16 February 2023 |

Reels are dead-How are social media managers actually growing accounts on Instagram?


Instagram has felt like a black box for a while now.

Always making tweaks to the algorithm. Always adding features that nobody asked for. Always keeping a cloud of mystery over what’s actually working to grow accounts.

But one thing has been clear for a while now: Instagram is trying to keep up with TikTok and YouTube Shorts by improving its Reels feed. And honestly? I think they’ve done a decent job.

I’ve found myself consuming more and more content from the Reels tab. I still watch more on TikTok — but I’d say it’s more or a 60/40 split right now. Impressive considering Reels were borderline unwatchable less than a year ago.

While I, and several other social media managers, aren’t huge fans of the ‘video-ification’ of social media platforms — it does come with one benefit. We finally have an ounce of clarity as to what the Instagram algorithm was prioritizing. If you wanted to grow, well, you post Reels.

Well, we did.

Lately, as I’ve been scrolling Twitter, I’ve seen a handful of social media managers call out a trend they’re seeing:

Instagram de-prioritizing Reels performance.

So I asked my audience what they are seeing:

My favorite, and probably the most accurate, response came from my friend (and Head of Global Social for TSM) Dunc:

wait, people have something working on IG?

Lmao. Valid question.

But for real. Here are a few responses that stood out to me:

Mixed reviews for Reels.

So… what’s the move?

There are a few simple takeaways from my own observations, and the thoughtful responses above.

  1. Carousels are making a comeback

This was the most notable trend I saw in my responses.

If your brand is on Instagram, it’s worth experimenting with more carousels in the next few weeks. I know my team at Triple Whale will be.

Why are carousels appealing for the IG algorithm to promote?

Simple. They keep people on platform for longer. And for social media platforms that run on ad revenue, like Instagram, this is their purpose. Keep people on the platform for longer, so they can serve users more ads.

So as social media marketers, content that keeps people on platform for longer will get prioritized.

Here are a few easy ways to work more carousels into your Instagram strategy:

A) Infographics

B) Meme dumps

C) Behind-the-scenes photo dumps

D) Product photo carousels

Don’t over complicate this. I would recommend looking at the assets you and your team have available right now, and see how you can use them in carousel format.

For example: if you already post lot’s of product photos… just make them into a carousel versus posting them on their own.

Keep it simple.

  1. Reels are still very much alive

Again. Sorry about the subject line. But I had to make sure you read this edition and acquired this insane amount of value. Lol.

As of right now, Reels are still working for a lot of social media managers — and are still a viable content format for your brand.

  1. We’ve got options

I hate when platforms algorithmically coerce you into using a specific format.

The resurgence of carousels on Instagram in 2023 puts marketers in a position to choose.

Still enjoy video? Cool. Use Reels.

More of a writer? Cool. Use carousels.

Like both? Awesome. Use both formats.

This is a far more promising reality than every piece of social content being a highly optimized TikTok that melts your brain cells and fries your dopamine receptors.

Social media managers all have unique strengths and personal preferences. Find formats that align with these.


How am I using my own advice?

Simple. My team will be testing more carousels on Instagram in the coming weeks.

We are likely going to start with meme dumps (instead of posting a standalone meme) as the easiest, least resource-heavy way to test performance.

We already have loads of memes in the backlog, so we don’t need to do any work to post them as a carousel.

I do want to start testing some infographic-style carousels as well. I have an in-house graphic designer to work with, so this shouldn’t be hard to do.

We will still be using Reels — mainly for podcast clips, like we have been. These haven’t popped off for us yet. I suspect performance here will get better as we start recording more in person podcasts now that our Austin studio is built out. I mean… look at this 😍

I’ll keep you in the loop on how things before. But I swear, if Adam Mosseri drops a video on how carousels are being deprioritized in the next 3 weeks — I might just lose it.

That’s all I’ve got for today.