The key details to know about Instagram Reels for influencers, brands, and marketers

  • Instagram's TikTok competitor, Reels, was released in August when TikTok was first being threatened with a potential ban in the US. 
  • In two months, Reels has become, in some respects, a competitive alternative to TikTok and a new outlet for influencer marketers.
  • Business Insider broke down what content creators and brands should know about the evolving short-form video feature.
  • Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Insider Influencers.

Short-form video isn't going anywhere.

In fact, it's only growing in popularity as more platforms compete with TikTok by launching their own versions, like Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.

Instagram Reels, which was announced by Facebook on August 5, arrived at just the right moment when TikTok first faced the threat of a ban in the US. 

When Reels first launched, Instagram users and content creators had mixed reviews of the new feature. But since then, the feature has sparked more interest among influencers and marketers.

For some creators, they've seen an uptick in new followers through the Reels algorithm, which lives on Instagram's Explore page. Other creators have said they anticipate brands — particularly in fashion and beauty — will invest more into short-form video marketing on Reels compared to TikTok.

Instagram has already updated Reels and announced upcoming changes. Videos on Reels were originally limited to 15 seconds, but in September that extended to 30 seconds. Instagram is also testing a new way to watch Reels, which would include a landing page button on the Instagram navigation bar.

And on October 5, Instagram announced that it would introduce shopping features on Reels later this year, an early sign that brands are looking into the e-commerce and sales potential of short-form video.

Here's what content creators and brands should know about the evolving short-form video feature.

Marketers say Instagram Reels is not a TikTok replacement

Instagram's new feature doesn't have to take over TikTok for it to become a success.

If Reels appeals to Instagram-first creators who aren't using TikTok, then the feature could drive revenue — similar to how the Snapchat-copying "Stories" format worked starting in 2016. Snapchat is still around, but Stories have become a central part of Instagram and surpassed Snapchat in usage.

"I believe it will slow down the move for Instagram influencers who felt compelled to move to TikTok — these tended to be the late entries into a market anyway," said Timothy Armoo, the CEO of influencer-marketing agency Fanbytes.

"We're in the middle of this short-form content evolution and revolution," said Brian Mandler of the digital agency The Network Effect when Reels first launched. Mandler and his colleague Brian Nelson both encourage creators to use every short-form video platform that's out there as a way to reach new audiences and diversify their content.

Read more: Instagram Reels versus TikTok: Influencers and marketers break down the strengths and weaknesses of each

Certain content performs better on Reels than TikTok — and vice versa

Chriselle Lim is a fashion and lifestyle influencer with over 1.5 million followers on Instagram and 2.2 million on TikTok. But she doesn't use the same strategy for both.

As she began posting on TikTok about luxury brands like Dior and Chanel, her followers gave her the nickname and online persona of "Rich Mom." She took that persona and ran with it. But when Lim reposted a humorous video on Instagram Reels, it didn't translate as well. Her followers didn't get the joke and some even thought she identified as the persona. So she uses Instagram as more of a portfolio of her polished work and looks, she said.

Other creators have said that they don't know what exactly makes a video perform better on TikTok versus Reels, but factors such as video speed, music, humor, transitions, and edits will vary between the two apps. 

Anna OBrien, known online as "glitterandlazers," has 7 million followers on TikTok. A major difference between her TikTok and Reels is the music, she said. 

"I use different music for a similarly crafted video," she explained, adding that on Reels she'll use music that fits the content more artistically, but on TikTok, she'll use a trending sound.

Adding shock value too helps grab the attention of viewers, said Eitan Bernath, a viral teen chef with over 1.3 million followers on TikTok and 396,000 on Instagram.

He repurposes a lot of his content between TikTok and Reels, but finds that the videos on Reels call for a slightly different strategy. For his cooking Reels, since the sound is not automatically turned on (like on TikTok), he has to make sure there is something visually enticing at the start.

"Sometimes if I'm making homemade bread, I'll chuck a thing of store-bought bread and be like, 'No! We're not here buying bread, we're making it at home!'" Bernath said.

He also sometimes makes intentional mistakes or provocative claims.

"My tip is that if you make cooking Reels, always say something that people will comment correcting, because then it increases engagement," he said.

Read more: How a cooking Instagram influencer doubled his follower count in one month using Reels, the app's short-form video feature that competes with TikTok

Brands are more comfortable marketing on Instagram

As the appetite for short-form video rapidly expands, brands are still learning how to include the format in their marketing campaigns. But the options were at first limited for where and how to dip their toes into short-form with TikTok leading the way — until Reels came along.

"Instagram is a safe space for brands right now who are wary of TikTok," said Reesa Lake, partner and executive vice president of brand partnerships at the talent agency Digital Brand Architects. 

Especially with political turmoil that unfolded this summer around TikTok, Instagram appeared as a safer solution.

"Brands are really comfortable with the Instagram platform," Dave Rosner, the EVP and head of marketing at talent management and entertainment studio Collab Inc, told Business Insider in August. Brands already understand Instagram as a platform and Reels is just a new feature, rather than an entirely new platform and algorithm, like TikTok. 

Industry insiders said that for fashion, lifestyle, and beauty influencers, Instagram Reels has greater potential for brand deals (especially if a Reel is included in a content package), since the audience on Instagram has already adapted to seeing and wanting branded content. 

"There's a lot more demand to shop on Instagram because they've already been trained to do that," OBrien said of her followers. "As an audience, people want links." Instagram is well aware of this and will introduce shopping features on Reels later this year. 

Read more: Influencers see big differences between Instagram's Reels and TikTok in audience, style, and money-making potential

Some influencers are increasing their rates for Instagram content to include Reels

Video often costs more to produce than a picture. Scripting, filming, multiple takes, and editing can all go into video production. And even though a Reel is only 30 seconds or less, some creators still put hours into making them. 

Some influencers have adjusted their rates for Reels to reflect their reach and the time that goes into creating a video.

The rates for sponsored Reels for influencers with 100,000 followers or more (known as "macro" and "mega" influencers) can range between $5,000 and $40,000, DBA's Lake told Business Insider. She works with both Chriselle Lim and Anna OBrien. 

Some smaller creators are also adjusting their rates. Britney Turner, a fashion and lifestyle "micro" influencer with 27,000 followers and content creator coach, has a starting rate of $2,000 for a Reel.

Even "nano" influencers with under 10,000 followers have found ways to monetize their content through Reels. One fashion influencer, Khadijah Lacey-Taylor, sets her starting rates for short-form videos between $2,500 and $7,000. They are filmed and edited by her husband (a professional videographer). She told Business Insider that brands are asking for 15- to 30-second videos. 

Read more: How an Instagram influencer with under 10,000 followers booked $10,000 in brand deals last month thanks to short-form video

Music marketers are eyeing Reels as a new hub to promote songs

After finding success promoting songs on TikTok, music artists and record labels have begun testing influencer-marketing campaigns on Instagram's Reels to see if it can drive similar results.

Marketers who have run campaigns on Reels said TikTok is still the go-to app for promoting new tracks, but they're hopeful that Reels will help their clients reach a new audience.

"Working with some of these influencers for quite some time on the Instagram side, some of them didn't migrate over to TikTok," said Alicia Mathews, a campaign manager at the music-marketing agency Songfluencer. "It's been really cool because a lot of the ones who didn't migrate over to TikTok are already using Reels."

Because many Instagram influencers don't have accounts on TikTok, hiring influencers to post songs on Reels allows for "cross pollination" and the ability to spread music into different communities and to hit different demographics, said Johnny Cloherty, Songfluencer's CEO. 

But marketers said TikTok continues to be the top choice for song integrations. 

"If we have $10,000 to spend on influencer marketing for a song, they'll spend $7,000 on TikTok, $3,000 on Reels," Cloherty said. "Clients are going to spend add-on budget to their TikTok campaigns on Reels."

And the Songfluencer marketers noted that the lack of a clear song discovery page in Reels — a core feature on TikTok — has made it less likely that influencer videos on Reels will lead to the creation of user-generated videos using the same tracks.

Read more about how music marketers are approaching campaigns on Reels: TikTok has become a core platform for music promotions and now marketers are turning to Instagram's Reels

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