Instagram Reels have quickly grown to compete with the TikTok-style platform of scrolling through curated content and capitalizing on trending algorithms. With more social media users gravitating toward this type of content, there has been a huge shift to Reels becoming the new way to gain views, followers and go viral.
Here are my tips for creating a feed-worthy Instagram Reel.
Whether I’m creating Reels for the CSU Instagram account, CAM’s Instagram, or my personal account, I always start with audio. Finding good audio is just as important as any of the video clips you will edit together. The audio conveys the feeling and emotion of a Reel, which will help guide the audience to know if it’s supposed to be funny, trending, informative, inspirational or creative. On a more technical side, the audio will determine the length of your Reel. A Reel can be up to 60 seconds long.
Using trending audio can help your video get more views. When I go through my Instagram feed, I save audio on the daily that I like or hear are trending to use for future videos. This way when you go to find an audio, you’ve already accumulated a collection of audio in your “saved audio” album.
On the other hand, some users may not view Reels with their sound on, or they might have hearing impairments. Putting text on your video can help enhance and reinforce the message you want to convey, as well as make it more accessible. Typically, I use text sparingly and only when I’m creating an informative or educational Reel, or at the beginning of the Reel where I ask a question or type out a portion of the audio.
Transitions are a fun way to show creativity. Just like audio, some transition styles can be trending or very popular and are often attached to a certain audio or beat drop. I plan all Reel transitions with the beat of the audio I’ve used. For example, if I need to showcase a lot of content in one Reel, I will use an upbeat/intense audio that the transitions can align with, like this Reel on the CSU Instagram account.
A transition can even be from one Reel to another while the user is scrolling. You want to be able to grab their attention and captivate them with an attention-grabbing hook. With more Reels saturating Instagram every day, you want yours to be able to stand out from the crowd.
It’s important to get the transitions working together with the audio to enhance the experience and have a consistent flow. If there is a large or noticeable disconnect between a beat drop where the audience anticipates a transition and then it comes a second after, it disrupts the flow of the Reel and appears disconnected, and overall distracts from the immersive experience that you are trying to capture in mere moments.
You can think of color grading as the same process as and result of putting a filter on a photo or editing the color to appear enhanced. Color grading can take the raw video clips that you had and make them eye catching through vibrancy, timeless in black and white, appear cold or warm through temperatures and much more. Color grading helps to convey the overall feeling of your Reel.
Even if you don’t have expensive editing software, you can still color grade your videos! I color grade without using any apps or external sources. I simply use the editing tool in my iPhone camera. When you look at the video clip you want to color grade in your photo application, click “edit” and coloring tools will appear in a bar below your video clip. Have fun and play around with setting, such as highlights, saturation and brightness. Figure out how you want your color grading to contribute to the overall feeling of your Reel. You want to make sure to keep the grading consistent if you are using multiple clips. If you’re using five video clips to make your Reel, make sure that the color grading is somewhat consistent and doesn’t detract or distract as they transition into one another.
Being inspired is one of the most powerful sources behind creation. I try to surround myself in an environment that is constantly inspiring me by following accounts that are different than the content I create, and are examples of the content I want to create. Both of these creative spectrums help me see parts and pieces of Reels that I like, dislike, want to emulate or admire. Your feed is completely determined by what you want to see. Surround yourself with videos by creators or bounce ideas off a friend. Create a Reel that people will want to share. That is a huge factor in virality.
I think the best Reels are the ones that are authentic, beautiful and inspiring. If you love to make funny content, capitalize on that and practice with test Reels to see what does well and users engage with, and maybe what doesn’t perform as well. Going viral can literally happen overnight, but it’s not without practice. I posted six Reels before my seventh went viral. The six Reels that I posted before weren’t a total flop; I love to watch them! The views on each Reel act as a great indicator of what your audience likes to see.
For CAM’s Instagram, his audience likes to see Reels with humor rather than an aesthetic video, with his most viewed Reel having 105k views. For the CSU Instagram, the followers like to see student POV Reels and campus Reels, rather than overloading them with information. The most-viewed Reel on the CSU Instagram had 71.5K views when I wrote this blog. For my personal Instagram, my followers like to see polished adventure Reels, rather than a chill informal Reel. My most-viewed Reel has 1.6m views. I only came to learn this information by upping the amount of Reels I created, trying new styles and evaluating what worked and what didn’t through analytics.
Use of hashtags is one of the oldest tricks in the book on social media. Hashtags create pathways of connectivity through the vast plane of social media that can help your content appear on more people’s feeds. Tag what is relevant to your Reel, whether that’s #adventure, #comedy, #(a specific location), #(a specific season). I know some content creators like to have a list of all the hashtags they use in their notes on their phone so they can simply copy paste them in into their captions, instead of writing them out over and over.
Don’t forget to share your Reel to your Instagram Story. Some people swipe through Stories before they go to through their feed. Seeing your Reel on your Story gives them the option to click on and view the video or share it. I like to hide some of the Reel with a “new Reel” sticker and an arrow gif so that it intrigues the viewer to want to click on the video, which then takes them to my account to see more.
With audio, transitions, color grading, a creative source of inspiration, and the correct amount of reach, your Reel has a chance to go viral! Don’t be afraid to try new types of content out and test the water. Your Instagram page is an expression of yourself, so have fun with it.