In 2023 Instagram no longer revolves around photos and captions. Video, and in particular the reel, won the battle of the content. This is good news for advertisers, because the reel is the ideal format to tell your brand story and ensure a highly engaged audience. This will take some creativity, but don’t let the discourage you. With these tips your company can also successfully advertise on Instagram Reels.
A brief history of the Reel
The Instagram of yesteryear, where you could post candid pics of your cat, pizza, new shoes and much more without a moment’s hesitation, is history. By shifting focus to video, the profile page has become a carefully curated shopcase and the real action takes place in Stories and Reels. The first step towards this change was taken in 2016 when, as an answer to the rising popularity of Snapchat, Instagram launched the Instagram Story: a fullscreen image or video of max. 15 seconds that is only visible for 24 hours before disappearing.
In February of 2019 the biggest threat to Instagram came from China, in the shape of TikTok. The answer? The Instagram Reel: a vertical video of max. 30 seconds that unlike a Story does not disappear but gets a permanent place on its own tab on your profile page. As on TikTok, you can use all sorts of filters, formats and audio. Although early adapters got busy making and bingewatching Instagram Reels from the beginning, the format didn’t really soar until Corona forced us in lockdown. Suddenly we were all at home and had plenty of time to create videos and watch others’ creations for hours. Soon challenges like the #DontRush Makeup Challenge arose. The trends were mainly born on TikTok, but at the time this was mostly just popular among Gen Z, so a few weeks later, the same content reached the masses on Instagram Reels.
Advertising on Instagram Reels
Since June 2021 Reels are open to advertising. The trending formats, the open sharing of original audio and the ease with which you can build on other creators’ content make Reels particularly suitable for advertisers. By playing into this in a smart way, you can make your ad stand out, look native, and relate to your target audience, without having to reinvent the wheel. The rising popularity of TikTok has made it way more customary to make ads look like user generated content. Even luxury brand such as BMW are taking part. They combine professionally shot videos with a high production value with trending audio. But even without a huge budget you can make an Instagram Reel ad. Really all you need is a phone with a decent camera, and these tips:
1. Gather some inspiration
If you haven’t looked at Instagram Reels a lot, or not recently it’s a good idea to take out an hour or two to do so. During scrolling you will not only discover the latest trending formats and audio, but also see ads from other companies. There are also certain accounts you can follow to keep an eye on all of this for you, such as @creators, the official Instagram Creators Account. It also definitely pays off to check out TikTok, since this is where most Instagram Reels trends are actually born.
2. Make a shortlist of 2 or 3 formats that best fit your product
Different kinds of formats are for example: tutorials (demonstrate how the product works or show someone using it in daily life, like in a skin or hair care routine), unboxing (literally unpacking the product) or Q&A. To use this last one as an example: how can you employ this format for your product? Imagine you sell extra durable phone cases. If someone in the comments under one of your videos asks “will this case really protect my phone from a fall?” you could of course type a respons in the comments and hope that all potential customers will scroll through them and read it, but you could also make a video respons. As a smart marketeer you post a video response showing this comment over slow motion footage of you throwing a phone with the case in question down a flight of marble stairs, after which you show the phone, which is of course undamaged. Combined with the right audio this results in a very strong ad showcasing the USP of your product.
3. Make different varieties
It’s best to execute all of the 2 or 3 formats you’ve shortlisted in the previous step and test them against each other. Ideally you also play around with the order of the edit, different opening shots, audio, text overlay etc. You can then run different ads at the same time to see and act on their comparative performance in real time. That will teach you what works for next time.
4. Make sure you use the right specifications
For an Instagram Reel ad these are the most important ones:
Filetype: MP4, MOV
Resolution: 500×888 pixels
Length: max. 15 seconds (for boosts this is 60 seconden, equal tot he max length of an organic reel, except you can’t ad a Call To Action with a boost ad) Read the full specifications here.
Be aware that though you can officially use trending user generated audio for an ad, you cannot use licensed (trending) music, unless of course you buy the rights to it. You can use free unlicensed audio from the Facebook Sound Collection in the Creator Studio.
5. Time to test!
Run all different varieties of your ad through Facebook Ads Manager, also adding in variations of CTAs (Calls to Action) and captions. See what happens and adjust as needed.
Hopefully you’ve been inspired to give Instagram Reels ads a go. If you combine this with for instance a story or feed ad, you will have a potentially huge reach on Instagram and a higher engagement. If you have a look around on Instagram Reels or TikTok you will see that it’s more accessible than you think and that with these tips and a smartphone, you’re halfway there!