Home Blog Uncategorized Is the pivot from Instagram photo posts to Reels working for brands?

Is the pivot from Instagram photo posts to Reels working for brands?


We all know there’s a massive shift going on with social content formats: From static photos and text to short-form videos (i.e., Reels).

Of course, this has been driven by TikTok. But over the past year, Instagram has prioritized its TikTok lookalike, Reels, and brands have taken notice.

In fact, some brands have almost moved to a Reels-only mentality when it comes to Insta. Just look at what Target is doing. 9 of its last 10 posts have been Reels. And 18 of its last 20.

They’re hardly alone. 17 of Sephora’s last 21 Insta posts have been Reels. 18 of Red Bulls’ last 21 posts have been Reels. 18 of Walmart’s last 21 Insta posts have been Reels.

In my cursory research. I wouldn’t say too many brands are going “all in” on Reels. But certainly, a lot of brands are putting a decent amount of effort into them. For many profiles I looked at, I would say Reels represented at least 30-40% of the feed content.

At the same time, we’ve all seen that stats lauding reach and engagement rates of Reels. I’ve seen everything from “Reels engagement rates were 35% higher than other content types” to this popular study, that has been used across the internet saying “on Instagram, Reels make for the most engaging content type.”

I was curious: Are these Reels *really* delivering that big of a boost in terms of engagements?

Let’s just take a quick peek at some of the bigger brands using Reels and what those engagement stats look like for their last 10 Reels vs. their last 10 photo or carousel posts.


Last 10 photo/carousel posts: 32,176 engagements per post

Last 10 Reels: 6,294 engagements per post



Last 10 photo/carousel posts: 192,935 engagements per post

Last 10 Reels: 78,805 engagements per post



Last 10 photo/carousel posts: 51,370 engagements per post

Last 10 Reels: 36,274 engagements per post


Old Navy

Last 10 photo/carousel posts: 5,063 engagements per post

Last 10 Reels: 3,315 engagements per post


Those numbers don’t exactly line up with what we’re hearing from these surveys, do they? I mean, Target is seeing 500% more engagement from its static posts vs. its Reels!

What’s going on? I’m guessing some of the orgs that are compiling these surveys are counting “views” as engagements. And that’s a problem. Because, technically, Instagram counts a “view” as anyone who’s looked at the video for 3 seconds or less.

3 seconds.

Please tell me what you think the message penetration is of a video that someone has watched for 3 seconds might be? My thought: pretty darn close to zero.

So, those “engagement” numbers in these surveys might be pretty inflated. Meanwhile, the engagement numbers I shared above are straight from Instagram and include only likes and comments.

Those are pretty big accounts above though. Maybe we should look at some more midsized and smaller accounts. Good idea! Here are a few random smaller companies I see using Reels in my feed:

Maddens Resort

Last 10 photo/carousel posts: 58 engagements per post

Last 10 Reels: 99 engagements per post


Lime Out VI

Last 10 photo/carousel posts: 144

Last 10 Reels: 535


Land O Lakes Kitchen

Last 10 photo/carousel posts: 145

Last 10 Reels: 176


So that’s interesting, right? Three midsized to smaller accounts–all of them saw higher engagement numbers from Reels vs. Photo posts.

This jives with what I’m seeing with a couple smaller clients I’m getting started on Reels. We’re seeing much higher engagement (and reach) stats from Reels vs. Photo posts. I wonder if Reels aren’t working better for these smaller brands vs. the larger ones.

Plus, if you’re Target or Starbucks, you’re probably more interested in the reach totals for these videos vs. the engagements.

After all, Starbucks’ last 10 Reels generated an average of 832,100 views. Red Bull’s last 10 Reels generated a whopping 1,433,700 views on average.

And, if you look at those smaller brands above, the view numbers are pretty substantial, too. Limeout is averaging 10,694 views on its last 10 Reels. Land O Lakes Kitchen averaged 5,924 views per Reel. When compared against the last 5 videos Land O Lakes posted on Insta (non-Reel video), those averaged just 1,546 views per post. So yeah, much higher reach.

My overall take here: Reels are working pretty darn well from a reach/view perspective. Like, a lot better than the previous videos. HOWEVER, keep in mind, those views are measured by those who have watched your video for 3 seconds. So, how much stock can you really put in those numbers?

On the flip side, engagement totals aren’t extraordinary for larger brands. They’re not horrible–but based on my research, they’re certainly not better than photo/carousel posts. In fact, in many cases, photo/carousel posts are still DOMINATING. But, if you’re a smaller brand, the opposite seems to be true. For those brands, Reels are generating more engagement than photo posts. An interesting development to follow, to be sure.

The advice, as always, is to measure your own results and see how formats are performing against each other on a regular basis. The research above is fairly cursory. However, it does illustrate some interesting trends I have noticed from a larger perspective. Worth keeping an eye on how Reels are performing for your company–and at the same time monitoring the changes Instagram continues to make to its platform.



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