In 2022, Instagram made huge adjustments to the platform and pushed video content material to the forefront. All of a sudden, Reels had been in every single place (and incomes large engagement and attain boosts), so customers started to adapt their social media methods accordingly. That’s, till earlier this yr.

That’s when Instagram head Adam Mosseri introduced that the platform would reprioritize images. Quickly after, Instagram customers began noticing that their Reels weren’t performing like they used to.

That’s a lot of adjustments, so should you’re struggling to maintain up with the Instagram algorithm today, you’re not alone. As your pleasant native social media scientists, we needed to search out out: is it true? Are images actually again?

To check this, we determined to pit carousels in opposition to Reels to search out out if carousels are nonetheless the top-performing format on Instagram or if Reels displaced them for good.

Hypothesis: Instagram carousels still earn more reach and engagement than Reels.

We chose carousels as the photo format to test against Reels since they are traditionally considered the most engaging post type on Instagram. Carousels are more interactive than single photos, so people tend to spend more time engaging with them.

In fact, as recently as October 2022, carousels had the highest average engagement rate of all varieties of Instagram posts (0.62%). On the time, video posts (aka Reels) had been proper on their heels with a mean engagement fee of 0.61%.

Hootsuite’s personal social staff finds that their carousel posts get 3.1x more engagement, on common, than their common posts. However did the Nice Reels Push of 2022 lastly dethrone the champions, or have carousels managed to hold onto their place on the high of the heap?

For this experiment, we’re measuring two varieties of metrics: attain and engagement.

Attain tells you the quantity of people that have seen your publish. Engagement contains likes, feedback, saves and shares. They provide help to see what resonates together with your viewers.


My experiment spanned three weeks, from mid-February to early March 2023.

Right here’s what I did:

  • Each week, I might create two units of posts for my classic residence decor enterprise account, Dwelling on the Past
  • Every set would come with one carousel and one Reel with related content material and captions (six carousels and 6 Reels in whole)
  • My first set of the week could be instructional, whereas my second set could be sales-focused
  • I might publish every set on the similar time (Wednesday or Friday at 9am ET) and pull the outcomes from every publish after 48 hours
  • On the finish of every week, I might award 2 factors: 1 level to the format with the best whole attain for that week, and 1 level to the format with the best whole engagement for that week

Armed with my idea and a plan, I jumped into my experiment.


Week 1

My instructional publish this week was a recap of {a magazine} article about my store:


My second publish highlighted some out there gadgets. I’ve used this content material sort for some time, although I had but to show it right into a Reel.


After every publish had been reside for 48 hours, I captured the outcomes.

Week 1 outcomes

Likes Feedback Shares Saves Attain Performs
Carousel 1 22 0 0 2 166 N/A
Reel 1 14 1 2 0 406 484
Carousel 2 15 0 1 1 137 N/A
Reel 2 10 0 0 0 238 289

In week 1, my carousels acquired extra likes and saves than the Reels. Nonetheless, my Reels had a broader attain than my carousels.

To be truthful, I hadn’t posted a Reel in a number of weeks earlier than beginning this experiment. My followers had been most likely excited to see some video content material and gave my Reels additional love and a spotlight.

Week 1 outcomes: Reels 1, Carousels 1

Week 2

In Week 2’s instructional publish, I shared some favourite thrifting suggestions:


My “out there gadgets” recap publish adopted the very same format as in Week 1. I used a trending audio clip for the Reel.


Week 2 outcomes

Likes Feedback Shares Saves Attain Performs
Carousel 3 87 9 9 5 1,014 N/A
Reel 3 58 12 1 2 642 905
Carousel 4 15 1 0 0 147 N/A
Reel 4 13 1 0 0 246 397

In Week 2, carousels acquired WAY extra likes and in addition noticed extra attain than my Reels.


Week 2 outcomes: Reels 0, Carousels 2

Week 3

My Week 3 instructional publish was a fast take a look at an inside decor development. I tagged my favourite maximalist account, Jungalow (1.6M followers), within the Reel and the carousel to see if user-generated content (UGC) yielded any extra traction.


My “out there gadgets” recap publish adopted the very same format as in Weeks 1-2:


Week 3 outcomes

Likes Feedback Shares Saves Attain Performs
Carousel 5 56 6 6 6 657 N/A
Reel 5 23 6 2 1 324 466
Carousel 6 25 0 0 0 167 N/A
Reel 6 8 0 0 0 198 324

As soon as once more, carousels acquired considerably extra likes and reached extra individuals than my Reels.

My UGC didn’t yield any direct outcomes (the model appreciated my publish however didn’t share it), however hey, no hurt performed.

Week 3 outcomes: Reels 0, Carousels 2

Bonus experiment: boosting a publish

As my experiment got here to an finish, I needed to check out how content material format impacts advert efficiency on Instagram.

For this bonus experiment, I boosted post #5 as a result of the content material of those posts is kind of broad, and my Reel makes use of non-copyrighted music. (Instagram doesn’t enable customers to spice up a publish with copyrighted music.)

boost unavailable reels that use copyrighted music can't be boosted as ads

My aim for this advert was to extend profile exercise. I allotted the identical greenback quantity to the carousel and the Reel and let each advertisements run for 48 hours earlier than pulling the outcomes.

Submit #5 outcomes – Earlier than & after advert

Likes Feedback Saves Attain Performs Profile Exercise
Carousel 5 earlier than advert 56 6 6 657 N/A N/A
Carousel 5 after advert 72 7 8 1,711 N/A 27
Reel 5 earlier than advert 23 6 2 324 466 N/A
Reel 5 after advert 45 6 4 1,398 1,709 42

The post-ad outcomes are break up between the carousel and the Reel. The carousel advert had higher attain, however the Reels advert yielded extra profile exercise, which was my aim.

In the end, each advertisements acquired extra eyes on my content material.

Last overview

Within the weekly exams, carousels earned 5 factors, whereas Reels squeaked in with only one level. However listed below are the ultimate numbers on the finish of my experiment:

Likes Feedback Shares Saves Attain
Carousels 1-6 220 16 16 11 2,316
Reels 1-6 126 20 5 2 2,052

Notice: I didn’t embrace advert outcomes right here to verify the comparability is as truthful as potential.

General, it looks as if carousels are nonetheless the top-performing publish sort on Instagram.

If we take a look at the likes all through my experiment, the carousels outperform the Reels each single time. Whereas Reels earned extra feedback than carousels, carousels did higher on each different engagement metric.

And if we take a look at attain, carousels carry out barely higher than Reels.

I additionally had a take a look at how the previous three weeks had affected my follower rely and engagement fee:

follower growth

following engagement including content interactions

After three weeks, I gained 53 new followers, and my publish interactions are up by 32.6%. Not unhealthy!

What’s higher: Instagram carousels or Reels?

So, are Instagram carousels nonetheless outperforming Reels? In our admittedly restricted research, sure: Instagram carousels proceed to earn extra engagement and attain than Reels do.

Nonetheless, whether or not carousels are higher than Reels relies on your content material sort and viewers.

Content material sort

I run a small enterprise promoting classic gadgets, so images are key. A carousel permits me to publish a number of images so potential patrons can examine gadgets earlier than buying. That is how I promote, so carousels will at all times be extra priceless to me than Reels.

Judging by the outcomes of my experiment, carousels carry out higher for my account general.

Completely different content material varieties lend themselves extra readily to video, so take into consideration the form of content material you’re creating and the way your viewers will devour it. If movies make extra sense in your account, then do this. However don’t publish movies only for the sake of it! My knowledge exhibits that this doesn’t essentially repay.


Hold your viewers in thoughts when creating content material. In case you have a enterprise account, comply with these steps to see how your viewers breaks down:

  • Go to your Instagram profile
  • Click on the menu within the high right-hand nook (three horizontal bars)
  • Click on Insights
  • Click on Followers
  • Scroll by way of to see varied stats, together with High Areas, Age Vary, Gender, and Most Lively Occasions

age range of followers

gender of followers

In my case, over 90% of my followers are girls, and most are millennials. As I proceed to develop my enterprise, I have to prioritize this demographic when growing future content material.

To do that, I’ll proceed experimenting with my content mix and examine the metrics often to see what resonates with my viewers. When unsure, iterate!


Make content material you want

Reels are an effective way to provide followers a glimpse into your every day life and present your character, so create content material that makes you cheerful!

Foolish Reels that I filmed and edited collectively in just some minutes did higher than Reels that took a whole lot of time and power. I like making off-the-cuff content material, and it appears to resonate with my viewers.

Don’t spend tons of time on a Reel

Viewers take a look at your content material for a minute or two, so don’t spend hours placing it collectively! Make it fascinating and enjoyable, however don’t get too specific with precise synching or flawless transitions (until that’s your entire factor) — a posted Reel is healthier than an ideal Reel.

Consider your personal content material as user-generated content material (UGC)

In case your Reel or carousel is related to a bigger account or model, tag them in your caption — social managers are at all times in search of UGC, and so they may repost your content material, which opens up an entire new viewers!

Begin constructing your Instagram presence utilizing Hootsuite. Schedule and publish posts on to Instagram, interact your viewers, measure efficiency, and run all of your different social media profiles — all from one easy dashboard. Attempt it free at present.

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