Everything You Need to Know About Instagram’s New “Reels” Feature

Aug 2020

Last week, Instagram released a new feature to give users more creative freedom in producing content within the app. This update follows months of extreme growth for TikTok, Instagram’s newest competitor.

Competition Between Instagram Reels and TikTok

TikTok has taken the internet by storm over the past year, with over 2 billion downloads worldwide and nearly 80 million daily users in the US alone. The app excels in promoting unique, short-form video content popular with the Gen Z market. TikTok seemingly has a little something for everyone. Despite becoming famous for showcasing choreographed dances and lip-syncing videos, TikTok now includes video content of all kinds, including viral challenges, beauty routines, comedy sketches, pranks, and more. Video production options within the app set it apart from other social media platforms, making it easy for users to create content, edit, and post all from one place. 

Following the massive rise in TikTok’s popularity, Instagram has released a new feature called “Instagram Reels”, closely mirroring the qualities that made TikTok so unique and successful. Similar to TikTok, Instagram Reels are intended for short-form video content, leaving the details of the subject matter up to the creator. In its latest press release, Instagram describes Reels: 

Reels invites you to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram. Record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and new creative tools.”

How Instagram Reels Work

Instagram Reels combine a number of creative production and editing features to mimic the all-in-one process that creators experience on TikTok. In order to fully understand its capabilities, it’s important to break down the production and editing options one by one.

  • Music & Audio: Users can add audio elements to their Reel by choosing music from a wide variety of songs in the Instagram Music Library. Additionally, users have the option to create their own original audio to use in Reels, that can be shared with and reused by other users on the platform. 
  • Hands-Free-Recording: Reels offer a timed camera feature, giving users a three-second countdown before automatically recording. This allows creators to achieve high quality, hands-free video production without the help of a cameraman.
  • Automatic Alignment: This alignment tool is new to Instagram, creating seamless transitions by automatically adjusting the frame to match previous clips. Again, this feature significantly raises video production quality, making it easy for users to turn amateur content into a more professionally edited final product.
  • Effects & Filters: A large variety of Instagram filters and effects are available to use in Reels including user-submitted originals. One of the most popular tools is the augmented reality effect that makes it possible to turn your wildest dreams into real, visual stories. 
  • Adjustable Speeds: Reels helps creators strive for perfection by allowing users to put video production into slow motion or super speed. This tool adjusts speed to slow things down while recording, ensuring that every move is perfectly in sync with the chosen audio.

Combined, these new features make Instagram Reels a serious competitor against TikTok, encouraging creative, high-quality video production among users. Reels can be shot clip-by-clip in the app, however raw clips can also be uploaded to Instagram directly from the camera roll for editing and compilation. 

Once finished, Reels can be shared on Instagram in a variety of ways. While Reels will appear in a separate tab on your profile similar to IGTV, they can also be shared to your main grid, Instagram Stories, and sent via direct message. Additionally, if your profile is public, Reels can be shared via the explore tab, boosting the chance for creators to reach Instagram stardom. 


Did you know that TikTok has the highest engagement rate per post of any social media platform? 

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