Facebook certainly wants you to think so. You’ve probably noticed a not-so-subtle prompt to recommend your Instagram Reels on FB since Facebook launched Reels globally in spring 2022. And while it’s clear that Facebook is thirsty for your attention, what’s not clear is whether that’s actually going to help your reach — or harm your brand.
Hypothesis: Posting Facebook Reels isn’t really worth it
Instagram Reels debuted in summer 2020, and the world politely ignored the fact that it looked very similar to TikTok.
Over the years, though, the feature has grown to have its own loyal user base — in India, Reels is actually more popular than TikTok— so it’s not really surprising that Facebook decided to follow suit with its own short-form video format.
Reels on Facebook 🎉
Today, Reels is launching globally on Facebook. Creators can now share their Instagram Reels as recommended content on Facebook for more visibility and reach.
We are deeply invested in Reels across Meta. A lot more to come! ✌🏼 pic.twitter.com/m3yi7HiNYP
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) February 22, 2022
After beta-testing in select markets, Facebook Reels are now available in 150 countries, on iOS and Android phones. Facebook even has announced extensive creator support programs, intended to encourage the adoption of the form.
But considering the relatively low adoption rate of Facebook Stories compared to that of Instagram Stories (only 300 million users watch Facebook stories, versus 500 million on Instagram), hopes are, shall we say, not high for this new feature.
Our hypothesis is that sharing our Instagram Reels to Facebook Reels won’t bring much additional engagement… but why throw shade when we can throw proof? Time for a little experiment to see just whether or not social media marketers should bother sharing Instagram Reels to Facebook.
The methodology for this grand experiment practically writes itself: create a Reel, hit the “Recommend on Facebook” toggle, and watch what happens.
Since it’s the exact same content being posted on both channels with this method, the comparison should be pretty straightforward.
Some things to note about recommending your Instagram Reels on Facebook, according to Facebook itself:
- Reels that you recommend on Facebook can be seen by anyone on Facebook, including people you aren’t friends with, and even people who you’ve blocked on Instagram or Facebook
- If someone plays or likes your Reel on both Instagram and Facebook, those count as separate.
- Instagram Reels with branded content tags won’t be recommend on Facebook. Reels with product tags can be recommended on Facebook, but the tags just won’t be visible there.
- Anyone watching your Reels on Facebook can reuse your original audio.
While I do have more followers on Insta than I do Facebook friends (something that sounds like a brag, but really is not), Reels are primarily consumed by new audiences by design. On both platforms, Reels are served up to potentially interested viewers as decreed by the algorithm, via the Explore tab or the dedicated Reels tab. In other words, the playing field feels pretty even.
For this experiment, I created three Reels right in the Instagram app and hit that sweet Facebook toggle. I followed best practices for Instagram Reels, with the intention of pleasing the almighty algorithm. I incorporated a sound clip, used filters, and tried to be entertaining. I also know it’s important for video clips to be shot vertically and be high-quality, so you’d better believe my shots were looking good.
Looking at Facebook’s list of best practices for Facebook Reels, the recommendations were almost identical. Seemingly, everything was good to go.
My creative work done. I then waited 24 hours to collect and analyze the data. How would the likes, shares and new followers stack up?
Of the three videos I posted… not one of them was actually played or liked on Facebook. Ouch.
All of my likes and plays came from Instagram, despite the fact I had toggled “Recommend on Facebook” for each one.
I’ll admit, I was pretty perplexed. While I wasn’t expecting anything to go viral (see our pessimistic hypothesis above), I thought I’d get at least a few eyeballs on my videos.
I mean, how can a masterpiece like this not stop people in their tracks?
It definitely isn’t encouraging me to flick that “Recommend on Facebook” toggle again in the future, that’s for sure.
What do the results mean?
TLDR: It can’t hurt to try, but if you’re not already popular on Facebook, sharing Reels on Facebook probably won’t get you any additional reach or engagement.
As with any other moment of rejection in life, I began to spiral and blame myself. Was I being punished because I didn’t post at the right time? Or because I posted through Instagram instead of directly on Facebook Reels? I didn’t use hashtags… maybe that would’ve been the key to success?
But once I stopped weeping, I entered the next stages of Social Media Grief: bargaining and acceptance. Facebook Reels are so new that people realistically just aren’t watching them at all yet. In fact, Facebook hasn’t released any data at all at this point about Reels’ proliferation to their audience, which is usually a sign they don’t have much to brag about.
I also realized that, if the Facebook Reels algorithm is anything like the Instagram Reels algorithm, it likely prioritizes content from already popular creators. Facebook wants to make sure people who are watching Facebook Reels are going to be delighted by what they see, so sharing videos from creators with a reputation for great work is a safer bet than, say, boosting the content of an unhinged writer-comedian with a humble 1.7K following who usually just posts photos of her baby.
In other words — if you’re already creating successful content for a wide audience through Instagram and Facebook’s other formats (posts, Stories), your Reels are going to have a better chance of being recommended on Facebook. If you’re just starting out or haven’t been seeing much engagement, it’s going to be slower going. It’s a catch-22: you have to be popular to get popular.
So: is toggling “recommend on Facebook” worth it? IMO, it can’t hurt. It takes a fraction of a second for the potential to reach billions of new people — after all, while my hilarious wrestling video wasn’t deemed worthy, you never know when your big breakthrough moment is going to be. Plus, the more consistently you post, the more likely Facebook is to reward you with exposure.
If you’re a newer creator or a brand with a smaller following, try these tips to help grow your presence and engagement — and hopefully impress that finicky Facebook algorithm in the process.
Use creative tools and filters
Take advantage of the editing suite in Instagram and Facebook when you’re making your video. Reels that feature music clips, filters, and effects get an extra boost from the algorithm.
Fill your caption with hashtags
Hashtags help the algorithm understand what your video is about, so it can then serve up your content to users who have shown interest in that topic. Just like you neatly labeled everything in your pantry after binge-reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, ID your Reels clearly and correctly!
Make it look good
Facebook and Instagram both favor videos that look and sound good. Use proper lighting and shooting techniques, making sure to shoot in a vertical orientation and with high resolution. (PS: both sites also don’t like watermarked videos — a.k.a. reposting from TikTok — so create fresh content to share here.)
Of course, Facebook Reels is in its infancy. Will it go the way of previous Facebook short-form video offerings? (Anyone out there remember the short-lived Slingshot? Anyone?) Or become a legitimate competitor in the space? Only time will tell! In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye on how it evolves. Stay tuned for more strategy and experiments from Hootsuite HQ.
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