Instagram Reels are the best way to grow on Instagram right now, hands down. Creating viral Reels is the secret to growing your followers, views, and getting in front of the right people.
Instagram Reels has made me fall in love with Instagram all over again. I’m getting introduced to new creators, inventive content, and more Instagrammers can share the spotlight.
What I love about Reels is that you can go viral, no matter your audience size. I’ve had a few of my videos be seen by many more than just my audience and have even had a video viewed 8.5 million times.
I believe these short videos are one of the key ways to reach your target audience and grow your Instagram account exponentially. I’m sharing how to go viral on Instagram Reels and you can continue coming up with content ideas.
In addition to gaining followers, Instagram Reels allows you to increase engagement, reach, and even can help you monetize by putting you in front of potential customers or readers.
What are Instagram Reels?
Reels is Instagram’s response to TikTok. There is no denying they are extremely similar. 15 (and now 30) second videos are put to music or your own sound on virtually any topic. You’ll find Reels on your main feed, throughout your explore page, and now, featured throughout hashtags or places you click on.
Once you create this video you can share it to your feed, your story, and it has the potential to be featured on the explore page. You can share it to your profile, or, you have the option of sharing it to your new “Reels” tab on your profile. This tab is right next to your main feed. If you like, you don’t have to share the video to your Instagram grid. It can stay inside of the Reels tab or it can be featured on both.
This tells me that Instagram is keen to grow this feature and is awarding creators that use Instagram Reels.
Why do I know this? My background is in social media and marketing and I’ve made it my job to stay on top of the trends. Instagram absolutely loves when content creators and influencers embrace their features. I’m seeing accounts of all size go viral by using Reels.
Reels are available in 50 different countries and will continue to grow. Especially as Reels battles TikTok for the top social media app.
To create a Reel go to your profile and click the “+” in the top left hand corner. And click “Reel.” Here, you’ll find the options to select the length of the Reel, add music, speed it up, add filter or set a timer. You can also create the video outside of Reels, then upload it. To upload the video, just swipe up once you select Reels.
Many people find that Reels and Stories are similar. But Stories only live on your profile for 24 hours and then they’re gone, unless you create a story highlight. To me, Stories are more casual- sharing your thoughts, day-to-day life, or experiences. While Reels are a bit more thought out, quick, entertaining videos.
Need some Reel ideas? Here are 25 free ones!
Why focus on Instagram Reels?
The potential for growth on Instagram Reels is astronomical! You can gain thousands of followers when videos go viral. You can inspire your own audience. You can let your creativity shine.
It’s no surprise that video is the next big thing. Technology and social media are always adapting and growing, and video is an easy to consume medium. Add in the fact that you can quickly tell a story and captivate in a short period of time, and you are able to reach your ideal audience.
Any kind of content is going viral on Instagram Reels, but some more so than others which I’ll discuss below. Bottom line: there’s huge potential to be seen and grow your account.
What happens when you go viral?
My video going viral and being seen over 8 million times brought in 10,000 new followers in the span of a few days. But even more than that, it was my exact target audience. This kind of growth can take months, even years.
Yes, you have the potential of going viral overnight with Instagram Reels and growing your account in no time. But it takes a bit of practice and strategy to come up with how to grow.
Not only did I gain followers, my engagement increased, my Instagram Story views shot up, and I actually made more money the month I went viral because I had more eyes on my blog, too!
How to Go Viral on Instagram Reels
Before we go into the best ways to go viral on Reels I want to share some best practices that I’ve noticed for my most successful videos. As discussed above, you have the option of the videos being on your profile and on the Reels tab. You can easily click on the ellipsis on the bottom left and click “Remove from Profile Grid.” Say, if the video doesn’t fit in with your aesthetic or theme. But I suggest sharing it to your feed. You’ll see that option to toggle it off or on when you go to share your Reel.
I have noticed that videos that I share to my profile get double, even triple the amount of views. That’s because when someone lands on your profile they are more likely to click around and see your feed. If you really want to remove the video from your profile grid, give it a few days before doing so. Or, use an image as the cover that will go with your Instagram grid.
When you go to share your Reel make sure to add hashtags! You can add hashtags so that you’ll be found and featured based on the ones you use. For example on my video of New England I used the #newengland hashtag and for weeks it was the first thing people saw when they clicked on that hashtag. That’s a great way to grow!
Using relevant hashtags that relate to your video and the audience you want to target is a great strategy to grow. For example, if you have a travel video, you can use generic hashtags like #travel #travelvideo or location hashtags like #paris and #france. But take it a step further and use more specific hashtags that are descriptive of your video: #fallfoliage
To make the most out of Reels I suggest staying consistent. Try posting a new Reel every week or every other week. You can try different ideas and trends and see what sticks. This is a learning experience for us all. We are all getting the hang of Reels. So, feel free to post away!
What time you post can matter. The Instagram algorithm continues to share your post when you have engagement. So if you post at 2am and none of your followers see it, it might not have the same potential to be seen than if you were to post at 10 am when a bunch of your followers are online.
Just like with Instagram posts, take a look at your analytics (a business or creator account has these) and see when your audience is online and what kind of content they like the most. This will help you come up with content ideas for Instagram Reels. As of now, the Reels analytics are fairly minimal, showing number of shares, views, and comments. Eventually, I hope these analytics will be expanded to show more information on demographics, especially where this content is popular.
Just like a good headline of a blog post, we need to capture attention immediately. The first few seconds are critical. We want people to watch our videos all the way through! I suggest adding text to explain what the video is going to be about.
Also, using popular sounds or songs is a good way to keep people on your video, they want to hear the whole thing as well as see it.
Capture people in the first few seconds and make it relatable to the audience you already have. Instagram will first be sharing this content to your followers. If they interact with it, they will continue sharing it to a wider Instagram audience.
Share a How To
We all want to learn. Whether it’s how to create an epic photoshoot, style an outfit, travel tips, a recipe, list of book recommendations, a morning workout routine, or a tutorial on how you edit photos. The list goes on and on.
What happens when you share a how to? People pay attention. They want to know more. I recently found an account that just shares how to take beautiful photos. All of her videos seem to go viral! People want to learn how to take lovely photos just like hers.
What questions do others ask you about? What is your area of expertise? Or specialty?
Maybe you’re an expert on the perfect al-dente paste. Share with us in 30 seconds or less how to do it.
These videos work because people want to watch them over and over again and they want to see more of your tips!
When you provide value, you become a resource to the viewer and they want to continue watching and following. Don’t just tell me about a product you love, show me how you use it. Don’t just tell me about an Instagrammable spot, tell me how to get your shot. Don’t just tell me about your favorite shirt, show me how to style it.
As humans, we love the transformative story. Whether you’re showing a before and after of a room you’re decorating, a recipe you made, a photo you edited, or any number of things you’re creating.
Share a story
This is the most important and best way to go viral on Reels, through story telling. When you tell a story people naturally want to learn more. That means they watch, listen, interact, and follow. They want to hear part 2.
There are no “rules” when it comes to what goes viral on Instagram Reels, but these tips will help you decide what kind of content is best for you.
Stories are the absolute best way to connect with the world around us. When we tell stories we relate to others and it helps us understand each other. Funny or poignant, silly or sad, we want to hear your story. Because each of our stories are unique and different. Keep it short and to the point and occasionally leave them wanting more or sharing in a part two. No matter what kind of story you share you want to elicit some kind of emotion from the audience, remember, you want to inspire someone.
My most viral Reel is a simple, 15 second video that shared a story that people engaged with. This Reel shared a bit of my life, marrying my high school sweetheart, and moving abroad. This garnered over 8.5 million views.
Keep Up with Trends
What I find so interesting, especially from a marketing perspective, is how much people enjoying seeing the same kind of thing over and over again. We like hearing the same sounds, or getting a different take on a trend.
There was a trend on both Instagram and TikTok for users to “pretend to be influencers” in front of their husbands and make up highly entertaining and false suggestions for what they do when they get up in the morning. Hundreds of these videos went viral because people wanted to see other creative ideas that people might make up.
Other trends that go viral are dances (like the WAP), travel videos like twirling at home to then twirling in your new location. You can do this by using apps to cut and paste videos together.
To find out the trends, take a look at the Reels on your Explore page. Scroll through and see what kinds of videos are going viral. Mega viral videos are the ones that are “Featured.”
Make sure that if you find inspiration from a video, that you give credit to the source. For example, if you do a dance, give credit to the choreographer. If you follow a trend, give credit to the originator or who ever helped you come up with this idea.
A great way to remember who gave you inspiration is by simply saving the video. Click the ellipsis on the bottom left and click “save” then you can easily find it. You can also do the same with music so you can find the songs you want to use again.
Another recent Reel hit with over half a million views occurred when I shared a fun, 7-second sound reacting to a trending news story. It was easy to share and even easier to watch. This racked up the views.
Create Original Content
What I love about Reels is that you can post anything. Share your funny side or a side of you we haven’t seen before. Maybe those videos will flop. Or, they might go viral!
Try sharing something off the wall or out of your comfort zone. Since Reels is such a new platform, new ideas are taking shape. You never know what people might enjoy.
Some of my best videos came about spur of the moment and because I wanted to share my joy or experience. These do not need to be perfectly edited videos! Show your personality and people will want to watch.
Things don’t always go viral right away so don’t get discouraged! Keep trying new ideas. If you find someone’s videos that you like, follow them!
Create “Shareable” Content
The great thing about Reels is that people can easily share your Reel to their story and your potential reach increases. This can definitely happen when you share a helpful “how to” or a funny video. I saw a Halloween themed drink recipe about a dozen times from people I followed.
Remember, Instagram is a community after all. So create content that people want to share or feel like they are part of.
Start a Series
Think of your favorite TV show or podcast, all of these have reoccurring themes. You can do the same with your Reels. Anything that has a part 1 or 2 works very well.
I have a series on TikTok that I also share on Instagram Reels called “American Things Europeans Think Are Weird.” This series alone has over 35 million views. People expect it, so when they see it they engage it and share it.
ANYTHING can be a series. You can do a funny series of putting your kids to sleep, how you style a hat for different occasions, getting your hair done at the salon, questions to ask yourself, first time traveling to a new destination, and so much more!
Don't forget to grab your 25 Reel Ideas:
Create a Loop
What I mean by a “loop” is that your content loops back to the beginning. For example, let’s say you’re sharing an instructional video and that Reel starts with a question, such as, “how I create a 7 layer cake.” The end of your video might end with, “And that’s….” and then loops back to “how I create a 7 layer cake.” Creating this loop makes people want to watch more than once.
I notice this works well with instructional and story-based Reels that are engaging, and fast paced so people want to watch them again and again.
Transitions are eye-catching ways to show case your content. The best part is, once you learn how to do them, these are super quick and easy to shoot. Think of easy ways to switch from one scene to the next. This can be as simple as putting your hand in front of the camera to switch outfits or show off a hair cut. Or you can get more elaborate with finger snaps, or using an app like In-Shot to edit your videos so you are stepping through the frame to another location or outfit.
Here’s an example of a transition I did.
Get creative and save your favorite ideas. A great person to follow for fun transitions is @marta_sierra– all her videos have great transitions!
Become a Featured Video
A featured video on Instagram Reels has the potential to go mega viral. My video that hit 8 million views was featured. You’ll see them when you scroll through Instagram Reels as well. No matter the subject matter, these videos have the potential to be seen and shared on nearly anyone’s feed.
Take a look at the hashtags these videos use and see if you can apply those to your Reels as well.
As we learn more about Reels analytics (and I'll update you!) we'll have more information about how a Reel becomes featured.
How to Come Up With Content For Instagram Reels
If you’re at a loss for what to come up with for Instagram Reels I suggest going to your Instagram analytics to discover what people are most interested in from you. Head to your profile. Click on the three bars on the top right and click “Insights.”
Click on “Content You Shared.”
Under posts select “Any” “Saves” and “Last 2 Years.”
See what kind of content people are saving from you and create content around that!
Or, if you have a particularly instructional caption or post from your past, turn that into a video. It can be as easy as standing in front of the camera and pointing during a song, then add text along with it. Example:
Don’t be afraid to use old content or to repurpose content. While these are videos, I’ve shared tons of Reels that share photos. Here’s an example or a Reel that combined old photos and videos and got over 300,000 views.
Reels do not have to be over-complicated. I saw tons of videos going viral about an influencer’s favorite Starbucks drink.
Another way to come up with content is by following creators that inspire you. I highly suggest you follow me, hint hint!
Don’t forget to engage on Reels! If you see a video that interests you, comment and like it. Interaction helps that creator and it helps improve the algorithm.
Top Tips for Reels
Make sure that as you scroll through Reels to save videos that you like, or you can also save audio or sounds you want to use. Often you’ll see trending sounds from TikTok eventually make their way to Reels. You can save a popular song or even people’s personal sounds.
Being on top of trending sounds is a great way to get people’s attention. So pay attention to TikTok as well (don’t forget, you can also go viral there! Here’s my full guide to going viral on TikTok.)
Reels is a great way to grow your audience and show off your personality. It’s still relatively new, so jump on the bandwagon!
I believe we’ve just scratched the surface with the potential for Reels, so to help you go even further, here are 25 Content Ideas for Reels.
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