Social & Influencers

Marketers experimenting with Reels are figuring out how to drive lower-funnel results

“If you treat it as just another Instagram tool…it’s not going to work for lower funnel,” one social expert told us.
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Dianna “Mick” McDougall

· 5 min read

Just like your eyebrows, TikTok and Reels are sisters, not twins. Case in point: The two social video formats weren’t born in the same year. TikTok rolled out in 2016, with Instagram Reels following in its footsteps in 2020.

So it’s no surprise that some marketers haven’t figured out how to drive lower-funnel conversions, like sales and email signups, on the two-year-old feature, no matter how much Instagram love-bombs users with Reels content. Perhaps CreatorIQ COO Tim Sovay put it best: “The vast majority of brands are still learning TikTok, let alone Reels,” he told Marketing Brew.

It’s possible that Reels isn’t consistently driving lower-funnel metrics, not only because many marketers are still learning about the relatively new social-video format, but also because of how they’re approaching influencer marketing on it. Several experts told Marketing Brew that influencers need to act more like TikTokers than Instagrammers on Reels in order to drive lower-funnel success.

Test and learn

A lot of education has to happen around what makes great Reels content, Sovay said. Advertisers need time to learn what drives different results and how the product functions generally, he explained (it’s worth noting that only about a year has passed since ads rolled out fully on Reels).

That, of course, takes time. “It’s not to say that there’s a certain reason why Reels would be failing compared to, say, TikTok or Stories,” he told us. “There’s a lot of experimentation that needs to happen when focused on commerce and affiliate solutions on these platforms,” Sovay said, adding that it’s also up to the social platforms themselves to do the heavy lifting around educating marketers.

Danielle Wiley, founder and CEO of Sway Group, told us she’s seen how, with time, trial, and error, Reels can work for lower-funnel conversions. “While it has been difficult, and it’s definitely tricky, we are seeing that Reels can actually work really well, and are taking off for some clients,” Wiley said.

The key to success, Wiley told us, has been treating Reels more like TikTok than Instagram. Rather than viewing Reels as an extension of an Instagram strategy, or a way to expand upon content in Stories or feed posts, she said it’s important to recruit and give instructions to creators the way one would for a TikTok.

“I think it’s just taking time for people to figure out how to optimize them properly, because it’s almost like a whole new platform within a platform that doesn’t operate the way the initial platform did,” Wiley explained. Later, she added, “If you treat it as just another Instagram tool…it’s not going to work for lower funnel.”

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Since this revelation, Wiley told us bottom-of-the-funnel success on Reels has gotten more frequent. For example, Wiley told us her agency recently worked with hardware store True Value on some Reels with influencers, one of which went live recently and performed “incredibly well.”

Wiley, who said Sway Group is running paid content to drive clicks to the True Value site, told us the Reel had yielded 9,583 clicks when we spoke to her, with a CPC of $0.07, which “is very low.” The average CPC for this type of ad in the lifestyle and retail category with static images, she said, is closer to the $0.25–$0.40 range.

On creators

Turns out, treating Reels like TikTok means putting a lot of focus on the influencer partnerships. Sovay said figuring out Reels is partly a matter of knowing which creators work best for Reels content. When driving commerce, about 50% of creators will not drive a sale for a brand, while the top 10% drive the “vast majority of sales,” he told us.

“It’s not to say that those 50% of creators that don’t drive commerce are not valuable. They could add immense value for awareness, brand lift, reach—other top-of-funnel metrics,” Sovay said. “But it really does take a certain creator type and audience to have that affinity and appetite for selling products,” he continued.

Wiley told us her agency is getting better at selecting the right creators for the format and providing them with the right instructions.

She also said success on Reels has a lot to do with aesthetics. “It’s a certain type of creator who is very, very visual and has a beautiful look and aesthetic,” Wiley said. “You need people who are really, really good at the sounds and at the editing, and preferably people who do have experience with TikTok and treat it like TikTok, not like Instagram.”

All in all, while marketers are still figuring out how to drive sales on Reels, many we spoke to said the feature has been useful for upper-funnel metrics like brand awareness.

Plus, Sovay told us that when it comes to social commerce, we’re at day one. “The exciting part is, ‘What do the next three years hold?’ Not the next three months,” he said.

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