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Instagram Reels vs Image Posts: Which One Is Right for Your Brand?

Instagram Reels vs posts — which one is better for your business?

Social Media

21 May 2024 • 9 min read •

Ellie Innis

Since the platform debuted Reels in August 2020, they’ve become a dominant force in social media. Creating reels is one of the best ways to get in front of non-followers. In fact, the spring 2024 Instagram algorithm update is built specifically to recommend reels to your followers and non-followers at the same time. So Reels are clearly the best type of content on Instagram, right?

It's not that simple. 

Let's start by getting the terminology straight. There are three major types of content you can publish on Instagram:

  1. Reels - any type of video published to Instagram
  2. Images - still images and photographs 
  3. Stories - a series of images and/or videos that are available for only 24 hours

Technically, all of these count as "posts," but they are all governed by different Instagram algorithms. Stories live in a different part of the app, so we won't be focusing on them in this article. Reels also have a separate feed in the app, but both images and Reels can be published to your grid and can show up in your followers' feed. 

Since Instagram started as a photo-sharing app, the word "posts" or the phrase "in-feed posts" typically refers to a photo or image post. Standard video posts also used to be a thing, but now all videos published on Instagram are considered Reels.

While Reels can expand your brand's reach, image posts are still a viable way to connect with your audience. To nail a successful Instagram strategy you can't just choose one or the other. But when you're deciding which format to prioritize, several factors come into play, including your social media goals, your audience's preferences, and the resources you have available.

In this article, we're going to look at the difference between Instagram Reels and Instagram image posts (aka "in-feed posts"). We’ll talk about the advantages of each and how to balance posting Reels and photos to your grid and followers' feed.

What is an Instagram post?

Technically everything that you publish to your grid and that shows up in your followers' feeds is considered an Instagram post. Both Reels and image posts fall into this category. There used to be more of a distinction between Reels and standard video posts. However, Instagram has deprecated standard video posts into Reels. 

All Instagram videos are published as ReelsTherefore, when people make the distinction between a Reel and a post, they typically mean the difference between a video Reel and a photo post. That's what we'll be focusing on in this article.

What is an Instagram Reel?

Reels are a short-form video format on Instagram that allow users to create videos up to 90 seconds long. Here are the most important things to remember about Reels:

  • Reels can be 90 seconds long if you create them in the Instagram app, but they can be up to 15 minutes long if you post them using a social media scheduler.
  • Any video published to Instagram is posted as a Reel. There used to be a distinction between standard video posts and Reels, but that no longer exists. However, you can still add individual video clips to an image carousel post.
  • Reels are the best Instagram tool for expanding your reach because the Reels algorithm is built to recommend content primarily to non-followers (compared to in-feed posts, which are primarily shown to followers).
  • Reels content is fueled by trends, including trending music and templates, as well as viral storytelling formats and challenges.

In 2022, Instagram reels were the most engaging content type on the platform.

Alt text: Instagram reels have 1.95% average engagement rateSource

Similar to TikTok's For You Page (FYP), Instagram users can discover Reels by browsing through the Reels tab on the app. Users can also explore and discover Reels created by others through the Explore page. Reels created by people they follow will appear on users’ feeds.

Reels content can be anything from recipes and cooking tutorials, to aesthetic travel montages, to "Get Ready With Me" (GRWM) vlogs, to educational deep-dives on niche topics, to simple funny memes. Since Reels are ruled by trends, you'll commonly see many creators piggybacking off popular memes by using the same music, hooks, and captions. 

When you post a Reel, you can choose to include it on your main grid, or publish it only to your separate Reels grid. Similarly, when you post a Reel you can choose to publish it to followers' feeds so that it shows up when they're scrolling for updates. You can slo reshare your Reels to your Story. 

What’s the difference between Instagram Reels vs. Instagram image posts?

Instagram Reels and image posts each serve unique purposes and offer distinct features. Here's a breakdown of the differences between these two post types.

1. Difference in content type and format

Reels: Reels are short-form videos that can be up to 90 seconds long. You can record and edit them in app, or you can publish them from a social media scheduler. You can add music, text overlays, effects, transitions, and more.

Image Posts: Image posts are single images or image carousels. These static image posts can be accompanied by captions and hashtags, as well as music. They can also be tagged with other users and locations.

2. Difference in discovery and reach

Reels: Reels can be posted to your followers' feeds, but they also have a broader discovery mechanism in place, primarily through the Reels tab on Instagram. This tab allows users to explore Reels from accounts they do not follow. This feature gives Reels the potential for a wide reach, making it an excellent tool for creators looking to gain brand visibility.

Reels can show up in five places on the app: In the Reels tab, in the Explore tab, in your main grid, in your Reels grid, and in your followers' feeds.

Image Posts: Static image posts are generally seen by the poster's followers, though they can also be discovered through relevant hashtags, locations, or tagged profiles. However, the reach of image posts is typically more limited to the poster's existing audience.

Image posts can show up in three places on the app: In the Explore tab, in your main grid, and in your followers' feeds.

3. Difference in engagement and interaction

Reels: Reels encourage interactions through likes, comments, reshares, and saves. When you create original content, users can also use the template you've created to make their own Reel. On top of that, users can also click through to the music you use in the Reel in order to discover more Reels made with that sound.

Image Posts: Image posts allow for likes, comments, reshares, and saves. Instagram head Adam Mosseri has hinted many times that carousel posts have the potential for more engagement than single-image posts. That's because a carousel post can show up in your followers' feeds more than once. Additionally, Instagram is said to be testing the ability to comment on specific images in a carousel, which could be an engagement booster as well.

4. Difference in editing and creative tools

Reels: Instagram provides a sophisticated set of tools for editing Reels. These include all the standards, like text overlay, filters, and transitions. But there's also AR effects, GIFs and clips for meme-making, ready-to-use templates, speed controls, automated closed-captioning, and stickers for location, polls, and more. Plus, the product folks at Instagram are always introducing new tools into the experience to level up the type of videos you can create without expensive software.

Image Posts: Editing tools for image posts don't need to be as complex as Reels because you're not dealing with footage. That said, the app is testing several new features to elevate the image editing experience. On top of the usual photo editing abilities such as filters, brightness, and contrast adjustments, we have seen a few accounts that have the ability to add text and layer additional images from your camera roll. Plus, you can select a music track to play when someone sees the image. With these new features you can create much more interactive experience for followers.

IMG_3201New image post editing features available to some users as of May 2024.

Why you should definitely try posting Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels are all about reaching new followers. They combine two powerful forces: trending content and infinite scroll. Their short, snappy format keeps users scrolling (often several times a day), which means more eyeballs on your videos, more clicks to your profile, and more potential followers for your business. 

Most importantly, Reels are favored by Instagram's algorithm. This means they are more likely to appear on the Explore page and in the dedicated Reels section, especially to users who don't follow your account. Since Reels can also be posted to your grid and to followers' feeds, they really give you double the visibility.

In fact, the most recent Instagram algorithm update was created to help small businesses and creators expand their reach by showing their Reels to more non-followers in its early stages of publication.

This increased visibility can help you reach a wider audience, attract new audiences, and increase brand awareness. Sharing Reels after you’ve posted them to your Instagram story can also boost their reach.

Why you should still publish image posts, too

Just because Reels get a push from the algorithm doesn't mean it's time to ditch the image posts. Remember that Instagram started as a photo-sharing app, and many users still prefer this type of content from the accounts they follow. When you're weighing their role in your content strategy, look at Instagram image posts as the way to nurture engagement with your existing followers.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri has clarified that the algorithm serves up different post formats for different users. In a nutshell, that means that users who interact more with image posts than Reels will typically see more image posts in their feeds. With that in mind, it's important to examine how your own followers interact with your content. Do you get more engagement on Reels, or on photos? This will help you decided which format to prioritize. 

How often should you post to your followers' feeds on Instagram?

The optimal frequency for making posts on Instagram can vary widely depending on your brand, audience, and content strategy. This study shows that across industries, the median post frequency is 4.5 times a week. However, some industries far surpass that because of their content cycle (like media) or highly engaged audiences (like sports).

how many times to post on Instagram per weekSource

The goal for posting to your Instagram followers' feeds is to stay top of mind without overwhelming them. Because every user signals different interests and preferences to the algorithm, some of your content might get buried depending on the specific user and how they've interacted with your brand/the platform recently. That's why many brands choose to post multiple times per week — so they can try to surface in everyone's feeds at least once.

When gauging a post frequency, take a look at these considerations:

  • Keep a consistent schedule: Maintaining a consistent posting schedule is more important than achieving sheer volume of content. Consistency helps keep your brand top of mind for your audience and can improve your visibility on the platform due to the way the Instagram algorithm works.
  • Focus on quality over quantity: Focus on the quality of your content rather than posting frequently with lower quality. High-quality, engaging content that resonates with your audience is more likely to be shared, saved, and commented on, which are key factors for growth on Instagram.
  • Follow a few general guidelines: A common recommendation for brands is to post to the Instagram feed about 3-7 times per week. This range allows you to stay active and engaged with your audience without the risk of content fatigue. However, this can vary significantly based on your industry, the nature of your content, and your audience's preferences.
  • Gauge audience engagement and feedback: Pay close attention to how your audience reacts to different posting frequencies. If engagement starts to drop, or you receive direct feedback about posting too much (or not enough), adjust accordingly. Use Instagram Insights to track the performance of your posts and identify the best times and frequencies for engaging your specific audience.
  • Leverage as many features as possible: Don't rely solely on in-feed posts. Instagram offers a variety of content formats, including Stories, Reels, and Broadcast channels. A diversified content strategy that utilizes these different formats can help you maintain a constant presence on the platform without needing to increase the frequency of posts.
  • Study your industry and competition: Consider the standards in your industry and what your competitors are doing. Some industries—like fashion or food—might benefit from higher frequency posting. Others may find less frequent, more detailed content posts more effective.

How to balance posting Instagram Reels and image posts

The keyword in any social media content strategy is balance. You don't want to go all in on Reels and forsake image posts that generate conversation with your followers. On the other hand, you don't want to ignore Reels and stagnate your reach. A good Instagram content strategy is one that uses all the app's tools to test, experiment, and adapt frequently.

Here are some tips to help you maintain a balance between the two formats:

  • Create a content calendar: Develop a social media calendar so you can plan and schedule Reels and image posts without missing a beat. Consider factors such as the best times to post Reels, any upcoming events or promotions, and the frequency of your posts.
  • Alternate between Reels and image posts: To maintain balance, simply alternate between posting Instagram Reels and image posts. For example, you could post a Reel one day and an image post the next. If Reels get more engagement from your audience, consider posting 2-3 Reels for every image post.
  • Experiment with content formats: Explore different types of content formats to keep your audience engaged. In addition to traditional photo and Instagram video posts, consider incorporating reels, Stories and carousel posts into your content mix. Stories are crucial for staying connected to your most loyal followers, and they're a great way to stay top of mind without burning them out on your brand.
  • Repurpose content: Investing in two content formats doesn't mean you have to make double the content. Repurpose content from your image posts to create Instagram Reels, and vice versa. This allows you to maximize the value of your content while maintaining consistency across your feed. You can also use your content from other social media platforms, like TikTok, to make Reels. Just make sure you remove that TikTok watermark.
  • Monitor performance metrics: Keep track of key performance metrics such as engagement, reach, and conversion rates for both Instagram Reels and image posts. Use these insights to refine your content strategy and optimize future posts.
  • Listen to your audience: Pay attention to feedback from your audience and adapt your content strategy accordingly. Monitor comments, direct messages, and other forms of engagement to understand what types of content resonate most with your audience.


By following these tips and incorporating them into your social media strategy, you can effectively balance posting Instagram Reels and image posts to drive more engagement. And ultimately, achieve your marketing goals.


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