If you’re still on the fence about whether to wade into the world of TikTok — or looking for an alternative as TikTok’s future remains uncertain — Instagram is begging for your creative energy.
The platform’s new Reels feature lets users record, edit and publish bite-sized videos that get added to a discoverable social feed. Videos can be up to 15 seconds long be layered with special effects, filters and separate audio tracks.
This may sound a lot like Instagram Stories, but there are a few key differences, as well as some reasons you might prefer one over the other:
- Reels offers a wider variety of editing tools, including AR effects, speed controls for speeding up or slowing down audio and video, and the ability to align multiple clips for cleaner transitions.
- Reels can be shared to Instagram’s Explore feed (as long as your account is public) so people who don’t follow you can find them — a perk for people who want to build a following.
- If you include original audio, your audio will be attributed to you, and other users can include it in their own reels.
Basically, Reels is very similar to TikTok, just rebuilt within Instagram (and admittedly without a few of TikTok’s essential features, like the ability to “duet” or upload songs directly). It’s not too far off from when Instagram launched Stories, which essentially duplicated a lot of the functionality of Snapchat.
Here’s how to use it.
How to use Instagram Reels
To create a reel, open the Instagram camera just like you would to use Stories, and select Reels on the bottom scroll bar. You’ll see the editing tools stacked on the left side of the screen. Use the record button to create your clip or series of clips (there’s a progress bar at the top of the screen to show how much of your 15 seconds you’ve used). Tap the arrow at the bottom when you’re ready to publish.
From there, you’ll have the option to write a caption, choose a cover image, add hashtags and share your video to Reels (if your account is public). Reels will appear on Explore and be stored on a tab on your profile page, similar to IGTV.
Another option for both public and private accounts is to post reels to your Feed — they’ll appear on your main grid and on the Reels tab. You can also choose to send your reel as a DM or post it to your Stories — both of which will treat your video like a regular Story that disappears after 24 hours.
To watch other users’ reels, tap the search icon on the main toolbar. Reels are featured at the top, and all you have to do is tap and scroll to cycle through the clips. From there, you can follow users and like, share and comment on reels directly.
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