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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
In total, I published five new Reels and five repurposed-from-Stories Reels. Then, I waited a few days to see how they did.
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.
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 Reel
Repurposed From Highlight
Brand New Reels
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.
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.
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.