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Experiment: Does Instagram Care If You Edit Your Reels with CapCut?

Wondering if third-party editing tools are ruining your Instagram reach? We were curious, too, so we put on our lab coats and went to work.

Stacey McLachlan June 19, 2024
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It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Instagram’s video editing tools. There’s the green screen effect, you can add text and filters, and the music library is overflowing with Taylor Swift songs.

But sometimes, only a third-party editing app will get the job done. The question is: if you edit your Reels outside of the Instagram app, will your reach and engagement suffer for it?

Here on the Hootsuite Blog, there’s only one way to find out. That’s right, we’re putting our Reels to a real test.

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.

Hypothesis

Instagram doesn’t care if you use third-party tools to edit your Reels

If you’ve played around with CapCut or other video-editing apps, you might’ve found a tool that works better for your personal creative process or a unique filter that you’re obsessed with.

As someone who struggles with Reel creation in the Instagram app, I’m happy there are other video-editing solutions that don’t make me say, “Why can’t I do this? Is something wrong with my thumbs?!” (I’m a digital elder at this point, OK?! I lived through Nexopia; show some respect!)

And according to Instagram, it doesn’t matter where you make your video as long as it doesn’t feature a watermark. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has even said that Reels will not be downranked if they’re made in third-party apps like CapCut.

A still from one of Adam Mosseri's Instagram Stories. Someone has used the question stick to ask "is it true that my reels get downranked if I use 3rd party tools, like capcut?" The on-screen captions show Mosseri's (partial) response, which is "To Instagram it will not get downranked"

Image via Reddit

But there are folks out there who believe that dabbling in third-party video editing apps will hurt your content more than it helps.

Skeptical social media managers and creators have reported decreased reach, fewer likes, and fewer followers — a shadowban, in other words — and decided the culprit is the editing software.

Hootsuite’s own social experts don’t use the Instagram app to edit their videos, so they don’t have any in-app posts to compare performance to. But social marketing specialist Eileen Kwok believes it’s likely that your editing tool would have an impact on a post’s performance.

“At the end of the day, all social apps want you to spend as long as possible on their network,” she says. “Platforms are aware that users often cross-post. Since TikTok and Instagram are competitors, it makes sense that their algorithms might favor videos that have been filmed or edited with their tools.”

Anecdotes and gut feelings, though, are not how we solve a mystery around these parts. Away to the feed we go!

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Methodology

The plan for this big experiment was pretty simple: make some Reels using Instagram, make some Reels using CapCut, and see which ones perform best.

The trick would be to create videos with similar content to make sure we were comparing apples to apples for this experiment.

Unfortunately, my own personal feed is a chaotic mix of career brags, blurry karaoke videos, pics of my toddler and comedy show posters—not exactly consistent fodder for social media science.

So I turned to someone with a fanatic following and a near-obsessive commitment to one topic for help: my husband, who runs a pro-wrestling promotion.

I asked him for six wrestling videos and a peek behind the scenes at his Instagram analytics, and he obliged. (Now, this is what marriage is all about.)

He edited three using Instagram’s in-app tools (below)…

editing a reel using Instagram

and three with CapCut (below)…

editing a reel using capcut

then posted each to the Boom Pro Wrestling Instagram account at the same time each day.

Then, we sat back to see which body-slam vids brought the most heat.

Results

Sorry, social media conspiracy theorists: Reels edited with CapCut didn’t see reduced reach.

In fact, the CapCut videos did far better than content edited directly in Instagram.

instagram reels performance

Though normally we would use the beautiful scheduling power of Hootsuite to post our social content, to truly test the in-app versus not-in-app question, I decided we needed to upload them all natively through Insta for pure data.

Tragically, that means we couldn’t pull analytics from the very good Hootsuite Analytics dashboard and had to use Instagram Insights instead. (But hey, sometimes social media science requires sacrifices.)

I added up the reach and Reel interactions (likes, shares, comments) from each video to show the performance of Reels edited in CapCut compared to Reels edited in Instagram.

Editing ToolAverage ReachAverage Reel Interactions
CapCut2,712119
Instagram1,672119

As you can see, the CapCut-edited videos did just fine.

While average interactions were about the same for both types of posts, CapCut-edited videos saw almost twice as much reach.

Obviously, this is a small sample size, but the results are dramatic enough to make me say that if CapCut and the Instagram app were in a wrestling match, CapCut would have easily pinned its opponent.

We can conclude, then, that Instagram-edited posts don’t get a boost in the algorithm.

That means you’re free to get out there and mix things up (or “find a new tag-team partner,” if you’d like to continue with the wrestling metaphor).

What do the results mean?

There are a couple of lessons to learn from this grand, wrestling-themed social media experiment.

Your editing tools aren’t to blame

The big takeaway here is that your editing tools are not necessarily to blame for your post’s bad performance. You don’t have to stick with Instagram’s Reel creation features if they don’t work for you.

Here are six Instagram Reels editing apps to experiment with. Go wild!

Great content conquers all

It’s not a fun ‘hack,’ I know, but the best way to achieve reach is ultimately to create great content.

The Boom Wrestling posts were all fun, lively, dynamic and engaging, so they all did well no matter what tool was used for editing.

Quality posts will get a boost from the algorithm, and if a tool like CapCut can help you make the best Reel possible, then don’t fear it.

Bonus! Tips for creating better Instagram Reels

If it’s not a shadowban holding you back, I’m sorry to say, it might just be your content.

But don’t stress! That’s a very fixable problem to have, because we’ve got all the hot tips and tricks you need to create better Instagram Reels.

Make your content look good

Visually appealing videos are going to do better than ho-hum ones — so bring the pizazz.

Shoot vertically and keep things high-res if possible. Take advantage of editing features and filters to make your content pop.

Check out these tips for making short-form videos that wow.

Study your stats

Analytics are your not-so-secret tool for pleasing your audience.

Dig into your Instagram metrics and you’ll see exactly what kind of content your followers like (or despise).

Head to Analytics on your Hootsuite dashboard for a robust breakdown of performance stats, like Plays, Likes, Comments, Reach, Engagement Rate and more.

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Put people in your Instagram Reels

We did a little experiment (do we ever sleep?!) that revealed Reels featuring people tend to perform far better than those without.

And if people like a video, then the algorithm is going to like it, too.

As fun as animation or product shots can be, get some faces in there to really see your reach take off.

Add trending music

The right song can take your already great video to the top.

The algorithm tends to give trending sound clips a boost, so if you find a popular tune that would make the right soundtrack for your vid, slap it on there for optimal reach.

Fashion account @styleisstyle shared her casual-cool outfit to the tune of a popular Strawberry Guy tune… along with 226K other Instagrammers.

Offer value

Looking and sounding good are just part of the equation for a smash-hit Reel. You need to offer something of value to your viewers, too.

Is it something educational, something entertaining, or something inspiring? Are you going to delight them with humor, give them exclusive access or provoke them with the promise of a surprise twist?

Self-promotional material gets old fast. Great Reels leave followers feeling like they got something out of the interaction… like a front-row seat to the most dramatic twist in Boom Pro Wrestling history.

Post at the right time

Even if you’ve created the most beautiful Reel in history, if you post it when your followers are all fast asleep, your Reach and Engagement is going to be less than great.

Schedule your Reels ahead of time with Hootsuite to get your content out there when it can make the biggest impact.

hootsuite planner

Plus, Hootsuite’s scheduling tool will even suggest the best times to post. That means less time spent calculating, more filming hilarious behind-the-scenes videos with your coworkers.

That’s it for this time! But if this experiment has you hankering for even more social media exploration, check out the rest of our Hootsuite Experiments here.

Start building your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. Schedule and publish posts directly to Instagram, engage your audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles — all from one simple dashboard. Try it free today.

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

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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

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