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Instagram has announced a slew of new updates for Reels which are designed to help Reels creators tap into the latest trends and shifts, in order to maximize viewer engagement, and build community around their content.

And they could be highly valuable for marketers looking to make the most of their IG content.

First off, Instagram’s added a new discovery element, which will enable creators to find the latest trending audio and hashtags within Reels specifically.

Instagram Reels update

As per Instagram:

Creators are always looking to discover fresh content ideas, so now we’re adding a dedicated destination for you to be inspired by the latest trends. You’ll be able to see the top trending songs and hashtags on Reels, see how many times the audio has been used, tap in to use it, or save the audio for yourself.”

As you can see in these images, through ‘Reels Trends’, which will be available in your Professional Dashboard, you’ll be able to what audio is driving the most interest at any given time, along with hashtag trends and usage insights.

It’s similar to TikTok’s Creative Center tools, which provide the same insights across basically every element of TikTok’s trending clips – though TikTok’s version is more in-depth, with options to narrow down your results by region, along with more trend insights.

But even so, it’s a good addition for Reels research, which could help you tap into the latest shifts in the app, with Reels-specific insights and notes to better inform your process.

Instagram’s also merging its creative tools into the video composer screen, which will make it easier to create more standout Reels clips.

Instagram Reels update

The new Reels editing flow will incorporate video, stickers, text, and audio track editing, all on one screen.

This makes it easier to align and time elements of your reel to the right moments in a more visual way. Keep an eye out for even more exciting tools to come as we continue to invest in more ways to make editing your reels simpler and easier.”

So it’s CapCut, within IG. TikTok’s separate video editing app CapCut is becoming increasingly popular in its own right, with the app reaching 200 million active users, and surging up the App Store rankings. This new Reels editing layout is very similar to CapCut’s style, while also providing similar functionality, though more limited at this stage.

Instagram will also now provide insights into total and average watch time for Reels, giving you more data for your planning.

Instagram Reels update

Total watch time captures the total amount of time your reel was played, including any time spent replaying the reel. Average watch time captures the average amount of time spent playing your reel, calculated by dividing watch time with the number of total plays. For example if your average watch time is 17 seconds, out of everyone who watched your Reel they watched an average of 17 seconds. This will help you better understand where people are being engaged or where you may need to create a stronger hook to have viewers stay longer.

That could be somewhat misleading, in terms of average watch time, if a user was to replay your Reel several times, and only view the first few seconds. But you’d assume that doesn’t happen very often, and that the average time spent with your content is reflective of engagement peaks.

Instagram’s also adding new notifications which alert you when someone follows your account based on your Reels content specifically.

Instagram Reels update

Finally, Instagram’s also adding a new feature to its virtual Gifts element, which will show you which of your fans have sent you gifts, so you can better recognize your top supporters.

Instagram Reels update

A little recognition, in this respect, can go a long way, and the capacity to acknowledge your top supporters, in any way, can be a big step in enhancing community connection.

Instagram says that it’s also expanding access to Gifts, with creators in Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, New Zealand, and the UK, set to be Gift-enabled within the coming weeks.

These are some handy updates, but really, they’re just keeping up with TikTok, which already provides most of these options, and more, in its app.

Which is the story of Reels more generally – with the rise of short-form video, Meta has constantly been playing catch-up, as it seeks to align with the latest consumption trend, and fend off competition for user attention.

Will that work? I mean, it probably is, especially amid all the fearmongering around TikTok’s ownership, and the specter of the CCP stealing your personal info. Within that, many people are probably sticking to IG already, and definitely, Reels consumption has been a key engagement driver for Meta over the past two years.   

And while these are mostly replicated functionalities from TikTok, they will be handy for IG creators, and could help to optimize your Reels strategy.

And if TikTok does eventually get banned, that could become even more important.