Nowadays it’s impossible to scroll through your Instagram feed without coming across at least one — if not several — attention-grabbing videos known as Reels. Dubbed the TikTok Clone, Instagram Reels were released in 2020 and consist of short videos up to one minute long. The feature has overtaken the app’s photos-first philosophy as 91 percent of active Instagram users say they engage with video content on a weekly basis. And can you blame them? It’s easy to quickly get immersed in a seemingly endless loop of engaging content.
Along with being wildly popular, Reels are also proving to be a good business strategy for content creators and businesses alike. A recent New York Times article detailed how Instagram’s latest algorithm favors accounts that post reels. For many, this news means pivoting their marketing strategies to include Reels as a way to ensure their engagement rate stays up. So, if you’ve been considering making the switch to video content, now’s definitely the right time!
How these entrepreneurs grew their small businesses thanks to Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels can help your brand stay relevant while also allowing for more creativity in how you showcase your product or services. Instead of relying on fixed images, videos allow you to talk directly to customers, do in-depth product marketing, and overlay your posts with trending music and editing techniques making them more appealing to your followers. Here is how three small businesses successfully utilize Instagram Reels:
Cards by Shairy: Reels led to brand deals
Shairy Aroro runs a small business creating handmade greeting cards – among other crafts like her fan-favorite explosion gift boxes – and documents the entire process via Instagram. She made her first custom order for a client in 2017 and has grown her craft, along with her follower count ever since. She currently has over 50,000 followers and has posted dozens of Reels, which she credits for her success. In a response to a user question asking her how she got so many followers, Shairy responded, “For followers, make Reels.”
Shairy’s first Reel was posted in 2020 and currently has 17,000 views, a minuscule amount compared to the numbers her recent Reels are raking in. This video of Shairy putting the finishing touches on one of her products was viewed over 88,000 times. Another Reel where she crafts hot pink pompoms gained an impressive two million views. The influencer has ascribed her business’ growth to her passion for crafting along with documenting her process online, “I literally had no idea how far I would be going with this. It was just a hobby and I felt great spending time doing something that I always loved … I kept posting my work and people started noticing,” she said on her Instagram stories.
And this very passion has afforded her new business opportunities, not only by growing her customer base but also through brand deals. This year, Shairy partnered with the craft store Paperedge India to create a reel series on fuse tools. The series speaks to the range Instagram Reels allows content creators and small businesses. Instead of just posting fixed photos of her projects, Shairy was able to engage with more viewers when she started posting Reels that highlighted all the details and intricacies of her work, like this video where she unboxes one of her crafting projects.
Shairy has said that she’s constantly working on customer orders, and has even recently hired an assistant to help with her crafts as her business is expanding and thriving.
Jessica Ngyuen: a cult-favorite product developed via Reels
Jessica Nguyen’s signature chili oil – Chili Oil On Everything – is a perfect example of a product born through Instagram. After getting laid off from her corporate job in early 2020, Jessica decided to invest time into her Instagram as a way to try new recipes. The influencer soon made a name for herself with her decadent food videos, while also offering viewers pointers on how to host the perfect dinner party. Her Reels stand out from other food influencers for being highly produced and stylized, like this one, where she teaches viewers how to set placemats elegantly.
She started gaining followers immediately and noticed one of her recipes in particular – her chili oil – was by far the most popular. In August 2020, she created a small batch as a favor for a friend’s business competition and advertised it on her Instagram, marking her very first Reel. Though she explicitly said the product was not for sale, she began receiving online inquiries from dozens of followers asking if they too could purchase it. This pushed Jessica to take a chance and officially sell her chili oil.
After figuring out some logistics, Jessica began manufacturing the oil and dropped the first batch less than a year after getting laid off. And just like that, her small business was born. Within a month over 1,000 units had sold out. Her subsequent product drops have all been successful, and the entrepreneur’s fourth batch will be released sometime in 2022. Judging by the comments her followers have left, they can’t get enough. “Woo Hoo!!! Purchased my 6 jars,” one comment reads. Another says, “I’m running out of my batch #3 order hopefully the Feb 2022 drop isn’t too far off.”
That Jessica started out as a food influencer with no clear plans to launch her own business just speaks to the power of Instagram Reels as a potentially strong advertising medium for entrepreneurs. As she says herself, “What started as a humble recipe shared on my Instagram is now a product and cult condiment that so many can't get enough of!”
RachaelsGoodEats: a fitness business built via Reels
Rachael DeVaux is a longtime Instagram influencer, registered dietitian, and trainer who has been posting about healthy recipes and fitness since 2015. During 2020, however, the influencer’s Instagram page expanded thanks to the power of Instagram Reels, eventually leading to her co-founding her very own fitness business.
When the pandemic first hit and individuals were no longer exercising at gyms, Rachael began doing home workouts in real-time on her Instagram Lives and noticed a huge uptick in viewers. Her IG Lives became so popular she was hosting them multiple times throughout the week and even celebrated its one-year anniversary. Once Instagram released Reels in August 2020, Rachael began dropping fitness videos as a way to supplement her live workouts. She posted her first workout Reel – banded glute warmups – on August 18, 2020. The Reel received over 400,000 views and 10,000 likes. A similar workout Reel from December of that year has been viewed over 250,000 times.
Though Rachael had posted workout content before, this was the first time she had done so via quick and to-the-point videos, which became a hit on Instagram. Her Reels were so popular that Rachael increased her follower count from 400,000 in late 2019 to over 620,000 followers today.
The influencer’s brand had expanded enough for her to launch her own fitness equipment business in mid-2021 called Sweat Recreation. In a post, Rachael credited the creation of the company to her followers, “At the start of quarantine it was my goal to provide you with all the free workouts + healthy recipes you’d need to live your happiest life at home and I’m so honored you trusted me as your trainer each and every single week we did our Live workouts.”
In March 2022 Rachael released merch for Recreation Sweat and said the merchandise drop sold out quicker than she anticipated, proving her business is flourishing with the customer base she has built through Instagram Reels.
What’s the difference between TikTok and Instagram Reels?
Instagram Reels are considered to be Meta’s response to TikToks, so it is no surprise these two apps are so familiar. In fact, because they’re so similar you may be wondering which platform you should invest your time in. The answer depends. If you or your team has the bandwidth to keep up with multiple social media sites, there’s no harm in posting on both platforms. After all, it’s never too late to get started on TikTok. But, if you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to spare and is already on Instagram, here are a few reasons why it’s probably best to stick with Instagram Reels.
Instead of starting from scratch on TikTok, it might be better to focus on growing your Instagram account. While both apps are used by millions of people daily, you should also take into account your target audience and ask yourself which app your customers spend most of their time on. Over 43 percent of Tiktok's global audience is between 18 to 24 years old, while Instagram’s main demographic leans a bit older at 25 to 34 years old.
Instagram reals can only be up to one minute in length, however, users can create up to 10-minute long TikToks. This longer duration can allow for more creativity, but it also means more work for content creators and small business owners to plan out and edit these videos. On the other hand, Reels are bite-sized and won’t be a headache to produce.
Though TikTok is very popular, the platform’s interface doesn’t have any infrastructure to actually encourage viewers to buy products. With Instagram, small businesses can utilize links and the shopping tab to not only advertise their products but allow viewers to purchase items without ever leaving the app. According to Instagram, over 130 million users engage with shopping posts on a monthly basis, making it a great channel for you to increase sales.
Ultimately, we’ve been happy to see that Instagram Reels has created new opportunities for brands to advertise and sell their products in creative ways. Have another question about Instagram? Send us a DM!