How a cooking influencer doubled his Instagram following in one month using Reels, the app's short-form video feature that competes with TikTok

  • Eitan Bernath, 18, is a social-media cooking star on TikTok, where he has over 1.3 million followers. 
  • After Instagram launched Reels (its own version of TikTok) in August, Bernath started creating Reels immediately and suddenly gained over 200,000 followers in one month — doubling his following. 
  • Business Insider spoke with Bernath about his recent growth on Instagram and how he strategically edits his short-form videos to go viral on TikTok and Instagram. 
  • Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Insider Influencers.

Eitan Bernath is no stranger to having a large audience. 

The 18-year-old TikTok star started his cooking and media career at the age of 12, when he starred in the Food Network's competitive cooking show, Chopped.

But his social-media business got a huge boost when he started posting on TikTok in November 2019. In one month, he had already surpassed his following size on Instagram and was landing brand sponsorships. Now, he has over 1.3 million followers on TikTok.

Bernath has found a sweet spot in short-form video content across both TikTok and Instagram as it has grown in popularity in recent months.

By August, Bernath had been posting to Instagram for nearly six years, remaining between 110,000 and 140,000 followers for the past two. But when Instagram introduced its own short-form feature on August 5, the TikTok competitor Reels, Bernath suddenly saw a spike in views and doubled his following. He now has over 364,000 followers on Instagram.

His Reels are now some of the most popular on the app. He's accumulated over 60 million views in total and reaches the Instagram "Featured" page almost every day. 

"It's almost a joke now with me and my family: at what time of day will Instagram feature my Reel?" Bernath laughed.

What's Bernath's secret?

He attributed his recent growth on TikTok and Instagram to a few things, including how he edits his videos and the popularity of short-form cooking content.

Other cooking creators, like Adrianna Adarme (@acozykitchen), have also seen a spike in new followers and views through Reels, Digital Brand Architect's Reesa Lake told Business Insider in August. 

Bernath repurposes a lot of his content between Reels and TikTok, which is also part of his strategy. He'll film a vertical video and edit it to 15 to 30 seconds for TikTok and then edit it again to 15 seconds for Reels.

One of his most popular Reels shares Chipotle's guacamole recipe, which has over 12.9 million views. On TikTok, the same video had 3.8 million views. 

In the Reel, he describes the recipe as a "secret" and people quickly took to the comment section to correct him.

LOVE THE GUACAMOLE RECIPE @CHIPOTLE! 🥑 #cooking #guacamole #guac #food #foodporn #recipe #secretrecipe #chipotle #chipotleguac #foodie #eats #snack #chipsanddip

A post shared byEitan Bernath (@eitan) on Aug 6, 2020 at 7:00am PDT

"My tip is that if you make cooking Reels, always say something that people will comment correcting, because then it increases engagement," he said.

The key strategies for making viral Reels, according to Bernath

Bernath said an important thing to consider when posting Reels is "to assume that the person viewing it doesn't know who you are."

"You need to give them a reason to stop scrolling and watch your video," he said. To do this, Bernath speaks very loudly and quickly in any video.

"It's almost a bit jarring," he said. It's also part of his persona. His energy is what he's well known for, in addition to his recipes.

On Instagram though, it's a little different than TikTok in that TikTok is automatically sound-on, while Instagram is not — so a Reel will also need to be visually enticing upon first glance. 

That's where shock value comes in. The first few seconds of a video are crucial to keeping a viewer engaged, he said. Bernath explained that it's the first three to five seconds of a Reel that will determine if someone is going to continue watching. 

"Sometimes if I'm making homemade bread, I'll chuck a thing of store-bought bread and be like, 'No! We're not here buying bread, we're making it at home!'" Bernath said. "You've got to do something that really catches the viewer's attention."

Homemade bread is also an example of how Bernath strategically creates content by following trends. He's found that on Reels, trendy foods that are also comforting do well, such as mac n cheese balls or salsa dips.

"It's about what people are hungry for and what's relevant," he said. 

For longer, more niche recipes, he'll use IGTV. 

Here's a breakdown of each of Bernath's top tips for Reels:

  • Use descriptive phrases like "secret recipe," even if it's not secret, because people will comment and correct you — increasing the engagement
  • Speak loudly and quickly to grab the viewer's attention 
  • Add shock value to entice the viewer to stay (once they stay past the three- to five-second mark, they're likely to continue watching)
  • Follow the trends of what's popular 

To learn more about Instagram Reels, read these Business Insider stories:

  • Influencers see big differences between Instagram's Reels and TikTok in audience, style, and money-making potential
  • Instagram Reels is poised to become a major driver of ad revenue, according to Jefferies analysts. Here are 5 takeaways from their report.
  • Instagram Reels versus TikTok: Influencers and marketers break down the strengths and weaknesses of each

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