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How to make an Instagram Reel go viral

Following TikTok's rise in popularity over the last few years, Instagram has shifted its focus to embrace short-form video content through Reels. Compared to other post formats on Instagram, Reels are more likely to go viral because they're often featured on the Explore page, and Instagram generally tends to surface more video content to users today than in previous years. This shift sets the stage for new strategies and approaches to Instagram marketing.

This doesn't mean that when you publish a Reel, it will automatically become viral. While there isn't a certain blueprint for virality, there are several actions you can take to improve your chances. Whether you're a content creator or a social media manager for a brand on Instagram, these tips will help you reach a wider audience while putting out valuable content that engages your existing followers.

Let's dive into the tips and check out some brands that have gone viral on Instagram.

1. Keep it short and sweet

Instagram Reels were originally designed to be short-form, but the app now supports videos up to 15 minutes long. However, the duration of your Instagram Reel also determines the level of engagement you get, and long Instagram Reels can lead to your audience losing interest in your video. As a result, the algorithm would be informed that your material isn't compelling enough. Really short Instagram Reels, on the other hand, may not be enough to engage viewers. 

But what do we mean exactly by long and short? What is the ideal Instagram Reel length?

In general, it's best to keep your Reel between 7 and 15 seconds. This is just enough to hook the viewer and keep them engaged until the end while giving you time to convey your message.

Screenshot of Instagram reels from Alo Yoga

Alo Yoga has amassed a large following on Instagram, and the brand's Reels are typically around 15 seconds long.

That's not to say you should stick to this general rule. After all, what may work for some may not work for others. Expert marketers will tell you any good eCommerce, B2B, or SaaS marketing strategy involves testing. So, experiment with Reel length and see which generates the best results for you. You can also view the analytics of your Reels with a professional account, which can help you determine which content lengths resonate best with your online audience.

2. Post at the right time

While the content of your Reel is the most important part of going viral, posting it at the best time for your followers and target audience can improve its chances. On both TikTok and Instagram, the first few viewers of your videos essentially decide how your post ends up performing; if they scroll past and don't engage, the algorithm is less likely to surface that video to other users.

The global best time to post on Instagram is Wednesday at 11am, but tapping into your Instagram account's analytics provides more insight into what times of the day and week are most valuable to your unique audience. Check out our post on the best times to post Instagram Reels for more information on how to determine this.

3. Showcase products in a diverse way

Instagram is the perfect platform for your product videos, whether you're an influencer promoting a brand or a brand promoting its own goods. After all, a whopping 96% of people watch these types of videos. That means the chances of your Reel going viral are high.

Make sure you show the product in action and highlight its benefits. Include footage of your product being used if you can. Some creative ways to do this include unboxing videos, tutorials, behind-the-scenes videos, and before-and-after shots.

Screenshot of Instagram Reels from Puma

Make sure you use clear, high-quality footage. You want to showcase your product. You can't do that if your footage is poorly lit or blurry, so don't be afraid to cut, reshoot, or condense scenes. You want to keep the viewer engaged.

Finally, at the end of the Reel, include a call to action. Make it clear what you want the viewer to do next. For product videos, make sure to tag the product from your Instagram storefront so viewers can easily shop straight from your post.

4. Choose the right music or audio clip

Using music or a trending audio clip in your Instagram Reel can help you get more Reel engagement. The audio you choose should depend on what your Reel is about. It should also depend on the brand personality you wish to portray. For instance, if you were showcasing your newly-opened pub in your Reel, you might want to use catchy, casual music. Your goal, after all, is to package your pub as a fun place where people dine and socialize.

If, on the other hand, you're aiming to educate your audience about the details of a product, you may want to choose some light instrumental music with a voiceover. 

You can use popular sounds that aren't necessarily music, too. That can help you increase the reach and visibility of your Reel. The more people watch a Reel with a specific sound, the more videos with the same audio appear on their feed. 

So, bear in mind the following tips when using music for your video:

  • Jump on trends. The algorithm pushes Instagram Reels that use audio at the height of their popularity. 

  • Consider the lyrics of the song. If your piece of content has dialogue or voiceover, make sure the lyrics of the song don't distract from or compete with voice audio in your Instagram Reel.

  • Pay attention to copyright. Make sure you have the proper permissions to use music in your video. Many websites offer royalty-free music from their music library. You can use these options without worrying about copyright issues.

Don't be afraid to try out a few different songs in your music library to see which one works best. 

5. Feature your community's UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is any form of original and unpaid content that has been created by users. It can come in the form of reviews, photos, and videos, but most often is sourced from social media posts themselves.

UGC has been found to generate 29% higher customer engagement than other types of content. This means if you use UGC in your Reel, you can increase your chances of going viral. So how do you find the right UGC to use?

While you can search through hashtags related to your niche, brand, or products, using a UGC platform like Pixlee TurnTo [now Emplifi] provides an easy way to automatically collect and curate video content (from Instagram Reels, other social platforms, or a direct upload) originally created by your community.

Screenshot of Instagram Reel in the Pixlee TurnTo platform

Choose collection criteria for your UGC, like your branded hashtag or posts that your account has been tagged in, and get permission to reuse that content in your own Reels, all without leaving the platform.

Social media contests are a great way to solicit UGC from your existing followers and the broader community. For instance, you can say those who make the most creative Reel showcasing your new product can get a 25% discount at your store on their first purchase. Notice that the giveaway should be related to what you're offering. This way, you ensure the people you engage are also the ones more likely to buy from you. 

You can then reuse this content (with permission from its creator) in your future Instagram Reels and other marketing channels.

6. Collaborate with other brands and influencers

Collaborating with influencers on Instagram Reels can be a valuable way to promote your brand. Influencers have a large following on social media, and their endorsement of your brand can help you increase visibility. This can translate to more eyeballs on your video that can help make your Instagram Reel go viral.

As a brand, utilizing an influencer marketing tool like Pixlee TurnTo (now Emplifi) can help you discover creators already posting about your products as well as new relationships with influencers in your sphere.

Screenshot of Instagram Reels by Mapiful and Nulo Pet Food

When you collaborate with influencers, you can also help create a sense of authenticity and trustworthiness for your brand. After all, the influencer has likely built up a reputation for being genuine and trustworthy in the eyes of their followers. If an influencer vouches for your brand, their followers will likely trust you, too. When that happens, you could get Instagram followers. Or even if they don't become your followers, the next time they come across your Reel, they are more likely to be familiar with your account. 

Overall, collaborating with influencers can be a useful strategy for increasing brand awareness, driving sales, and increasing followers.

The takeaway

Instagram Reels are worth your attention as a content creator, brand, or other organization on social media. They can help your content become viral. The more visibility you get, the more leads and conversions you can have.

But you shouldn't just post a random video and expect it to yield results. You learned tips on how to make a Reel go viral. Keep your Reels short, post at the right time, create great product videos, and use the right audio. Also, leverage UGC and collaborate with influencers.

Follow these tips, and you'll have viral content in no time. Good luck.

Nico is the founder of Crunch Marketing. The company works with enterprise SaaS clients, helping them scale lead generation globally across EMEA, APAC, and other regions.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published on pixlee.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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