The Ultimate Guide to IG Reels in 2024

Instagram reels made their debut at the perfect time—August 2020. Five months into the pandemic, and what we all needed were some funny cat videos to give us a break from the state of the world. These short-form videos have since exploded as part of a larger shift in how we consume social media.

For businesses, Instagram reels offer a new way to catch the attention of their target audience and show off the personality behind the business. Like most things in the ever-changing world of digital marketing, though, they’re surrounded by a ton of questions about best practices and how to incorporate them into your marketing strategy.

How long can reels be? What is the best Instagram reel length? Should you use original audio, or trending audio from other accounts? Should they be serious, or funny?

What’s Trending in Social Media Right Now?

TikTok, a social media platform offering short videos similar to Instagram reels, has surged in popularity in recent years, especially with the Gen Z audience. With the two formats being so similar, you might be wondering if Instagram reels are still popular?

They’re definitely keeping their spot in the limelight in 2024—IG reel usage is up 54% year over year, with Instagram users watching 17.6 BILLION hours of reels per day.

When it comes to how we consume content online, short-form videos are the preferred type of content for most users. And businesses have picked up on this; 85% of businesses consider video content as a critical component of their marketing strategy.

What type of video content is most popular?

  • User-generated content (UGC) dominates, offering authenticity and connection with audiences.
  • “Nostalgia Core” is growing in popularity, especially with millennials, taking us back to the days of our youth.
  • Influencer content and product placement continue to grow.
  • Longer reels are also becoming more popular as businesses experiment with different reel lengths based on audience preference.

How Long Can Reels Be?

When they were first introduced, a reel on Instagram could be up to 15 seconds long. In 2024, an Instagram reel can be up to 90 seconds in length, a response to the increase in demand for longer-form video content (think in the two to five-minute range).

The ideal Instagram reels length depends on the audience and type of content being shared. Overall, 15 to 30 seconds still seems to be the sweet spot, providing the delicate balance between quickly capturing a user’s attention and providing value. Some content, though, may require close to the full 90 seconds in order to resonate and get a clear message across.

Businesses shouldn’t shy away from experimenting with different lengths to see what resonates best with their followers. Pay attention to your engagement metrics to get an idea of what reels length resonates most with your audience, which will help you refine your content strategy over time.

Instagram Reels Features in 2024

A person using their Instagram camera to record a reel

What can you do with an Instagram reel? All sorts of things, actually. Here’s a rundown of features and capabilities for Instagram reels in 2024:

Editing Tools

  • Trimming: Adjust the start and end points of videos and cut out unwanted parts.
  • Speed Controls: Change the playback speed to create slow-motion or time-lapse videos
  • Merging Clips: Combine multiple video clips into a single Reel


  • Text Overlay: Add text or captions to videos
  • Draw Tool: Draw directly on the video for a personalized touch
  • Stickers: Add interactive stickers to their Reels, including polls, questions, and location tags
  • GIFs: Include funny GIFs to express emotion and make content more entertaining
  • AR Effects: Add digital enhancements like virtual backgrounds, face filters, and visual effects
  • Music Integration: Add music from Instagram’s music library or upload original files

Publishing & Insights

  • Analytics and Insights: Provides detailed metrics on performance, including views, likes, comments, shares, and reach
  • Desktop Publishing: You can now upload and publish Reels from a desktop computer, which is great for those who prefer to edit their videos on professional software before uploading
  • Scheduling: Schedule Instagram reels to be published at a later time and date, allowing users to create reels in batches and schedule them out several at a time
  • Visibility Option: Control who sees their Reels by sharing publicly, with followers only, or in private stories

Understanding the Instagram Reels Algorithm

Ah, the ever-elusive “algorithm” we hear about so often. “What is the algorithm prioritizing these days?” “How can you beat the Instagram algorithm?” “Does Instagram reel length matter for the algorithm?” These are common questions we hear from business owners trying to make the most of their Instagram reels.

Here’s what we know about how Instagram prioritizes content:

  • The algorithm prioritizes Reels based on how likely users are to engage with them, including watching a Reel all the way through, liking it, commenting on it, or sharing it.
  • Reels that receive quick engagement (likes, comments, shares, and views within seconds or minutes of posting) are considered more popular and are more likely to be shown to a wider audience.
  • Newer content is given priority. The algorithm keeps your feed fresh by showing you the latest Reels that align with the user’s interests.

How to Maximize Engagement of Your Video Reels

To maximize the visibility of your Instagram reels, focus on a few strategic approaches. First, quality over quantity, always. Invest time in creating content that truly resonates with your audience. The more your audience engages with your content, the more it will be shown to additional users who are also likely to engage.

Make sure to interact by responding to comments and engaging with content from your audience. This is the truly “social” aspect of social media, creating a network effect that can increase the likelihood of your reels being seen by a wider audience.

Staying on top of current trends and incorporating them into your Instagram reels can also help your content land on the Explore page, which can put your content in front of even more people.

Finally, don’t worry too much about the perfect IG reel length. The best Instagram reels capture your audience’s attention and provide value (either information or entertainment), regardless of the optimal length.

Content Ideas for Engaging Reels

A collection of coffee Instagram stories and posts on a cell phone.

If you’re considering using Instagram reels for your business marketing, you want to make sure you’re putting out intentional content that resonates with your audience and fits into your wider content strategy.

Here are some ideas for posting video reels as part of your digital marketing strategy:

Behind-the-Scenes Content

People love a good sneak peek—give your audience a look into what happens behind the scenes at your business. This might include showcasing how products are made, a typical day at the office, or the hustle and bustle of preparing for a big event. It’s a great way to humanize your brand and build a deeper connection with your audience.

Recommended length: 15-30 seconds

Product Launches and Demos

Teasers leading up to new product launches generate interest and give people that “FOMO” feeling that keeps them coming back to your page for more information. Generate excitement and anticipation by creating Reels that tease new products. Highlight key features, benefits, and any unique selling points to make your audience eager to learn more.

Recommended length: 30-60 seconds

Customer Testimonials

Satisfied customers help build social proof and confidence in your brand. Leverage your happy customers by sharing their positive feedback in short clips. Seeing real people use your product or service can significantly influence potential customers’ buying decisions.

Recommended length: 15-30 seconds

Tutorial and How-To Guides

If you have a product-based business, create demos and how-to videos so customers can see firsthand how your product adds value or solves a problem. These are some of the best Instagram reels businesses can share, as they are the next best thing to an in-person product demonstration.

Recommended length: 60-90 seconds

User-Generated Content

Celebrate your customers by featuring content they’ve created with your products. People love when their own content is shared, especially by their favorite brands. Sharing UGC can encourage others to share their own experiences and add a layer of authenticity that traditional advertising can’t replicate.

Recommended length: 15-30 seconds

Before and After Reels

Before and after reels and Instagram stories can be incredibly beneficial to showcase the impact of your products, especially if you’re in industries like beauty, fitness, or home renovation. Before and after reels vividly demonstrate your product’s effectiveness, providing proof of value that can sway undecided buyers.

Recommended length: 15-30 seconds

Q&A Sessions

Social media is all about engagement. Connect directly with your audience by hosting Q&A sessions. You can address common questions and concerns about your products, services, or industry. When your customers feel heard and valued, they’re more likely to become loyal followers of your brand.

Recommended length: 30-60 seconds

Time-Lapse Videos

Similar to behind-the-scenes content, time-lapse videos are a fun way to show the creation of a product, setup for an event, or a day in the life of your business. They condense hours of work into a few entertaining seconds, providing a unique perspective on the effort and detail that goes into your operations.

Recommended length: 15-30 seconds

Industry Tips and Tricks

Share your expertise by offering valuable tips, tricks, and insights related to your industry. Providing valuable content that helps your audience can set you apart from competitors and position your brand as a go-to source for reliable information.

Recommended length: 15-30 seconds

Influencer Collaborations

Influencer collabs can help expand your brand’s reach. When a prominent influencer shares an Instagram reel about your product or service, it exposes your brand to potential new customers in a context that’s already trusted. Not only will your brand be exposed to a wider audience, but the influencer’s credibility with their audience can enhance your brand’s reputation.

Recommended Length: 30-60 seconds

Flash Sales and Promotions

Create a sense of urgency with Reels that announce flash sales, special offers, and limited-time discounts. Prompting viewers to act quickly often leads to immediate increases in sales and engagement.

Recommended length: 15-30 seconds

Optimizing Instagram Reels For Success

The instagram icon on a cell phone.

Although there’s no secret formula to beating the algorithm of the Instagram app, there are some things you can do to make sure your Instagram reels have the best chance of reaching a wide audience. Many of these best practices for an overall digital marketing strategy can be specifically tailored to Instagram reels.

Understand Your Audience

The core of any successful content marketing strategy is a deep understanding of your audience. Utilize Instagram insights to learn what content resonates most with your followers. (Note: the content that resonates most with your Instagram followers may be different than what resonates with your Facebook or LinkedIn followers.)

Pay attention to demographics, engagement times, and content preferences, then tailor your reels to match your audience’s interests and increase the likelihood of engagement and shareability.

Focus on High-Quality Content

You don’t have to hire a professional videographer for every reel you create, but you should do your best to showcase high-quality content. Use a good quality camera, make sure you have a quiet and well-lit space to record your video, and make sure your audio is clear.

It’s completely possible to create high-quality video with an iPhone. Follow these HubSpot tips for how to make great Instagram reels on an iPhone.

Hook Viewers Immediately

In the fast-paced world of social media, users are constantly bombarded with content, making it all too easy for them to scroll past anything that doesn’t instantly catch their eye. The first few seconds of your reel can make or break your engagement. Start with a unique hook that grabs attention and encourages your audience to watch until the end. This can be a fun image, an intriguing statement, an unexpected sound, or a question that piques curiosity.

Leverage Trends and Hashtags

Staying up-to-date with Instagram trends and using relevant hashtags can significantly increase your views. More importantly than staying up with trends, though, you have to make sure these trends align with your brand identity and audience interests. Be careful about selecting trends that resonate with your brand’s values and appeal to your target audience. This way, you ensure that your engagement is not only high but also meaningful and likely to convert viewers into followers or customers.

Incorporate Engaging Captions and Calls to Action

While Reels are primarily visual, text can be powerful, too. Especially for people who frequently keep their phones on mute, engaging captions can complement your reel, add context, and share additional information. Provide a clear call to action (CTA) encouraging viewers to take an action, whether it’s liking, commenting, sharing, or visiting your website.

Optimize Posting Times

Timing plays a crucial role in the success of your Instagram reels, as it can influence the level of engagement your content receives. To maximize visibility and interaction, post your reels when your audience is most active on the platform. Holidays, weekends, and even current events can all affect when your audience chooses to engage on Instagram, so it’s important to remain flexible and willing to adjust your posting strategy based on these insights.

Engage with Your Community

At its core, social media is all about social interaction. When you take the time to respond to comments on your posts, you’re not just acknowledging your viewers; you’re inviting them to engage in conversation, making your followers feel valued and heard. At the end of the day, this is what social media engagement is about.

Experiment and Analyze

The digital landscape is ever-evolving, making experimentation more important than ever. Try different content formats, editing styles, and storytelling approaches to see what generates the most engagement. You can also play around with different Instagram reels length to see what resonates most with your audience. Regularly review your analytics to understand what works and adjust your strategy accordingly.

What’s In Store For 2024?

As we move further into 2024, it’s clear that Instagram reels aren’t going anywhere. Short, impactful reels will remain the go-to type of content in the Instagram app and on other social media platforms. Expect to see more engaging types of content, making stories pop in new ways. We also expect to see micro-influencers making a big splash, showing off products we never knew we needed.

It’s clear that while brevity often reigns supreme, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long reels can be. The key lies in balancing the need for quick, engaging content with the detail necessary to convey your message effectively.

Short and sweet reels around 15 to 30 seconds long are perfect for capturing attention and delivering quick entertainment or insights. However, for more complex stories, tutorials, or product showcases, extending up to the 90-second limit can provide the space needed to create a compelling narrative.

What truly matters is understanding your audience’s preferences and adjusting your content strategy to meet them where they are. Engaging directly with your followers, experimenting with different reel lengths, and analyzing engagement can offer valuable insights into what works best for your brand.

As Instagram continues to evolve and introduce new features, staying flexible and creative with your strategy will ensure that your content remains fresh, relevant, and, most importantly, will resonate with your audience.

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