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How To Guide: Making the most of reels in 10 steps

I won’t lie, I have largely avoided using Reels since they were introduced in 2020 because I felt that my audience wouldn’t really watch them. I have found the process of creating them disappointing and difficult and frankly I only had so many hours in the day.

However, over the last 18 months or so, several things have changed. Probably most significantly was the announcement by Instagram about 12 months ago that they were focussing their platform to prioritise the 9:16 video format (among other things). This was in response to the huge TikTok explosion that happened during the first lockdowns across the western world. We have subsequently been ‘trained’ to learn new things and be entertained in this mobile video format.

Of course, our attention spans remain very short and the Meta platforms (reels are promoted on Facebook too) have become very very savvy at using the algorithm to only provide the types of content we have hovered too long over. Anyone else got stuck in a reel loop of content you didn’t know you wanted to see?? Recent experiences have included sausage dogs talking , how to clean & arrange your fridge and camper van makeovers.

So…how can we embrace this reel world without feeling overwhelmed and while producing content that our followers might actually want to watch?! Here I have shared some key elements to think about and ways to produce high quality reels without the frustrating moments inside the Insta app.

  1. Start with a focus on purpose and audience. What is the core purpose of your business (the WHY). This might be to educate, inspire, sell or entertain for example. Then think about your audience. Already assuming that they are Insta and Facebook users, we need to think about their biggest needs. Do they want to be entertained, educated or inspired etc? Understanding this will give you a good starting point for the type of things around which you could create effective reel content.

  2. Now that you know why you might post a reel and who to....think about your 5 content pillars (read previous How To Guide on content planning). What are your 3-5 key topic areas in your business. These might be selling and promotion, behind the scenes content and insight into how you make stuff for example. Create a mini plan of the types of videos that you could create that would embrace some of these themes.

  3. Start to gather the types of content you want to use inside your reels in one place. I do this in a folder in my phone because I tend to create my reels on my phone. You can, of course, batch create reels on your desktop too. This way, you will be creating a bank of images and short video snippets that might be relevant for when you make your reels.

  4. Choose how you're going to create your reels. This might be 'in app' on Instagram directly. This may work brilliantly for you, but I have found it to be glitchy and I never quite create the 'look' I want. I also find it hard to use my exact brand colours and font. Alternatively use something like Canva or Invideo. I especially like Canva app because I already have my fonts and brand colours stored here. You can add music at this stage, but to avoid any copyright issues, I tend to add music, if I'm using, later in the process when I load in the Insta app.

  5. Get creative until you gather a style that you and your followers love. You might focus on beauty or VoiceOver or music. You might go for subtitles or some fun animation. It's really useful to stick to a style once you're happy, so that your followers are more likely to notice and hover when they are whizzing through reels in a tired haze (just me?!)

  6. Batch create your reels. For some of you, this might not alway be possible if your reels, for example, are real time, behind the scenes in style. However, there's a reel zone that you can get into which avoids the issue of going back to create a second reel another day and forgetting quite how you did it!

  7. Once you have created your reel, you can save in drafts (in the case of Insta) or download them from your third party app back into your phone for future use.

  8. Optimise your reel at the point of posting. When you get to the final part in the process you need to add a caption and hashtags. This is important. Firstly, you want to capture the essence of the reel topic in your hashtags remembering that Insta likes you to use a variety - not always repeating every hashtag in all your content. Also, you need to capture the purpose of the reel in the very first sentence of your captions so that it is visible in the reel preview. This should entice your watcher to click on the reel in full to read all the caption and hopefully take an action like visit your profile, make a comment, like it or something else.

  9. Make a decision about where your reels will go. Some of you may have a very curated post grid that sometimes means your reel doesn't 'fit' well with your grid style. At the point of posting, you can choose to click off the 'show on grid'. Alternatively, you can edit the 'cover' so that you capture an appropriate frame from your video that does fit with you grid.

  10. Finally, don't be nervous! Reels are designed to be easy to watch and you can delete them or take them off your grid later if you get better and want to remove early versions. Reels are always evolving too so be your own person and don't feel that you need to use the latest trends to be seen - I for one, will not be doing a dance routine or pointing randomly at captions!


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