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Instagram Reels for Workspace Operators: a Q&A with Karina Patel


It’s a lot to keep up with the latest, greatest social tools when new things drop regularly. I mean, a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know what Clubhouse is and now, well, here we are.

If you’re feeling a bit behind the curve, we get it.

That being said, Instagram Reels is worth consideration as part of your workspace marketing strategy. The platform is hot, hot, hot, and for good reason. Those short little videos are fun, informative, easily consumed, and just a bit addictive.

To address the elephant: Reels is a straight-up TikTok ripoff, from the folks at FB who have a long history of ripping off (or just acquiring) other platforms. (Yes, I have some feelings.) But, the reality is that you need to go where your people are, and your people are very likely on Instagram.

Within the Instagram platform, Reels is where it’s at right now. There’s a trend away from static posts in the IG feed, toward a collection of Reels.

Whether you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, experimenting with Reels for your space, or want to do a deep dive into using them strategically, we’ve got you.

I recently chatted with Lab marketing coach Karina Patel about the balance Reels strikes between entertainment and education, the focus on authenticity, and best practices for the platform.

Cat Johnson: Let’s start at the beginning: Why do people like Instagram Reels so much?

Karina Patel: The short video content is all about entertainment. It places a huge focus on entertainment value.

How do Reels and TikTok compare?

They’re both made up of 15-30 second videos. You create your own videos, set them to music, add effects, and stitch together multiple videos. Anyone can see your videos, depending on hashtags and captions, if you set them to be explorable, so you can reach audiences beyond your followers.

The biggest difference is that TikTok has a large Gen Z base. It was primarily used by Gen Z up until last year, but because we were all bored during quarantine, we thought, Let’s do a TikTok dance, or a TikTok challenge, or learn how to make whipped coffee. People have been mindlessly scrolling through, being entertained.

When Reels was launched, it opened up this style of creation to a much larger audience, as Instagram has a heavy millennial base. With both platforms, a lot of the reason videos go viral is because there’s an educational component, as well as being entertaining. You learn something from it every day, even if it’s a small thing. But the biggest difference is the demographic usage.

What type of Reels do well for businesses? How do you see brands and teams successfully engaging with their audience using Reels?

Let’s start with trending content. Everyone was going wild for baked feta pasta recently. It took one person to share a short clip about how they make their baked feta pasta. The reason it was successful was because people were mindblown that you could take five simple steps and make pasta.

Trending content frequently includes songs, dances and quotes from movies and shows. When people participate in a trend, they have a sense of community. They’ve added to the movement or contributed to what is being said. They feel a sense of belonging

Then there’s unique content. With unique content, you have the potential to go viral, which is great for brands. What works really well is when people share the faces behind a brand—when they share a sneak peek into their life. They’re sharing about their lives, their values and their why. That’s one thing that’s working really well.

Let’s dig a bit more into that. Video content feels more impactful than photos and text when conveying fundamental questions, such as values, ethics and why. What are you seeing on Reels around these things?

People are creating content that teaches us something and shows us the behind the scenes of their brand and life. Some of the brands and influencers I follow may say in their Instagram that their core values include ethical or show fashion, but they’re using Reels videos to explain slow fashion, ethical fashion, slow consumerism.

Reels are used to educate people about why you do what you do. It’s a good way to break down a big topic into tiny bits.

What interesting opportunities do you see for coworking space operators when it comes to Instagram Reels?

You can show how members, prospective members and members who are on hold can be using your space right now. With everything going on, people are skeptical about going back into spaces. They’re not necessarily happy or productive at home, but they’re not sure about going back into a workplace.

Show them you’ve taken all the safety precautions and that you’re putting their safety first. Show them that coming in doesn’t have to be a chore. Show them how to use the amenities and the space. Show them how people are interacting while staying safe.

We can write and share and email these things, but until people see it, you may not have the impact you want.

Another idea is to ask members if you can take a quick video of them coming in and getting set up. How do they get their coffee? How do they get water? How are you managing the dishwasher? How does someone check in if there’s no one on-site? How do they sanitize their work station? Use Reels to show them.

You can also show them virtual coworking sessions, virtual happy hours, Zoom lunch and learn sessions, or just someone reading the newsletter or responding in the Slack group. You can create a Reel of “3 ways to be part of our community without setting foot in the space”.

What are some content ideas for operators just starting out with Reels?

Be authentic. It doesn’t matter if you have one or two people in the space.
Show them who you are. You can repurpose content you’ve already created, share member highlights, talk about external activities you participate in, talk about partners and collaborators.

You can also repurpose existing posts and resources into Reels to support members and people in your community.

What’s the goal with Reels? Do you suggest using calls to action? Or is the goal simply brand positioning and building awareness?

Reels is a top of funnel marketing tool. It’s about brand awareness and consideration, until you have a strong following. The only people who put Reels at the bottom of their funnel—at the engagement and conversion stage—are those posting three times a day every day, who have over a million followers and are highly engaging with their audience.

That’s a small, small segment. For everyone else, it’s brand awareness. The more you share, the more you’ll be at the top and people will know who you are. Then they can tap into your profile, bio, website and look at your other content.

When you see a brand share Reels every day, you know the brand, you’re invested in their storytelling and you’re more likely to click through and learn more.

Any other Reels tips for space operators?

It takes a while to get there. Don’t think that one piece of content, or one Reel, or 10 Reels is going to get someone to convert. It’s going to take some time. As a consumer, we don’t just want a good product or service anymore. We want an amazing experience with that brand. The brand to provide that experience is the one that will gain our trust. Relationships build trust, and content builds relationships.