This week I wanted to talk about Instagram Reels. I’ve recently started making and sharing some simple reels on Instagram for my business, and I've been posting the videos to TikTok too.
It's never been very 'me' to create videos. I started off promoting my business on Instagram back in 2014 using some very simple photos of my products and it all took off from there. I was immediately drawn to Instagram as an app because it felt creative and quiet. I feel like 2014 was a calmer time for social media. It's definitely noisier and more jostle-y these days. But, if you want to survive in business you kind of have to go with the flow.
I've wanted to try and create some video content for a few years, but for a number of reasons I've always put it off. Lack of confidence, lack of ideas, lack of workspace. I've also had quite a hard and disruptive time over the last few years and have really been running on lower than usual energy resources.
One day this June I impulsively decided to post a reel of myself sewing. I surprisingly enjoyed creating it and have since made a few more, learning how to edit along the way.
So, now that I’ve got a few reels under my belt I thought I’d share my thoughts about it. What gave me the push to post my first video, whether I think they're worth doing, and if I'll be continuing to share this type of content on my social media.
I'm sure if you're a small business owner you'll be wondering, are reels worth the time? Is the return on investment there? Because, let’s be honest, we're juggling enough plates without having to try and turn ourselves into mini Steven Spielberg’s for no good reason.
It's very obvious that Instagram is pushing video content these days, and behind the scenes footage seems to be the way to go for small business social media content. Still images are, apparently, not as exciting to audiences as they once were. It is sad, I always loved looking at a pretty picture.
But anyway, just before I went off to have my operation in March I bought myself a Gooseneck from Amazon so I could start to film some snippets of myself working. The Gooseneck is just a clever device that holds your phone in place. You can position it over your hands at work so you are free to record yourself without worrying about having to hold the phone.
I was quite excited when my Gooseneck arrived, it’s cool, but I was just about the go into hospital for a big operation.
So, I set my gadget aside and promised myself I'd come back to it when I felt better.
I returned to work on the 9th June, and after having such a long time off it took me a few days to find my feet again. However, my rhythm and my love for my work returned in earnest.
Then on the 20th June, I was having a particularly productive and positive day making little fabric hearts, while listening to Kate Bush.
I decided to set up the Gooseneck as an experiment to see if I could get a good angle of me sewing. I decided to do a simple time-lapse of me batch making my hearts. There was no fuss involved. I pressed record then when I watched it back later I thought: "I reckon I can make a draft reel with that"
So I opened Instagram and thought: “Right let’s see how you do this reel thing." Before I knew it I’d made a reel, it was simple. I just put some words on the video, added some music and then I pressed post. It was not planned, I just did it on a whim.
The reason I decided to throw caution to the wind that day was partly because of Sam Ryder, the UK Eurovision entry for 2022. Yes, really! I’m not a mega Eurovision fan, but this year I did really like Sam Ryder as a person. I think he has a great attitude to life. I was recently reading an interview with him about his rise to stardom and he said that he'd been posting long and precisely edited videos to YouTube for a while and not gaining much traction from them. Then, during lockdown he decided to throw his perfectionism out of the window and opted for consistency and fun instead. He decided to post regular, simple videos of himself singing in his shed every day. There was no fuss because it didn’t feel like a huge task for him. He was just doing something he enjoyed in his shed. His account began to grow and a few years later he found himself singing to billions of people around the world at the Eurovision song contest with a huge smile on his face, and then a miracle happened for the UK, and he came second.
Now, I’m not expecting to go viral like our Sam. But, what he taught me was to just get on with it and to stop worrying about things appearing so polished online. I think we can tend to over complicate everything in business. I’ve even done it with writing blog posts in the past. But, the point Sam makes is that it's important to just get stuck in and give things a go. No one starts out with perfect reel editing skills. But, if you can take some quick video footage of anything creative in your business and choose some good music to play over it, then, as if by magic, you’ve made a reel. You could even record yourself holding one of your items in your hand. It's that simple! I’ve done really quick ones, mostly of me making things or me in my headphones at my desk.
I have procrastinated over doing reels for ages and these are my top procrastination reasons, I wonder if you recognise any of them yourself:
1. I’m not tech savvy enough
2. My reels will never be as good as Lydia Millen's
3. I don’t like reels
4. I hate the way Instagram is changing pushing video content
5. They take too long to make
6. I’ve put weight on and no one want to see my double chin
7. My office isn’t as snazzy as everyone else's
Anyway, I broke the reel-seal, and it's been more fun than I thought. My still images have had terrible engagement for a while, unfortunately, so I did kind of feel cornered into trying it out. I'm not going to commit to doing three videos a week or anything crazy like that, but it's another string to my bow.
To summarise, here are some of my Pros and Cons of introducing reels to my business.
- They can be fun and rewarding to make. I feel proud to have taught myself some new video skills.
- It’s quite cool watching yourself work. It has brought me joy to see myself happily sewing!
- Choosing music. Music is one of my favourite things. So, I love choosing the music for the videos. It gives me pozzy vibes.
- Increased engagement on my Instagram account.
- A trickle of new followers, when my account had been stagnant for years.
- Feeling like I'm connecting more with my customers and followers by showing the behind the scenes and more of my face.
- I can be less fussy and perfect than I have to be with still images, which always take me a while to set up and edit.
- Reels do take time, maybe up to an hour to edit, if you do a video which is a few clips stitched together, and with words popping up on it. You have to have patience. But, my editing time is getting quicker the more I do it. TikTok editing is much more simple than Instagram, by the way.
- Sometimes reels are glitchy when you upload them and you have to delete and upload again which is frustrating as hell.
- You can become obsessed with looking at the stats and whether or not your reel is a flop or a hit.
- I'm sad that Instagram is not the calm photography app that I remember from a few years ago. I feel like I'm contributing to making Instagram more chaotic by posting my own reels.
- You can let the thought of making reels take over completely. Thinking that everything you do is content all day while working and that can be a bit distracting. I'll be doing something and thinking: "Should I film this?"
- I have worried that I might be irritating my followers with my new found enthusiasm for video content as I've been posting them quite regularly.
Overall, I’d say that starting reels is a good business decision, and that I will probably continue to do it sporadically. I haven’t gone viral overnight, that isn’t really the plan, but I’ve had a steady flow of sales and I wonder if the reels have helped with that.
So, if you’re thinking of giving it a go, then do. Just start with anything. Record a 10 second clip on your phone of you making something, or a quick video of your workspace, or a finished product. Then once you have your content, tap the reels button, add the clip, add some music, add a filter if you want to, and press post. I promise you, they’re not that scary or complicated when you just give it a go! You might hate it, you might love it, or you might be hovering somewhere around the middle like me.