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Instagram Reels growth tips: Lessons from my first 100 Reels

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Wondering how to use Instagram Reels to engage your audience as part of your health/wellness business? In this post, I'm sharing 10 lessons from my experience posting my first 100 Reels. You'll learn practical, authentic Instagram Reels growth tips... some of which might surprise you! From using Reels as part of your content marketing strategy to growing in your comfort being on video to the unexpected benefits of creating perfectly imperfect pieces of micro-content over and over, these tips are perfect for health and wellness professionals looking to market their solo private practice, group practice, or other wellness business.  



Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Benefit #1: Reels expose you to video
    3. Benefit #2: Reels provide a creative outlet
    4. Benefit #3: Reels showcase other sides of you
    5. Benefit #4: Reels deepen existing relationships 
    6. Benefit #5: Reels inspire you to use more parts of Instagram
    7. Live Q+A Replay
    8. Tip #1: Don't count yourself out
    9. Tip #2: Time doesn't equal quality
    10. Tip #3: No one Reel is that important
    11. Tip #4: Every Reel can have an impact
    12. Tip #5: The Reel is just the hook 
    13. Recommended resources
    14. Let's take action
    15. Share this post

 


 

                                                                                                             

Instagram growth tips from my first 100 Reels.

It seemed like a simple enough follow-up to the post I wrote marking my half-way point.

And yet, somehow, I've managed to turn it into quite the project. Filled with examples and reflections and random asides.

I sincerely hope you find something helpful here!

But first, a bit of housekeeping:

  1. I'm no expert. When it comes to Reels, Instagram, or video in general, I happily lean on the guidance of pros. I've shared my faves below, and I'll continue to add new resources as I find them.
  2. I'm an open book. I think one of the main reasons you ask my advice on things like Reels is precisely because I'm not an expert. ("I mean, if she can do it..." ;) If this post sparks follow-up questions or there's something not covered here that you're wondering about, please drop me a note + I'll do my best to address it in a future post!
  3. I'm not unique. As in, my experience doesn't reflect some outrageous case study or stratospheric rise to fame. Take a spin through my Reels and you'll see: My metrics aren't wild. Only 1 of my posts has gone (relatively) "viral" (i.e., the one using a Pixar filter, which makes perfect sense to me because ADORBS). Please read this post with an open mind + consider that the benefits I've experienced are possible for you, too.     
  4. This post is quite *ahem* girthy It's not a quick read. Please use the Table of Contents to skip around and grab the pieces you're most interested in.


Finally, a word about how Instagram fits into my broader marketing strategy:

I've built this business on a foundation of long-form, searchable content (like this blog post!), which is how most people first find me.

Instagram is where I love to show up most days and "nurture" (i.e., meet, chat with, and be of service to) you and all the other people who learn about me + my business. Nearly all of the content I share there has been sliced, diced, remixed, and repurposed from longer former content I've shared here or somewhere else.

Many of my paying clients and students come through Instagram. But, usually, they've been following me for awhile and/or are already on my email list and reading my blog.  

I mention all this because I hope it'll help explain some of what I share below. (Like, why it truly doesn't bum me out when a Reel "flops".)

So, now, with all sidebars and disclaimers and contextual table-setting out of the way...

Let's dive in, shall we?  

Read on for lessons from my experience posting my first 100 Instagram Reels. (And be sure to join me live this Friday for Q&A on this topic!):  

                                                                                                             

5 benefits of posting my first 100 Reels


Let's start with some of the (many) benefits I've experienced so far...

 

1. Creating Reels provides exposure to the experience of being on video


Whenever I get a comment or DM from a healer/helper saying they're hesitant to give Reels a try, I ask what's getting in the way.

And you know what the most common response is?

"I'm not good at video!"

Friend, as I've shared before, showing up on video is so not within my natural comfort zone. It's something I have to continue practicing.

But, here's the cool part:

Over the course of filming my first 100 Reels, I've noticed a definite shift in my attitude toward creating video. While it'll probably never come as easily to me as sitting down to type, say, a blog post... it definitely doesn't stir up nearly as much angst as it once did.   



For example:

Compare my on-camera presence in my 1st Reel vs. my 54th Reel vs. my 99th Reel.




As Elizabeth Gilbert observed in one of my all-time fave books, Big Magic:

“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at."


By practicing, over and over again, the process of filming + sharing these short-form videos with the world, I've gradually desensitized myself to the anxiety that process used to provoke.

And even better: I've begun to rethink my assumptions about my weaknesses and limitations (see Tip #1 below for more on this).

                                                                                                             

2. Reels provide a creative outlet / space to play


Here's something you might not know about me:

I used to LIVE for unstructured play time as a kid.

And yet, weirdly, in my adult professional life, I rarely give myself the opportunity. I tend to plan everything down to the last detail, execute that plan, and then mine it for opportunities to improve on the next iteration. 

But, with Reels... it's been different.

One of the sweetest (and most surprising) benefits I've enjoyed so far is that Reels have tapped into a creative center of my brain that had been kept under lock and key.

Or, more specifically: 

Reels have provided a unique playground for me to experiment with different types of creative expression... without the pressure to conform to a particular plan.



For example:

I've played with silly filters, greenscreen features, novel locations, funny voiceoverssuper-short Reels, longer-form Reels, simple screenshot formats, montage formats... and more!

 




What's so uniquely liberating about Reels?

Maybe it's their fleeting lifespan. (Compared to other types of content, Reels have a relatively short organic "shelf life", which lowers the perceived pressure to create something flawless.)

Maybe it's the freeform nature of Reels. (Compared to other surfaces of Instagram, consistent "branding" elements are less emphasized on Reels.)

Whatever the reason, I've always felt a sense of permission to get in there and make a mess in the name of earnest content creation. To enjoy a little unstructured play time, right there in front of my audience.

And to my surprise and delight, it's been really freaking fun.  

 

 

                                                                                                             

3. Reels showcase other sides of you 


You know what a complex and multifaceted person you are. But, does your audience know it?

*No, really. Pause + consider that for a moment.*

Most of the time, we're so immersed in the content we're creating for our people that it doesn't even occur to us that maybe that content is a bit... one-dimensional?

For instance, have you ever stumbled across a new-to-you account on Instagram, read a few posts, and gone searching for a video clip. Some small window into the person behind the message.

Of course you have! That's what we all do.

When a message resonates, it's only natural to crave that message delivered visually and/or in the creator's voice. 

I'd been sharing static feed posts for over a year when I posted my first Reel. Honestly, I didn't expect that incorporating a few Reels into my content calendar would change much.

How wrong I was!

By sharing more parts of myself with my audience, I've generated paid speaking opportunities, guest blogging invitations, and other fruitful collaborations... all of which specifically referenced 1 or more of my Reels when they reached out to me!   

I truly believe that Reels-- yes, even (maybe especially!) the silly ones-- give us a unique chance to deliver our message in more vivid color + dimension. And that this helps potential clients and collaboration partners see us more clearly than when we're hidden behind a static post + caption.

It doesn't have to be complicated, either! 

For example:

You could... 

4. Reels deepen relationships with existing followers 


Funny thing about "growth":

It takes so many different forms.

Have I experienced growth as a result of incorporating Reels into my Instagram strategy? No question.

BUT.

That growth hasn't been as straightforward as you might expect.

Here's what I've discovered:

Reels are widely acknowledged as one of the best ways (maybe THE best way) to reach new followers on Instagram. Their popularity, priority position in IG's various algorithms, and potential for virality (<-- we'll come back to that one in a sec) all very strongly suggest that Reels are a powerful vehicle for boosting your "reach" on the platform.  

Since I started posting Reels, my follower count has grown by about 38%. Not bad! 

But, can I attribute that increase to Reels alone? No way.

I'm a human person, not a science experiment. So, while I was dipping a toe in the Reels waters, I was also experimenting with lots of other parts of Instagram (see Benefit #5, below). This can't be excluded from the equation.

It's also worth noting that, while a handful of Reels reached significantly more people than typical for me, none of mine have "gone viral" in the sense that they've drawn massive traffic to my account.

And for that, I'm actually quite grateful. 

When a Reel (or any post) goes viral, it means that lots of people are interacting with it. That's it! That's all we know for sure. 

Whether those people fall within the creator's intended audience, whether that post is truly representative of the core message (and, ultimately, the paid offer(s)) that the creator is on Instagram to share... well, that's another story.

I've felt for awhile now that I'm existing in a sort of "sweet spot" on Instagram: 

I have a good number of folks following me (about 3,600 at the time that I'm writing this).

And because...

  • I rarely stray from my core content pillars (e.g., DIY copy tips, entrepreneurship + self-care, meaningful productivity)
  • My engagement rates across all 5 surfaces of Instagram are very healthy (and improving week after week)
  • I consistently attract new leads to my paid offers directly via Instagram


...I can be fairly certain my IG audience is comprised of people who actually value what I have to share.

This is a really big deal to me!   

So, while intentional reach remains a goal of my content strategy on Instagram, the MOST significant growth I've experienced from incorporating Reels has actually been a deepening of my relationships with the people who are already following me

Let me give you a really stupid example:

Back in May 2021, I was just coming off my 14th month of an unplanned pivot to teletherapy. Exhausted and struggling to navigate the effects of chronic stress and moral injury, I knew many of the healers + helpers following me were experiencing the same.

I decided to film a Reel poking fun at the bizarre contrast of isolation and hyper-connectedness that many of us were feeling. In a random spurt of inspiration, I picked up a pack of giant googly eyes and stuck them on my salt lamp.

(I told you. Stupid. :)

Friend, would you believe I have an entire folder of messages I've received about that googly-eyed salt lamp?

"Darryl" (as he's affectionately known among many of the wonderful weirdos who follow me) somehow arrived at just the right time. Serving as a symbol of this strange period in our personal + professional lives. 

Then he became a sort of secret signal. A password whispered between members of a strange little club.

And, finally, Darryl started popping up as a little Easter egg for the people who had been with me for awhile. 

That kind of inside joke is fun, but it's where the joke leads that really blows my socks off:

For every "LOL" about Darryl in my DMs, there's a genuine back and forth. Sometimes, it's a brief exchange. Often, it's an honest-to-goodness deep-dive conversation.

Once, I received a message out of the blue that simply said:

"I've followed you for ages but when I saw this I had to reach out. I LOVE that you created Darryl. I love that you actually GET what this year has been like for us. That's priceless to me. I'm serious-- whatever it costs, can I hire you?"   

And then she booked my highest level of 1:1 copy support.

That's the magic of Reels in action.

 


5. Reels inspired me to explore other surfaces of Instagram

This is the part where I wish I could pull back the curtain and reveal lots of snazzy screenshots chronicling my journey on Instagram.

Alas, my analytics are still fairly "young" because I only recently switched over to a Business account. 

(See? Told you I was no expert at this.)   

But, here's what I can share with you:

Embracing Reels has been a catalyst for my growth on the platform, but that change can't be attributed to Reels alone.

See, as I started incorporating Reels, I noticed a gradual shift in my perspective on the other surfaces of Instagram:

  • I felt inspired to bring more creativity to the carousels and other posts in my feed
  • I felt excited to build weekly Lives into my schedule
  • I felt emboldened to show up more frequently (and more authentically) on Stories

And eventually, I began to view these different surfaces as ingredients that could be mixed together in various combinations to create an Instagram marketing plan of my very own!  

In short: 

My audience engagement increased because my overall engagement increased.

And Reels was the spark that got that flame going.

 

                                                                                                               

Live Q+A Replay 


Big thanks to Janet Cutler for submitting our Question of the Week!

Janet asked: 

"How can I find ideas/inspo for Reels?"

Check out this video (timestamps below) to hear my answer:


 

⏱ TIME STAMPS:

00:08 | Obligatory “I’m not a Reels expert” disclaimer
00:44 | Question of the Week
02:00 | Janet’s awesome advantage
04:00 | Using Reels to turn viewers into engagers
08:33 | Repurposing what you’ve already created
09:15 | Video example #1 from Janet’s feed
10:30 | Video example #2 from Janet’s feed
11:10 | Static post example from Janet’s feed
13:25 | Live question about saving Reels
14:30 | Brainstorming Reel ideas: Where to start       

                    

5 tips to using Instagram Reels


Now, let's get practical with my top recommendations based on my experience posting Reels: 

1. Don’t count yourself out


"I'm not good on video."

That’s a story I’ve been telling myself for a long time. Forever, really.

And yet, over the past year, I’ve posted 100 Reels (and counting).

There's a broader lesson here, can you feel it? This isn't really about Reels.

It’s about checking your assumptions about yourself. Questioning + challenging those old stories that seem true but... maybe that’s just because you’ve been carrying them around with you for so long?

As healers + helpers, we’re in the business of possibility. We hold visions for our clients and patients that they can’t imagine— or fully trust— until, one day, eventually… they can. 

Surely we can offer ourselves the same opportunity. The same room to question + experiment + practice + evolve.

That's my first (and most important) tip, based on my experience with Reels:

Don’t count yourself out.

  

                                                                                                             

2. More time does not always yield a better outcome


When I was new to the process of creating Reels, I could easily spend an entire DAY planning, filming, editing, and captioning a single 15-second piece of content.

(Exhibit A: This thinly-veiled excuse to boast about my impressive collection of Golden Girls swag. It took me a full day of my life to plan, film, and edit.)  

{sigh}

Sure, I'm thankful for what I learned through all that trial-and-error-ing...

...but, I wouldn't exactly say it was the wisest use of my time. ;)

And here's the kicker:

I've learned that many of the Reels I've spent the least time on have been some of my most effective.

Go figure.

So, over the past year, I've come to embrace what I call the "1-Take Reel".

Here's how it works:

  1. You come up with the idea for your Reel.
  2. You film the video (or each video clip) in 1 take* and move on.

* Possible variation: Set a timer for something reasonable (e.g., 10 mins) and wrap up filming before time's up.


If you struggle with second-guessing and endless tweaking, give the 1-Take Reel a try. For a recovering perfectionist like me, it's been SO liberating! 

A few of my 1-Take Reels in action:


BONUS TIP:

What's even simpler than a 1-Take Reel?

A No-Take Reel!

Skip the filming the altogether and use some footage you've already got, like this video my husband sweetly captured on our anniversary that I shamelessly repurposed as part of the Succession parody trend

 


3. No single Reel is all that important

Here's a little homework activity for you:

  1. Go play this Reel of mine
  2. Come back and tell me what's wrong with it

(I'll wait here.)

OK, let's have it.

Was it too busy?
Too trendy?
Not creative enough?
Posted at the wrong time?

Probably. I couldn't really say! 

All I know is:

  1. It's my lowest-performing Reel (in terms of views + Likes), and 
  2. It hasn't hurt me or my business one bit


By all means, friend, take your message seriously. But, don't take any one piece of content SO seriously that it undermines your perspective.

4. Every Reel has the potential to create an impact 

 

Think of this as the flipside of Tip #3.

The whole world might not hinge on each piece of content, but there's powerful potential in anything you create.

I've seen this illustrated in at least a couple of ways so far:

  1. This Reel generated one of the most courageous and heartfelt emails I've ever received. A seasoned health professional saw it and took the time to share that it resonated on a deep level with some difficulty they'd been experiencing trusting their own "voice".
  2. This Reel, which introduced (and filled) my new paid offer. (A bit of background: I filmed it while I was navigating some confusing and scary health challenges. Very low on energy, I scrapped my elaborate launch plan and chose to simply announce my offer in an informal Reels "ad". I focused on a primary pain point for my audience (i.e., feeling way too close to their own copy to see it clearly) and built a Reel around it. It was truly all I could manage at the time, and yet it was responsible for an influx of income and dream clients.) 


Here's my tip to you:

For each new Reel you create, pause + visualize it landing with just the right person at just the right time. Notice how that influences your attitude toward Reels in general.

 

5. The Reel itself is just the hook


You know I couldn't end without paying tribute to the words behind the Reels, right?

For all the experimentation and unstructured play, one thing's remained pretty darn constant across all my Reels:

The caption.  

With the exception of a few just-for-fun posts (like this one), I almost always follow the same basic template for my captions:

  • an attention-grabbing headline
  • a conversational, mini intro
  • a few specific tips, questions, or other takeaways  
  • a clear call-to-action (I like to drop mine in a P.S. at the bottom)


Here's an example of my caption template in action.

Filming the actual Reels has been a blast. But, I'm certain it's the message attached to those little videos that's helped bridge the gap from viewer "Like" to client love.

My last tip to you:

Start with the caption. Use a template you like + work out what you want to say first. Then, create a video to hook your audience's attention.

It'll take some of the pressure off the Reel itself, and it'll help keep the focus on the thing that cuts across every trend, platform, and communication medium:

Your message.  

 

                                                                                                             

Recommended resources 

  1. Want to explore more ways to grow your health and wellness business using social media? Check out these blog posts:

     2. Looking for next-level support in your video strategy?

  • Natasha Samuel of Shine with Natasha is my favorite Instagram expert to learn from. Her Reels Challenge helped guide my first, tentative steps into creating Reels. I can't recommend it highly enough!
  • Tara Trottier of Tara on Demand is a wealth of knowledge on digital marketing for clinicians (which presents its own unique challenges, amiright?) and an expert on using short-form video to market your business. Her weekly emails are must-read info for me! 

                                                                                                             

Let's take action!


Ready to implement what you learned in this post? I like your style!

  1. Choose 1 of the tips in this post and try it out in a Reel of your own! (And tag me @drmichaelaphd when you do, so I can cheer you on!)
  2. Looking for 1:1 copy support? Right this way, friend
  3. Want more actionable tips + real-life examples to help you reach more of your dream clients? Join my Close Friends list over on Instagram! 

                                                                                                             

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