It's no secret that Reels are key to growing your audience on Instagram. In October 2022, Mark Zuckerberg said that Reels are played 140 billion - yes billion - times on Facebook & Instagram every day, a 50% increase from six months ago.
But how can you make the best Reels possible to grow your audience and, ultimatlely, earn more money from brands?
Whether you’re new to Reels or you’ve been posting them since they launched in 2020, we’ve compiled the best hacks to take your Reels game to the next level, with insights from @pixistock who has over 1M views on her Instagram Reels.
1. Search for trending sound
Firstly, audio is a huge element of Reels and not to be overlooked. Having a good track or sound clip playing in the background of your Reel can be the difference between receiving thousands of views or a mere 50.
“One surefire way to boost the reach and engagement of your Reel is by using trending sounds,” explains Katie, Blogger and Instagrammer @trendytouristuk.
“To find them, I scroll through my Reels feed to see which sounds keep recurring. Then I’ll press the audio button in the bottom right-hand corner to check whether it’s trending.
Essentially, if the Explore page for that audio has a little gray arrow next to its number of uses, it means it’s trending and you should take advantage.”
It’s worth keeping an eye on the number of uses a particular sound has, in general. The higher the number, the more people will be checking out the Explore page, and the more views a Reel using this sound is likely to get.
2. Hop on a trend fast
The world of Reels is ever-evolving and you don’t want to be falling behind. The easiest way to know what’s trending is to go and look for it yourself by spending some time on the Reels tab of the Instagram app.
Like with trending sounds, you should be able to identify the patterns of content coming up on your feed. Shoot and publish similar content using the same audio as fast as you can to piggyback on the success of a certain trend.
However, before you do this, ask yourself the below questions.
- Does this trend tie in with my niche? Or am I just doing this for the likes? You don’t want to put out inauthentic content and consequently lose trust with your audience.
- Will this trending video still add value to your profile once some time has passed? Try to stick to evergreen content topics that will still apply at any time of year.
- Can I shoot and publish this Reel in a matter of hours? If not, it may not be worth the hassle, given that tomorrow could bring a brand new trend that renders this one irrelevant.
You might be interested in: 8 steps for turning your content creation hobby into a business
3. Use a strong hook
Users of Instagram Reels have access to a high number of videos in a small amount of time due to the fast-paced nature of the algorithm. It’s designed to be scrollable, which is why you need to produce Reels that will stop users in their tracks.
“Capture new viewers with a strong hook or attention grabber in the first three seconds of your video,” says Alicia @pixistock, Content Photographer and Course Creator of Reels Roadmap.
She clarifies: “An attention grabber doesn't have to be words, it can be as simple as adding movement, energy or switching to another clip.”
Either way, keep in mind that the first three seconds are the most important part of your Reel. If it doesn’t provoke interest, the user will simply keep scrolling.
It’s the same story for the first line of your caption. Viewers will read the opening line and then only proceed with the rest of the caption if it entices them.
4. Experiment with effects
Millions of Reels get posted to Instagram daily so it’s important to make your videos stand out.
How do you do this? Try using one of the following playful effects.
- Align: This feature can help you create seamless transitions in your Reels. In the shooting mode, take your first video. Then record your transition, whether it’s a finger snap, covering of the camera, or body spin. Select the “Align” button down the left-hand side menu, which will bring up a faint outline of the subject you’re trying to align. Record your shot. Finally, trim down the beginning and end of each clip so that the transition is super smooth.
- Speed: Adjusting the speed of your Reel allows you to create a cool effect. Just click the “1x” icon in the left-hand side menu of the shooting screen and select the desired speed to slow down or accelerate your video. Shoot your video and then preview it to see the chosen speed in all its glory before posting.
- Mark-Up: This option enables you to draw on any video clip in the Reels editor as you would in Instagram Stories. Once you’ve shot or uploaded your clip, click on the “Preview” button and then the “Draw” icon to scribble away in the color and density of your choice. Click “Done” when you’re finished for a distinctive handwritten aesthetic.
- Voiceover: This feature allows you to record your own voice and have it playing in addition to, or instead of, other audio. Once you’ve shot or uploaded your video in Reels, click the “Preview” button in the bottom right-hand corner and then the “Audio” icon along the top. Drag the sliders on the next screen according to how loud you’d like the camera audio to be versus the sound’s audio. Click the “Voiceover” button at the bottom left-hand side to record your voiceover and then “Done” when you’re happy with it. You can also click on the “Sound Effects” button at the bottom right-hand side of the aforementioned screen to find more unique sound effects for your Reel. If this Reels sound effect library isn’t delivering the goods, you can produce original audio with an increased choice of sound effects through mobile apps like InShot and Splice.
5. Don’t post straight from TikTok
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri revealed in a recent Twitter video that they are planning to “value original content more, particularly compared to reposted content.” In other words, Instagram have begun putting measures in place to discourage creators from recycling the same content across TikTok and Reels.
Obviously, it’s totally up to you whether you want to share the same video to TikTok and Reels. Even so, we recommend shooting an original video on your phone first. Then you can use parts of it on one platform and parts of it on the other to stop Instagram from potentially restricting the reach of your Reel.
6. Use the content you’ve already got
“If you're unsure about what type of Reels to create, start with your current content,” suggests Alicia @pixistock. “You can repurpose old captions into video scripts and share simple value pulled from your top-performing posts.”
To find these top-performing posts, visit your Instagram Insights via your profile and the “Content you’ve shared” section.
“If you're unsure about what type of Reels to create, start with your current content. You can repurpose old captions into video scripts and share simple value pulled from your top-performing posts.” - @pixistock, 54,000 followers
7. Include On-Screen Captions
A Verizon Media study claims that 69% of people watch videos with the sound turned off. If your Reel has a voiceover, it helps to make your video accessible to those who are deaf and hard of hearing, alongside pleasing the soundless scrollers.
You can do this through closed captions, which pop up on the screen as you’re talking on the audio.
Shoot your Reel as normal and then click the “Sticker” icon along the top of the screen in the preview mode. Select the “Captions” button and then Instagram should do all the hard work for you.
8. Be consistent
Lastly, posting sporadic Reels will feel sporadic to your audience. Alicia @pixistock claims the Instagram algorithm is “like a baby” and “you have to feed it so that it has content to push” to your followers.
Use your Instagram Insights to analyze the results you’re getting and then refine and repeat your strategy based on what’s working and what isn’t.
- View profile
- Click “Insights”
- Scroll down to Reels section
Remember, metrics don’t matter if you’re not being consistent with your publishing schedule. If you’re posting every now and then and getting fluctuating reach, you’re going to see metrics such as “+100%” or “-300%” a lot. This prevents you from getting a real feel for how your content is performing.
Instagram recommends that you post 5-7 Reels per week, but we advise you to do as many as you can comfortably fit into your schedule.
There’s no magic formula for how to use Instagram Reels to grow your account. However, if multiple content creators are experiencing increased views, likes, comments, shares and followers from using these hacks then they’re worth trying.
Just don’t forget that every account and individual is different. Regularly check your Instagram Analytics so you can assess which tricks are working for you personally and continue doing them to maximize your success.