By now, you already know that Instagram Reels are a gold mine for helping you grow your following. The short, entertaining videos have a special way of grabbing users’ attention, which can mean lots of engagement for your brand.
Since Reels debuted two years ago, they’ve become the platform’s fastest-growing feature. Creators like Justin Bieber, Lizzo, and Stanley Tucci helped transform the addictive feature from a TikTok wannabe to a full-blown competitor. And we’re not surprised.
But how do you use this tool to reach more people, get new followers, or spread the word about your products and services? In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know, from how to make a reel on Instagram to figuring out the best time to post it.
Bonus: Claim your pack of free animated Instagram Reels templates created by Hootsuite’s professional designers. Easily customize them in Canva, and take your Reels game to the next level today.
What are Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels are full-screen vertical videos that can be up to 90 seconds long if you record them in the app or 15 minutes long if you upload a pre-shot video. They come with many unique editing tools and an extensive library of audio tracks (featuring everything from trending songs to snippets of other users’ viral content). On top of sounds, Reels can include multiple video clips, filters, captions, interactive backgrounds, stickers, and more.
Reels are different from Instagram Stories. Unlike Stories, they don’t disappear after 24 hours. Once you post a Reel, it’s available on Instagram until you delete it.
The best part? Reels are currently favored by the Instagram algorithm, which is more likely to recommend them to people who don’t follow you than feed posts. That’s huge for social marketers.
Users can also discover Reels in a dedicated section of the Instagram app. A scrollable feed full of trending Reels (a.k.a. Instagram’s version of the TikTok For You page) can be accessed through the Reels icon at the bottom of the Instagram app’s home page.
An individual user’s Reels can be viewed in a dedicated tab that can be accessed above the account’s Feed.
If you’re familiar with Instagram and/or TikTok, you’ll find making Reels quite easy.
Are you a visual learner? Check out this video and learn how to make an Instagram Reel in under 7 minutes:
Otherwise, follow these simple step-by-step instructions.
Step 1: Tap the plus icon at the top of the page and select Reel
To access Reels, simply open the Instagram app and head to your profile page. Click the plus sign button on the top right of the screen and select Reel.
You can also access the Reels editor by swiping left to the Instagram camera and selecting Reel from the bottom options.
Step 2: Record or upload your video clip
Instagram Reels gives you two options to create a Reel:
Press and hold the record button to capture footage.
Upload video footage from your camera roll.
Reels can be recorded in a series of clips (one at a time), or all at once.
If you set a timer early on, there’s a countdown before the hands-free recording starts.
During the recording, you can tap the record button to end a clip, and then tap it again to start a new clip.
Then, the Align button will appear, allowing you to line up objects from the previous clip before recording your next. This allows you to create seamless transitions for moments like changing outfits, adding new music, or adding new friends to your Reel.
When you’re ready, tap Next in the bottom right corner of your screen. You will be able to:
Edit your Reel cover. You can choose a frame from the video or add an image from your camera roll.
Add a caption.
Tag people in your Reel.
Add a location.
Enable Facebook recommendations. If you select this option, your Reel will be surfaced to Facebook users who are likely to enjoy your content (according to Meta’s algorithms). You don’t need a Facebook account to use this feature.
Rename your audio. If you add your own audio (e.g. a voice recording) to your Reel, you can give it a name that will show up in other users’ Reels if they decide to use the sound.
Enable or disable automatically generated captions.
Decide whether you want your Reel to be posted to your Instagram Feed (and not just the Reels tab on your account).
Step 5: Post your Reel
Once you adjust your settings, tap the Share button at the bottom of the screen.
Congrats! You’ve posted your first Reel. Now, let’s move on to some tactics that will help you make this format work for your brand.
Optional: Schedule your Reel
You’ve got your Reel ready to go, but maybe 11:30 pm on a Tuesday isn’t the best time to get maximum exposure. You might want to consider scheduling your Reel to post at a more ideal time.
Until recently, this feature was only available via Meta’s Creator Studio, or with a third-party tool like, you guessed it, Hootsuite!
In-app Reel scheduling is coming to both business and creator accounts, with Meta confirming that they “are testing the ability to schedule content with a percentage of our global community.”
While only available to lucky Android users at the moment (check your App, you might have it already!) the scheduling feature is expected to be available to everyone very soon.
At this time, regular posts and Reels can be scheduled in-app, but not Stories and no scheduling feature is available for desktop users.
5 tips for making viral Reels as a business
Instagram Reels can be a great way to get your business in front of the right audience. The feature can also help you grow your following and boost engagement rates. But this doesn’t happen automatically. You’ve got to know the hacks to go viral on Instagram Reels.
1. Know how the Instagram Reels algorithm works
The magic of Reels is in Instagram’s not-so-secret sauce — the algorithm. This is the all-knowing matchmaker the platform uses to determine which Reels it shows to which users. Understanding the way the Reels algorithm works can help you get more views from the Explore page and the Reels tab.
Adding trending sounds, using the right hashtags, and making your Reels visually appealing are all great ways to tell the algorithm, “Hey! Pay attention to me!”
2. Have fun with trending audio
If you scroll through Instagram Reels or TikTok on the regular, you’ll notice that many creators use the same sounds on top of their videos. Thousands of people have used The Home Depot Beat and the typing sound audio. That’s not a coincidence.
Instagram Reels sounds are snippets of songs or audio clips from other creators’ videos. When they gain popularity, they can help you get more views if you add them to your Reels. This is because users often search by sounds and because, quite frankly, the aforementioned algorithm seems to like it.
The best way to find trending audio on Instagram is to use the platform and take note of which sounds you’re seeing pop up more than others.
When you scroll through Reels, make note of any sounds that have an arrow next to the name of the sound. The arrow indicates that they’re trending. It can be tough to find sounds after you’ve already exited a Reel, so make sure to save or download them and use them later.
One last tip! Be sure to choose songs wisely and use them sparingly. We all know what happens when trending sounds get overused. (Oh no, oh no, oh no no no no no).
3. Don’t be too salesy
As much as you might want to sell, the reality is that users don’t open up social media apps hoping to see ads. They turn to Instagram to explore ideas, connect with others, and get a quick burst of entertainment during breaks in their day. That’s why you need to make sure your Reels help them do just that.
Be sure to create content (yup, this includes Reels) that’s actually entertaining to your target audience. Whether that means leaning into a trending dance or creating quick how-to Reels, aim to delight, inform, and entertain users rather than sell to them.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t turn your Reels into ads, though. Boost those high-performing—but non-salesly!—Reels to get even more visibility.
4. Post consistently and don’t give up
You can use the same strategies to be successful with Reels that you used to boost content on Instagram Stories or in the original Feed. Consistently posting is one of the best things you can do to help improve your performance across the platform, including in Reels.
That’s because it helps increase your odds of going viral. Plus, the algorithm is kind of like your biggest fan—it loves when you post new stuff! In general, the Instagram gods prioritize showing recent videos over stale ones, so keep things fresh.
Posting often also helps you aggregate a ton of helpful insights that will guide you when you’re trying to figure out what works and why. The more you post, the more you’ll learn about your target audience—what they like, when they scroll, and more.
5. Collab with other creators
Last year, Instagram added a new feature called Collabs. This option lets you share credit with another creator and allows them to share the Reel from their page as if it was their own.
The Collab feature is a game-changer if you work with influencers, brand partners, and others. It lets you extend your reach to their entire following, which can mean tons more likes, shares, reach, and overall engagement.
Here’s how to use Collabs:
When you’re ready to publish your Reel, select Tag people.
Tap Invite collaborator.
Select the user who you feature or mention in your video.
Once the user accepts your collab invitation, the Reel will show up in the Reels tab in their account.
Instagram Reels cheat sheet
Need quick answers to all your burning Reels questions? Skim our cheat sheet (and bookmark it for later).
How to schedule Instagram Reels
Scheduling social media posts is a must when you want to stay on your game without having to work overtime. Luckily, there’s an easy way to schedule Instagram Reels with Hootsuite.
Using Hootsuite, you can schedule your Reels to be auto-published at any time in the future.
To create and schedule a Reel using Hootsuite, follow these steps:
Record your video and edit it (adding sounds, filters, and AR effects) in the Instagram app.
Save the Reel to your device.
In Hootsuite, tap the Create icon on the very top of the left-hand menu to open the Composer.
Select the Instagram Business account you want to publish your Reel to.
Once your Reel is published, it will appear in both your feed and the Reels tab on your account.
Note: You can currently only create and schedule Reels on desktop (but you will be able to see your scheduled Reels in the Planner in the Hootsuite mobile app).
Note:At the time of writing this feature is in a limited testing phase but is expected to be released to all Instagram users soon.
Record your video and edit it as usual in the Instagram app.
Go to Advanced Settings and click Schedule this post.
Select the date and time you’d like the post or Reel to be published and click Done.
You can adjust your posting schedule by navigating to the new Scheduled content section in Settings.
How to download Instagram Reels
Whether you’re a creator or a consumer, downloading Instagram Reels is a useful tool to have up your sleeve.
When creating, it helps you save drafts directly to your device or share them with others before they go live. You’ll also want to download Reels you’ve created if you plan to share them on another platform.
When scrolling, downloading allows you to save other creators’ videos permanently, even if the creator takes them down. It also allows you to access them when you’re offline.
There are several ways to download Instagram Reels.
If you own the Reel, you can download it using the Download option from the Reels editing page. Once it’s published, you can download it from the Reel itself. Click on the three dots in the bottom right corner of the Reel and select Save to Camera Roll.
If you want to download someone else’s Reel, you’ll have to record your screen or use a third-party app, such as InstDown or InSaver.
Knowing what time to post on Instagram Reels is an easy way to target your users when they’re the most active. Catching them when they scroll means more engagement and further reach for your brand.
The thing is, everyone’s ideal post time is different. For Hootsuite, the best time to post on Instagram is between 9 a.m. and noon, Monday through Thursday. But your audience may skew later, earlier, or scroll more on the weekends.
Don’t worry. There’s a quick way to figure out when to post. In Hootsuite, you can see the best time to publish Instagram content from the Analytics feature. Click “Best Time to Publish” to see when your users are the most likely to engage with the post. The heat map is a handy way to visualize the best times.
Another way to find the best time to post Reels is to check what worked best for you in the past. To review the performance, of your existing head to Analytics in the Hootsuite dashboard. There, you’ll find detailed stats, including:
Instagram Reels dimensions
Getting the sizing right is another great way to set your Reel up for success.
Using the wrong dimensions can make your post look—we won’t sugarcoat it—downright ugly. And that means an instant swipe-up from users. On top of that, the almighty algorithm doesn’t like it when your Reels look stretched or distorted. We don’t blame her.
So what’s the ideal Instagram Reel size? Make your Reel frames and cover 1080 pixels by 1920 pixels. If you choose to have your Reel show up on your regular Grid (probably a good idea, by the way), make sure your thumbnail fits the ideal size of 1080 pixels by 1080 pixels.
What about the Instagram Reels ratio? Users will have the best experience viewing Reels in full-screen mode, which features a ratio of 9:16. However, Instagram also shows Reels in the main feed, and crops them to a ratio of 4:5.
Just make sure to avoid putting any important information around the edges of the frame, because it could get cut off.
If you record and edit them in Instagram, Instagram Reels can be as long as 90 seconds. If you upload a pre-shot video to the app, a Reel can be as long as 15 minutes.
When Instagram first debuted the Reels feature in 2019, users could only post Reels up to 15 seconds long. In 2022, users who film Reels in the app have a choice of four Instagram reel lengths up to 90 seconds each. That means you’ve got a full minute and a half to dazzle your audience.
But should you actually use all 90 seconds (or 15 minutes)? Not always. It totally depends on the Reel itself. In general, aim for user-friendliness when you’re deciding how long to make an Instagram Reel.
Longer Instagram Reels come in handy for more time-consuming stories, how-to guides, tours, and more.
You certainly don’t want to draw things out, though. Remember that the point of Reels is to create small snippets of delightful content, so keep it short and sweet.
Bonus tip: Unless you’re looking for a quick way to enrage your audience, you should never post multi-part videos when you could do it in one. That’s what 90-second Reels are for!
How to search Reels on Instagram
One of the best things you can do as a savvy Reel creator is checking out what other people are doing on the platform. To get unique Instagram Reels ideas, you can search for content to help inspire you.
A quick way to search for Reels is to use the general search bar at the top of the app. Type in a search feature and explore content, users, and hashtags related to that term.
While Instagram’s standard search function is helpful, it doesn’t only show Reels. A good great way to search only Reels is to click on hashtags from other Reels. This will limit your results to Reels and filter out images.
For example, if you’re an avid consumer of puppy content, you can click on the #dogsofinstagram hashtag from a Reel’s caption to see more Reels of dogs being cute.
Easily schedule and manage Reels alongside all your other content from Hootsuite’s super simple dashboard. Schedule Reels to go live while you’re OOO, post at the best possible time (even if you’re fast asleep), and monitor your reach, likes, shares, and more.