Navigating TikTok and Instagram Reels

Navigating TikTok and Instagram Reels

Navigating TikTok and Instagram Reels

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine (RIP), Snapchat, TikTok—it feels like the second you’ve learned one social media platform, another pops up to challenge your technological intelligence. Not only are there just so many social media platforms, but each one is constantly evolving, introducing new features and changing formats as quickly as it takes for you to get comfortable working with them. 

While this can feel frustrating, these competing platforms often cannibalize one another in an effort to provide the most popular features and gain the lead among users. Recognizing the similarities can simplify content creation across these different platforms. Master one, and it’s easier to master the near copy.

The popularity of the SnapChat platform led Instagram and Facebook to develop competing systems—Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories—to engage their audiences in a similar fashion. The most recent social media contender, TikTok, has proven frustrating for older adopters of social media, but it has quickly become a platform where Generation Z (and younger) thrives. TikTok’s rising popularity drove Instagram to create Instagram Reels in August 2020 in order to capture that younger audience as well. 

In the following blog post, we’ll share some of our best practices for utilizing these platforms to promote and strengthen your online presence. We assume you already know the basics of how to post to TikTok and Instagram Reels, but if you need a refresher download our PDF guide here


Best Practices for TikTok and Instagram Reels

Because the format for TikTok and Instagram Reels is so similar, we believe you can apply the same kinds of tips and tricks to both to create the most engaging content. The following are our best practices for maximizing content for these formats. 

Trend Tagalong

If you’re new to TikTok (and/or Instagram) the best place to start is as an observer. Get on the apps. Search the hashtags that best apply to your business and look at the content others are posting. This is an overall rule that you should continue employing even as your TikTok and Instagram Reels content becomes more advanced. It’s also a rule you could apply across your social media channels.

These two platforms are specifically catered to the quick and the viral. TikTok use is driven by what is trending. Just think of the virality of the TikTok Sea Shanty trend (#SeaShanty currently has 5.1 billion views). These trends have a lot of power and momentum, so if you can create a video that hooks into a viral trend, it raises the odds of your business being seen by strangers. Look at what is trending and viral, and start strategizing how to create content that folds your business into the trend. If we take Sea Shanties as an example, and you’re a yarn producer, maybe you can find a Waulking song to post with a felting tutorial (waulking is the Scottish term for felting, and waulking songs were the traditional Scottish folk songs women sang during the fulling process).

Life happens fast on TikTok, so if you want to catch a trend you have to be on the app, actively following other people and businesses within your niche and paying attention to the kinds of posts they’re creating. What’s trending one day may not be trending the next, but you can create a quick piece of trending content to draw attention to your business. Visit the search page often to see what hashtags are trending and how you might use them in your content. 


Think Vertically

As we said before, at first it may seem pretty strange to record videos in the vertical orientation. We’ve long been taught and told that landscape videos are preferable for capturing the full scale of your subject, and while that still rings true in other formats, landscape is not best for TikTok and Reels.

One of the prevailing tenets upheld by the most avid adopters of TikTok—Gen Y—is that the best, most engaging content feels authentic. It’s the reason why they championed the “no filter” trend—the realest you is the best you. So, it’s no surprise that vertical orientation is the go-to when filming for TikTok and, by extension, Instagram Reels. A vertical video feels intimate, approachable, and as if it were done on the fly. In a word, genuine. 


Find Your People

You don’t have to reach everyone on TikTok and Instagram Reels, but you do need to reach your people. So as important as it is for you to gain followers, you should be following others as well. 

Find the businesses, creators, brands and influencers most applicable to your brand and follow them. Follow the hashtags most relevant to your business, too, but be specific. Following #knit will deluge your feed unnecessarily.

Once you’ve thickened your feed with relevant content, it will give you a better general idea of the kind of content you should be creating. It will also make it that much easier to hop on a trend that is more specific to your business because you will be in the right mix.


Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Embrace the shortened format of Instagram Reels and TikTok by focusing on providing tips related to your business. You can, of course, upload longer videos to TikTok, but you grab and keep the most eyes with shorter videos, so aim for no more than 30-60 seconds. 

This is the perfect format for illustrating your favorite short row method, if you’re a knitter, or your must-have sewing tools, if you’re a quilter. Maybe you just received a new batch of fabrics. Use TikTok to showcase the different colors and patterns, set it to a song that’s currently trending, and use TikTok’s effects to add in the fabric and color names. If you get a new yarn in stock, you can create a video of pattern suggestions for using the yarn. When you hit record on both TikTok and Instagram Reels, you have the option of pausing your recording multiple times—this is a great opportunity to jump from product to product, or between the steps necessary to perform a specific technique. 


Don’t Forget the Hashtags

As always, don’t forget to hashtag all of your content so that it shows up in relevant feeds. Hashtags for Instagram Reels and TikTok work the same way they do in other social media arenas, so customers following or searching specific hashtags relevant to your business are more likely to find you when you hashtag properly.


Use the Tools

Because this is such a short format to work in, it’s incredibly important to use the tools available to you. Don’t be afraid to add text on screen to fill in information and extrapolate on what you’re capturing in the video. Text on screen is helpful in terms of accessibility (and there are also closed caption options, if the video features a lot of talking), but it’s also helpful for those people who scroll with the sound off. Most TikTok videos feature text on screen, and many Instagram Reels employ text as well.

If the lighting isn’t great, or your background feels uninteresting, dig into any of the many filters available on both apps. Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment with the different features. You can speed up and slow down videos (speeding up might be helpful if you’re illustrating a longer technique; slowing down might be helpful if you’re performing something particularly tricky) or go hands-free if you need both hands to work. It might take a little time, but experimenting with the different features will expand the possibilities of the kind of content you can create.

Don’t forget to use music as well! If you use a piece of trending music on TikTok, then your video will show up on TikTok’s Sound page under the trending song. This is an easy way to piggyback a trend and show up in search results. 


Collaborate! (TikTok Only)

We have a feeling this feature may land on Instagram Reels soon because it’s proven so popular. The TikTok Sea Shanty trend simply would not have existed without it.

TikTok allows users to “duet” with each other, which simply means one user records a video, and then the next user can add their own recording to that video. A third person can then take this second video and add their own recording to it. And on and on, layering people and voices together.

This is a great feature for harmony-loving singers, of course, but it’s also applicable to craft businesses. You can post a series of questions for crafters, and ask them to respond. Alternatively, you can find a video that posts questions or a challenge (“challenges” are big on TikTok, whether it’s dancing, singing, or participating in a craft) to film a duet with.

Two examples of TikTok crafters asking followers to Duet with them

To film a duet, click the “Send to” arrow on the screen of the video you want to duet with, then click the duet button on the screen that pops up. This brings up a side-by-side video screen, with the original video on one side and your ready-to-record video on the other.

Duets are great because you’re creating a space for active engagement with your customers and followers. Don’t be afraid to create duets with other people’s videos. It will strengthen the base of followers who may duet with you in the future.  


Share Everywhere (Instagram Reels Only)

Instagram Reels offer a lot of versatility in terms of where you can share your Reels. As a business, your account should be public, which means you generally want to share your Reels everywhere. 

As shown in the image below, you have the option of choosing to also share your Reels to your feed. This will share your Reel in Instagram’s feed as well as on the Explore page and under a new Reels tab on your homepage. You can also share the Reel to your Stories.

As with TikTok, any trending music or hashtags you’ve used in your Reel will affect how it shows up in the Explore page, which is the place it is most likely to be seen by fresh eyes. So you’ll want to follow the same rules of keeping an eye on relevant trends and hashtags you can use. And don’t forget to tag relevant people and/or brands as well!

We suggest sharing the Reel everywhere at first, and then later, if you want to concentrate all Reels on the Reels tab, removing it from your homepage feed. 

Do you have more questions about how to maximize the impact of your social media platforms? Contact Stitchcraft Marketing today for a consultation!

Leanne Pressly
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