Instagram Reels – Everything You Need To Know

With the banning of TikTok looming, Instagram seems to have beat everyone to the punch by releasing their own copycat of TikTok. The company recently pushed out an update that allowed people to start creating Instagram Reels. These short videos are almost exactly like TikTok, without the pesky China relationships.

TikTok vs Instagram Reels

While Instagram Reels is not a separate app like TikTok, it lives inside of Instagram, the navigation of the Reels videos is exactly like TikTok. To move to the next video, you simply swipe up. There are a few differences between the two platforms though.

For You Page

The main difference is finding videos to browse through is a bit more clunky inside Instagram. Since the app is playing 2 or 3 platforms at the same time, it loses something in the transition. Instagram Stories swipe right to left, Reels swipe up and down, IGTV has more of a YouTube browsing interface. With these marriages of various app features, it’s a bit hard to find the right kind of exploring you can do.

When I access Instagram Reels and I start swiping through the videos, it’s hard to tell which videos are from people I actually follow and which ones are just appearing for me to see. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to what I’m being shown. One thing TikTok does extremely well is curate the content it shows me. Once the app learns a little bit about me, it pretty much nails it when it comes to showing me what I want.

However, when I just want to see Reels from people I follow, I have no idea how to do this. I’d like to be able to distinguish between showing me just the curated feed (like TikTok’s For You Page) and the page of videos of people I actually already follow.

Video Creation

Since TikTok has been at this a little while longer, it does have better native video editing capabilities. In TikTok you can add transitions and has a lot more filter and sticker types of options. Currently, Instagram doesn’t really have that capability making the video editing part a little clunky if you want to do it natively inside the app instead of within another app and uploading the entire video.

The music selection in TikTok is also a bit more robust at the moment, and has a ton of movie and TV quotes to choose from as well. You have to cobble something together outside of Instagram to get the same spectrum.

Trending Topics

TikTok also does a great job showing you what is currently trending. It really helps build the community in TikTok as more people hop on the bandwagon to put their spin on the latest trend.

Creating Instagram Reels

To create an Instagram Reel, click the home button and then swipe right. This will bring up your standard “stories” creation window. At the bottom of the screen you can swipe over to “Reels” instead of “Live” or “Story”.

Instagram Reels - Creation
Instagram Reels – Creation

From here you can press the center button to start recording your first scene, or click “add” button in the bottom left corner. This will allow you to upload a video or photo you’ve already recorded.

You can speed up or slow down your video recording by pressing the play/pause looking icon. You can also add music by tapping the music note icon. On the other hand, if you are browsing Reels and want to use the same sound that another Reel is using you can tap the audio in the bottom left corner of their video and then press “Use Audio”

A lot of the same effects you can find for your stories can be found in your Reels video creation tool by tapping the face icon. You can access things like a green screen and other filters.

Once you have all the video and audio recorded tap the > arrow at the bottom right of the screen to get to your overlay options. Here you can add text overlays, drawings, or stickers and set them to appear for specific amounts of time by dragging the timeframe to the right stop and start points at the bottom of the screen.

Finally, hit next again and add a caption to your reels. You can toggle the switch so it will show in your regular Instagram feed if you want your followers to see your Reels, or keep it toggled off to only have it appear in Instagram Reels.

Watching Instagram Reels

As I mentioned previously, browsing through reels isn’t nearly as smooth as TikTok… YET. To find Instagram Reels, click the search button, and then if you see a video at the top with a “Reels” icon, click on it and you can start swiping up to browse through them.

Instagram Reels

You can also access Reels by heading over to someone’s account who is using them, like mine @FamilyTech and click on their “Reels” icon in their Instagram profile.

You can “like” videos by double tapping the screen just like you would in TikTok, or in the regular Instagram feed. Liking videos helps Instagram curate your feed a bit better as it learns what kind of content you like to see.

All in all, I think Instagram has done a really great job mimicking what folks love most about TikTok, and it’s going to be a very worthy opponent in this space. It just needs to get over some of the initial humps. Now if only Instagram would also port over the parental controls on TikTok, Instagram could start being a safe space for kids to browse too.

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website

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