Photos, schmotos. Recently our fave photo-sharing app Instagram told us they’re taking a step back from the whole pics biz in favor of a newfound emphasis on video. And by that, we mean Reels. Cue the internet chaos.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock without a decent wifi signal, Reels are short, buzzy videos – usually set to music – that display on your main feed. And unlike Stories, they don’t disappear after 24 hours.

At Oh Snap! Social we LOVE Reels. They’re a killer way to show off our strategic insights, tips, ideas and photogenic good looks. *hairflip* PLUS the Instagram algorithm gives Reels a huge leg-up when it comes to post visibility. A Reel vs an old-school pic? The Reel wins every time.

But here’s the thing about engagement: we, the people, want MORE. (As viral Iggy the fashionista Italian Greyhound would say “It will never be enough. Never ever be enough.”)

Good news! The Instagram team recently clued us in to what’s under the hood of their Reels algorithm, giving us some handy-dandy insights into what we can do to get our vids in front of even more unsuspecting strangers (and our actual buddies, of course).

When serving up a Reel to your feed, the Instagram algorithm considers, in order of importance:

  • How likely you are to watch a Reel all the way through, like it, say it was entertaining or funny, OR go to the audio page to make your own Reel.
  • Your history of interacting with the creator of the Reel.
  • Info about the Reel, including audio track, video track, and overall popularity.
  • Info about the person who posted and their popularity.

Let’s break that down a bit and see what it means for us when we’re creating our Reels.

Boring won’t cut it.

Reels have to be snappy (quick cuts/transitions work well!), worth watching the whole way through, and with a killer audio track or earworm song that will inspire people to create their own content. So, pull viewers in right away, make those transitions sing, and use a great custom thumbnail to get people to click in the first place. Protip: try making your CTA a challenge to your fans to make a Reels response to your Reel. The more who do that, the more algo points your Reels will snag. *taps temple*

Engagement and interaction matter.

Build those relationships, respond to posts, like, share and talk up other people’s content. Because that algorithmic karma will feed right back to you in terms of Reels visibility.

Quality is key – but so is being on trend.

High-res video and audio that taps into popular trends will push your Reel up at the leaderboard. Watermarks and fuzzy visuals will consign you to invisibility. Popularity is also a factor, so lean into those trends and remix popular formats for your own brand.

Edgy is OK – but leave the politics at home.

Political anything is a no-go on the Platform of Cute Cats and Dogs. IG’s algorithm sends that stuff to the bottom of the pile, so if you feel a rant or political-themed post brewing, save that for a newspaper comments section.

Want to stay on top of the fast-moving world of Instagram? Follow the @creators account to keep track of the transparency and knowledge they’re dropping to help you succeed on Instagram. Plus, follow me to check out my own Reels and get the Oh Snap! spin on the latest in social strategy!