If I had to pick one social media platform that I enjoy the most, it would definitely be Instagram. I love that it’s a visual platform, plus it’s more fun to explore. And it always feels much, much lighter than Facebook—that alone is worth gold in my book! 

Instagram is always evolving, from the addition of Stories in 2016 to IGTV in 2018. And in 2020, Instagram has shape-shifted again to include a new way to share content: Reels!

What the heck is a Reel?  

It’s Instagram’s version of TikTok. If you don’t know what TikTok is, Reels are simply 15- to 30-second videos. It’s like a short commercial for your retail business!

Why should you pay attention to Reels?  

Reels are getting crazy good views on Instagram right now! It’s a new feature, and Instagram wants people to use it so organically, so this is the best way to reach your followers (and potential new followers!) right now.

The difference between Reels, Stories, & Highlights

With so many ways to share on Instagram, it can get overwhelming. Here are the top three ways that retail businesses share on Instagram. 


These are short-lived posts—they only stay up for 24 hours. Stories can be videos, pictures, reposts from your feed or someone else’s feed, text—they’re an incredibly versatile content form. You can find yours and others’ stories in the circles at the top of the Instagram app on the home feed, or on individual profiles by clicking on the profile picture. 


These are the circle icons you see below your bio information and above your posts on your profile. They are the Instagram Stories you choose to feature on your profile permanently.  Once you publish a story, you can add that story to your highlights, and they live on until you remove them from highlights.

Highlights can serve as a directory for your business because you can create categories. For my store, I could have a highlight for our baby boutique, a highlight for our creative workshops, a highlight to feature our custom furniture services, etc. 


This new content format allows you to create and share 15- to 30-second videos with others in a new dedicated Reels feed. These videos live on forever.

How can I use Reels as a retailer?  

There are so many ways to use Reels! I’m finding that it takes some time for small business owners to figure this out because 15 to 30 seconds isn’t much time. We have to get creative.  

Like I mentioned, view these as commercials for your business. Think about fun ways to use 15 to 30 seconds of time to promote something in your business. 

Maybe it’s a new product line, an upcoming promotion or event, something you can teach your customers in a quick tutorial. Yes, this is possible in just 15 seconds—it just takes a little planning and creativity.  

Where do I go on my account to record a Reel? 

Open the app, go to your account, and in the upper left-hand corner, you’ll see your profile pic (for retailers, it’s usually our logo or a picture we add), click on the blue plus sign there, look down at the bottom of your screen and swipe over to REELS).  This is where it all begins!

Funny story, I created a reel about a set of cute ceramic ghosts that we were selling in our store. The ghosts were battery operated with an on/off switch and colorful lights. I added a song to the reel that reminded me of something from a scary movie, I published the reel, and wouldn’t you know…our customers thought the ghosts played music too! 

Luckily none of our customers were disappointed that the ghosts didn’t actually play music, and we sold out of them! But it was still funny.

I can’t add music to my Reel—what gives?

If you have an Instagram business account, you probably don’t have access to the music button when creating a story or Reel. 

There was an “underground” tip circulating that you could still click that area and get access to audio files if you didn’t see the audio button. My guess is IG caught on, and now the audio icon shows for everyone, but it’s deactivated for business accounts. 

So why are they doing this?  Plain and simple. Copyright laws. For-profit businesses can’t use copyrighted music.

It’s funny how, when we don’t have access to something, it becomes a mindset block. Retailers think they can’t use Reels without the music, and this isn’t the case! 

We just have to get creative, think outside of the box, use other resources—you know, what retailers ALWAYS DO—we become resourceful. Stop telling yourself that Reels won’t work for you without the music.

I originally had access to the audio button on reels for my store’s account, so you’ll see my first two reels on our store’s Instagram account (@thesalvagedboutique) have music. For example, I added music to this cute reel I recorded about a new collection of fabric pumpkins we had in the store.

Our audio access disappeared later on, so I recorded a reel without music. Reels are still a valuable content form for your followers, regardless of your access to trendy songs!

My best tip to learn Reels: watch them!  

Go into your Instagram account and see what others are doing. They are so much fun to watch, and some accounts are getting super creative with Reels! You’ll find plenty of inspiration and ideas if you dedicate some time to watching them.

Other ways to learn about using Instagram for your retail business

If you have more general questions about using Instagram effectively, I have a  3-part Instagram video lesson with a corresponding workbook in the Shopkeeper’s Lab

It’s easy to digest, and I start with the basics. So if you’re a retailer who is struggling with Instagram, you haven’t started using IG and you know you should, you created an account but need to learn from the beginning, or if you’re looking for some inspiration on how to use it, I recommend subscribing to the Lab.  

Not only do you get access to the full library filled with lessons and resources for retailers, but you also get access to the Shopkeepers Lab Facebook Group, where I teach a LIVE LESSON every month.  It’s a monthly subscription that is affordable and PACKED with value.

And if you want to dive more into Reels, our November 2020 Live Lesson in the Shopkeepers Lab is all about Reels! Not only will we dive deep into Reels and how to use them, but I’ll be offering a helpful worksheet that you can download. 

And the best part is, I’ll be hosting a group challenge with prizes! One thing I’ve learned is we all need and want accountability.  Prizes plus a little friendly competition helps a ton with motivation!



  • [01:38] What the heck is a Reel? 
  • [02:00] Where do I go on my account to record a Reel?
  • [02:53] What’s the difference between Stories, Highlights, & Reels?
  • [06:19] How can I use Reels as a retailer?
  • [09:40] Why are Reels so crucial right now?
  • [10:00] How do I add music to my Reel?
  • [13:44] Kathy’s #1 tip for Reels

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.