If you haven’t noticed, Instagram is pushing Reels — its in-app TikTok clone — very hard. Since Reels rolled out in 2020, the Meta-owned picture-sharing app has been all but begging people to use the feature (and not just repost their own TikToks there). Whether or not you’ve actually created any Reels, you soon won’t have a choice: Within the next few weeks, if you post a video that’s under 15 minutes, it’s gonna be a Reel. Here’s what you need to know.
What are Reels again?
Instagram has been flirting with this idea for a few months now. In January, the company confirmed it had started testing a possible pivot-to-Reels for all videos, foisting the change on just a few users. At the time, a spokesperson said the change was “part of our efforts to simplify and improve the video experience on Instagram.”
Reels are short videos that users can edit with special effects, filters, and separate audio tracks. Essentially, they are just like TikToks: There are underlying audio clips that users can either lip-sync with or react to, there are trends specific to the app, and there is an element of discoverability. Until this new change went into effect, Reels had their own feeds in the Discovery section of the app and appeared in a unique tab on each creator’s profile, separate from other video offerings, like IGTV posts. (IGTV posts will still be an option for any video longer than 15 minutes.) Reels, unlike other videos, take up the whole screen during playback.
There are numerous in-app editing features for Reels, including the ability to speed up and slow down videos, and edit clips together. That sets this apart from, say, the Story feature or even the old way of posting videos to the grid. Also like TikTok, any original audio a user adds to a Reel becomes an audio clip that other ‘grammers can use on their own Reels. This is important later.
Other users will be able to use your Reel audio
Any video under 15 minutes will now be a Reel, though videos posted before the change went into effect will remain in their regular format. Those videos and Reels will all be available in one “video” tab on a profile. Importantly, any video content included in a carousel does not become a Reel; the carousels remain independent of your video tab, staying in the regular grid on your page.
The most notable thing here is that anyone with a public account will now face the possibility that their original audio may be used by other people in their Reels, so be warned of that. Instagram also said in announcing the change that anyone with a public account is now eligible to have their Reels seen and recommended to more people via the Discover page. Private users, on the other hand, will only have their Reels (and audio clips) viewed by followers. One thing public-facing users can have control over is Remixes, which are the Reels equivalent of TikTok’s duets. In settings, you can toggle off the ability for other people to Remix your Reel, removing the option for them to repost your content with their own addition or reaction.
In the next few weeks, an expanded Remix feature will also allow users to Remix public photos to create a Reel or add their reaction to an existing Reel after it plays, instead of side-by-side while it plays.
While Instagram is clearly biting TikTok, it also borrowed a feature from another popular app, BeReal: With the new Dual feature, users can record using their front and back cameras simultaneously, showing their content and reaction at the same time.