Real Facts About Instagram Reels

By: Mike Metzler

September 23, 2020

In namesake, Instagram is one app. But for social media managers, crafting content for Instagram can feel like managing multiple social platforms. The Instagram feed, Instagram Stories, IGTV, and now Reels can all serve different purposes within the platform. These different channels allow social media managers to cater content to consumption preferences of their various audiences.

  • Instagram feed – Short stories that can be consumed in less than 60 seconds.
  • Instagram Stories – Those interested in behind the scenes and the feeling of 1-to-1 engagement.
  • IGTV – Long-form storytelling, more than 60 seconds.
  • Reels – Entertaining content made for quick consumption, less than 30 seconds.

Instagram’s Reels has been released for a little over a month now and accounts are already creating unique content plans around it. For those using it strategically, it’s been a big boost to engagement. While strikingly similar to TikTok®, Reels does provide a few differences. Here are 5 real facts about Instagram Reels.


1) Reels Provides More Real Estate

Instagram seems to have made conscious a decision to provide more screen real estate on Reels than TikTok®. Text and hashtags are collapsed and the side bar of buttons has been moved to the bottom of the screen. These identical videos from the Green Bay Packers show just how much more space you have to work with on Reels.

More screen space means more room to get creative and less worrying about important parts of your video being hidden.

2) Reels are Generating More Engagements than Traditional Instagram Videos

Table Showing Instagram Reel Data For Sports Leagues

We analyzed the all teams within the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB and compared their average engagements per Reel to their average engagements per video on Instagram and the results are stunning. Across all leagues, the average engagements per Reel was higher than the average engagements per video on Instagram. The NFL is the most active league on Reels and is reaping the benefits. The average NFL team’s Reel is generating 67% more engagements than their average Instagram video.

3) Posting to Your Feed Increases Your Reels Engagement

reels Feed Vs No Feed Memphis Griz

Nearly all of the top performing Reels we looked at as part of our analysis were also posted to the team’s Instagram feed. Reels share engagements when the video is posted to your Instagram grid. This allows the post to double down on engagements because the video is being served up in two different feeds.

In our analysis we did find examples of top performing Reels that were not posted to the Instagram feed, but, more often than not, those underperformed compared to average engagement metrics for Instagram videos.

Here are two Reels that were posted by the Memphis Grizzlies that illustrate the disparity between a video that was posted to the Instagram feed versus one only shared to the Reels tab. Despite having over 1 million followers on Instagram this particular Reel (on the left) only received 22 total engagements.

4) Real Ways to Be Discovered

Reels Discover Option Grey Text

The addition of Reels to Instagram has added four new ways for your content and account to be discovered.

  • Explore Tab – Open the Explore tab on Instagram and the top piece of content is a Reel. Instagram hand selects “Featured” Reels to be placed in this spot. Considering the Explore tab is visited by more than 200 million people each day, getting your content featured can be a huge boost to your account.
  • Hashtag Search – Search any hashtag and you will immediately be served one or more Reels that use that hashtag.
  • Reels Feed – Reels videos have their own dedicated feed that serves content from both accounts you follow and videos that it thinks you will like. And while it currently doesn’t rival TikTok®’s insane ability to determine our most unique content preferences, it does place a nice “Follow” button right next to the username for any account you don’t follow.
  • Audio Search – Click on any piece of music and you will be served all of the top pieces of content that used that audio. This can be a great way to get new ideas or find new accounts to follow.

5) Sports Teams Are Seeing Real Results

Best Sports Teams on Instagram Reels  

We ranked the top 10 sports teams from the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB by average engagements per Reel, Aug 5 – September 8. At this moment, the Lakers lead all sports teams with an impressive 266.7k engagements per Reel on average. During this same time period the Lakers averaged 134.7k engagements per Instagram video. The Patriots lead all NFL teams with an average of 121.8k engagement per Reel. During this same time period, which was prior to the start of the NFL season, the Patriots averaged 21.6k engagements per video. The significant difference in results show that for accounts with an established audience Reels can be an effective way to engage with new audiences and make a real difference.