How to Make Sense of Instagram Reels as a Marketer

It’s only a matter of time before the new feature is monetized

Two smartphones showing Instagram Reels
Is there a marketing niche for Instagram Reels? Instagram

Social experts, creators and addicts are taking a deep, exasperated breath.  

The same breath they took when Instagram launched hashtags in 2011, Direct in 2013, Stories in 2016 and IGTV in 2018. 

The launch of Reels is, yet again, another feature that’s been tacked onto Instagram. What started as one of the most innovative platforms of its time has become Silicon Valley’s Frankenstein. Creative features, styles and approaches from other social platforms, most recently and obviously from the rapidly growing TikTok, are bolted behind every tab and swipe. 

While I understand the need to keep up with competition and can appreciate the new space for creativity to thrive, I yearn for unique, bold and industry-changing innovation from Instagram. Experts are quickly calling out features on Reels that have been blatantly replicated or seem to be missing (whether purposefully or not), adding to the overall shortcomings of Instagram.

Don’t hold your breath though, the virtual footprint of the tech giant can’t be ignored. My hope is that creators, social marketers and brands carve out a niche for Reels. Since it launched, there has been a flood of memes, songs and dances reposted from TikTok—the same ones that have made TikTok so distinct. 

Reels leaves the everyday Instagram user confused, myself included. Where do I swipe? How does this work? Where’s the FYP (For You Page)? 

Change can be cumbersome, so as we set off to make sense of Reels, here are some thought starters.   

Don’t abandon TikTok

Even if you haven’t launched your brand or personal profile there, you’re not late.

Be unique. Be consistent

While cross-channel sharing is prevalent with Twitter memes being posted in-feed and YouTube videos cropping up on IGTV, having a unique purpose for Reels is key. Don’t post just to post, but rather be deliberate across platforms and formats. For example, Apple embraces community created content on Instagram, while Twitter is solely for paid advertising. 

TikTok / Twitter

Diversify

It’s only a matter of time before Reels is monetized and brands can reach people through ad dollars. Be mindful of diversifying advertising budgets. And not just within the different Instagram placements, but across different platforms like Twitter and TikTok. Additionally, carve out a percentage of your budget, say up to 10%, for innovation. Use this to test new formats, learn the advantages or disadvantages of a new feature, and use it to inform how you spend the other 90%.  

So exhale, embrace that change—or in this case, competition—is inevitable, and continue to push the boundaries of creativity.


Jasmine Atherton is vp of marketing at etúHOME.
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