Data Shows How Reels Have Transformed Your Instagram Feed

A new report has highlighted the seismic shift in the way users are interacting with Instagram since the introduction of Instagram Reels on the social media platform.

First introduced in August 2020, Instagram billed the Reels function as an opportunity for people to "participate in cultural trends, collaborate with the community and discover new ideas."

Now, a new report from the team behind the popular Instagram marketing platform Later has laid bare the significant push towards Reels that is being witnessed on the platform. Over 81 million Instagram feed posts (excluding both Reels and IGTV) from January 1, 2019 to February 28, 2022 were analyzed as part of the study.

What the results revealed was a significant drop in the amount of engagement witnessed across in-feed posts on the platform. Engagements in this context refers to likes, comments or increased followers.

What the report surmised was that the dip in numbers is a direct result of Meta's continued pushing of Reels on the platform. According to the figures compiled by Later, there has been a 44 percent decrease in the average engagement rate for a feed post on Instagram from 2019 to late 2021.

The study found this engagement rate went from 5.16 percent in 2019 to 2.88 percent as 2021 drew to a close. A similar downward trajectory was reported across traditional image and video feed posts, with the latter enduring the biggest year-over-year decline on average.

While carousel posts performed better than both images and videos, in terms of engagement, the same downward slide was highlighted in the numbers.

The Later report firmly attributes the change to Meta's push towards Reels. "It's no secret that Reels are a priority for the app, and as such, other post types have taken a back seat," Later's Jessica Worb said in a blog on the company website.

Once again, the data backs up this assertion, with Later noting that those who have shifted their output toward Reels have enjoyed consistent growth. The Later report found that the average engagement rate on Reels in 2019 was 1.28 percent. By 2022, that figure has jumped to 9.09 percent.

So, when it comes to growing an audience and developing a presence on Instagram, as Worb puts it: "the numbers don't lie."

"If you want to see a spike in engagement on Instagram in 2022, it's time to get onboard with Reels," she said. "While regular feed posts still have their place on Instagram, Reels are the number one tactic for reaching new audiences."

Newsweek has contacted Later for comment.

The findings of the Later report were shared to Twitter by social media consultant Matt Navarra. His posts prompted some interesting feedback.

One Twitter user, posting as TheGreenGreek, said: "The feed has become useless. It has more accounts I don't follow than ones I do. So I find myself only looking at stories because it has more from people I actually follow. I want old Instagram."

Podcast Nicole Michalik, meanwhile, expressed concern over the shift, writing: "It's awful! And very noticeable how much post engagement has dropped!"

Another user, writing as DanGayle, added: "Insta has become almost useless. All of these platforms eventually switching to algorithmic feeds vs just showing the latest of the people I actually follow is absolutely annoying. And if I wanted TikTok, I'd use TikTok."

Vincentmehere, meanwhile, wrote: "I still think there is a market for a purely image sharing app. people originally flocked to Instagram because they were sick of all the junk they saw on other apps."

Instagram's 'Reels' video feature on a phone.
This illustration picture shows Instagram's video feature "Reels" on a smartphone - a report has highlighted how the features has shifted the way people use the social media platform. Christ Delmas/AFP via Getty Images