Short attention spans call for short-form video, and Instagram Reels is one of the most popular options for sharing brief video content. Some small and medium-sized businesses use Instagram Reels for marketing their products and services – should you?
Instagram Reels launched in 2020 as competition for China’s mega popular TikTok app. Initially, Instagram users chose 15- or 30-second videos for their Reels, though the length increased to one minute in 2021. Short-form videos may be the missing tool in your digital marketing toolbox.
Why are short videos so popular?
- People want instant satisfaction. Last year, Facebook claimed the average attention span for video content was two seconds or 1.7 seconds for mobile. That means you have an exceptionally short time to grab someone’s attention and entice them to watch a 15-, 30- or 60-second video. Your content must be super-compelling if you want people to watch longer than that!
- We all (seemingly) have less time today to watch content. While that may or may not be true (are we really that busy?), there is more digital content being produced than ever before.
- Short videos are addictive. This became apparent way before the Internet. Remember the popularity of the show “Funniest Home Videos” (still on the air, btw), which was made up of short clips of kids getting knocked down by dogs and Dads getting hit in the crotch with softballs. The Vines app took advantage of that concept years later. Once we see one funny and/or entertaining short clip, we want to see more from that creator or from a creator with similar content. It’s like going down the YouTube rabbit hole, but with shorter content.
How did we get to Reels?
Short videos are hardly a new concept. MTV turned 40 last year, and it changed how we viewed short videos when entire stories were told in the length of a pop song. (FYI for the young ‘uns: MTV’s broadcast consisted entirely of music videos once upon a time.)
It took some time for Internet speeds to get to the point where we could easily download or stream videos. I remember patiently waiting in the computer lab in college for the “Star Wars: Phantom Menace” trailer to load. It only took about an hour (but it was worth it).
Then YouTube gave us access to millions of clips from old TV shows, concerts, forgotten movies – all that stuff that sent us down the rabbit hole until 2 a.m. snuck up on us – in addition to newly produced content.
Twitter bought the Vines app in 2013, on which creators could upload looping six-second clips. Vines were mostly fast comedy sketches with a single joke, and less than three years after launch, boasted 200 million users.
By October 2016, Twitter stopped Vine uploads to the app and shuttered the service in April 2019. (You can still watch Vine compilations on YouTube, and many of them have multi-million views.)
In October 2013, Snapchat updated its platform with Stories, where users included their Snaps videos to their “Story,” stringing Snaps together for a longer narrative.
Music.ly was an app similar to TikTok that launched in 2014. It grew rapidly in popularity with Gen Z, who performed duets with other users and displayed funky dance moves. TikTok was initially a China-only app, and acquired Music.ly for about $1 billion in 2017. In 2018, all Music.ly accounts transferred to TikTok, when the app went global, making it instantly popular. TikTok’s current estimated worth is between $50-75 billion.
TikTok isn’t just tweens dancing and lip syncing. There are users that create funny videos similar to Vines, and some users have millions of followers for their at-home cooking or other how-to/DIY clips.
In 2016, Instagram switched things up by launching Stories, 15-second videos that disappear 24 hours after posting. That raised the stakes for keeping up with your favorite Instagrammers, thanks to FOMO (fear of missing out).
Facebook saw this and launched its own Stories, which also disappear the day after posting.
YouTube jumped on the bandwagon with its own Shorts.
Instagram then appropriated the TikTok style for Reels, which don’t disappear in 24 hours, but live in users’ feeds.
Instagram Reels for marketing
Clever marketers have used all of the above apps to promote their clients. I was on the set of a Netflix show in 2015 the same day as some Vine influencers, who shot short videos with the cast of the show. It was a win-win for both, as the Viners got some celebrities in their videos and the show got free advance promotion.
So, how can you use Instagram Reels for marketing your business in 15, 30 or 60 seconds? Here are some ideas:
- Get to the point immediately. There’s no time for an overview. Immediately show and briefly give details on the video subject matter.
- Show someone using your service or product. You can actually show a lot in a 30-second demonstration of your offerings.
- People remember stories. Tell a compelling story (quickly) as to how your service solved someone’s problem.
- Promote an event, sale or new service.
- Tease something to draw visitors to your website. A compelling teaser can get them to a landing page for learning more – and possibly buying.
- Use your hashtags.
- Instagram Reels has a Shopping feature where you can tags products and services, making them fully shoppable.
Here’s how Chrissy Melin approached Instagram Reels for marketing. Chrissy is a home décor influencer with 50k+ followers at homewithchrissym,
Chrissy does DIY projects on Reels, using on-screen text for instructions and details about the project. Her Reels feature quick clips of her designs or projects that fade into each other, with chill background music and just enough text to make a point before the next clips begins. Then she teases more content at the end – all in 15 seconds. Music is important, she said.
“You definitely have to pick something that is trending but not overly saturated, something up and coming. You have to have your finger on a lot of different pulses,” she said.
Instagram has a huge library of music styles to choose from.
Watching other Reels is important, too.
“You’re constantly learning because (Reels) is constantly evolving. You’ve got to pay attention to small accounts and big accounts,” she said.
When watching what others are doing, look for aspects of the Reel such as:
- The length of the Reel
- The song choice
- How much text was used
- The placement of the text (centered, off to the left?)
“All those little things really do matter,” Chrissy said.
Chrissy is self-taught at editing her Reels, but if you Google “freelance social media video editors,” you’ll find hundreds of people available to help make your videos stand out from the crowd.
Instagram Reels marketing for you
Remember those two seconds for grabbing a potential customer’s attention? It doesn’t seem long enough, but, according to Nielsen, in two seconds:
- 38% of people can recall a brand
- 25% already have purchase intent
If you’re not using video yet, consider this: 84% of consumers say they’re more compelled to purchase after watching a video, according to Wyzowl’s 2022 Video Marketing Statistics report. Keep in mind, many consumers today don’t expect high-end production value for small business video content. (Thank all those short-form apps for that).