Inside the Instagram Reels Algorithm (+ 7 Tips to Grow Using Reels)

Alan VanToai

August 5, 2021

Are you curious how the Reels you see on the Instagram Explorer page end up there? The million-dollar question is; what qualifies as a good Reel when it comes to Instagram and its algorithm?

Trying to crack the Instagram algorithm can often feel like an impossible task because, well, no one really knows how it works or what goes on behind the scenes.

Why do some trends gain traction over others that are as equally entertaining?

And why is it that some Reels get millions of views while others barely see any reach?

I would be lying if I said this hasn't happened to me before, because it has, big time. Most notably when I made a Reel I thought would get a solid response just to check my stats and see my reach was less than 200 people.

Many brands and creators are left scratching their heads wondering how to make Reels that gain traction and go viral. Well, the best answer is to optimize for the Instagram Reels algorithm.

In this article, we are going to talk about the best practices for creating Reels, according to Instagram, so that you can start creating Reels that generate more buzz, reach more potential followers, and earn more engagement than ever before.

Without further ado, let's hop into it and hack the Instagram Reels Algorithm!

How to Optimize for the Reels Algorithm

While the Instagram Reels Algorithm is a bit of an unknown, there are plenty of well-tested and researched strategies that you can use to optimize for the algorithm.

Instagram is working hard to compete with TikTok, and they are going to continue pushing Reels and video content on the platform.

In fact, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in a recent post that Instagram is transitioning away from single square photos and more towards short and long-form video content. Don't stress though, your carousels and single image content will still get exposure. πŸ˜‰

This just means that brands and creators will need to map out a video content strategy to continue to grow on the app.


One of the most surefire ways of optimizing for the algorithm is to create high-quality video content that isn't recycled from other apps, especially from TikTok.

Instagram will favor original content that is entertaining, funny, or interesting.

If you want to optimize for Reels, let's take a look at some of the Do's and Don'ts, specifically stated by Instagram.


Instagram Reels Do's

Here are some of the strategies you can implement to get your content discovered on the Reels tab on Instagram:

  • Make content that engages quickly, is entertaining, fun, and delightful for your target audience. Focus on creating an element of surprise or keep them laughing and engaged throughout the whole video
  • Utilize Instagram's built-in effects and features, and use text and creative tools
  • Create vertical videos, they will always perform better than horizontal videos
  • Make your own trends (audio, dance, or style of creating your content)
  • Create original audio (great for businesses) or use trending music

Instagram Reels Don'ts

If you are trying to grow on Instagram using Reels, there are a few things to keep in mind as you are creating content. Instagram said the biggest things you shouldn't do are:

  • Create content that is low resolution (Instagram won't favor blurry videos)
  • Post content that contains a watermark from another app (such as TikTok)
  • Use text that covers most of the video

It's important to note that if you want to boost engagement and grow your following with Reels, you'll want to avoid these things.

But if you simply want to make fun content for your friends and followers, Instagram will still showcase your videos even if they are blurry or have a watermark.

Tips for Creating High-Performing Instagram Reels

Along with the advice from Instagram, there are a few extra strategies you can use to see a massive boost in engagement with your Reels.

Instagram wants to push high-quality Reels that keep people on the app longer. So leverage the following strategies to produce captivating Reels every time you post!

Start with an Engaging Hook and End with a Strong CTA

This might seem straightforward, but a hook and CTA need to be at the forefront of every Reel you create.

Each Reel you create needs to be punchy and pull people in within the first 5 seconds, or else you run the risk that users on the app will keep scrolling and not engage with your content.

Your hook could be asking a question, starting the video off with an interesting anecdote or fact, or setting up the narrative.


Your CTA can encourage viewers to read your caption, head to the link in your bio, or follow for part 2 (if you are making multiple Reels about the same subject).

Ultimately, your hook and CTA need to drive viewers to your profile to check out your other content and (hopefully) follow you.

Use Interesting Edits, Transitions, and Built-In Features

What makes the difference between an average Reel, a good Reel, and a great Reel? Captivating editing and transitions.

But, that doesn't mean you have to be a video editing professional or have all of the newest equipment to produce unique videos with dynamic edits.

You only need a video editing tool, such as InShot (you can download on the app store), and a bit of practice.

how to make 3D photos on Instagram

If you are new to short-form video content, utilize the features built in-app on Instagram that spark interest in your videos, such as the green screen feature, fun filters, or the remix feature.

Use Trending Sounds, Music, and Improve Audio Quality

Audio is extremely important for video content. The last thing you want is to create an awesome video with fuzzy or low audio. Your future followers want to hear what you have to say!

If you don't feel like talking every time you make a Reel, opt for creating Reels with trendy music or original audio from other creators.

There is no shame in following a trend and tailoring it to fit your niche. Creators do it all the time and often see a huge spike in engagement.

Embrace the trends.

Additionally, look for opportunities to create your own trends with audio. Improve your narrative, tell a story, and be playful when creating your Reels, and others might use your audio in their own videos.

Ask Questions and Present Opportunities to Engage

If your goal is to improve your engagement rate and create a community on Instagram, use Reels as a way to start a conversation with your followers.
Social media is social for a reason, so try posing a question for your community or ask them to give their insights in the comments under the Reel.
Remember to take the time and respond to the comments from your followers. Doing this will help foster a rich sense of engagement and signal to your followers that you appreciate their insight.

Improve Your Narrative

Storytelling and building your brand and narrative are extremely important on social media. While it might seem difficult to tell a complete story in under one minute, it's not impossible.

Here are some best practices:

  • Cut out the fluff
  • Write your script beforehand
  • Be concise in your messaging
  • Get to the main topic within the first 5 seconds (focus on that hook)
  • Create a multip part series if you can't fit all of your contexts into one video
  • Utilize the caption to continue the conversation

Create Engaging, On-Brand Thumbnail

If you are a business or creator that has curated your feed to fit a certain aesthetic, you might already be creating engaging thumbnails for your Reels.

While this might not seem like a huge deal, all creators and brands can benefit from implementing thumbnails into your Reels.

Your thumbnails can be simple, but the purpose of these thumbnails is to give your followers an idea of what the video is about. These thumbnails won't be visible on the Reels Explorer Page but will be visible in your profile.

Creating thumbnails will help showcase the type of content you make to potential followers that find your account.

Show Your Face

Don't be shy, get on video!

I know, I know, it's easier said than done, especially if you don't like being on camera.

And for people that don't like being on video, the LAST thing you might want to do is start creating short-form video content for potentially thousands of people to see.

But, your engagement will be much higher when you are in the video and you show your face. You are the key to great video content, so get on camera and showcase your personality.

The best part about Reels is that they are creative and tend to forget about the hyper-produced and curated aesthetic. You can be your most genuine self and will be rewarded for it.


Are you ready to hack the Instagram Reels algorithm and start gaining new followers and growing your presence on Instagram? Then follow these 7 tips and focus on producing a high-quality and engaging video to gain more traction and start building a community.

Ready to turn your customers into your army of brand ambassadors? If so, watch the epic CrewFire demo video or get in touch with us to learn how you can drive more referrals, word-of-mouth, and user-generated content for your Shopify store.

Get in touch w/ Alan (Founder/CEO - CrewFire):

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Alan VanToai

Co-Founder of CrewFire


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