A viewer could scroll past your Instagram Reel in a second.
That quick decision suggests to the algorithm that your video isn’t interesting or worth recommending to the next person. If you engage users right away and keep them watching, you’ll expand your reach.
With stakes that high, Reels have become a staple of any Instagrammer’s content. Any account could go viral overnight, and creators and businesses alike want to be next. But posting attention-grabbing videos requires a strategy of its own.
Whether you're a part-time creator looking to make it big or a full-time creator working to retain your following, we'll explore the best length for these videos and share helpful tips to help you harness the full potential of Instagram Reels.
What’s an Instagram Reel?
Instagram Reels are full-screen, short-form videos on Instagram, one of the world's most popular social media platforms. Meta, Instagram's parent company, launched the Reels feature in August 2020, with inspiration from short-form video app TikTok’s skyrocketing popularity.
Instagram Stories used to be the best way to display vertical videos on the app, but they disappeared after 24 hours unless you added them to your profile’s Highlights. Horizontal IGTV videos just weren’t as attention-grabbing — that Instagram feature is now defunct, replaced by Reels.
Reels are posts that remain on your feed until you choose to delete them, making them more lasting than Stories and more watchable than IGTV. They offer the best of both worlds, and creators now use the feature to educate and entertain their target audiences.
You can shoot, stitch, and edit photos and Instagram videos all within the app. Instagram also has a vast collection of music and sound effects, including popular songs and creator-made soundtracks, along with filters, backgrounds, and stickers. You can add captions to translate audio into text, enhancing accessibility and making your content easier to understand.
How Long Are Reels?
By default, using the in-app camera limits your video to 15 seconds. But you can change this to be up to 90 seconds before you start filming. You can record a single video or merge multiple shorter clips, and the progress bar at the bottom of the screen tells you how close you are to the time limit.
There is one way to bypass this limit. If you publish a video from your camera roll as a regular Instagram feed post, and it’s shorter than 15 minutes, the system will automatically convert it into a Reel. But chances are, anything longer than two or three minutes will be too long for viewers trying to scroll, so it’s not recommended unless you have a long story to tell.
How to Adjust Your Instagram Reel’s Time Limit
If you’ve got a great idea for a Reel, you’ll need to start by setting the time limit so you aren’t cut off from filming before you’re finished:
- Open the Instagram app on your phone.
- There are two ways to find the Reels tool:
- Tap the Reels button at the bottom of the screen and find the camera icon in the top-right corner.
- Click the “+” icon at the bottom of the screen, choose “Reel,” and tap “Camera.”
- Once you’re there, you’ll notice a “15” in a circle on the left of the screen. A small pop-up will appear with four options: 15, 30, 60, and 90.
- Select your time limit and start creating your Reel.
What’s the Best Length for Instagram Reels?
Just because you can record a longer video doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your content. Dozens of factors come into play, like what you’re sharing, who your audience is, and what the goals of your video are.
There’s no magic number between zero and 90 seconds that leads to higher engagement. The best length for an Instagram Reel is about the story you’re presenting and how you’re telling it, and that’ll be different every time. But if you’re unsure, here are some things to think about:
- Include a Clear Hook
If you want to stop a scrolling user in their tracks and capture attention, create short Reels that have a clear hook at the beginning of the video. It's easy for users to scroll away from uninteresting posts, and hooking them at the beginning keeps them from losing interest and moving on to the next video.
Your Reel's intro should have an eye-catching transition, a trending tune, or someone speaking to the viewer in an enthusiastic and convincing tone immediately. Don't forget the thumbnail or Reel cover, either: use high-resolution images with clear text conveying the video's central message or theme. This is also a good place to include headlines that draw users into opening your content.
Keep in mind that you don't need to limit a Reel to 15 seconds. Although hooking them needs to happen right away, you can continue to share information until the 90th second if you can keep them engaged or have more to include. It might help to create a few videos on one topic, like three 30 second videos, instead of relying on one 90 second video to share your message. Just remember — the first few moments are the most important, regardless of the Reel’s length.
- Encourage More Views
Users scrolling through social media want content to entertain them; if it doesn’t, it’s easy to scroll past and find something more captivating. Shorter content is the best choice if you want people to rewatch and share your videos, especially if you nail the hook, which increases the view count and the chances the algorithm will boost your video and show it to more people.
Here are a few ideas and editing techniques to engage users and get those views and clicks:
- Include a twist or surprise — A great hook doesn’t have to be at the beginning. You could include a surprise or point of interest near the end so users replay your Reel and appreciate the content a second time. When there’s a creative twist, they might be more likely to share it with friends and family.
- Use captions — Adding captions and subtitles to videos helps viewers better understand what you're saying, and it gives them something to look at while your video plays. Having multiple things things to focus on (both your video and the text) helps people pay attention and stay engaged.
- Use an infinite loop — A loop is a video that seamlessly repeats itself. The intro and outro must match up to create a loop, creating the illusion of a cyclic, never-ending video. Looping is a simple and versatile way to increase views — looped videos are satisfying to watch, and people may not even realize your video’s looping until they've watched it several times.
- Foster Engagement
Social media engagement includes views, likes, comments, shares, saves, and replies. When aiming to increase engagement, you need to hold the user’s interest until the end of the video and insert a call-to-action (CTA) asking viewers to interact with your content. Here are a few CTA examples:
- Share your thoughts in the comments
- Leave a like
- Subscribe for similar content
- Follow our page for more
- Turn on notifications so you never miss a beat
- Tag your friends
If you use this method, 15- to 20-second videos work best. You have enough time to hook viewers, engage and entertain them, and display a CTA encouraging them to like, comment, or share.
- Connect With the Audience
To build a large following, you'll need a loyal audience that regularly watches and shares your content for others to see. The best way to do this is by carving out a niche for yourself and creating high-quality, consistent content — and sometimes, that means creating longer videos.
If you're a home cook, you might create a series of Reels showing quick recipes. To drive every point home, you might have to go beyond shorter formats and make your video a little longer than 20 or 30 seconds. Use this time to share your story and cooking style and build a unique narrative for your brand.
Instagram also launched Reels Visual Replies in December 2021, allowing you to reply to user comments with Reels. When responding to comments, you'll see an option to choose “Reels as a video reply,” which adds the original comment to the screen. This is an excellent way to encourage users to comment, engage with other members of the community, and explore your other posts.
5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Reel Time
Reels captivate audiences and leave a lasting impression — which means it’s worth it to make sure they’re the best they can be. Here are five essential tips to help your content stand out on a saturated platform:
- Know Your Goals
Decide what you want your video to communicate to viewers, whether that’s making them laugh or convincing them to try a product. Whatever success looks like for that goal — like encouraging more shares or sending followers to the link in your bio — helps you understand how successful the video is at achieving it’s aim.
To share short jokes or quick stories, 15-second Reels are ideal, while 90-second videos might work best for longer content, like song covers, fitness workouts, or educational anecdotes. Knowing what you want viewers to take away from your content will help you shape your Reel's style and determine how long it should actually be.
- Use the Right Dimensions
Instagram Reels appear vertically on-screen, with users swiping upward to watch video after video. For the best experience, optimize your Instagram Reel's dimensions with a 9:16 aspect ratio (1080 pixels wide and 1920 pixels tall) so your videos fill the entire screen. In the newsfeed, Instagram compresses videos to a 4:5 ratio (1080 pixels wide and 1350 pixels tall), so avoid putting text or captions on the top or bottom of the screen so it remains visible.
You have a “safe zone” — an area that your handle, descriptions, and other information won’t cover — for each post. Avoid adding content like captions and stickers to the top 220 pixels and bottom 420 pixels to ensure your content isn’t obscured.
- Choose Your Audio Wisely
Sound is a powerful storytelling tool. Whether you use Instagram’s built-in sound effects or a song trending on TikTok, the right audio can evoke emotion, amplify your message, and create a sensory atmosphere through the screen.
Choose audio that pairs well with your content. If you're sharing fitness-related content, choose upbeat, motivating music. If you're sharing a painting video, add ambient music with ASMR — autonomous sensory meridian response — sounds for a relaxing experience. You can use the Captions app to create AI Music that corresponds to your content for a one-of-a-kind sound that’s royalty-free.
- Follow the Latest Trends
Instagram is a dynamic platform with billions of users, thousands of filters, and hundreds of evolving trends and topics that change by the hour. When you create videos based on what’s popular, you show larger audiences that you're in tune with Instagram culture and worth a follow.
To stay relevant as a content creator, keep an eye on popular challenges, trending music, and editing techniques to implement into your videos.
- Be Creative
It might seem cliché, but the best Reels thrive on innovative ideas and originality. Within a few seconds, you have to pique interest, grab attention, and convince viewers to explore your profile — and if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, you might not reach those goals.
Creativity makes your videos memorable and encourages people to follow you for similar content. Make your Reels your own. Choose popular audio that suits your brand’s identity, or hop on a trend to interest your audience and make them think. Show them what you’ll do differently that they can’t find anywhere else.
Use moving text, relevant stickers, and clever transitions like infinite loops. When in doubt, think outside the box and let your imagination flow. You never know when a few oddball ideas might go viral.
Create Captivating Content With Captions
Instagram's Reels feature provides an incredible opportunity for growth. If you’re experimenting with new types of content to grow your audience, Reels are a great way for you to tweak the length of your videos and see what your followers like best.
With Captions, you can make studio-grade videos to boost your reach on Instagram. Try it today to see how AI makes video production faster and takes your content creation to the next level.