Instagram has evolved over the years from its iconic square static posts to the use of carousels to stories to live IGTV and then most recently to reels. Reels are the Instagram equivalent to TikTok, and are currently the most popularly used sharing feature on the app. Beyond their innate popularity, Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm is currently boosting these short (under 90 seconds) videos, and your chance of being seen by people not already following you drastically increases when you create and share Instagram Reels.
Using Instagram reels for your brand—whether you are a therapist in private practice, or own a counseling center or recovery facility—can help you obtain followers, potential clients, and increase brand awareness! Therapists ask us all the time about whether Reels or video content is necessary for their social media presence, and we always respond with what we believe to be the truth. The only way to see your channel grow and gain a substantial following on Instagram is to use Reels and other video content.
“Every time you film something for reels, write a script or create a story, always have an end ‘goal’ in mind.”
Taking advantage of Instagram reels as a therapist can help better your brand, company, or practice in many different ways. If you utilize these five things, chances are your reels could go viral and find an audience who wants to learn about what you specialize in (which then could turn into potential clients).
If you’re not already convinced that you should be on social media, check out our blog here about the best ways to grow your client base! But for now….Let’s focus on the top five ways therapists can gain a following using reels on Instagram!
Instagram wants to promote content that is engaging and enjoyed by their users (and causes them to stay on the app longer), and they use a sophisticated algorithm to achieve this. Evidence of Instagram’s algorithm can be seen when scrolling on your own account, as you will likely find videos that relate to you personally as you scroll. Unlike other feeds on the app, when you view reels, you’ll be exposed to more than the accounts that you have chosen to “follow”. This is one of the best ways to grow your audience and increase your exposure without needing to front the cash to boost posts or pay for expensive static ads.
Successful reels always tell a story that engages their audience and feels relatable.
As you scroll a bit on the main page, ask yourself “Why is Instagram pushing this message out to me?” Most of the time it is because we have liked or interacted with specific reels or carousels that we can relate to. This can help direct you as you film content that others will enjoy or find helpful.
Storytelling, in particular, does well to help therapists grow their audience on social media. First, it engages a specific audience with a particular question, or heartache, or pattern of engaging and makes them want to learn more about “what happens next?” or “what should I do in x situation?” Therapist Instagram accounts tend to gain a bigger following when they share authentic moments with their audience, as well as helpful tips that they use with their own clients. They may find you because you follow steps 2-4 below, but they’ll come backto your account because they hear something that directly impacts their lived experience.
When your audience feels heard—they can relate to the skit, or perspective you may be sharing—they’ll return to your account time and time again. They may even watch more of your previous content, click on your website, and become a client in the process!
As a therapist, reels may feel awkward to do, but if you treat the camera like a friend or even a client you want to connect with, the more authentic you’ll appear on camera and connect to the people watching you on their own devices. Speak to the audience as a client that wants to learn more, make them feel heard, and don’t make them feel like they wasted their time watching your content.
You have about 3 seconds to capture the attention of your audience with your video, and letting them know from the start what your video is about can be one of the most important ways to reel them in. But it’s got to be catchy.
Have you heard of this method? Our brains respond to sentences that are short, medium, long, and then short again. The rhythm of the sentence bounces and creates a more enjoyable read for your audience. Can you tell?
Catching your audience’s attention needs to be immediate… again, you have those 3 seconds to draw them in or they’ll scroll to the next video that catches their attention. Having text on the screen may help someone pause for a moment to read it if it is stylized in an interesting way, or is generally a topic of interest to them.
It is also important to note that some people scroll without sound on, so having the headline and the rundown of what you are speaking of in your video visually will help keep your audience intrigued. Some may even turn their sound on to listen or some may watch it silently and read the text.
Try different kinds of headlines, copy, and trend ideas. Doing a POV may draw more people to listen to a skit you created. Using numbers in your headline and copy will also help keep your audience intrigued till the very end of the reel, such as this example: https://www.instagram.com/p/CiFvDI6oAlm/
90 seconds is the max amount of time you have to capture the attention of your potential clients on reels, but does that mean that your videos should all be that long?
After all, you only have to capture your audiences’ attention, educate them, make them think, inspire them to visit your Instagram profile, and encourage them to check out your website, blog post, or whatever you have to offer them…
For those of us who are used to delivering support in 50 minute increments, 90 seconds may seem way too short to boil down the insights you have to offer. Especially when what you have to share may take all session of expert maneuvering for a client to fully let down their defenses and comprehend.
“So how on earth do I create bite-sized bits that people will find helpful?” you might be thinking. Well, it is all about practice, trials and tribulations till you find something that works best for you and your audience. 15 seconds may be enough to offer a reflection that really causes someone to think, or you may want all 90 seconds to demo that deep breathing tip. The better you know your audience—especially their attention span and what content they seem to like the best—the more likely your audience will grow.
When asked about the ideal Reel time, Hootsuite commented, “Don’t just post a video for the sake of posting—take time to analyze its performance. You’ll identify your ideal Reel length more quickly.” So try different time increments and analyze the results by view count, engagement, and or shares.
The techniques above are useful, as is speaking at a normal pace but editing your videos to remove all pauses or changing camera angles as you speak about different points to keep the audience engaged. Too much quiet time between different video clips can bore an audience and cause them to move on faster. While it may seem like a lot of effort, posting on social media is about authenticity, education, and connection, so make sure to not rush your quality posts.
The use of trending sounds is also very important to therapist’s overall strategy to gain a following on Instagram. You can tell if a sound is trending by the small arrow on the bottom left of your reels screen (see picture below) and by the number of times you hear it in the background as your scroll on your reel home page.
For a therapist who films the majority of videos speaking to the audience, sounds are the least of your worries. We usually suggest you still add it to your video, but turn the sound all the way down or as a very minimal background noise. That way your audience will have no trouble hearing the powerful or important tips you have to share.
After you have implemented these techniques, it is important to close with a call-to-action. As you draw someone in, you do not want to lose their attention as your reel comes to an end.
Every time you film something for reels, you should write a script or create a storyboard (even if you don’t read from it directly), and always have an end ‘goal’ in mind. Ask yourself, “What do I want out of this video?” and “How do I get my audience to engage with my video or profile?” Once you have answered those two questions, it is important to find a creative way to then ask your audience to act on your CTA. A call-to-action may include commenting on the video, sharing the video, or checking out your bio for more information. It could also be recording the final tip in a second video, or showing “part two” so they need to go to your profile to learn more or find out what happened on the cliff hanger you left them with.
A successful call-to-action will bring higher engagement, which makes the algorithm push your video out to more people (or potential clients). Higher engagement is great.. but a good call-to-action will also draw in more people to your profile that want to learn more about you and what you can offer them.
You can find many call-to-actions examples from other therapists online and implement them in your own videos or you can replicate some of the tactics the creators that you follow use.
Therapists that utilize these five tips for their practice’s social media will overall improve engagement, viewers/audience count, and following. Showing up on social media is not easy, it takes a lot of trial and error to find what works for you and your audience. Take your time, breathe, and show up as your authentically unique and knowledgeable self and see how Instagram reels can take your practice to the next level.
If you need more help creating video content as a therapist, reach out to us or check out this post for more information.