It’d be easy to dismiss Instagram Reels as a shameless TikTok clone.

Whether it is or isn’t, that doesn’t change the fact that people like it.

Since its launch in August 2020, search activity around Reels has caught and overtaken another of the platform’s video-based features, Instagram Stories:

Instagram Reels vs. Instagram Stories

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Additionally, research from Whistle Wise revealed that 87% of Gen Z TikTok users who have also used Reels for Instagram agree that the two platforms are the same.

In other words, the people who represent the largest proportion of TikTok’s user base don’t see any distinction between TikTok and Instagram Reels.

So if you’re already using TikTok — or you’re planning to add it to your social media marketing strategy — you should consider doing the same with Reels.

With that in mind, in this article, we’re going to highlight ten real-world examples of brands using Instagram Reels to reach new audiences, engage existing customers, generate leads, and drive sales.

But first, let’s start with a definition.

What Are Instagram Reels?

Example of Instagram Reels

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Instagram Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok: a feature that allows users to create and share videos with their followers or anyone else who uses Instagram.

Whereas TikTok has increased the maximum length of videos on the platform to 10 minutes, Reels is — at the time of writing, at least — still focuses on shorter-form content, with an upper limit of 90 seconds.

As well as being shared with followers via your Feed, any Instagram user can see Instagram Reels via the Explore tab (provided your account is set to public).

That means it offers massive potential as a brand awareness tool, allowing you to reach people who don’t follow — and may never even have heard of — your brand.

Want to find out more about the practicalities of the platform? Check out our Instagram Reels 101.

How to Use Reels for Instagram: 10 Real-World Examples

1. New York University: Showcase Your USPs

Higher education marketing is challenging because it involves targeting three quite different audiences:

  • Prospective students who might want to study at the institution
  • Existing students who currently study there
  • Alumni who are being encouraged to donate to the institution

It’s not easy to create a piece of content that resonates with all three of those audiences.

However, New York University’s social media marketing team has found a way around this: highlighting its unique selling points via Instagram Reels.


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A post shared by New York University (@nyuniversity)

The school made a big splash with its 2022 graduation ceremony at New York’s iconic Yankee Stadium, which featured pop music royalty Taylor Swift (hence the soundtrack).

It works so well because it invokes nostalgia in alumni and pride in existing students while showing prospective students how amazing it’d be to study at — and graduate from — NYU.

2. Transport Security Administration: Educate Your Audience (With Humor)

Think marketing for government agencies has to be deadly serious? Then you’ve never seen the Transport Security Administration’s (TSA’s) Instagram account.

The TSA has grown a 1.1 million-strong following on the platform through a combination of “travel tips and dad joke hits,” as its Instagram bio explains.

Instagram Reels is an excellent fit for this strategy. It allows the agency to educate its audience while reaching a bunch of new accounts — just like in this example of two people pitching a tent in an airport, which more than two million people have viewed.


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A post shared by Travel Tips & Dad Joke Hits ? (@tsa)

To be clear, this isn’t about generating engagement for its sake. The TSA provides genuinely helpful advice to travelers, helping them make it through airport security faster — thereby reducing customer complaints.

3. AT&T: Use Instagram Reels to Drive Website Traffic

With Instagram Reels, it’s easy to chase views at the expense of more meaningful metrics. It’s kind of understandable when total views are displayed so prominently within the Reels tab:

Yes, views are important. But they don’t necessarily translate to web traffic and sales.

With that in mind, AT&T uses Instagram Reels to steer audiences toward key landing pages. This example encourages educators to take advantage of its teacher discount:


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A post shared by Sam Salem (@samuelsleeves)

Because, let’s be honest: unless you’re an e-commerce company, generating leads and sales from within Instagram’s platform is challenging. So the more people you can direct to your site, the better.

4. American Red Cross: Tap Into Trending Topics

What’s one of the most effective ways to capture attention on Instagram Reels?

Keep an eye on trending topics.

That doesn’t necessarily mean filming your CEO’s attempt to replicate the latest dance challenge. It’s also about staying abreast of current affairs to ensure you create content that speaks to your audience’s biggest pain points at any given moment.

The American Red Cross gives us a fantastic example of this in action.

In February 2021, Texas served almost nine million people with boil-water advisory notices.

Unsurprisingly, that led to a huge spike in search activity around the topic:

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Realizing this, the Red Cross created an Instagram Reels post advising Americans hit with boil-water advisories on how to treat tap water:

This sort of informational content is an easy win whenever you’re struggling with new ideas.

5. Intel: Celebrate Company Milestones

As a visual content format, Instagram Reels is fantastic for communicating your brand story.

That’s important, with much-cited research from Headstream revealing that 79% of consumers think it’s a good idea for brands to tell stories, and 55% saying they’d be more likely to buy in the future if they love a brand’s story.

Intel uses this to its advantage by communicating key company achievements through Reels:


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A post shared by Intel (@intel)

By celebrating the 44th anniversary of its 8086 microchip, the brand demonstrates its long-term commitment to innovation and progress. That’s a powerful story for a tech company to tell.

6. Everlane: Help Customers Make the Most Of Your Products

Wouldn’t it be great if you could help customers get their full value from your products?

That way, they’re more likely to buy in the first place. They’re also more likely to write you a positive review, recommend you to their friends and family and buy again down the line.

Okay, great, but what does all that have to do with Instagram Reels?

Well, in this example, Everlane shows us how fashion brands can use Reels to offer style advice to customers:


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A post shared by Everlane (@everlane)

Showcasing multiple ways to wear the same product makes it feel like a more valuable and sustainable purchase.

7. Baylor University: Place Your Brand Front & Center

Baylor University has been recognized as one of the best colleges and universities in the US regarding social media marketing. It’s no surprise that the institution gets things right with Reels on Instagram.

In this example, Baylor demonstrates how to place a brand at the forefront of video content, leaving audiences in no doubt where the video comes from:


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A post shared by Baylor University (@bayloruniversity)

That’s an important point, because — as you’ll remember — Instagram Reels can be shown to anyone, regardless of whether they follow you.

So if you hide your brand away in the background (or don’t feature it at all), a potential customer might watch your content without even realizing who you are.

8. City of Minneapolis: Leverage Awareness Events

Awareness days (or weeks, or months) are a social media marketer’s dream, giving you an easy way to develop content ideas and tap into a broader conversation.

And the good news is, there are awareness events for everything, so you’re sure to find something relevant to your brand and audience.

In this example, the City of Minneapolis created a video around Drinking Water Week:


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A post shared by Baylor University (@bayloruniversity)

It seems to have worked in broadening the account’s reach. The content generated nearly 38,000 views — more than five times the city’s follower count on Instagram.

9. Amtrak: Cross-Post On TikTok & Instagram Reels

Want to know one of the best things about Instagram Reels?

If you’re already using TikTok, you don’t need to create a whole bunch of new, tailor-made Reels content.

That’s because the two platforms use the same aspect ratio of 9:16, with a size of 1,080 pixels by 1,920 pixels.

Amtrak realizes this. As you can see from the conspicuous logo, their team created this video highlighting its generous baggage policy on TikTok first before re-uploading it to Instagram Reels:


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A post shared by Amtrak (@amtrak)

Even if you’re not currently using either platform, that’s still a win because it means you can simultaneously test the waters on both without creating extra content.

10. MADE.COM: Use Reels to Spark Conversation

Instagram Reels aren’t just a great way to reach new audiences — they’re also extremely useful when it comes to driving engagement among existing (and new) followers.

Want to get people talking? One of the most effective tactics is to simply ask people a question, just like MADE.COM does here:


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A post shared by MADE.COM (@madedotcom)

This example highlights one of the core tenets of social: if you want people to participate in a specific way, you need to prompt them.

It’s worth doing because the more engagement you generate, the higher your organic reach will be.

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