Instagram Reels is the perfect format for promoting user-generated content. This post breaks down how to put build your brand’s UGC Reels campaign...
Instagram Reels vs In-Feed Posts: Do They Have the Same Reach?
What’s the advantage of Reels vs Posts for more Instagram reach? This post tackles both types of content, when to publish them and how to boost engagement.
“Are Reels better than Posts on Instagram?”
We get this question all the time — and we totally understand why.
Because brands are scrambling for reach as the Instagram algorithm evolves.
Given that Instagram plans to prioritize video content in 2022, Reels seem like a safe bet for earning more reach. This has sparked fierce debate among marketers, though:
What’s the “best” format to post for Instagram engagement? Does it really matter?
We decided to get our hands dirty and find the answer! In this post, we explain:
- What new industry research says about the reach of Reels vs Posts
- How the most recent Instagram algorithm ranks different types of content
- How to choose between Reels vs Posts based on Instagram’s best practices
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To kick things off, let’s break down the key differences between Reels and Posts.
The Basics of Instagram Reels and In-Feed Posts
What Are Reels?
Instagram Reels are looping, vertical video clips between 15 and 90 seconds long.
Features include captions, creative editing tools and the Instagram music library
Reels can be created natively on Instagram or uploaded via third-party video apps
Beyond the Reels tab, videos can be published to your primary Instagram Feed. They can also show up in the Facebook newsfeed.
Reels are Instagram’s answer to the skits, challenges and viral videos of TikTok.
But Reels has gone from a “TikTok clone” to one of Instagram’s most popular features.
Food for thought: 20% of all Instagram activity takes place on Reels. Anecdotally, we’re seeing way more Reels published to Instagram over Posts right now. This rings true for both creators and brands.
Most branded content published to Reels is unpolished, humorous and off-the-cuff. This explains why brands using Reels rely on creators to show off their products in action. The authentic, unfiltered nature of Reels makes the format ideal for product showcases. For example, short-form video is big with beauty brands at the moment.
Compared to In-Feed Posts, Reel’s laid-back vibe gives you an opportunity to flaunt your creativity. You’re also able to create content that doesn’t require extensive planning and flawless execution. As an added bonus, the creative tools built into Reels can really make your clips pop.
What Are In-Feed Posts?
Instagram Posts are videos, static images and Carousels published to your Feed.
Posts can be published on their own or combined to create a Carousel (slideshow)
In short, Posts are any content not published to Instagram Reels, Stories or Live
Anything published as a Post (including Reels posted In-Feed, not the Reels tab) will show up on your Instagram grid
In-Feed Posts are your “traditional” pieces of Instagram content.
And despite not being shiny and new, Posts aren’t going anywhere for brands or creators.
Food for thought: an overwhelming 75% of brand posts on Instagram are single images.
This highlights the importance of creating content people won’t just scroll past. Also, this is where your filters, colors and creative trademarks come into play. The prevalence of single-image posts signals that traditional content still works.
Meanwhile, In-Feed Posts like videos and Carousels drive engagement by encouraging followers to tap.
Carousels are particularly popular right now with brand accounts. They’re the perfect way to show off your polished product photos from multiple angles.
In-Feed Posts provide a space to flex your creativity and show off products on your own terms. These “hand-picked” posts are what give your Instagram grid aesthetic appeal.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Reels vs Posts, let’s be upfront: both types of content are valuable. It’s possible to earn reach with either. That said, they’re not treated equally by the platform's algorithm.
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our post breaking down how brands should respond to the latest Instagram algorithm changes.
Instagram Reels vs In-Feed Posts: What We Know About Reach
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence out there to answer which type of content is “best.”
But let’s start by digging into what we know about reach from Instagram itself.
If thinking about the Instagram algorithm gives you a headache, we get it. The platform’s constant changes often hurt brand accounts the most. Instagram isn’t exactly forthcoming about how reach actually works, either.
That’s why it was so surprising when Instagram provided a detailed breakdown of how they rank content in February 2022.
The key takeaway? Instagram doesn’t prioritize the exact same ranking factors for Reels vs Posts. There are two separate “algorithms” for determining reach.
How the Instagram Algorithm Ranks Reels vs Posts
While the inner workings of the algorithm might feel like a big secret, the ranking factors related to Instagram reach aren’t anymore.
Instagram serves content based on factors related to your account activity and interactions. This applies to accounts you follow and people that follow you.
Below is a simplified breakdown of how Instagram ranks Reels. Keep in mind that these aren’t the only variables involved in whether your followers see your Reel or Post.
- Your activity. Consistently publishing content is key here. Beyond that, this is where your Instagram engagement strategy comes into play. For example, are you frequently responding to comments? “Liking” content? Going back and forth with your followers and other brands? Doing so makes you part of their interactions.
- Your interaction history. The more people interact with you, the better. Mentions, tags, “Likes” and comments all matter here. This is also a great example of how getting creators talking about your brand can result in more eyes on your content.
- Information about the post. This includes your video description, captions, hashtags and audio. Much of the “information” about your post is determined via Instagram’s advanced AI that assesses what your content is.
- Information about the author. Instagram basically attempts to gauge whether viewers will be interested in your content. This is where all of the factors above come together.
The popularity of Reels speaks for itself. Accounts of all shapes and sizes should be engaging with other Reels. Doing so increases your likelihood of getting served to your target audience.
Remember what we said about 20% of all activity being related to Reels content? The format is the place to be for discovery and boosting brand awareness.
What about Posts, though? The ranking of In-Feed content is determined by the same factors as Reels but in a different order.
The takeaway? For Reels, getting served to people is primarily based on your activity and engagement. This includes activity on Reels, specifically. For In-Feed Posts, relevance starts with the so-called “information” of your profile and post.
Are Reels Better Than Posts? Let’s Look at the Data!
Of course, Instagram will only go so far as to explain how their algorithm works.
And so the battle of Reels vs Posts has driven marketing experts and creators alike to do their own homework.
Below are a few recent studies, surveys and stories to shed light on the debate.
Carousels Are Technically the Most Engaging Type of Content for Brands
Surprised? Here’s the scoop:
Recent research by Rival IQ on the most engaging types of Instagram content listed Carousels as the top performer. Their report notes that Instagram often re-serves Carousels to people that didn’t engage with a photo or video post originally.
Translation? Carousels provide a valuable opportunity to make multiple touchpoints with your audience.
This data mirrors a popular report by Social Insider that found Carousels had an average 1.95% engagement rate per post. Compare this to 1.74% for photos and 1.45% for videos.
The caveat of this data is that both reports didn’t really pit Reels vs In-Feed Posts again each other. This data focuses only on In-Feed content (photos, videos and Carousels).
Still, the numbers are telling. Video is often cited as the be-all, end-all of social content.
But as we’ll see with our next data point, size matters when it comes to video engagement and reach.
Short-Form Video is In-Demand (But Images Aren’t Far Behind)
So, is it better to post a Reel or In-Feed Video on Instagram?
Between TikTok and Instagram Reels, it’s no secret that short-form video is taking over social media.
The numbers say that brief and bite-sized videos are the way to go for brands. In fact, short-form video content is the most in-demand type of social content according to the 2022 Sprout Social Index. Consumers can’t get enough of it.
Source: Sprout Social
Thing is, images are just behind short-form video (61% vs 66%). Perhaps what’s more notable is the fact that long-form video posts lag far behind at 24%.
This data doesn’t highlight a distinct advantage of Reels or Feed Posts, though. Instead, this is yet another example of why it pays to have a content strategy that takes advantage of multiple formats.
Instagram Creators Are Crushing It With Reels and Photos Right Now
Again, we’ve seen both brands and creators in our network ramp up their Reels lately.
Kal grew her Reels viewership from 0 to 45,000 views per video within ten months. All organically, no ads involved. According to Kal herself, 75% of people that discover her profile come from Reels. Her consistency and authenticity were rewarded with reach and she’s kept up the momentum since.
That said, Reels aren’t the only way to blow up on Instagram. Some creators are seeing more engagement from In-Feed Posts (see below).
As for brands? Both types of content can earn reach depending on your industry and audience.
For example, about-face boasts 284,000 followers and posts Reels almost every other day. On the flip side, outdoor brand Nalgene has never published an Instagram Reel as of writing this post. Their 108,000 followers (and 100,000+ tagged Instagram photos) are nothing to scoff at.
How Often Should I Publish Reels? What About Posts?
Good question! There is no one-size-fits-all frequency but here’s our take:
If you’re publishing seven days a week, a balance between three (3) Reels and four (4) In-Feed Posts is fair game. You can also flip this frequency if you notice that Reels are outperforming posts on your grid.
If you only post on weekdays, a split between two (2) Reels and three (3) In-Feed Posts is a good starting point.
The reality, though? Answering the question or “Reel or Post?” really comes down to your own analytics. If you find that a certain format earns more reach or engagement, stick with it. You can also experiment with adapting your Reels ideas into Carousels and vice-versa.
When to Post Reels
Reels are perfect for unpolished content. Creativity and personality should shine in your short-form videos, including:
- How-tos, tutorials and educational content featuring products in action
- Off-the-cuff videos centered around trending sounds, skits and challenges
- Announcements and behind-the-scenes videos hyping up your brand
Use the format to provide an up-close and personal presentation of your products. Doing so will make it easier for people to imagine what you’re selling in their hands.
When to Post to Your Feed
In-Feed Posts are ideal for your pre-planned, polished content. This includes:
- Showing off snapshots from professional photoshoots and promotions
- High-quality photos, videos and UGC with multiple angles of your product
- Posts where you want to drive discussion and back-and-forth with your audience
Your Instagram feed is an opportunity to cultivate your brand’s aesthetic. This gives new visitors to your profile a better understanding of who you are and why you deserve their attention. For example, Dr. Jart primarily publishes In-Feed Posts and Carousels that result in a visually striking Instagram grid.
The Role of Creators in Better Reach for Instagram Reels and Posts
To answer whether reach is the same between Reels vs Posts, the consensus is no.
According to Instagram themselves, they aren’t ranked the same. Regardless, both formats can earn you more reach. So much depends on your resources, content strategy and target audience. Look at your analytics to see what’s actually working for you.
No matter what type of content you post, putting creators front and center can strengthen your Instagram engagement strategy. After all, creators drive those important interactions that the algorithm wants to see.
Oh, and creator partnerships boost brand awareness by introducing you to new audiences. This goes hand in hand with greater Instagram reach, too. With that awareness and authentic content comes trust.
Eager to partner with creators to grow your social media presence and get people talking about your brand? Statusphere can help.
We customize our creator campaign to your goals and the content types you need to reach your audience. If you want to see how the process works firsthand, get in touch with one of our consumer-to-consumer marketing specialists today.
This article was first published in February 2021. It was last updated June 21, 2022.