short-form, almost-instant action. 

Both Red Bull and the NBA have amassed millions of views since Reels’ debut, by posting game highlights and extreme jumps. Brands like HelloFresh have featured quick recipes and food-related content. Oreo recently gained nearly 500,000 views simply by dunking a cookie in milk! With Reels, the sky’s the limit. 

Examples of Successful Instagram Reels

We’ve scoured Instagram for some of the most popular brand-related Reels. Watch them here, and get inspired for your next Reel post.


With the right talent, messaging, and target audience, your Reel can significantly boost your engagement, without a lot of effort. Consider this Reel from Netflix, which features Millie Bobbie Brown repeating “Enola Holmes”. The Reel has amassed over 9.9 views for it’s witty caption and quirky vibe. 

instagram reels


Reels are a fantastic way to partner with influencers as well, as is evident in this partnership with Ashley Graham and Revlon. Want to double your exposure? Consider partnering with an influencer who already has a huge following on Reels and is in your industry. 


e.l.f. Cosmetics

Elf Cosmetics’ first Reel amassed over 1 million views. Their ASMR-like, beauty-focused content worked as a natural continuation of their brand voice, and transferred seamlessly into the Reels format.

Many brands have seen major rises in engagement, followers, and views with their Reels, but a truly successful Instagram Reel should be part of a major strategic plan that includes other forms of media, networks, and platforms. For instance, your Reel may demonstrate high views, but if you are not getting clicks (or even tracking those clicks) you won’t know how truly successful your Reel is.

Nowadays, it’s every brand’s goal to go viral. However, if you’re able to tailor your messaging or creative and track your engagers, you can enjoy many of the same benefits. 

While the brand strategy for Reels isn’t yet as established as TikTok or Instagram Stories, early adopters of the platform will see the greatest results over time. Be sure to watch this space as Instagram announces new features, updates, and functionality to the Reels offering and algorithm.

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