Skip to content

Experiment: Does Turning Stories Into Reels Actually Work?

Instagram’s making it easy to turn your Stories Highlights into Reels. But how does that content perform compared to starting from scratch?

Stacey McLachlan August 30, 2022
Experiment: Does Repurposing Your Stories Highlights into Reels Actually Work? | Hootsuite

Much like Gretchen desperately attempted to get “Fetch” going in Mean Girls, Instagram is obsessed with trying to make Reels happen.

Instagram has rewarded Reels users with an algorithm boost, prioritized Reels on feeds and the explore page, and now, the platform has started what is essentially a recycling program, allowing users to easily repurpose Instagram Stories highlights into Reels with just a few taps.

But as we’ve learned from all sorts of shiny new social media features over the years (ahem, Twitter Fleets): Just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.

We’re honestly not convinced that reposting old Stories as Reels will do us any good. But here at Hootsuite Experiments, we let the data decide.

And so, once again, I’m donning my hard hat and am descending into the social media analytics mines to dig up some solid-gold proof about whether or not bending to Instagram’s will is worth it.

Does repurposing your Stories highlights to Reels actually work? Let’s find out.

Bonus: Download the free 10-Day Reels Challenge, a daily workbook of creative prompts that will help you get started with Instagram Reels, track your growth, and see results across your entire Instagram profile.


Reels made out of old stories don’t get as much engagement or reach as brand-new Reels

Sure, Instagram has made it incredibly easy to repurpose your old Instagram Stories as new Reels — it just takes a few taps to turn an old Story into ‘new’ content.

However, our theory is that brand new, original Reels will probably perform better and earn more engagement.

After all, Instagram’s goal is ultimately to create an entertaining, engaging content hub. (It’s what drives everything about the Instagram algorithm.) Rewarding users for recycling or rehashing old content doesn’t really seem in line with the platform’s grand vision.

But, hey, we’re happy to be proven wrong! It makes us feel alive! So I’m going to find out firsthand if repurposing your Stories as Reels is the best thing to do for Instagram engagement.


I decided to post some “fresh” Reels and some repurposed Stories and compare their reach and engagement.

To make my new Reels, I pulled some videos and photos from my camera roll, layered on a musical clip and some effects, and hit Publish. (New to Reels? Here are step-by-step instructions for how to make your own!)

renovation photo from camera roll upload to Instagram reel

For my repurposed Stories, I followed the instructions outlined in this Hootsuite Labs video. That meant looking back through my archived Stories and adding the ones I wanted to a new Highlight.

new highlight for experiments

For this project, I created five different new Highlights. I opened each Highlight, tapped the three dots on the bottom right corner, and tapped Convert to Reel.

Mascot Fest video convert to reel

This then opened the Reels editor, where I was able to change the music or add any additional filters or stickers. I also had the option to delete scenes at this point.

I made my edits, added a quick caption to each, and then sent my babies out into the world.

Yoro Park of Reversible Destiny in Japan share to reels

In total, I published five new Reels and five repurposed-from-Stories Reels. Then, I waited a few days to see how they did.

Stacey McLachlan Instagram page including new and repurposed reels


TL;DR: My repurposed Reels did slightly worse than my original Reels in terms of reach. But overall, Reels that featured personal, authentic content made the biggest impact.

results of repurposed and new Instagram reels showing number of plays for each reel on Instagram

Remember, I posted five Reels from Highlights and five original Reels. Here’s how the reach and engagement for each style worked out:

Type of ReelTotal ViewsTotal Likes
Repurposed From Highlight1204
Brand New Reels1417

My most popular Reels from this batch of experiments were ones that were authentic and personal: One of me having the best day of my life at a mascot festival, another of me performing comedy, and a reveal of my recent renovation.

mascot grand prix

The Reels with the worst success rate were impersonal travel videos I had thrown together. I guess it’s flattering to know people care about me more than they care about endangered elephants or beautiful beaches?

Overall, there didn’t seem to be a distinct benefit to publishing Reels from your Stories Highlights. It was the content that mattered, not the method I used to build the Reel.

What do the results mean?

Am I humiliated that no one cared at all about my chill beach-scape Reel? Of course. But from the pain of this experiment came some important lessons and reflections.

Authenticity is the ultimate algorithm hack

While Instagram often rewards users for taking a chance on a new feature with an algorithmic boost, it ultimately comes back to this: Great content is the not-so-secret secret to success.

Content your followers find compelling will earn engagement more than any algorithmic boost ever could. So focus on creating engaging, value-driven posts, Stories and Reels to get the most out of Instagram.

You can’t get Insights from Highlights… but you can get Insights from Reels

While you can see the number of views and likes of an individual Instagram Story, it’s currently not possible to see how many views your Highlights get.

That means there’s one benefit of creating a Reel out of Highlights: You can actually measure how much reach or engagement that particular combination of Stories get.

Highlights can be a helpful compilation tool

Using your Highlights to gather content over a long period of time could actually be helpful as well.

For instance, I spent 22 long weeks working on my apartment renovation last year and was adding all of my reno-related posts to one Highlight. Instead of digging around in my camera roll to make a dramatic Reel about the experience, I could easily convert all that sweet drywall-encrusted content into one neat-and-tidy Reel with a few taps. (Studies have shown that setting your construction trauma to music can soften the pain.)

All right, that’s enough out of me! It’s time to stop looking for shortcuts to Instagram success and start making amazing Reels that reflect your brand voice and delight your audience. Dig into our tutorial for making winning Reels, and you may never feel tempted to hack the system ever again.

Easily schedule and manage Reels alongside all your other content from Hootsuite’s super simple dashboard. Schedule Reels to go live while you’re OOO, post at the best possible time (even if you’re fast asleep), and monitor your reach, likes, shares, and more.

Get Started

Save time and stress less with easy Reels scheduling and performance monitoring from Hootsuite. Trust us, it’s reely easy.

Free 30-Day Trial

Become a better social marketer.

Get expert social media advice delivered straight to your inbox.

By Stacey McLachlan

Stacey McLachlan is an award-winning writer and editor from Vancouver with more than a decade of experience working for print and digital publications.

She is editor-at-large for Western Living and Vancouver Magazine, author of the National Magazine Award-nominated 'City Informer' column, and a regular contributor to Dwell. Her previous work covers a wide range of topics, from SEO-focused thought-leadership to profiles of mushroom foragers, but her specialties include design, people, social media strategy, and humor.

You can usually find her at the beach, or cleaning sand out of her bag.

Read more by Stacey McLachlan

Related Articles