Ugh. Please no!
Was this your reaction too when Reels was introduced? I had just gotten used to stories and thought it was more than adequate for showcasing life in motion.
I am not on Tik Tok for a reason, and if I wanted that format, I’d just be on Tik Tok.
Once again, I felt pressured or forced by Instagram to wear their yellow bib and join their quest to beat every other platform – in this case the blue bib, Tik Tok – regardless of whether the IG community even really wanted Reels.
It’s like I show up to the courts to play netball, a game I know and love and can shoot well at, to be told by the yellow-bib basketball team on the other court, that I have to don the blue bib to use my shooting skills to help them win, and if I don’t join them, they’ll take down the netball ring so I can’t play.
Yep. They’re favoring Reels in the algorithms to push their agenda. So, if you want to shoot more goals, you HAVE to put on that blue bib to play their game.
Question everything! What? Why? How?
So, I thought about it. Tried it out. Liked it some ways, but hated it in others.
I found myself picking up Instagram to engage and jumping out two minutes later as every update was a Reel and all I felt overwhelmed: Super-fast flashing photos, text everywhere, moving images, staged funny, loads of tips I didn’t want or need, in a space I go to for inspiration and escapism.
My curious mind started to wonder:
If I am overwhelmed is everyone else? Does anyone even watch these? How do people have the time to consume so many reels?
Even though reach is better, does it even convert to “growth” or, like FB has been caught doing before, are they just overinflating Reel views just to look good? Like is every one of those 2400 views from people who watch the whole thing, or does the 1 second skim over count as a view?
Why are people creating these? Is it just because IG kinda forces us to with their reach algorithm threats?
I knew it was important enough for me to look at and consider doing for growth. And I did enjoy creating Reels, so that wasn’t the issue.
The issue for me was, is what I creating just contributing to the overwhelm of my followers because that is consuming them does to me?
How can I find a way to make this work that best helps them? How can I create something that will inspire and serve rather than just because I want to go viral?
This is the dancing balance we’ve had to do for 10 years with our travel blog. How can we create, in a way that gives us long term exposure via SEO, but remain true to the integrity of our story and usefulness to our community?
I am happy and proud of our ability too do this and it comes down to, not just personal integrity, but also ensuring we are staying connected to our community and putting them in the center of our creation – what is best for them? What do they want?
I asked on Instagram what people honestly thought of reels. It was an exercise to dig deep into finding what the community wants outside of what Zuckerberg tells them they must create or consume.
It wasn’t done to hate on Instagram or judge what people do. It was just an insight gathering task.
It was open and honest and I appreciated the insights people shared. It has helped me see how I can work with Instagram and reels for my community.
I can say to that basketball team, “Okay, I’ll don your blue bib, but I’ll only play your basketball if you take down that backboard because I can shoot way better without it. (oh, and it will be best if you increase the height of the ring and give me a smaller, lighter ball.)
What does the community like and want?
I wanted to share the insights with you. I know how hard it is to scroll through over a 100 comments and piece it together yourself. You can see the post and comments here.
I also cannot share my findings with the IG post update limitations, and I sure as hell won’t put it into a 30 second reel with dancing subtitles – that’s a shooting with the backboard kinda hell for me!
I realize it’s only one sample – my own little bubble world. It could be very different depending on niches et. So, ask your bubble world how they feel
- Most people enjoy the creation of Reels (Excellent)
- Most people feel forced by the algorithms to create them (grr)
- Not many like consuming Reels. They find them overwhelming and skip on by them. (eek)
- Fast flashing photos are not appreciated and cause strobe like reactions
- Most people want light inspiration – beautiful imagery, or funny moments, that captivate with little text
- Some do enjoy tip style Reels every so often
- Everyone likes the music part!!
- Most thought around 15 secs was a sweet point.
- Many hated them at first but are growing to love them. This is so typical of change. They are probably here to stay and if could become an enjoyable part of Instagram if you find the right strategy.
A Flexible Reel Strategy
Here is my plan moving forward, which is always open to change:
- Window to the World reels – just sharing cool things, beautiful scenery, or funny moments
- As simple and real as can be
- Little text
- Fun music. I tend to avoid trending ones, just because I like to be different, and I like to showcase Australian music. I know this may not be good for the potential viral hit. But people comment on the song and I feel happy sharing a part of Australia with them. I also like to share Rock music, and considering the Grammy’s completely dropped it off the ticket, I feel I need to showcase why you need more rock in your life!
- Create for fun and purpose rather than just trying to be seen and go viral.
- Aim for 15 seconds
- Minimal strobe like flashing. Probably none. I think it’s bad for our brains (for real) and terrible for our energy.
Reducing Overwhelm and Making it Work
Here are some of my insights for moving forward and overcoming the overwhelm you may feel.
You cannot create or consume in overwhelm. Think about how that feels – the energy of it. Comatose brain fog, right?
Do what you can to get out of overwhelm. Don’t spend hours a day on Instagram comparing yourself to others. It’s not good for your health.
Go for a walk, listen to the birds, and clear your head and energy to allow the inspiration and ideas to just flow.
Follow your curious questions. It can help you gain clarity and reduce overwhelm.
As always, all of these are just my personal insights and opinions. Take what you like, leave what you don’t behind.
Most importantly, leave a comment with your insights. I’m sure those reading after you will find them so helpful. Leave your IG handle in the comment too so we can follow your Reels!
I am NOT an Instagram expert. Our account doesn’t even perform well on IG, so my tips are NOT to help you grow.
But, like you, I’m on the platform almost every day, trying to find ways to make it work in the greater context of what we do, without feeling too much burden and overwhelm. So these are the tips and insights that help me manage this work in progress and start to see Reels as a worthy contribution to my Instagram strategy.
Know your platforms, your niche, and community
Ask your community what they like best. Find the balance between creating what they want, having your own fun, and thinking about the “virility.”
I’ve considered doing the tip style Reels, but it’s not my style and I don’t think it’s what my community wants. They seem to enjoy more – the window the world style.
I’m also an OG blogger. I much prefer to write tip style content in a blog post, where I can go deeper, and make it last longer. It feels kinda wasted to me to put it in a 30 second reel, trying to grab someone’s attention while they quickly skim past. I feel tips are better given when people are sitting in that frame of mind for actively seeking and learning.
But, they work for others. It’s all very relevant to your niche and it could be something I investigate later as my bandwidth opens up (or I can outsource it!)
Christina from Macs Explore does great tip style reels related to IG growth – as that is what her community wants. They are simple and easy to follow.
Hailey Outside does very simple creative tips for traveling with a baby.
(Both are also great for sharing their travel lifestyle in simple reels.)
Be creative and purposeful.
Also, on our Raleigh Instagram – super niche – food highlight reels do really well. So, does us showing a new restaurant or local store. I doubt they would do as well on our travel Instagram as it’s so broad.
What does your data say?
This is a little tricky since there isn’t any analytics for Instagram Reels yet.
So how can you be sure it really is the best way to grow your account?
Sure. You can see the number of views – but does a 1 second scroll past view count in that? See how your follower count starts to grow.
I don’t see any for our ytravel account, but growth is slow on there anyway.
I have been paying attention on our This is Raleigh Instagram, where we get great engagement and growth. WE’re getting high views on our Reels there but I am seeing very little growth in followers after we post a Reel. However, if we post a photo of a beautiful neighborhood house, we’ll have scores of new followers.
It may be different for you. I know some people have grown their account a lot from Reels. So it can happen and they could start performing better the more you do it.
It’s a lot of effort on the chance for something to go viral.
Building a business on the HOPE of something going viral is a bad strategy.
On the other hand, take our recent strategy for implementing Google Stories. I can clearly see in my analytics that they are bringing thousands in new traffic to our site. So where do you think, I’m going to invest most of my resources.
Pay attention to your data and form a strategy around that.
At the moment, I enjoy creating Reels, so I will continue to publish them. But I’ll monitor the success and see if the consistency does bring eventual results. Mine do seem to be increasing with reach, likes, and comments the more I do them.
Always give new strategies time to work. Keep reassessing and be open to changing. If you don’t see any positive results then make a decision if your investment of time is worth it, or could you better spend it elsewhere?
Simplicity is everything
Make everything as simple as you can.
Our world is full of input and invitation to consume. We are all in overwhelm and our brains are a mess.
I was so happy to hear so many say they just like simple “windows to the world.”
I can do simple and will be looking for it when we travel. Think of that amazing view you come across, the kangaroo eating out of your hand, the cool sculpture trail through the forest.
Go simple and slow. I think it’s the new way to gain attention.
Don’t you just feel a greater release now you have permission for simplicity?
Start with the simple and what you can manage. Get a system and style in place for it. Then build upon that with the more challenging when you’re ready. You don’t have to do it all at once.
Don’t create for the viral hit
Honestly, trying to figure out the formula for a viral hit is a bad investment of your time. There is no formula.
I’ve learned over the years with travel blogging, what goes viral is completely unpredictable. Sure, there are certain things I know I can do to help it, and I’ll add that into my content, but I don’t rely on it or create just with that in mind.
Consider: If I am spending all this time on the chance of going viral, where am I NOT spending my time?
See my outsourcing section below where you can see my results from pausing Instagram and putting my time on tasks bringing me greater returns. It so easy to get caught up in the viral game and distracted from tasks that reward you with more.
Invest in consistency and value. It’s a better long term growth strategy.
How sustainable in the long run is “virility?” Just because something goes viral once doesn’t mean they’ll hang around. Your next piece my completely flop as it didn’t follow the magic, unknown formula. Can you handle being a star one day and a nothing the next?
I prefer long, term steady growth, rather than having to play to huge spikes.
I doesn’t mean I won’t say YES to something that goes viral, but I embrace it as a gift, not a hard-worked for given.
I think my energy can go further in the long run with greater rewards if I invest in the long-term steady.
Trying to go viral may cost you some of your long-term followers. They may feel a disconnect to what that consistency and messaging they always came to you for.
That doesn’t mean don’t change things up a little and try new things. But do it with a meaning and purpose that goes beyond, “just trying to be viral.”
I hope that makes sense.
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Do the best with what you have from where you are
This is my favorite mantra of all time. If you approach all things in life with this mantra, you will live with a sense of calm, ease, and enjoyment.
If you’re bandwidth cannot deal with Reels now, and may never, that’s okay. Don’t do them. You don’t HAVE to do anything. This is your world you are creating. Just do you. Keep in check with your joy levels. It is important and is one way you bring miracles into your life.
If right now all you can manage is five photos in a reel with cool music. Do it.
If you can only do one a week. That’s great.
If you can’t do funny, just do you.
If putting text on the Reel, is the one step that takes you off the cliff, don’t use text.
Don’t let this whole – “but it’s the only way IG will help me grow” pressure steal your joy and ability to just do the best with what you have from where you are.
And then be happy with whatever results come your way. Don’t define success by XYZ number. Define it by – You did the best you could from where you were.
That’s a win.
And if you enjoyed the creatin of it (which most seem to) then it’s a Double Win.
Oh and don’t ever aim for perfection. It just takes too much time. Embrace the messy. It works just fine.
Repurpose Content: The Leverage Game we all should play
Repurposing content has always been our long-term strategy. It’s the best way to cope with the never-ending demands placed upon you as content creators.
Outside of Instagram, I don’t do anything unless I first ask, “How can I leverage this in at least two different ways, or one really powerful way.” If there is no leverage, it’s usually a “I cannot move forward with this” answer.
If you’re a blogger, take some of your content and flip it into a highlight, or tip reel. I’m repurposing with some Google Stories we create, by downloading them and putting them out on Instagram stories.
Life is so much better when you repurpose and leverage.
The best I can do from where I am right now with Reels is to repurpose old content. So, I’m going through old videos and clipping out fun, “window the world” stuff, like the Butt Chair and the Nashville murals, both performing better than our other Reels (ours don’t perform great mind you!)
I can across this reel the other day from Black Adventure Mom that showcased a beautiful park in Colorado I hadn’t seen before. Its simplicity and beauty pulled me in.
It was in landscape format. I didn’t even know it was a reel, I thought it was a video.
I was so happy to see that Reels can be just as impactful, even if they don’t take up the full vertical screen. It just needs to tell the right story.
It will be way easier for me moving forward to just repurpose content from our old videos. Do the best you can – even if it means putting a landscape video in a vertical format! It can work.
Use tools and templates to help
We use Adobe Rush as we have an Adobe Creative subscription and want to use my paid products. It’s easy to use and has a lot of features.
I am cranky with it at the moment as it’s no longer available on my Samsung21 phone. I updated the software and suddenly it won’t work. I hope they fix that soon as it made moving between my devices to create easy.
I can save templates on there which I was doing for text. Now I’ve figured out how to do it with Reels, I do that as I’m guessing IG prefers that.
I do have the standard branded end text I select and add each time now to the end of our reel that says Follow our Adventures. I can do the same with our This is Raleigh channel.
A lot of people mention InShot as another option. I’ve also been meaning to check QuickPro the GoPro video editing software as that used to be so intuitive for putting together a video using your files and somehow knowing how to grab the best action from your files.
I also use Sparks (Adobe version of Canva) to create my Reels cover image. I use a template to make creation quick and easy.
Read more: 24 tools and services we use in our travel blogging business
Outsource the overwhelm
I know this is not an option for a lot of people. Use tools to help simplify first.
We’re just returned to a place where we can start outsourcing again after the brutal past year. It’s a huge scary leap. I’ve been scared every time, worrying if it will be a wasted investment, knowing I could put that money into something else, like my dream home instead.
All rewards come with risk and in business you have to get used to taking giant leaps.
Outsourcing is a great way to increase your ROI. Be careful about it. Outsource where you lack in skills, time, and care.
We’ve just made our biggest hire in our 10-year blogging history. I’m so nervous, but I know the leap is necessary.
I’m aware that we may not get the results we hope for. I’ve looked at worst case scenario and know we can handle it. The risk is worth it.
I do know one very important thing – it will take away the biggest overwhelm for me in our business- managing Instagram and Pinterest.
We have to do these two things anyway. Letting someone else takes care of it, removes the burden of what I’m not good at and don’t like, and it frees up my time and head space to do what I do best.
So even if I don’t get specific results (I think I will), the power that comes with removing this burden for me will allow me to leverage my own skills to create a bigger return.
I took a week off IG to test it. It was incredible how much I achieved in that week (and how good I felt). I wrote more content than I have in months. All of which was either paid, or I can leverage into long term income.
And I created four awesome proposals – two of which have been accepted so far and will cover my outsourcing expenses.
I’m also getting our video editor to get any footage he thinks is fun, interesting etc. into a 15-30 second reel. He can do it much faster and more creative than me – remembering I’m just focusing on Window to the World kind of stuff.
I had hired Savannah to create Reels for me, but after a few days of her enthusiastic approach, her friends pulled her over to their latest Roblox game and I lost her.
But that’s okay. She’s 9 and I’d rather she follows the path of fun with friends then creating reels for me just to reduce my overwhelm.
Perhaps you can hire one of your kids or even your spouse. Kids are amazing with their creativity and ability to create quickly.
Or maybe if you’re good at creating Reels, you can outsource yourself!
Don’t rely on just one platform
Give yourself the grace to be able to say no to either the netball or basketball game!
We felt that 18 months ago when a big Google algorithm changed crucified us. It hurt and I promise, even though SEO helps us more with our business, than Instagram does, I curse and hate on Google more than I do Instagram.
We were always pretty good and diversifying our income streams, but that crash showed me just how much we heavily relied on Google.
So, we went to work changing that.
- We started a new niche site, ThisisRaleigh.com
- We worked on strengthening our IG channel, which we had always previously ignored (and I learned to like it in the process) (I joined Macs Explore’s Instasuccess course which helped a lot – most importantly to help me like it!! She did a free webinar with me and shared lots of tips. You can watch it here. )
- We leveraged into new ideas like being talent for tourism brands marketing materials
How can you use your skills and talents to leverage into other areas? What else can you build?
Build your own algorithm: Your story, your authority
The most important thing you need to work on is your OWN algorithm – what is it that makes you outlive any social platform or SEO ranking.
How can you, not just exist, but thrive no matter what they are all doing? What makes you able to bounce back, or reinvent, when something no longer works, fails, or limits you?
What’s your story? What’s your expertise? What’s your authority?
What’s your MINDSET?
These are the things that last and opens many doors of opportunity.
People don’t just hire for numbers: they hire for good story telling or expertise.
When we’re selling ourselves to potential clients – we’re selling our story and expertise. We’re selling a 23-year travel lifestyle that has evolved no matter our lifestyle.
That’s a lot of travel cred. Our expert opinion is called upon a lot. That’s a lot of cred and influence beyond the algorithm and we work hard to be seen beyond the algorithm.
It’s a strategy we’ve replicated with our new site, which is growing extremely well. Story and expertise is the lead that draws others in. Then you back that up with content that helps.
We’re very professional in how we work and create which I thought would just be a given, but we’ve discovered over the years, that it’s not.
Professionalism makes you a standout that lives and thrives beyond the algorithm and can often land you an opportunity over someone else’s better numbers.
Think beyond the algorithm reach.
Nurture your story, your expertise and authority.
Make yourself shine.
Know your worth lives beyond a like, a reach count and a page view. You have to get off those platforms so you can see where your value lies without it.
I know how hard it is. My sense of self worth is crippled often by Instagram numbers. It’s only when I disconnect that I start seeing the true story of my worth and value.
If you don’t think beyond the algorithms, you won’t think BIGGER than it. Thinking bigger than the algorithm IS the pathway.
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Comment: Time to leave your insights and tips on how you manage and implement, not just Reels, but your IG strategy and management? Feel free to ask any questions as well!
P.S. See how I can’t fit my thoughts into an Instagram update or Reel. I just have too much to say!!