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Tips for Creating Simple Short-form Instagram Reels and TikTok Videos

by | Education

Navigating social media algorithms can be exhausting with their ever-changing ways, which makes it difficult to come up with easy Reel ideas or ideas for other short-form video content. One thing that’s certain is that video content is here to stay! Gone are the days when static image grid posts and a good hashtag strategy would push you far enough in Instagram’s algorithm to allow for mass reach. And as TikTok has exploded in popularity since the start of the pandemic, Instagram had to piggyback on trending video content and introduced Reels in 2020. To compete with the popularity of Tik Tok, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, announced that the app’s algorithm is now favoring original video content and sounds.

For most, the leap to the video world can be intimidating; filming, editing, choosing a trendy song, figuring out your topic, posting, rinsing, and repeating. It can be a lot of work for a small business owner, but it doesn’t always have to be!

Let’s break down how simple video content and a solid video content strategy can level up your social media game, even if you don’t have a huge library of videos.

What’s Considered Video Content

There is one universal distinction applied to video content online: long form and short form. Long-form video content is media over 10 minutes and short-form videos are under 10 minutes. That said, most modern short-form videos are actually three minutes or less because of Instagram and TikTok. YouTube is a good example of a platform that caters to long-form videos, mainly showcasing tutorials, video podcasts, how-to’s, and product reviews. Youtube Shorts are their response to Tik Tok and are the short-form option on their platform.

Whether short-form or long-form, video content just refers to any piece of media that has a video file type like .mov or .mp4. What’s not a video is an image file like a .jpg or .png. What’s in those files can often look really similar to one another on our end. For example, a .gif is an image file. We see it move as a video might, but it is still an image. On the other hand, one could make a video of any length with only one image that doesn’t move the entire time. To our eye, this video would appear to be an image, not a video. It wouldn’t be until you look down and see that little progress bar at the bottom of the image showing you that you’re halfway through a video.

What’s Poppin’ on Tik Tok (Don’t Mind Me, Just Watchin’)

The Tik Tok platform is the more “casual” of all social media platforms and the max video length is three minutes. You’ll find people from every walk of life and generation, uploading an unlimited variety of content. The For You Page is the homepage and feed of a user’s TikTok account. It will only showcase videos with similar content to videos that the user has already reacted to or engaged with. This highly curated algorithm allows for a hyper-personalized user experience. They not only view the exact content they want to see but they see more of it for longer. Here’s a more in-depth look at TikTok’s behemoth user statistics if you’re curious.

While you can find an infinite variety of content on Tik Tok, some of the most popular video types are:

  • How-tos and tutorials
  • Dances and skits
  • Storytimes
  • Product reviews and recommendations
  • Dance and hashtag challenges
  • Educational videos

Along with regularly uploaded short-form videos, you can also go live on TikTok if you have 1,000 or more followers and are over the age of 16. This allows creators to directly connect with their followers, answer real-time questions, or showcase the behind-the-scenes of their content creation.

Wait a Minute! I Think I Left My… Instagram Feed But Now I’m Back Again

Following suit with Tik Tok, Instagram Reels are short-form videos up to a minute and a half long, so not quite the length of TikTok. Reels also use trending songs or original audio to determine a post’s audience reach. With Reels, you’ll also find a wide range of content, but the audience on Instagram is a bit smaller than it is on TikTok for this type of content.

According to DemandSage, most users are between 18-34 years old. The good news is that the same study showed 87% of Gen Z users perceive Tik Tok and IG Reels as “essentially the same.” For this reason alone, Reels are a must-have tool in your social media strategy, so easy reel ideas are a must. Especially if you can utilize similar content between the two platforms.

Some popular Instagram Reels types are:

  • Product presentations
  • Storytimes
  • Behind the scenes
  • Day in the Life
  • Challenges

3 Simple TikTok Video or Easy Reel Ideas

Whether creating TikToks or Reels, the formula is essentially the same. There are, however, a few differences between the platforms. SproutSocial has a comprehensive comparison between the two platforms, as well as some additional key insights.  For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on TikTok for our examples, even though these strategies can be executed just as well on Instagram.

The first and easiest step to making any video hit the algorithm harder is to hop on a trending song or challenge. You can find these by logging into Tik Tok or Instagram and scrolling your feed of videos until you see a video that has gone viral. These are videos that have gained popularity quickly and have a high engagement rate. Usually, you’ll be able to tell if a video has gone viral if it is less than a day old and has more than 250,000 likes. This is a rough estimate but gives you a general idea.

For example, the video below not only has gone viral, but if you tap on the sound, you will see that the sound has gone viral as well.



♬ original sound – Sam Smith

Here’s some more information on how to pull up the sound from a TikTok. You’ll see an option to click the sound in the bottom, right-hand corner of the video. Once you do that, it will pull up a page that shows all the videos using that song and you can see if it’s a popular sound if you scroll a few times and can’t find the bottom of people using it.

A screenshot of a sound on TikTok by Sam Smith.

Once you’ve selected “Use this sound” on the trending sound, next up is filming your own videos. This can seem daunting, but there are easy ways to do this without having to film very little or any video footage at all.

1. Create a Video Montage with Text

To do this, upload 5-10 photos related to your business to the video editor with a trending sound. These could be of a product if you’re a product-based business, or a photo collection from your newest shoot if you’re a photographer. And brownie points if you time each image duration with the beat of the sound!

A great example of this is a TikTok post from the photographer, KhaleeDane:


Hi my name is Khaleel. I’m a Photographer and I like colorful things. #photographer #photographersoftiktok #colorful #fyp #foryoupage #trend

♬ original sound – Khaleel Dane

2. Hop on The Latest Trend

This one is easy to emulate no matter your company’s industry because these trends are made to be ambiguous so that as many TikTok users as possible can recreate them. If they were incredibly complicated then they would have a harder time catching on. Find a trend you can get on board with and then craft it to fit your brand or business.

ScrubDaddy, the famous smiley sponge brand, uses this method. They jump on trends often to ensure their reach and engagement stays high. Here’s a great example of them recreating a trend using just their product and no people on screen. Warning – if you watch this video, then “It’s CORN!” will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.


I mean… how could we not?? 🌽 #scrubdaddy #smile #cleantok #cleaningtiktok #americasfavoritesponge

♬ It’s Corn – Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy

3. Film Something Behind the Scenes

This video content option is a great choice for small businesses. It’s not only educational for your audience but it is a personal way to connect with customers. Another bonus? Generally, you don’t need to be in the video. Just shoot small clips of your product or service being made and clip the videos together to create a storyline, much like the image collage we spoke about earlier.

A great example of using the behind-the-scenes video technique is from user ClaybyClark. This company makes clay earrings and uses sped-up video clips to show the process of making the jewelry.


Reply to @breee_bella1 an art project! #ilikeit #artproject #processvideo

♬ original sound – Betch

Which Came First, The TikTok or The Reel?

We know that TikTok started this short-form video trend and Instagram followed suit, but which one should you be doing first in your business’s social media strategy? The best part of short-form video content is that once you create it, you can share it on both TikTok and Instagram Reels! But you will need a starting point for each video, and we recommend using one or the other to one, find your sound, and, two, edit your video. Then once it’s posted on the first platform, you can share it with the other one by downloading the video.

There are other situations where a brand might need more formal content, even when posting to social media. This is generally when content needs to be heavily branded or professional. In these cases, it may be easier to edit your videos outside of a platform’s native video editor. If you would rather edit your videos outside of TikTok or Instagram, we recommend using a platform like Canva to create consistent, branded content. They have a feature where you can download any image as a video. Which comes in pretty handy in this type of editing!

The Continuous Search for The Sound

Truly, the most important part of this process finding trending songs per platform. Make sure to either find the same sound on both platforms or use a different sound that works with that same video. Sometimes it’s easy to find a sound on TikTok but difficult to find it on Instagram. In this case, follow the same steps as TikTok. Find a trending sound on Instagram and post your Reel with that sound instead. Don’t lose faith if you can’t find the sound you want on Instagram. Reels are now the most viewed content on Instagram, even over Stories. If you’re putting in a little bit of time to shoot some content or edit some pictures into a video, the algorithm will reward you.

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DigiGrin is a Shanty Town partner that specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and online presence management. They offer packages to fit the company whether they are just dipping their toes into digital marketing or have already been developing a digital marketing strategy for years. They often take an artistic approach and find out-the-box solutions, while using metrics, pixels, and testing to make the best decisions.

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