In this post, I’m sharing 12 Instagram Reel tips that I’ve learned this past year so that your videos go viral! Instagram introduced Reels as a new feature in August 2020—and now everyone can’t stop talking about it. Reels are a fun way to share short, captivating videos and are a great way to grow your audience as your content has the chance to be shown to millions of people in a short amount of time.
1) Use High-Quality Videos
Instagram announced that they deprioritize Reels that have low video quality (blurry or low resolution) so it’s crucial that your videos are high quality. I’ve shot every Reel you see on my Instagram with an iPhone, specifically, iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Many people think that I shoot them on my digital camera because of the quality.
I recently have had the opportunity to try out the iPhone 13 Pro Max before it hit the shelves and let me tell you, I’m floored by how good the new camera is. Apple is making it too easy it is to create high-quality videos that are necessary for Reels! Here are my favorite features of the new iPhone 13 Pro Max:
- Better battery life
- Better lowlight capabilities
- Wide camera (f/1.5)
- Ultra wide camera (f/1.8)
- Telephoto camera (77mm, f/2.8)
- Photographic styles (presets you can put on your photos/videos before you take them)
- Cinematic mode (focus can easily shift to different subjects automatically)
- New storage capacity of 1TB
- Ceramic Shield front cover (tougher than any smartphone glass)
iPhones can shoot incredible footage in 4k, but Instagram will compress these videos and make them look low quality. So I have found that videos shot on HD 60fps are best for Reels. You can change this setting in the top right corner when you’re in the iPhone’s camera. If you have already shot a lot of videos in 4k (or if you want to film videos in 4k), don’t stress! Download the app InShot, import a video, and export as 1080p 60fps.
You can also turn on ‘high-quality uploads’ in the settings of Instagram. To do this, head to settings, account, data usage, and toggle on ‘high-quality uploads’.
2) Give It Time
A lot of Reels may not perform well for the first couple of days or even a week after posting. Don’t be discouraged—and definitely don’t delete your Reels! I’ve had Reels blow up after 2-3 weeks of it being posted. If I don’t love a Reel I shared, I’ll just take it off my main feed and let it stay on my Reels feed just in case the algorithm wants to take the Reel for a spin!
3) Find Trends
Spotting, and quickly hopping on, trends is vital. Out of all of the Instagram Reels tips in this post, this is a really important one! There are two ways that you can find out what’s trending. First, look through the Reels tab regularly to see if you notice a song or type of video pop up several times. You may see a small arrow on some songs, which means that the song is trending. You might not spot a trend every time you do this, but you may find a catchy tune or two. Hit ‘save’ if you find an audio that’s trending or an audio you like so you can use it later. The two examples below are viral Reels of mine that were trends I noticed on the Reels tab.
Another great option to catch trends is to find them on TikTok first and bring them to Instagram. This one is exciting because you could be the person to blow up the audio with your Reel. Don’t forget to credit the creator who made the audio when doing this. The two examples below are TikTok trends/sounds that I brought to Instagram that performed really well for me. This is one of my favorite Instagram Reels tip.
4) Use InShot
InShot is a great app to use to match your videos/photos with the beat of a song, slow down or speed up clips, edit the colours (of one or all clips) and so much more. Since I create my videos in InShot, and not directly either Instagram or TikTok, I can save my videos with no text or watermarks. This means that I can upload this video into either platform, add text and share it with each audience. If I had put my video together on either Instagram or TikTok, posted it, and then saved it to share it to another platform, I would end up with a video with a watermark on it and text that I can’t move around or edit. Instagram confirmed that they prioritize videos that aren’t visibly recycled from third-party apps (ie. when you see a TikTok or InShot watermark on the video) because it just doesn’t look nice—so avoid doing this.
Here’s my workflow when creating a Reel in InShot:
- First, I screenrecord the song I’d like to use (either on Instagram or TikTok) and import that screenrecorded video into InShot. Once in InShot, I tap the video clip, tap music, then ‘Extract audio’. Once the audio is seperated from the video, I upload the video clips I want to use in the Reel, place the audio on top, delete the initial screenrecorded video and clip the videos to match the beat of the song. I export this video from here in 1080p 60fps in a 9×16 crop.
- Now that I have a video with my desiered audio, I can bring it into Instagram where I’ll add text and a cover photo. If my audio is from Instagram, I’ll find it under ‘Audio’ and ‘Saved’ and then I’ll add it to my video. Instagram will automatically mute the original audio and play the audio you selected. Even though you already have the audio on the video you imported, it’s important to use the sound on Instagram because the app favors people using their music library. If my audio is from TikTok, I’ll credit the creator in the caption. That said, before posting, I also like to try and find the TikTok creator on Instagram and see if they’ve used it one of their Reels before. If they have, I’ll save the audio and pop it on top of my Reel and post!
5) Publish Reels to Your Feed
I will always publish my Reels to my feed so that my audience has a better chance of seeing them. I’ve heard that this is one of the best ways to boost views and increase the chances of going viral. Make sure to have a cover photo so that your feed still looks seamless. You can always remove them later on if you don’t like them on your feed.
6) Have a Hook
A hook is something that grabs the viewer’s attention right away. Since Instagram favors videos that are watched in their entirety (or watched several times), it’s important to get them hooked! I like to have this within the first three seconds of the video. This could be engaging text or even a video that doesn’t show the end result right away (ie. a video that shows my feet walking on the ground before the view is revealed).
7) Make it Short but Sweet
When Reels were announced, the videos could only be 15 seconds, but now they can be a minute long. I’ve found success with Reels around 10 seconds and always keeping them under 12-15 seconds. Instagram will favor the videos that are watched multiple times and if your video is fast-paced, viewers will do just that! Depending on the song or trend, my clips could be 0.01-0.05 seconds long at a particular time in the Reel. These videos are fun, but I have received loads of feedback from my audience that they prefer clips to be at least 0.05 seconds long, or else it goes by way too quickly. This is one of my favorite Instagram Reels tips.
8) Match Your Clips To the Audio
When I’m using an audio and am making a Reel with several clips, I try to match clips to the lyrics. So if an audio says something about laughing, I’ll add a clip of me laughing. I edit all my Reels in InShot so that I can line up clips with the beat and be intentional with the clips that I’m using. For example, in this Reel, when the audio says “if you smile when you’re alone”, I added clips of me smiling outside. Then, it says “‘go to bed without waiting for anyone’s message”, I added clips of me in my tent aka my bed. This is a small factor when creating Reels but I feel like it’s much more engaging. Let me know in the comments if you noticed I’ve done this before.
9) Text and Text Placement
A lot of people watch videos with no sound it’s important to add text to your Reels. This could mean sharing what the Reel is about. The text could be “Five Epic Hikes in Banff National Park’ or “The Best Banana Bread Recipe’ and then continue to explain what’s happening in the video (ie. your top hikes or each step in the recipe). This also is crucial for users with hearing disabilities.
In terms of text placement, you want to make it seamless for viewers. This means keeping your text in the 4×5 crop as many people watch Reels in their feed (like below) and only some open them in the longer 9×16 crop. There’s no way easy you can see where the crop will cut off when you’re creating a Reel on Instagram. That said, what you could do is add text to your video in InShot and save it, then open the video in your Photos app on your iPhone and change the crop to 4×5 to see if your text is still visible. You can change the crop when you click ‘edit’, then the crop icon on the bottom-right (in ios15), and then the top-right icon that shows different sized boxes. It’s helpful to do this for each Reel, but after editing a couple, you’ll get a good sense of where to put the text.
10) Add a Caption and Hashtags
This is one of my Instagram Reels tips that I just recently started implementing myself. For Reels, I aim to keep the first line of my caption short (as often as I can). The first 55 characters show up and anything after will be hidden until the viewer clicks ‘…more”. Aim to write something that entices the viewer to click that more button, and when they do, have a call to action or question to encourage comments.
For hashtags, I share them in a comment on the post—just as I do in my in-feed posts.
11) Post Different Types of Content
It’s important to share what you love but also switch it up from time to time. A friend always posted incredible Reels of outdoor landscapes (that did well) and then posted Reels showing his girlfriend sleeping as a joke… and got 14+ million views. That shows you that people love to see content in your niche, but also relatable, different content. Here are some of the types of Reels I like to create:
- A general theme (examples below)
- Top locations/hikes in a particular area (example)
- Viewers will save these types of videos for future trip inspo which will lead to more engagment.
- Quote/Wise words (example)
- Viewers seem to share these Reels with their friends who may need to hear the quote as well—which is my favourite part of creating these types of videos.
- Educational/fun facts (example)
- This could be information about a particular place, photography tips, etc.
- Simple, single-clip (example)
- These videos are for the days you don’t have time to make a multi-clip Reel or have any ideas. Just make sure the audio matches the video and it’ll do well!
- Relatable (example)
- Viewers will relate to you more and send these videos to their friends who also would relate—which helps with engagement and potentially growing your audience.
- Transitions (example)
- These videos are super engaging so viewers may watch them a few times.
- Photos before and after editing (example)
- These videos are fast paced so the viewer will have to watch it several times to see each before and after more clearly which increases engagment.
12) Share to Your Stories
Simply sharing your Reels to your stories is a great way to get your audience to see your new Reel and boost engagement! Out of all of the Instagram Reels tips in this post, this is the simple one, but equally as important.
I hope that these 12 Instagram Reels tips help you get a sense of what makes a Reel go viral—or at least what has worked for me. If you think I missed anything, let me know in the comments. I love learning new Instagram Reels tips!