Facebook’s identity crisis is driven, in part, by teenage users abandoning it for the endless supply of short videos on TikTok. Responding to this trend, the social media platform tested out a video feature for select US users called Facebook Reels last year and launched the feature globally in February.
Videos on Facebook Reels are under 30 seconds and presented in a vertically scrolling feed. Facebook parent company Meta already attempted to build a TikTok-esque experience into Instagram (also called Reels,) so the emphasis on short videos is no surprise.
For those who still post on Facebook, the following tips will help you understand the new option and experiment with creating videos. If you’ve already migrated to another platform, Facebook Reels is unlikely to become your new obsession, but it could be a decent secondary location for the content you create.
What Are Facebook Reels?
Facebook Reels are structured very similarly to TikTok videos, with a handful of differences. The short videos on Reels are often paired with catchy songs and include a little bit of everything: outfit checks, heartfelt rants, and cringeworthy memes. On TikTok, you can react to other people’s videos with a Duet or Stitch. Even though Facebook plans to release something comparable called a Remix, the option was not functional at the time of testing.
Before going any further, let’s make sure you have access to this feature. Desktop users are out of luck—Reels are just for the iPhone and Android smartphone apps. Even if you’re on mobile, it has not yet rolled out to every user. When you open the app, to the right of the Stories tab may be the Reels tabs; click here to start watching videos or create your own. Another way to access Reels is to click Menu on the bottom right corner of the app.
Swipe up to browse videos and click on a creator’s name to view their profile page. Tap on the three dots in the bottom right corner of the video if you would like to save a reel for later or copy the video link. As both social media platforms are owned by Meta, Facebook Reels and Instagram Reels are integrated. If you try to comment on a Reel that originated from Instagram, you will be bounced over to that app.
How to Make One
Start by clicking Create reel under the Reels tab in your Facebook feed. If you are already watching reels and want to start making one, tap on the camera button in the upper-right corner. Do you have a recorded video ready? Choose the camera roll on the bottom left to upload the footage.
When recording a video inside the app, press the red and white button to start and stop. Multiple clips can be stitched together for a single reel. A red bar across the top of the screen keeps track of your time limit. You can select the recorded clips to edit videos or rearrange the order.
Now here’s where you get to really be creative. Five choices are displayed on the right side of the main page: Audio, Speed, Effects, Timer, and Green Screen. The speed and timer are straightforward to use, so we’re focusing on the other three options.
Audio gives you soundtrack options for your reels. Browse through music genres and moods to find the perfect song. After you choose your audio, pick what part you want to clip—popular portions of a song are marked with a star. Press Done to save your selection. While scrolling through reels, click on any sounds you feel inspired by to save them for later.
Further customize your video with Effects. The filters range from sparkly overlays and sunglasses to neon skulls and distorted images. Under this tab, swipe all the way to the right until you see the magnifying glass and click on it to explore the Effects Gallery with all of the choices.
You may not be a news anchor, but the Green Screen on Facebook Reels is a great tool for creating engaging videos. Under Change Background, choose the photo or video you want to spotlight. Your floating head will appear on top of the selected image. Use a two-finger pinch to adjust the size, angle, and position of the inlaid video. If you are filming multiple clips, the green screen can be switched out each time.
Once you’re satisfied with the recorded video, press the Next button to watch a preview of the content. Before moving on, click the Captions option for the video to be transcribed and more accessible. Press Next again. On the final page, you are able to compose a description for the video, control who can see it, and decide whether remixing is enabled. Click Share reel to complete the process and post your creation.
Wait, Isn’t This Just TikTok?
When comparing Facebook Reels and TikToks side by side, the layouts are almost identical. The like, comment, and share buttons are in the exact same location on the screen, as are the sound link and profile’s name. TikTok’s user design has been mimicked by multiple other companies, notably Snapchat’s Spotlight and YouTube’s Shorts.
The creation tools inside Facebook Reels feel akin to TikTok's but are executed like a student squinting and copying from a high-performing classmate’s test with a 75 percent accuracy. TikTok has encountered numerous moderation issues, and if Facebook Reels stick around, Meta will encounter many similar problems unique to short-form video content.
Who, exactly, will enjoy creating these videos? That’s hard to pin down. Active Facebook users might like experimenting with the feature and consuming the quick clips but may feel more comfortable posting status updates and photo dumps. Most TikTok creators will be underwhelmed by the video editing power. If you’re dedicated to Instagram and dabble in Reels over there, you could get the most out of Facebook’s new feature, with the available integrations.
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