For a year full of changes, the launch of Instagram Reels was probably the biggest shake-up on social media.
The quick-to-create video format closely mirrors TikTok, but it still has a long way to go to become the go-to platform for creators and brands.
So what does the future hold for Instagram Reels?
From monetization options for creators, to shoppable videos, we’re sharing our top 10 predictions for 2021!
Instagram Reels Predictions: What Can We Expect in 2021?
- Reels algorithm becomes more sophisticated
- Instagram introduces monetization options for creators
- New Instagram Ad formats for Reels
- Instagram adds shoppable Instagram Reels features
- Influencer marketing on Reels goes mainstream
- New and improved video editing tools on Reels
- More video collaboration options to improve content virality
- The Instagram Reels aesthetics will remain more polished than TikTok
- New Reels trends and challenges created by Instagram creators
- Video length extended to 60 seconds
#1: Reels Algorithm Becomes More Sophisticated
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram, you’ll know the algorithm can behave in mysterious ways.
And now, with Instagram Reels in the mix, the mysteries around the elusive Instagram algorithm continue.
Instagram Reels can be discovered in many places on the Instagram app — which accounts for it being a major growth hack for 2021 as there are more ways for people to find and interact with your content.
In fact, there’s 4 ways people can discover your Instagram Reels
- The new Reels tab in the home screen navigation
- Scrolling the Home feed
- The Explore page
- The Reels tab on individual profiles
Reels have a primary home on the new Reels tab on the home screen navigation bar. Here, instead of only seeing Reels from accounts you follow, you will see Reels from popular and trending accounts on Instagram.
“The tab will provide a deeply immersive Reels-experience with auto-play videos, with a creation entry point that opens directly to the Reels camera,” according to Instagram.
Also, Reels can appear within your Instagram home feed. As you scroll, Reels from the brands you follow will appear in your personalized feed.
Finally, Reels appear as you scroll your Explore page, which we already know is personalized based on your activity like brands you follow, and the posts you’ve liked and engaged with the most.
But how does Instagram decide which Reels to show you in all of these destinations?
Unfortunately, the Reels algorithm hasn’t been officially disclosed yet, but it does feel similar to how the TikTok For You page works.
We suspect the videos you see in your Reels tab is likely influenced by who you already follow, what content you interact with, and where you’re located.
What we can expect in the future is more transparency from Instagram on how the Reels algorithm works (just like how Instagram explained how the algorithm works on your home feed). Along with more advanced machine learning to identify the type of content you want to see.
Watch this space — the Reels feed is about to become a whole lot more personalized and sophisticated.
What to get the facts on the Instagram algorithm? We’re sharing everything we know about how the Instagram algorithm works — directly from sources at Instagram HQ!
#2: Instagram Introduces Monetization Options for Creators
2020 saw the introduction of a host of Instagram monetization options for creators, including IGTV ads and Instagram Live badges.
However, unlike YouTube, Instagram doesn’t share ad revenue with its creators… well not until recently, at least.
A day after Bloomberg reported that Instagram made $20 billion in advertising revenue in 2019 (a whopping $5 billion more than YouTube), Instagram was quick to comment.
Confirming their move into monetization tools for creators, Instagram announced it was prototyping an “Instagram Partner Program”.
But that was before Instagram Reels came onto the global scene in August 2020.
So with high hopes for creators being able to establish a revenue stream on IGTV content, it makes sense that Instagram would expand their monetization options into Instagram Reels.
For now, creators should use this time to experiment with Reels, and get to know what types of content resonates best with their audience.
Then if Instagram does roll out monetization features in 2021, you’ll already have built up an engaged audience. Watch this space!
#3: New Instagram Ad formats for Reels
According to a recent report, 75% of Instagram users take action, such as visiting a website or making a purchase, after looking at an Instagram ad.
And Instagram hasn’t held back in offering multiple ad formats for brands looking to target audiences and promote their products.
Aside from the new launch of IGTV ads, you can also use traditional ad routes like photo ads, Carousel ads, slideshow ads, video ads, and Instagram Stories ads.
If we compare formats, Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories are similar in many ways; both perform best with vertical content and both can be short-form videos.
When it comes to discovery, Instagram Stories ads often seamlessly fit into our stories feed, with just a small sponsored post tag appearing in the top left corner of the screen.
And when done correctly, an Instagram Stories ad can look just like an organic piece of content from a brand, with that swipe up link delivering serious traffic to your site.
Now imagine what an Instagram Reels ad could look like — it could also be a 15-second video, with a subtle “sponsored” tag in the caption or video.
The major benefit of introducing a Reels ad format would be that Instagram has its own dedicated Explore page for Reels, making it a great way to reach new audiences.
Plus, the super-scrollable (and slightly addictive!) nature of Reels means it’s very easy for an ad to appear on someone’s feed without interrupting their scrolling patterns.
The cons? Well, there’s no swipe up link on Instagram Reels (yet!). So potentially Instagram could look to add this feature, or introduce clickable links in captions like IGTV.
Learn more about ad formats and how they can drive traffic and sales with our step-by-step guide to running your first ad campaign.
#4: Instagram Adds Shoppable Instagram Reels Features
Shoppable Instagram Reels videos could be a real game-changer for brands.
Imagine being able to showcase your product in action, with a clickable link to immediately add to cart — all without leaving the Instagram app.
And according to Instagram’s Adam Mosseri, shopping on Instagram Reels could soon be a possibility — making almost every part of the app shoppable.
Now you can shop right on IGTV. 🛍 🎥 And later this year we’ll start testing shopping on Reels.
We want to keep making it easier to find products you love while supporting your favorite creators. pic.twitter.com/szutd49ZM2
— Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) October 5, 2020
Not forgetting that Reels have their own dedicated Explore page, making it even easier for new audiences to find your products.
So if we could send a wish list to Instagram for 2021, this would be top of the list!
Plus, Shopping from Creators is another way Instagram could roll out shoppable posts on Reels.
Shopping for Creators launched in April and allows influencers and creators to tag products in their posts from the brands they partner with. While still in a beta program for brands using Instagram Checkout feature, it could be the next big step in influencer marketing on Instagram.
Which brings us on to…
#5: Influencer Marketing on Reels Goes Mainstream
Influencers and brands are already starting to use Reels as a way to promote products — and we think this is only the beginning!
Similar to TikTok, it’s likely brands will jump on the opportunity to partner with influencers to create branded Instagram Reels, especially since Instagram has introduced branded content tags on Reels.
This update is a way for Instagram to ensure creators clearly disclose when they’re creating branded content, increasing transparency, and making it easier for creators and brands to create, share, and amplify branded content.
So with an official route to disclose sponsored content, we can expect to see a rise in brand x influencer collaborations.
If you’re a brand or business looking to attract new customers or get more Instagram followers, 2021 is the time to get ahead of the curve and start working with influencers!
Don’t know where to start? We have a complete Influencer Campaign Kit for Small Businesses that includes free worksheets, checklists, and email templates for you to use every step of the way:
#6: New and Improved Video Editing Tools on Reels
There’s no denying that TikTok reigns supreme when it comes to video editing features — you can master transitions, add voice effects, add text, apply AR filters, and even color correct your footage all within TikTok.
So the Instagram Reels video editor has some serious catching up to do!
When Reels first launched in August 2020, most brands and creators repurposed their TikTok videos and posted them to Reels. Which saw a lot of repetitive content like TikTok challenges appearing on our Instagram feeds (more on this later in this post!).
And it all comes down to how easy it is to create dynamic and original content on TikTok. One quick win which we predict Instagram will release in 2021 is the introduction of a voiceover tool on Reels.
With a voiceover tool, brands and creators have easy-access to creating product demos and walkthroughs, along with being able to micro-vlog or create their own unique trending sound.
And let’s not forget that some business accounts don’t have access to music on Instagram Reels — this is a major blocker for brands and businesses looking to create original and engaging content.
This is one Reels improvement we’re crossing fingers and toes for!
#7: More Video Collaboration Options to Improve Content Virality
TikTok is known for its quick-to-go-viral status, where a simple video can garner hundreds of thousands of likes in a day (sometimes even less!).
And one of the key factors contributing to that mega-success is TikTok’s collaboration tools like Duet and Stitch.
On TikTok, these features are a fun way for brands and businesses to creatively interact and engage with users in their community (and grow their reach even further!).
And, on the flip side, your community can engage with your brand’s videos — introducing your account to a whole new audience when a user posts a Duet or Stitch to their feed.
Currently, on Instagram Reels, there is nothing like the Duet or Stitch feature — users can only record their own footage or upload content from their camera roll.
So if Instagram wants to help brands and creators go viral on Reels, introducing collaboration features will really help spread the reach of each individual video post.
Plus, it’s a great way to engage with your community — a win-win for all sides!
#8: The Instagram Reels Aesthetic Will Remain More Polished Than TikTok
One of the major pros of posting a Reels video is that it has multiple homes on your profile — it can live on your Instagram grid, or in the new dedicated Instagram Reels tab on your profile.
If you want to share Reels to your profile grid (which is a great way to gain valuable extra exposure and boost your virality), it’s worth thinking about how they will look alongside your other posts.
Your top 9-12 Instagram posts are often the first pieces of content that visitors to your profile will lay eyes on — and they can be the deciding factor for whether someone hits the “Follow” button or not.
So if your Reels are disrupting your aesthetic, they could be slowing down your growth. A strong first impression counts on Instagram, especially when it comes to converting visitors into followers.
Thankfully, there are several ways to jump on the Reels trend and keep your aesthetic intact!
To help you along the way, you can read up on 3 quick and easy Instagram Reels design hacks — as well as the best editing apps to elevate your Instagram Reels aesthetic!
TIP: One of the best ways to ensure your Instagram aesthetic is always on point is by planning and previewing your posts in advance.
Later’s free Visual Instagram Planner shows you exactly how your Instagram feed will look in advance, so you can achieve the perfect Instagram aesthetic!
You can easily rearrange or swap out photos from your media library until you’ve found the best composition for your feed.
Plus, you can now use Later’s Visual Planner straight from your mobile! All you need is to open the Later app, select “Preview,” and “Add Media.”
#9: New Trends and Challenges on Reels Created by Instagram Creators
For many of the world’s best creators, Instagram is home. And Instagram as a brand has always nourished creativity and originality on the app.
One big change we’re expecting to see on Instagram is a serious push towards making Instagram Reels the go-to for the huge network of creators on the platform.
Instagram has already started making in-roads, for example, their “Instagram Reels Star Search” series on Instagram. Hosted by @tiffstips, creators like @camerynastar, @perrishoward, @Jacobvanlue, @asafyrov, and @chilltrillbill join each week to share their industry knowledge and top tips to entertain on Reels.
Instagram even teamed up with influencer @jeffrightnow to announce the new home page layout, which gained over 1.2M views!
So what can we expect to see from creators from Reels? Trends and challenges that originated on Reels, not TikTok.
At the moment, most of the viral trends and challenges have migrated from TikTok to Reels, but with a bunch of talented creators on their hands, Instagram could kick-off something completely unique and organic
Expect to see some native challenges starting on Instagram(and going viral) in 2021!
#10: Instagram Reels Video Length Extended to 60 seconds
Instagram Reels allows you to record 15 to 30-second clips set to music on Instagram.
Whereas on TikTok, users can record videos for up to 60 seconds. And even though it’s only a 30-second difference, users were quick to point it out.
And depending on the content you like to post, the 30-second max on Instagram Reels could feel short. Or if you’re creating content around the 60-second mark, it might feel too long for Instagram Stories, yet, too short for IGTV.
So there’s a real opportunity for Instagram to find a home for this middle-of-the-road, hyper-engaging content on Reels.
For now, we recommend keeping your videos less than 15 seconds, as they will automatically play in the Instagram feed.
Anything longer than 15 seconds and a viewer has to tap “watch more” to see the video in full, and one major glitch in the system is that the Reels will replay from the beginning once you tap that button!
The user experience at the moment is a little cumbersome and could result in low view rates and engagement.
But if you keep your Reels under the 15-second mark for now, your audience can watch your video from start to finish while scrolling the home feed!
And that’s it — all our top predictions for 2021 and the future of Instagram Reels!
While Instagram has a long way to go to be par with TikTok, there’s huge potential for brands and creators to tap into Reels now, and reap the rewards in the near future!
Nikki is Later’s Editorial Manager. She’s worked in digital media in Dublin, London, and Sydney and loves nothing more than hitting “publish” on a new post. When she’s not writing blogs with the Later team, you’ll find her outdoors with her dog, Arlie, or planning her next adventure — follow along on @nikkitravelled.