Say Hello to Instagram Reels, TikTok’s Newest Rival

The hype is real, folks. Or should we say, Reel. Instagram Reels are here and, if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to get in while it still has that “new content smell.”

Facebook, who owns Instagram, just released its much-awaited competitor to TikTok. While they claim that the timing is “coincidental,” it couldn’t be more perfect with the TikTok Ban looming. 

While the format is still fresh, we want to help answer all the questions you might have regarding the newest member of the short-form video content club. Questions like:

  • Wait, explain to me again exactly what Instagram Reels is?
  • Do I have to download a new app?
  • How is it different from TikTok?
  • How do you use this new form of content?
  • Can you make me famous? (We will try our best, we promise.)

By the end of this blog, hopefully you’ll be able to make an Instagram Reel as well as your 8-year-old nephew who, you’re almost certain, hasn’t looked up from his phone since Christmas.

What exactly is Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels is Facebook’s offering for short-form video content, and TikTok’s latest adversary in the market for attention span. They are describing it as “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram.” It’s a new format that will live inside Instagram’s Explore page, becoming neighbors with Boomerang, Instagram Live and IGTV.

While this is all very exciting for the social media world, this is by no means a new concept. Facebook is known for *ahem* “repurposing” content formats on their own platforms. You might be familiar with their efforts to include stories, live streaming, and even online shopping on their pages, all of which were not originally their brainchildren. However, it’s hard to argue with the comparative success they have had in these areas.

The new platform could not have come at a more appropriate time, which may very well be planned, with a TikTok Ban lurking in the shadows. Earlier this month, the U.S. government released a statement that they would be looking into banning the widely-popular app from the country, citing that the investigation stems from reports that China is using the app to farm data from American users. Does TikTok live in fame or infamy? Either way, Instagram Reels is looking to capitalize on the opportunity in front of them, even though its parent company has faced scrutiny for similar topics in the past.

There is a war for YOUR attention span happening right in front of us. But, before we get into the nitty-gritty details of Instagram Reels, let’s go over a brief history of short-form video content so you can get some context on how we got to where we are today.

Short-Form Video Throughout The Years



  • Twitter acquires Vine for $30 million.



  • After claiming that the platform had become “different than what was intended,” Twitter pulls the plug on Vine (gone but definitely not forgotten <3.)



  • TikTok merges with, which is where TikTok starts to gain traction.
  • Facebook quietly releases a short-from video competitor called Lasso.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, testifies before congress after the company reports a data leak.


  • By now, TikTok has surpassed Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat for monthly downloads.


  • Byte, known as the second coming of Vine, is released revamping six second, looping video content.
  • TikTok faces a ban in America, after it is rumored that the company is a front for data mining.
  • Facebook shuts down Lasso, after it never really took off like the company had hoped.
  • Shortly after Lasso’s demise, Facebook drops Instagram Reels right into our laps.

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok

So what makes Instagram Reels stand out? What are the differences between Reels and TikTok? The answer is: not much. While there are some minor differences, Facebook realizes it doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel here, but rather hop on the short-form content bandwagon. 

The biggest difference we’ve found is the length of content that can be posted. TikTok allows you to post videos that are up to 60 seconds long, while Instagram Reels are limited to only 15 seconds. Most of the other differences are platform-specific, and only noticeable when it comes to editing and production — but we will dive into that in just a moment.

From a surface level, the platforms are virtually the same, allowing users to utilize filters, effects and sound bytes for video clips that they can then share with the world.

Instagram Reels 101

Instagram was thoughtful enough to provide a detailed information guide on how to start making Reels of your own. However, with anything new, you have to crawl before you can walk. While Instagram does a good job of explaining the way they view the format, we want to share the experience of posting our first Instagram Reel! It’s a story as old as time, following the life of a lovable office lunch and his journey through heartbreak.

The goal here is to help you get familiarized as quickly as possible so you can get a leg up on the competition. Like we said before, there is a war for your attention happening and, whether you like it or not, you are as much a part of it as the mega-conglomerate media companies are.

Read More: How to Stay on Top of a Social Media Trend


Okay, so let’s get this show on the road. Open up your Instagram app and go to the little camera icon in the corner, as if you were going to post a story. At the very bottom, below the big circular button for taking pictures, you will be able to scroll between three options labeled “Live,” “Story” and “Reels.” Go ahead and swipe on over to Reels.

From here you have two options, record video clips within the app or upload them from your library. For us, it was easier to upload clips, since you can only edit the last clip you recorded within the app. Otherwise, you have to delete the clip you just recorded, which could ruin the whole thing! (When in doubt, download/save the video. You’ll thank us later.)

Once you’ve decided how you want to record your Instagram Reels, you get to pick what you want to be included in the final product. Instagram has provided tools that you can use to enhance your clips, which are found on the left-hand side of your screen. These tools include:

  • Audio – A place where you can find the music you want to accompany your new creation. It pulls thousands of songs from streaming services like Spotify for you to use.
  • Speed – Can’t fit everything into 15 seconds? Speed it up! Want to show off something dramatic? Slow it down!
  • Effects – These are filters, overlays and edits made by both Instagram itself and other users from all across the globe designed to make your video stand out.
  • Timer – Instagram realizes you may not always have an extra hand for recording. So the timer lets you set it and forget it. You can choose exactly how long you want to record for with the nifty timer slide tool.
  • Align – If you are recording within the app, Align shows up on your second clip. It helps you see where you left off on your last video by producing a light overlay for you to align your videos for seamless transitions.

None of these tools are far off from what TikTok is already offering, but why fix what isn’t broken, right?


Once you’ve become confident with the content of your Reel, and by confident we mean deleted and then reuploaded six times because there’s no way your voice actually sounds like that, it’s time to share! Putting your post out there for the whole world to see may be daunting but don’t fret, you have options. 

If your account is public, you have the ability to share to the explore page, your follower’s main feeds, your story and it may even show up when users click on specific items that are featured in your Reel, like the song or effect you used. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. From one content format, you can cover every content avenue that Instagram provides for its users. Just something to think about if you are concerned with your page’s engagement.

Read More: How To Make Instagram Work For Your B2B Marketing Strategy

If your account is private, then Reels will follow the same guidelines as the rest of your posts. Only your followers will be able to view your content, no one but you can use your original audio, and no one can share your posts with others.

From the share screen, you can finalize your post by choosing a cover photo, caption and appropriate hashtags to round out your masterpiece. If you can’t or don’t want to post right away, you can always save it to your drafts for later use!


The best place to view Instagram Reels within the app is going to be on the Explore page. The format is very similar to TikTok, where you can endlessly scroll through Reels until your finger falls off. You can like, comment and share any Reel you are interested in, all while still viewing the video itself. 

Scroll long enough, and you’ll stumble upon a Reel with a Featured label, which means that the post has been “selected by Instagram to help you discover original content we hope will entertain and inspire you.” If one of your carefully-crafted Instagram Reels becomes featured, Instagram will notify you of the good news. It is important to note that only public accounts can be featured on the Explore page.

So, in closing, this is kind of a big deal if you ask us. We know that Facebook, with their nearly three billion users, has been successful in the past at making already popular formats even more popular. Instagram Reels are only going to become more popular from here. With it being so new, it can be argued that the potential for growth is unlimited.

It’s the Reel deal, so start Reeling them in! And remember to always keep it Reel

Sorry… we couldn’t hold back any longer.

If you want more information on how we here at Pinckney use our social media platforms, read our other helpful blogs on social media strategy and download a copy of our Social Media Handbook. You will find even more information and activities on how to make your social media campaign work harder for you.