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Instagram Reels vs Images: Can You Find Success with an Image-Only Account?

We look at what content gets the best engagement levels on Instagram and how small businesses should be investing their time.

Remember when TikTok was thought to just be a fad, expected to come and go as quickly as Vine did? Now those short TikTok-style videos are what all the other social platforms are trying to mimic. Instagram introduced Reels in August 2020 and accounts that adopted this new style saw their post engagement increase.

Meanwhile, engagement for standard feed posts (images and video) has declined by 44% since 2019. Social Insider reports that the average engagement rate for images as of June 2022 was just 0.79% for an account with 50,000 - 100,000 followers. Carousel posts do better, at 1.12% engagement, but Reels win, at 1.51%.

Is it time to pivot to Reels?

This decline in engagement for standard feed posts and increase in engagement for Reels has led many businesses to pivot their Instagram strategy. It’s no secret that Reels are time-consuming to create and some of us simply don’t have the resources to constantly create short-form video content. For others, this form of content isn’t on brand for them.

So, how do you know if Reels is worth the effort for your brand? And if not, is it still worth your time to maintain your image-only Instagram account, or is it time to leave it behind?

A Look at the Data

We’ve touched on current engagement rates but let’s take a look at historical data for greater insight. Again returning to Social Insider’s statistics, engagement rates on Instagram have been on the decline across the board from June 2021 to June 2022:

  • Image post engagement has fallen from 1.1% to 0.62%
  • Video post engagement has fallen from 1.3% to 0.7%
  • Carousel post engagement has fallen from 1.53% to 0.9%
  • And even Reels have fallen from 2.41% to 1.95%, reaching a low of 1.6% a few times throughout the last year

So, what can we gather from this? Two things that may be fairly depressing for some of us - first, engagement on Instagram is reaching historical lows, and second, to get any real engagement you need to look to Reels.

Reels have a view rate of 2.54%, meaning that the majority of people who watch a Reel will engage with it. When you look at their reach rates, things start to get exciting - the average reach rate is 20.59%, and is up to 39.46% for accounts with less than 5,000 followers. The reach rate for an image for the same accounts is just 2.41%.

Can You Commit?

We can see from the data that Reels need to be a part of your strategy if you want to see any real engagement on Instagram. If you want to see success, you need to consider if you have the time to create Reels, what that would look like for you, and what would be on-brand for your company.

If Reels aren’t in the cards for you, go back to basics and look at where your audience is hanging out and where you can reach them - is there somewhere better you can stay in contact with them? This may be your wake-up call that your audience has moved to a different space.

Reflect and Strategise

The only caveat to our advice above is you should look at your analytics and see how you’re doing. If you’re getting different results, you may be the exception to the averages. If you’ve fostered a community on Instagram you may find your engagement rates for images are much higher.

If that’s the case, and you aren’t interested in Reels, don’t fix what’s not broken. Continue to engage with your audience on Instagram in the way that’s working for you and keep an eye on those engagement rates.

Reels are one of the only forms of content getting meaningful engagement on Instagram. If your audience is hanging out on Instagram and you want to reach them there, you need to consider using Reels as the main type of content you post. If that’s not possible for you and your brand, you need to return to your social media strategy and consider how you’ll continue to reach your customers and whether continuing to post on Instagram is worth your time and energy.

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