While Instagram Reels are still a significant focus for the platform and they still generally perform well for most… it’s no shock that overall reach and views are DOWN on Reels these days.
There’s a number of reasons for this, including the fact that Instagram has said they are “rebalancing” the priority of content to make Reels weighted equally to photos. Of course, if your audience prefers video, your Reels should perform better and if your audience prefers photos, you’ll see those regain momentum for distribution and engagement.
In addition to this, there’s just MORE content now to compete with. A year ago, most people were not creating Reels. And half the Reels out there were just TikTok uploads or mediocre content so it was a lot easier to get more distribution. But now, everyone is on the Reels bandwagon (ugh, even me lol) and so there’s a lot more competition.
This all means, that, for most of us, when a Reel could have easily reached 5000 views a year ago, it may now only reach 500 views.
But there’s got to be something you can do to boost those views, right?
Of course there is!
Here are my three tips to get more views on Reels. And none of these involve dancing, picking trending audio, or doing anything you don’t like in the videos themselves. Of course, there’s argument that these things can help, but that’s a whole other topic!
You can check out this Instagram post for the short version of these tips and you can read below for the long explanation of each!
Have a STRONG cover photo
This is so frequently overlooked and yet it’s one of the most powerful ways to garner more views and boost retention on your Reels.
When you are in the final screen for uploading your Reel, you can add your caption and select a cover image. The system defaults to a frame from the video itself and you can even choose “edit cover” and select any frame from the video. DO. NOT. DO. THIS.
Instead, you want to design a cover image outside Instagram and have it ready on your mobile device to upload. This cover image should have, most importantly, the title/topic of the video. If that’s all it has, that’s still better than a still frame from the video. But you can also include a photo of you, your brand logo, or something else representative of your brand. You can (should) build the cover image in your brand colors and fonts for consistency and recognition too.
In all fairness, yes, you can build this in Canva or some editing tool if you want. This allows you to have a template and easily create consistency in your cover images. This is one I did with Canva:
Often, I will take a photo of myself, sitting exactly where I’m filming the Reel (leaving enough room for the text) and then use a simple app on my phone to throw up a text overlay. That way the image looks exactly like what the video does (same lighting, outfit, makeup, etc.) but clearly conveys the topic with the text I add. This is one I did with this method:
Regardless of how you choose to create the cover image, the key is to make it something with the title clearly labeled and, ideally, something representative of what they’ll see in the video (person, product, tip, etc.).
WHY THIS WORKS: The reality is that if you want to reach NEW people with your Reels, you have to convince them to watch the video. If they don’t know you, seeing your face on a video cover is no incentive to watch. They have no idea who you are, what you talk about, what they can expect from the video, etc. Even if the video is just a cute puppy chasing it’s tail, a still image of a puppy tells nothing about the context of the video. Having the right cover image invites the RIGHT audience to watch the video. It also increases the likelihood of them watching MORE of the video because they know you’re going to address the topic they are interested in. So, when you have a good cover image, it helps you get more views in Explore and recommended results. Oh, and when people share your video to their Stories or to their friends in DMs, more people are likely to watch the video and engage with it because they know what to expect from the video too. It also helps when someone comes to your profile and goes to your Reels tab – they can easily pick which videos to watch based on the information (or entertainment) they are looking for.
This is one of those things that still gets widely debated, but I’m telling you, yes, hashtags still work in general. But they are critical on Reels. For the most part, your Reels caption should be super short – like one line. A quick title, statement, or question meant to get people interested in the topic of your video. So, with a one line caption, you have very little information available to the AI (artificial intelligence) in the background scraping data to determine where to categorize your Reel.
But, that’s what hashtags do! They literally tell Instagram what topics and keywords are related to your video. This means your video gets better categorization, more reach to the right audiences – especially those searching for certain topics or scrolling through the Explore page.
So dump in those hashtags! The more, the better. Use 20-30 hashtags on each Reel, all related to your industry, your business, the video content itself, your target audience, etc. Oh, and make sure you put those hashtags in the CAPTION on the post, not in a comment. Hashtags in a comment don’t get sourced for categorization.
Topics are taking the hashtag idea one step further in terms of helping Instagram properly categorize your Reels. Now, unfortunately, the options for Topics are incredibly limited and most people I work with struggle to find good categories to choose. Plus, you can only pick THREE topics per Reel so you can’t do too much (which is why those hashtags are so important!).
Regardless of this limitation though, Instagram does consider these topics significantly when ranking content for distribution in Explore, search, and recommended content. So you want to use them as best you can.
To add topics, you’ll want to select the “Add Topics” option on the final edit screen when you’re uploading your Reel. After you add the caption (and hashtags), scroll down the screen and select the “Add Topics” option then scroll through the list of options and pick three that most relate to your business, industry, and video topic.
After selecting your topics, tap “Done” in the upper right corner to go back to the upload screen to finish uploading your Reel.
So there you have three tactical steps you can start doing on your next Reel to get more reach and views. You want to make sure you do these three things consistently on all your Reels – or as many as possible. (No you don’t need to go back and edit old Reels, and you can’t change cover photos once uploaded.)
Like all things on Instagram, sometimes you’ll find that even though you use the same strategy every time, some do better than others. So you won’t always get more reach or more views or more engagement by using these three tactics. But, in general, yes, it will improve your overall performance of your videos and help you boost those numbers!