How to Use Instagram Reels for Your Small Business

6 min read • Aug 14, 2021 • Katherine O'Malley

Small business owners tend to like free marketing. If that includes you, then it’s time to check out what Instagram Reels can do for your business.

Reels are basically Instagram’s answer to TikTok—short videos of up to 30 seconds in length meant to be found by users other than your followers. 

If the demographics of your target market fit the Instagram user base, or if your social media strategy already includes an Instagram game plan, then consider what Reels can do for you.

Instagram Reels Can Benefit Your Small Business

According to Instagram, “Reels is designed to entertain you. Much like Explore, the majority of what you see is from accounts you don’t follow.” From a small business perspective, doesn’t that sound like creating brand awareness or gaining new customers?

You might be thinking, “But I already post to my Instagram business account. What do Reels really do for my business?” The potential answer is: a lot.

Depending on your account privacy settings, your Reels can be remixed: other content creators can use your Reel, add their own video or audio, and post the remix with your original content side-by-side with their content. This reuse could increase the views of your Reel, especially if the other content creator has more followers—free marketing, anyone?

Additionally, if you’ve set up Instagram Shopping for your business account, you can tag your products in the Reel. That means a Reel done right is a subtle advertisement for your products.

Instagram Reel Ideas for Small Businesses

If using Instagram Reels sounds right for your business but your mind draws an immediate blank on what to create, you’re not alone.

It’s actually good to pause and think through your approach—Instagram Reels reflect your brand, so like any piece of content, you want to make sure each Reel has a purpose. 

Just like you don’t publish blog content randomly to your website, don’t haphazardly publish Reels. Plan out the content, maybe even storyboarding it to give it a professional feel, and figure out where the Reel fits into your overall content strategy. 

Reel content ideas follow the same purposes as much of your other content. 

You could use Reels to:

  • Educate your audience
  • Show off a new product 
  • Demonstrate how to use an existing product
  • Introduce the heart and soul of your business—your employees!
  • Display short how-to videos
  • Answer FAQs
  • Point viewers to your most popular evergreen blog posts
  • Repurpose popular website content into a video format

Alisha Marfatia of The Social Impact told Sked Social that it’s important to plan what’s in the Reel, especially the first and last 3 seconds. 

If you don’t capture the user’s attention in the first 3 seconds, they’ll swipe past. Being ignored even by complete strangers isn’t any fun, is it?

In the last 3 seconds, you should always include a call to action (CTA)—users might not respond to the CTA, but they want to know how you want them to respond. The CTA could direct them to buy your product via your social media shopping channels, ask them to tag a friend in the comments that might benefit from watching the Reel, or even ask them to respond with other content they’d like to see.

How to Create an Instagram Reel

Once you get used to the Instagram Reel tool, the mechanics of creating a Reel aren’t challenging.

Instagram lists 4 basic steps:

  1. Find the Reel button on the Instagram camera
  2. Choose the length and creative tools
  3. Record
  4. Publish

But this isn’t your first social media rodeo, so you already know there’s a bit more to it than that. 

Take, for example, step #2. You can go wild adding effects to your Reel. However, storyboarding out your idea first means you’ll have a better idea of how to use some of the creative tools, such as speeding up or slowing down portions of the video. 

For step #3, “record” doesn’t mean you have to record video via the Instagram camera. You can use pre-recorded video or stitch together photographs to create the Reel.

Reels are meant to entertain, so you’ll have to consider what audio to put with your content. You can use voice-overs, clips from the Instagram music library, or another Reel’s original audio.

It’s essential to follow Instagram’s guidelines to increase the chances that your Reel is recommended to Instagram users. Some of the guidelines are common sense—low-quality Reels won’t rank. Others are less obvious: for example, Reels that promote a giveaway or contest aren’t outright banned, but they won’t be as likely to be recommended.

Also, ensure that your configuration settings are set appropriately to enable other creators to remix (or not) your Reels. You can also control whether your Reel can be suggested as a Facebook recommendation.

Not included in Instagram’s steps to create a Reel is the all-important step of measuring engagement. Like every other piece of content, you want to look at behind-the-scenes analytics, in this case Reel Insights, to see how effective the Reel was. This can help to guide your future Reel content.

Hop on the Instagram Reel Train

Once you start using Reels, the creation process will become second nature—and sometimes even a bit addictive.

But like all technology, social media’s guidelines, tools, and algorithms change frequently, so don’t rule out hiring a freelance social media expert to manage your Reels for you. You can even use a business line of credit to hire a resource to get you started using this valuable Instagram feature.

Katherine O'Malley

Katherine O'Malley is a contributor to the Lendio blog. A technology geek at heart, she splits her time between traveling, freelance writing, database administration work, and implementing SEO on her travel blog. In her free time, she loves to research the challenges small-to-midsize tourist suppliers face and find ways that technology can help them out.