Instagram Reels for Designers – How I Grew 4x in One Month
Instagram Reels — infinite feed with short vertical videos — were initially introduced in the middle of 2020 but got viral and spread worldwide only by the end of 2021.
This good-quality copy of TikTok from Mark Zuckerberg is becoming a real game-changer nowadays. Here are some of the reasons why you should start shooting your Reels:
- The previous prominent Instagram feature — Stories — became popular quickly because it shows your personality in the natural environment. Stories help you be closer to your audience and build a long-term relationship with your followers.
- Instagram Posts and Carousels are great tools to showcase your professional content and convert viewers and followers into clients.
- But the major problem with all previous formats (which existed before Reels) was gaining new visitors. You can either add many hashtags to your posts (and get 1-2 new followers) or set up a Facebook Ad campaign to show your profile to your target audience.
- Instagram Reels is this missing piece of the puzzle, helping you gain a new audience for free and convert it into followers and clients.
In 2021 I spent about $3000 and 12 months to get 2500 live followers using Facebook Ads. In 2022 I’ve spent $0 and 1 month to get 9000 more people. That’s the key idea of using Instagram Reels to promote your professional blog and get new clients in 2022.
Let me tell you more about the steps I accomplished to build the working flow of lead generation for design.
1. Define Your Niche
The first thing you need to do is to find your niche. The problem here is the balance — between general and specific. If you are a designer, you shouldn’t focus on all types of design at once.
Don’t worry about limiting your potential followers base. Even if you post about UX Research, you will find your audience and clients.
The opposite problem is being too specific.
For instance, if you’re publishing Reels only about UX Research in FoodTech companies, you significantly decrease the total number of viewers.
Try to find a perfect balance.
2. Analyze What Users Love
This part of the plan looks the most relaxing to me. You need to watch tons of Reels and TikTok videos focusing on their virality and analytics. Try to find niche-related videos and analyze them.
You can even build a Google Sheet to calculate the different topics’ engagement rates (amount of likes and comments/total amount of views).
I coded a simple Python script parsing other designers’ Reels and getting their views, likes, comments, and followers statistics. And here are some insights I got so far:
- The most viral topics in UX Design Reels are Figma tutorials, New tools overviews, and Collections of Icons, Fonts, and Illustrations. Junior Designers love this free and eye-catching stuff.
- The day of the week and time of publication have zero impact on the Reels’ views and interactions.
- The most popular videos are usually the ones that are shared and/or saved actively. The more users save your Reels, the more views you get.
- Generate your content ideas.
Content research is not only about analytics and data. While looking through other users’ videos, you can save the most interesting and engaging ones from replicating them in the future.
Yep, you heard it right — replicate!
Copying, in this case, doesn’t mean plagiarism. You should at least reshoot the video yourself. At most — add your voice-over, add more details and share your professional opinion.
3. Organize Your Insights
I prefer to use the app called Things. It’s made to organize your daily tasks and reminders. You can easily split your ideas into categories, add tags and schedule them on specific dates.
My personal love is Home Screen Widget and integration with the Apple Shortcuts app. I can add it to the necessary folder whenever I have a new idea — quick and easy. A few days later, when I wake up, I can easily understand which one to shoot or edit today.
By the way, about shooting…
4. Record and Edit Your Video
When you have a list of Reels ideas, it’s time to shoot. Instagram Reels or TikToks are not always about you staying in front of the camera. Most of my videos are just screen recordings with voice-over added on editing. But there are still some shots that may improve your engagement:
Start With a Hook
Find a catching title for your Reel and show it in the first 2 to 3 seconds. Most of my videos start with something like:
- “Let me show you how to design an interactive button in one minute“,
- “Check out this new insane tool for web designers“,
- “Here are Top 3 illustrations packs for UX Design“.
Have you got the main idea? You should find a title that can catch viewers’ attention and keep it till the end of your Reel.
Share The Value
What is the easiest way to get more saves, likes, and comments under your Reel? Make it valuable. Make it so useful that the user will want to save it to return later.
4-5% saves is an excellent result. I usually love seeing it 2x greater than likes.
One of the most popular Reels in my account was about filling Figma mock-ups with real data using the Google Sheets Sync plugin. The users’ reaction was crazy: “Magic!“, “How is it possible?“, “Why haven’t I heard about it yet!?“.
Call to Action
Don’t forget about the Call to Action at the end of your video. Remember? Views and likes are nothing if they are not converting into followers (and clients then). Add a simple “Follow me for more design tips” at the end. That will be enough to see some results.
5. Test, Iterate, Test Again
Posting Reels is almost about building complex websites or platforms. That’s where your designer’s skills come to the stage. After about 5-10 published Reels, you can start analyzing and modifying your content. Check it out:
- You start with an MVP — your first set of videos with random ideas.
- When MVP is ready, you start getting the first users — your viewers.
- You can track quantitative metrics — engagement rates and views-to-followers conversion as soon as you get views.
- You also start receiving qualitative feedback — direct messages and comments.
- Based on the data you generate hypothesis: which other Reels ideas should you use to increase the engagement and keep growing?
- You create new content, analyze it and get new insights.
As soon as you understand your audience’s needs and interests, you will start growing faster. Most importantly, your results will get more predictable with every new video.
6. Convert Visitors into Followers and Clients
Let’s imagine that your Reels are getting viral. What’s next? If you use Call to Action properly, random Instagram viewers will more likely visit your page. Some of them want to follow you after only one video. Others may want to see other examples of your content.
In this case, the better your profile is prepared, the higher conversion into followers you will get. There are three main pieces of a good Instagram page:
- Profile picture.
- Profile bio.
- Other posts in your profile.
The last piece I didn’t mention yet is the profile link. This link is the only way to convert visitors and followers into paying clients. You can add your website or use services Linktree to show multiple links at once.
To warm up your potential clients, use other post formats on Instagram. Carousels (if they are designed well) can be a great way to demonstrate your expertise and give your followers knowledge. Stories can help you build a closer relationship with your audience and tell more about your lifestyle.
7. Don’t Give Up on This Long-term Game
Working with Instagram Reels is infinite highs and lows. Especially if you post new Reels every day. Some of them may go viral in an hour. Others can freeze first and grow up later. There will also be posts that don’t get views at all. The main thing you should remember — is it’s normal.
Don’t let the algorithms make you upset or ruin your plans. I promise — if you do the research and prepare the content for the next 3-4 weeks, you will see tremendous results. That’s how it works.
There was a day when I woke up, looked back on all my Reels for the last five days, and realized they didn’t work that well. First, I decided to give up and get back to the paid Facebook Ads. But then I gave it another try, and everything worked again. Stay stubborn and do your business.
As I mentioned before, Instagram Reels is a game-changer. The sooner you master it, the larger piece of the target audience you get. Instagram is a highly competitive platform. This time, you are not allowed to miss this growing trend. Good luck!