Instagram Reels, the most touched-on topic of the year on Instagram.
Every guru, coach, mentor, expert, etc will tell you to focus on reels for growth, but you can't preach what you haven't practiced, right?
This is why I decided to try it myself and do the 30-day reel challenge, which ended up being more like 45 days, but who's counting?
While you should definitely include reels into your content mix and strategy, focusing only on reels could be hurting your account.
Remember Instagram has said multiple times that the more formats you use, the better for the algorithm.
Here is a screenshot of my insights the week before starting the challenge:
I took a 2-week break before starting this challenge and one week before starting I started posted again.
This is why you see a huge increase in account reach and impressions.
However, you can see my growth was negative!
Here is a screenshot of my insights the last week of the challenge:
As you see, during the last week of the challenge I only reached 2000 accounts. You can also see that almost half of the traffic was new accounts.
However, they did not convert to followers and my follower growth wasn't massive!
Overall, I did improve all my metrics by big numbers like 48.2% more impressions, 21.1% more profile visits, and 92.3% of website taps.
But then again, I had been inactive before starting the challenge.
And no I did not grow massively as you would have expected after creating so many reels.
However, I did learn a lot from this challenge, and here are my 10 takeouts about reels (that might surprise you) 😜😜😜
1. Reels can give you more exposure but that doesn’t mean they will help you grow
It’s no secret that Instagram is really pushing reels to broader audiences, so the more you create reels, the more exposure you can get.
Reels can be discovered through the reels tab, which works similarly to the For You page on TikTok.
They can also be discovered on the hashtag tab, when seeing the top reel for that hashtag, more reels that have been tagged with that hashtag will show up.
However, many times your reels will be shown first to an audience where you are currently located and they might not be your ideal audience.
And if they are not your ideal audience they might see your reel, see your profile, but won’t be following you because your content is not for them.
2. Creating reels with the sole goal of going viral is only going to cause stress and disappointment
At first, I was creating reels intending to go viral (and I’m sure that many of you too).
However, there is no secret formula for virality, but just a bunch of factors that could affect this like the length, song choice, how valuable the reel is, your location, etc
So if you start with the idea of going viral, you spend hours creating it, and then it doesn’t have the results you want, you’re probably going to be very disappointed.
Create reels because they should be part of your content strategy, make sure the content is high-quality and valuable for your audience.
3. Reels might help you attract a lot of followers, but these might not be the most qualified followers
On the other hand, let’s say your reel does go viral.
This means your account will most likely get very high exposure to new audiences.
However, if your reel has not been created with your target audience in mind, you might end up attracting the wrong kind of audience and this will result in a decrease in your engagement rate.
Let’s say you create a reel about one of the cities you have visited where there a lot of cats on the streets.
If this reel goes viral you are going to attract a lot of cat-lovers. But are cat lovers the kind of audience you want to attract as a photographer or blogger?
Nah, I don’t think so.
Be very strategic when you create reels and remember it’s not about virality!
4. Reels are good to inform, educate, and entertain
I think we all know this by now, but it’s still a good reminder.
As I mentioned previously, reels should be part of your content strategy, but you should be using them strategically.
They’re great to showcase your personality and you should be using them to inform your audience about topics within your niche, educate them, and entertain them.
And no, this doesn’t mean having to dance.
My best performing reels were the entertaining ones and I never danced. (Well maybe I was loosening up during the last week and you might be able to spot an involuntary hip movement, but that’s all!) 🤪🤪🤪
5. Reels lifespan is much longer than normal posts
During the first two to three days after your reel has been posted, Instagram will most likely show it to your audience, so most of the reach will come from home.
After 72 hours, based on your reel’s retention, engagement, and interest, the algorithm will start pushing it to more people.
This could happen even up to 2 or 3 weeks after.
So don’t feel upset if your reel has not performed too well during the first days after it’s been posted.
6. My shorter and entertaining reels outperformed the longer ones
I wanted to create all kinds of reels to test what my audience preferred. My content mix was the following:
Educational about topics related to Instagram and content creation
Inspirational: About my personal journey
Entertaining: trying to add a bit of a sense of humor to the content creator’s niche and showcasing the beauty of Barcelona as a Travel Photographer
What I noticed was that the entertaining ones were definitely the favorites for my audience and the shorter they were, the higher the views as people tend to watch them in a loop.
Always test different topics and lengths, but keep in mind that most people who watch reels are there to find entertainment.
7. Camera shyness will disappear after the first few reels
I know being in front of the camera is not the easiest thing to do for many creators.
However the more you practice, the easier it gets.
The great thing about reels is that you don’t need to speak at all!
You can use a collection of short clips to transmit the message you want to transmit, or even just appear in front of the camera doing things like pointing out where the text appears!
8. You can record a month worth of Reels in one day
I planned the first 15 days of reels in less than 3 hours. This included choosing the topic, writing the captions, and finding the hashtags.
I was mixing in between Barcelona content and content creator’s content so I made sure to edit all the Barcelona videos I needed in one go. It took me about 1.5 hours to do this.
For the reels where I appeared on screen, I made a selection of trending songs or audios (by scrolling down the reels feed for about 15 min) and then used a tripod to record myself. This took me about an hour.
So it took me less than 5 hours to plan 15 reels, but if I had planned the entire 30 days, it wouldn’t have taken me much longer. I’d say about 6 - 7 hours.
You might think that’s a lot, but hey that’s the content for AN ENTIRE MONTH!
9. Focusing a lot of your efforts on reels might end up hurting your overall strategy
This is actually one of my best learnings from this challenge.
I had heard a lot of creators saying that doing 30 days in a row exploded their account and I was eager to find how this would affect mine.
However, what most of these creators did and I did not was to still create other formats. Unfortunately, my lifestyle doesn’t allow me to post more than once a day, so I just did 30 reels.
In order to have a healthy Instagram account, you should really be mixing and using all the formats they offer.
In my case, I noticed a huge drop in reach and engagement.
In fact, my growth was stuck throughout the entire time and I kept losing followers every day, which takes me to my last learning.
10. Reels are not for every audience
Yes, you heard it.
If you are a new or small account you can use a lot of reels and this is the format your audience will know you and recognize you for.
And I do believe Instagram is pushing reels for smaller accounts, more than for other established accounts.
For accounts like mine, which have been running for almost 3 years my audience is used to mostly single posts and photos.
So when I introduced this new format so often, it might have not only confused my audience but also the algorithm.
Hence, why my reels had lower reach and engagement than my normal single posts.
So, should you be doing reels or not? 🤔🤔🤔
The answer is YES!
As I said you need to be using all Instagram formats to make the algorithm happy 😉
Should you be posting reels every day?
Only if your schedule allows you to post a reel and another post (either single post or carousel).