VIDEO VIEW: Tips on how to make a Reels video

Vertical or portrait shaped videos have quietly become a huge part of the media landscape.

The driver has been TikTok who have built a billion users faster than any other digital platform with 15 million of them in the UK. That figure is rising.

Young people don’t search Google, they search TikTok.

Meta’s response has been to turn Instagram from a photo website to a video sharing one where portrait video rules. Users have baulked but the direction of travel is set.

Reels has also come to Facebook.

So, in short, if Instagram, beloved of under 35s or Facebook, the key to over 35s is part of your strategy then Reels needs to be, too. With 20 per cent of Instagram users’ time being taken up with Reels this makes sense. 

Reels and TikTok are not the same

While they’re both vertical, the two products are markedly different.

For starters, if you’re in the public sector your users will be different. Users of your Facebook page where you can post Reels are likely to be women aged 35 to 55. So, make content with them in mind. Your Instagram where Reels can also go may be slightly different. So examine your insights to make content with them in mind, too. 

The worst thing you can do as a communicator in 2022 is make one-size-fits-all content and treat your channel like a mailshot where everyone gets the Pizza leaflet. Unlike a 12″ cheese and tomato, content is not universal.

Aside from audience, the tools for editing on both have some marked changes. Whatever you do, don’t download from TikTok and post as a Reels. While you’ve been able to get away with it the algorithm is now marking down content with logos burned in. In other words, TikTok logos.

Embarrassingly, the most popular content on Facebook in the early months of 2022 has been TikTok videos. It doesn’t take a genius to deduce two things. One, people will watch upright video. Two, Facebook will shoehorn its audience to its own upright video, thank you very much.

One big difference is on TikTok remix culture, taking a video and adding your own spin by using the sound or a response, is key. On Reels it’s not right now.

Tips for Reels

Happily, Meta have published a guide for producing Reels ads which cuts to the heart of what works as video omn the platform. Unfortunately, its not on public release but it has been posted to the internet.

I’ve read it so you don’t have to. 

Make it vertical, stupid.

This feels like an obvious thing to say but with the platform being still relatively new it’s a handy reminder and a guide to stop chucking your landscape onto Reels – or TikTok – without thinking.

Watch the safe zone

Leave the top 12 per cent and the bottom 20 per cent. So, don’t be posting words onto these sections as you’ll clash with the text of the post that Reels will add.

Add sound

This is a real game changer. In conventional social video, 70 per cent of video gets watched without sound. Reels demand your attention and users are more happy to listen to what they are watching. After all, its a video platform first. An incredible 80 per cent of Reels viewers watch WITH sound turning things right on its head.

So, music plays a really big part. So does your voiceover or your piece to camera.

Add people who speak the language

The feedback from Meta is that people like people on Reels. Speak the language of your audience. Thai is a chance to use the Edelman Trust Barometer insight that people respond to people like themselves. So a new parent in a video will land with new parents far better than nobody in the video.

Add visuals

Make the video visually appealing with transitions to regular edits. The Reels editing tool can add effects. Right now they’re far more limited than TikTok’s native app Let’s see if that changes. 

Add emotion

This is a clear request from Reels. If you watch enough portrait video that’s unsurprising. People respond to emotion and that can be, they say, happiness, interest or amazement.

Add a voiceover

Adding a voice is recommended, Meta says. This is a real chance to add local colour. The strong Black Country accent can land well with a local audience. 

Add a hook in the first five seconds

In common with TikTok the first five seconds they say are critical. I’d go further and say the first three secomnds. Make a visual grab for attention but also add a hook. What’s the reason for watching the clip? What can draw you in? The example they give is ‘Three ways to style your product.’ That may feel a tad spammy but its worth experimenting with.   

Add bite size text

This is a handy tip and reflects a technique that news companies often use for social media packages. Here, they often tell the story in text on the screen cutting to soundbites to illustrate a point. Story telling drives the content rather than the interview.


As the platform develops so will Reels and other short video platforms. Right now taking part asnd experimenting is the right thing to do. Don’t wait. Do. Experiment in your own time on your own account first, as with anything new. That builds confidence to tackle the corporate account.

The tips in this post are not prescriptive. They give some pointers for you to start your journey.

I deliver ESSENTIAL PORTRAIT VIDEO FOR TIKTOK & REELS workshops online. This can help give you the basics to help your video making journey. For more information and to secure a place click here.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: