Instagram Reels is better for brands than major rival TikTok thanks to the former’s ability to “help businesses get closer with their customers” and that it is “so much more social.”
That’s the view of Helen Black, Meta’s head of connection planning, who added that because Reels forms a part of the Instagram product, not the entirety of the offering and the wider Meta ecosystem, brands can derive significant benefits from choosing its format over TikTok.
“It’s part of the broader family that people are connected with their friends and family. We see that those connections lead to deeper engagements and also foster a sense of trust with consumers,” she told B&T.
“And because Reels is also part of the broader Instagram ecosystem, people are moving around that and it is leading to stronger actions for businesses — 3.8 billion people use Meta apps and services every month and Reels is strong across all demographics.”
In fact, new research conducted by Factworks and local independent research agency Hoop Group, Meta Australia was able to put some solid numbers on those connections between family, friends and business’ bottom lines.
The study of 1,400 Australians showed that on average 86 per cent of Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X were aware of Reels and 78 per cent had used the format in the past week.
What’s more, it found that 95 per cent of users had shared an Instagram Reel with family or friends and that 86 per cent had followed a business — eight percentage points more than on TikTok and 17 percentage points more than on YouTube Shorts.
Almost three-quarters of users had apparently purchased a product or service after watching a Reel — four percentage points higher than TikTok and 9 percentage points higher than YouTube Shorts. Black also explained that these results were not restricted to particular industries, either.
“We’ve seen great results from all sorts of businesses. Carlton United Breweries saw… a 5.5-point incremental lift in affinity,” she explained.
“It’s also a great format for driving direct response results, as well. So if you add an Instagram Reels placements to a direct response campaign, it will significantly increase the likelihood of page visits, add to cart, and purchases.”
Black also said that the brewery saw 58 per cent higher incremental reach and a 1.6 times longer average watch time on its Reels content.
Of course, one would be forgiven for thinking that, if Instagram is so confident in the capabilities of short-form video, why is it launching a text-only Twitter rival in Threads? We spoke to Black ahead of the Threads launch and, alas, she was unable to offer any information on the new product.
Regardless, short-form videos are working for Carlton and other brands aside. But, in order to be successful, Black explained that the medium requires brands to adopt a slightly different approach.
“The way we talk about it to our clients tends to be about a ‘creative journey’ from walk, run to sprint. Walking is just adding Reels as a placement using your Feed and Stories creative. Running is then optimising that for the 9×16 format that we recommend and then a sprint is bespoke creation for Reels and testing at every step of the journey to see it play out in the results,” she said.
Meta’s research also showed that Reels are good for building brands, as well as driving performance.
“A clothing brand that does video well is the Flatiron label, The videos and lighting are just really beautiful. So, the whole thing is really artistic – it’s not a hard sell and it’s not loud and crass and noisy, it’s just very refined and elegant. It needs to be done in such a clever, subtle way. I don’t like it when people have the video right up to their face as I prefer a soft touch when you actually don’t even know that you’re being sold something,” said Mel, a 50-year-old who was one of 40 local consumers interviewed for the study.
However, despite the growth in the number of brands using Reels, Black was quick to explain that Reels did not diminish the importance of other sections of Instagram or the traditional sponsored posts.
“Reels is a gateway to the broader Instagram ecosystem. Somebody might be watching a Reel and then they click through, watch more Stories, go to the profile, click the link in bio and go through to scroll an advertiser’s website,” she said.
“We are seeing things like partnership ads get really great traction where someone might post a Reel, for example, and tag a brand, and then the brand can promote the targeted ad. Reels is just one format that we have — it’s the whole suite of content together that drives the best results.”
But as Meta’s research demonstrated, the best way to drive engagement with Reels is — and stop us if you’ve heard these before — to be authentic, talk to customers like friends, be trendy, and get involved in the community.
When we asked Black whether this customer sentiment was distinct to short-form video, she was clear:
“In terms of the authenticity, the reliability, the opportunity to get more involved in their community because of the social aspects of our platforms I think it is relatively unique.”
So, Meta thinks that you should be going long on short-form video. There are potential pitfalls — miss the mark on a piece of content through a poor choice of words, brand partner or style and audiences can turn quickly. But Black explained that the most important piece of advice for brands is to:
“Try it, test it out. See how consumers are feeling about these things. It’s a great platform to listen to consumers and get that community connection.”
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