Instagram reels: Tips for the reluctant artist.

Instagram reels? Really? Do I have to? My head is spinning!

Sound familiar?

You finally set up social media accounts for your business and think you’ve got it all sorted out, branding, photography on point,…and then the algorithm changes and it seems that the world is asking you to sing and dance to get attention for your online small business.

We always knew as artists we had to wear a lot of hats professionally; we’re little managers, accountants, photographers, marketing departments, shipping and receiving all rolled up into one. And now we must make reels or remixes on social media for the algorithm to be our friends. Things are not getting easier folks! So, we’ve put together a few fun tips to help you adapt to the new social media demands.

What even is a reel?

We’re getting bombarded more and more with reels these days, but they aren’t that new. They’ve been around since August 2020. They’re a great way to go beyond the static image to sharing short videos that give extra insight into you and your business. They don’t have to be grand professional film productions. Everyone can make one without much practice.

Why try them?

They might seem like short lived fads but jumping on board and trying out new ways of engaging online can give your business a real (not reel, lol) boost! When companies like Instagram introduce new features, they make sure that those users that engage with the features get special attention so the more you test them out, the more you’ll end up as a suggested account or post in your followers feeds as well as in the discover feed.

What to film?

For a second imagine you’re this incredibly talented artist with a unique way of seeing the world and making art. Oh wait, you don’t have to imagine that part! It’s already true! So, think about some of the things in your art practice that bring you lots of joy and start there.

  1. Studio – Have you got an inspiring space to work? Folks love to see the mess and chaos of a creative studio, or beautifully organized spaces that inspire a desire to create. That wall above your desk full of cut out pictures of all that inspires you – that’s incredible content to share as followers love to feel like they are getting a behind the scenes look into your practice.
  2. Work in progress – There was a time when all the art people would see were finished and hanging in galleries or set up in shops to purchase, but nowadays we see art in all different stages of progress, and we love it! Share your process! Your customers will get an even better sense of why the work you make is so valuable.
  3. Tools – We all love to see the special tools that artists use to create their masterpieces. You’d be surprised and how many tool nerds there are! And tagging the company you bought the tool or supplies from in your reel give your content more life as it might get re-posted by the company too.
  4. Quotes – relevant quotes related to your work, outlook on life, project you’re working on, etc can be easy engaging ways to talking to your audience, they can also be a nice break from the repetition of visual images in your feed and will grab attention.

The tech side of things:

Reels can be filmed on your phone with good enough quality to please the Instagram algorithm. Make sure your phone isn’t set at the lowest resolution though. Blurry or low-resolution reels won’t get re-shared. Instagram does compress your videos so set your phone resolution to HD 60fps. Anything higher like the 4k options will get compressed to make the video look low quality.

Reels can be up to a minute in length so share lots if you’re inclined. Do keep in mind though that for a reel to go viral the number of times it is viewed plays a big part of that. So shorter clips under 20 secs are worth your time too. Good music choice or something that will make a viewer want to re-watch the clip a few times in a row is key! Toss in some type of a reveal and start reeling (bad pun sorry) those followers in!

Keep in mind that many folks watch reels without the sound based on where they’re watching so engaging your viewer with text is helpful too. Where you place your text so it doesn’t crop important parts of the video can be something to consider even at the beginning when you’re filming the clip. A bit of negative space in the frame is perfect for text overlay and folks won’t feel like they’re frustrated trying to see what’s happening behind the text. If you post reels to your posts, they will appear cropped (full scale if a follower clicks through to watch) so keep all the magic in the middle! And don’t forget to film your video clips in portrait mode, ie: vertical!

Where to begin?

You’ve likely by this point shared a few Instagram stories, maybe even participated in a live stream on the site, while reels are similar, they are also quite different. Reels do require a bit of planning and, depending on how much you like to make reels, sometimes downloading a different app (but we won’t get into that level of commitment here today). Taking a bit of time to plan out your content a approach is never wasted time.

Some things to think about:

What is my reel about?

Do I have a goal with this reel (sharing a link, teaching something, asking followers questions, call to action, etc.)

What can I do with video that I can’t accomplish with a photo or graphic alone?

What information can I share that’s new and unique?

Remember that your followers are there because they like your work and want to support you. You’re one of a kind, a leader in your field or business.

Do I jump on trends?

This is where most of us get pretty turned off about reels. Trying to make content because the rest of the world has taken off on a trend can feel quite forced. Paying attention to the trends that take off on reels by watching reels on the regular is good research. There is bound to be a few trends over time that feel inspiring for you to participate in. Sometimes it a song that is trending on reels so all you must do is make a reel about just about anything so long as you use that trending song clip. @reelstips is a good feed to follow if you want to keep on top of the audio trends for reels.

Publishing your reels

Publishing your reels to your feed as a post and not just as a reel also gives them a much better chance of being seen. If after a span of a few weeks you want to clean up your feed so that it’s more on brand, you can delete the videos as posts and just keep them in your reels. Consider that the cover photo/clip you use can make them fit into your feed better as well, so don’t hit publish too quickly before finding an eye-catching moment from the clip.

Hashtags on reels?

Oh yes! Hashtags are just as important on reels as they are on photo posts, so too is the caption you write. Be engaging and talk to your audience directly! Ask them questions, encourage them to comment as all that helps the algorithm too!

Most important part of adding any new tools to your social media tool kit is to be consistent! Building followers takes time and engagement, you may only see small gains for a bit, but over time it will add up. Reels are intended to be fun, let this be a place where your goofy side comes out to play!

Best of luck and please feel free to share other advice and tips you have in the comments below!

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