Instagram Reels Experiment

After writing about YouTube Shorts to evaluate whether they are an effective marketing tool to increase reach and engagement, I did an experiment with Instagram Reels.

Instagram has aligned itself with competitors’ offerings to win a bigger share of the market.

Launched in August 2020 in response to the increasing popularity of short-video platform TikTok, Instagram Reels are “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram”. Also: “Reels in Explore offers anyone the chance to become a creator on Instagram and reach new audiences on a global stage.”

Personally, it’s the discovery aspect that has the most appeal: when you browse through the Explore (search) section of Instagram, Reels jump out from the grid because their size is bigger compared to other posts (static or video) and they autoplay so they don’t require the user to click on them to view. This is a typical Facebook move to rack up views. Also it relies on some users being reluctant to create yet another social media profile on another platform (TikTok), therefore grabbing market share and increasing engagement on Instagram.

Videos are 15 seconds long and there are native editing tools in the app so you can add text, music, emojis, effects and so on. You can either have 15 seconds of continuous video or stitch together different clips, either phone your phone gallery or directly from the Instagram app.

There is definitely potential from publishing Instagram Reels: 1,341 views on the first day of publishing, a personal best for my Instagram profile (about 1,300 followers at the time of writing).
I also posted the same video on YouTube as a Short. It was interesting to compare the performance of both videos. YouTube did not promote my Short at all and it only gained 4 views in 24 hours, while Instagram was pushing my Reel almost to the point of virality. Videos I posted on my grid average at 100 views, with a maximum of about 400 views.

To gain even more insights from my experiment I published two more Reels: one gained 219 views and one gained 39 views. I guess it all depends on the topic, hashtags and competition from other Reels.

Instagram Reels have an auto-play feature so it’s easy for them to gain views quickly.

I gained 4 new followers but Instagram will not break down the source of followers so I am assuming this is unrelated to publishing my first Reel. In fact, the Insights (analytics) from Instagram don’t even show stats for Reels: you need to go to your profile and select the Reels category from it to check the number of views.

  • Reels are easy to edit and publish
  • Reels can be a great way to test a new idea, product, service or simply to provide entertainment
  • Reels can be a valuable marketing tool, helping your profile reach new followers
  • you can repurpose content you have already published by editing it down to 15 seconds.

In conclusion, I would say that Instagram Reels have the potential to be an extremely valuable tool for content creators (sorry YouTube Shorts!).

Originally published at on May 2, 2021.




Author and freelance writer. I work with clients to create engaging communications. Keen forager and on a mission to have a low carbon footprint

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Paola Bassanese

Paola Bassanese

Author and freelance writer. I work with clients to create engaging communications. Keen forager and on a mission to have a low carbon footprint

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