A Complete Instagram Reels Breakdown

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Instagram Reels, you either love them or you hate them but chances are, they are here to stay! There is a lot of confusion on what Instagram Reels really are and how to use them to benefit your business.

Showing up in video form is terrifying, maybe you never jumped on the Tik Tok train and you are thinking there is NO WAY I am going to dance on the internet. Well don’t worry because I don’t think you have to in order to see the benefits of Instagram Reels.

For this episode, I will go over what to post, when to post it, and more! Are you ready to learn how to grow your Instagram account in this fun new way?? Class is now in session! Let’s go!

What Are Instagram Reels?

If you are familiar with the app Tik Tok, then Instagram Reels probably aren’t anything too new for you, but if you are one of the people who never downloaded the Tik Tok app then Instagram Reels is a whole new world for you.

In a nut shell, Instagram Reels and Tik Tok is pretty close to the same thing.

They are these short 15 – 60 second videos that have music or sounds in the background. Some people make dances, others make educational content, entertaining content, inspiring content and more. 

The Difference Between Instagram Reels & Tik Tok

Even thought they are relatively similar there are some key differences to keep in mind.

Tik Tok is more causal and has more room to experiment with content. The algorithm on Tik Tok – from what I’ve noticed, works more in your favor than Instagram Reels does.

BUT this is not me saying you should do TIK TOK and not Instagram Reels. Personally I think if you are feeling overwhelmed by the idea of doing either, then just pick one to start with.

Since most business owners are on Instagram my suggestion would be to start with Instagram Reels.

I think Instagram Reels work the best when you make it very specific to your niche and your actual business. While Tik Tok is better for brand building.

In my own experience, the Tik Toks I have made that don’t have as much “marketing” content in them as they do branding content, seem to do better.

What do I mean by this? Well, when I share my western lifestyle content, my relationship content, and just funny little snippets here and there of random stuff people seem to respond better vs. when I make a Tik Tok about my actual job.

My Most Popular Tik Toks

Some of my most popular tik toks I made were the following:

  • A video telling random facts about myself and asking people what we had in common.
  • A voiceover video of photos of me and my fiancé telling the story of how we met.
  • Funny clips using trending audio sounds that relate back to photography.
  • A LOT Of western/agriculture related content.

When I noticed this trend of what was doing well, I ran with it. 

Now maybe you are thinking, “okay well if you are posting stuff that has nothing to do with your business then why even bother?”

If you are getting views on content that is related to your brand, those views can turn into followers and those followers can eventually turn into paying clients.

Let me put it this way: I am a western wedding photographer. If I post western lifestyle content on Tik Tok and get a lot of views and followers from it, then I direct those Tik Tok followers to also follow me over on Instagram then on Instagram I post western content but also talk about being a wedding photographer, there is a chance that some of those followers might be in need of a wedding photographer.

Even thought they found me for a different reason, we were able to make a connection and down the road they decide to hire me for my services.

The two apps can really work hand in hand. 

Let’s Focus On Instagram Reels

If you decide you cannot take on both though, let’s just focus on Instagram Reels. I would rather you be really good and really intentional at one thing vs. spreading yourself too thin but trying to do multiple things.

Instagram Reels are such an incredible way to get views on your profile and on your content but a common question about them is “do those views actually help your business grow?”

The answer is yes.

The biggest problem that stops this is that so many people do not want to have a marketing strategy that takes a little bit of time.

I get it, you want to be able to post something one time and magically fill your calendar with clients because of it. But that just isn’t how it works when you are still in the building stages of your business

The key to a successful marketing strategy is consistency and intention.

Not every client is going to land on your page and immediately want to book you on the spot. Some will have interest in you, but want to sit back and observe for a while to really feel that connection before handing over their wallet.

It is YOUR job as the business owner to build a relationship with them and serve them value over and over again until they are ready to buy.

Instagram Reels Algorithm

The way the Instagram Reels algorithm works is by targeting people who have shown interest in whatever topic you are posting about. The more you niche down and are consistent about this, the more you are going to see those views go up.

Instagram WANTS people to stay on their app, so when they create a new feature like REELS they are going to shove that out into the world wayyyy more than anything else like feed posts, IGTV, etc

How To Make An Instagram Reel

If by now you are on board and understand that you should be making reels in your business, but you have no clue how, listen up.

When you open up the Instagram app you land on your newsfeed/homepage. At the bottom of your screen is a toolbar that has a few different icons that take you to your home page, your search bar, Instagram Reels, the shop, and your profile. 

The Instagram Reels tab should be right in the middle (it looks like a little square with a play button in the center. 

After clicking that, it will take you to your reels feed where you can scroll and watch other peoples videos.

Below the videos are multiple buttons including a heart shaped button to “like” the video, a talking bubble to comment on the video, a paper airplane button to send the video or the save it button.

In the top right hand corner of the screen you should see a little button that looks like a camera. That is where you will click to make your own reel.

Making Your First Instagram Reel

When you open that up, your camera will also open up. There are several options over on the left side of the screen in a toolbar. The top button is the length of your reel which as of now can only be a maximum of 30 seconds.

Below that is the music note button which is where you can choose to put audio in the background of your video. This can be either a song, or a funny audio you found from someone else. Or you don’t have to use that at all and you can just talk like in any other video.

My recommendation is that you incorporate a sound into your video, especially if that sound is trending because people will be more likely to find and see your video that way.

Side note: Not everyone has the audio feature yet, and I am not really sure why but I know it’s annoying those who do not.

What If You Don’t Have The Audio Button?

In this case, I would try getting another app that allows you to make videos with sounds and you can just upload them to Instagram. You can either make them on Tik Tok and then upload to Instagram or use an app called IN SHOT. It’s a really cool video editing app that is a good alternative if you don’t have the audio feature yet.

The next button down is the speed of the video. You can speed it up or slow it down. 

There is a filters button next which is one reason why I like Instagram Reels more than Tik Tok. These filters allow you to stay on brand with your Instagram story filters.

Next are the general Instagram filters you can use… I never do this but maybe you will like them!

Lastly is the timer button which is probably the most key part to making an IG reel. This is how you can cut your video into chunks and add some unique things to your video, like when you see someone magically change outfits or do their makeup. 

There is quite a bit to learn so I suggest playing around with it and maybe watching some Youtube tutorials.

Should You Post Instagram Reels On Your Feed?

Another question a lot of people have when making Instagram Reels is if they should post them on their feed or just in the reels section. After my own experiment with this I noticed that the Instagram Reels where I also posted to my feed got WAYYY better engagement than the ones that I did not. I think the more places you can put it – the better!

Hashtags are another great way to make sure you are reaching the right people and that your content is getting more views because people are going to be searching those hashtags and key words.

What To Post

Alright now that you know why Instagram Reels are important and how to make them, let’s talk about what you should actually be posting.

How do you use these to grow? What on earth should you talk about?? 

First off, think about what your business is, what do you do? How does it serve someone? Who is your ideal client? 

If you are a wedding photographer, your ideal client is probably engaged couples. What kinds of problems would a freshly engaged person have? What kind of helpful content can you be posting to attract that person to your profile and actually serve them!

Some idea might be what outfits to wear to a photoshoot, or how to plan for the wedding, or how to look good in photos, wedding photo ideas, timeline planning tips, tips for the best lighting in wedding photos, the possibilities are literally endless.

Having a good marketing strategy is all about serving your ideal client.

Remember: you are the expert in the industry. Show them that you know what they are going through and how you can help them.

Get Inspired

If you are feeling uninspired try this: spend some time scrolling through your Instagram Reels feed INTENTIONALLY.

I bet after a while you will start to notice trends and recurring sounds. This is a great place to start.

If a particular sound is being used by a lot of people then that is a good indicator that the sound is trending which means a lot of people are watching videos with that sound on them.

Think about how you can use that sound as a way to relate back to what you do.

Dancing is not a requirement!

The most important thing is to make your video informative and interesting. If you just sit there and talk that’s okay but I would also have other videos with some more creative variety so it doesn’t get too repetitive and feel boring.

Another idea is to just post reels related to you and your life. Balance is key. People love to see the real you so when you show your lifestyle in an Instagram Reel, they feel more connected to you.

Pay attention to what videos do the best and don’t feel bad if one doesn’t do so great. Use that as research to start making more videos around that same topic or videos that align well with that original one that did well.

Content Ideas For Instagram Reels

  • Show a behind the scenes of your process
  • Make a day in the life video about – you guessed it – your day to day life
  • Make a how to video related to your business or just something random in your life
  • Teach your ideal client something
  • Talk about what gear or materials you use to do what you do
  • Show how you get ready in the morning
  • Talk about your pets or your starbucks order
  • Talk about your kids or being a mom
  • Create relatable content about being a wife/husband or girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Show a transformation that you were able to give a previous client
  • After serving a bunch of content you can make a reel talking about what you actually sell and pitch it to your audience

Whether you are making Tik Toks, Instagram Reels, or both, remember to keep it fun, enjoy it, get creative, and experiment with it.

Success finds those who try new things and who are willing to put themselves out there and not worry so much about what everyone else is going to think.

If you want to show me all the awesome content you are creating then you can send it to me on Instagram @BrandedCowgirlPodcast

I would love to watch your Instagram Reels and send you all my love!


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I'm Sarah Elrod

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I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.

I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.

I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.

When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.

There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.

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