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“Hooks” are purposefully implemented marketing devices designed to pique the interest of a target audience. Hooks are often used in Reels and many consider them to even be the most accurate predictor of success for a Reel. But do hooks really help your Reels to achieve higher engagement rates and reach? And if so, what kind of hook is best? We analyzed over 700 Reels in detail as part of our Reels Study and took a closer look at the most popular hooks. Here’s what we learned.
In this blog post
Question hooks are terrific for high reach, but not the best path to high engagement rates
Questions are a terrific starting point for a successful Reel. They challenge the audience, create room for conversation, and can serve as a teaser for your Reel. We found that questions at the beginning of a Reel have a strong positive effect on the reach of your Reel (+ 160%) but, surprisingly, they do not significantly increase engagement rates (+ 4%).
To get the maximum reach, we recommend asking a question that appeals to a broad audience, such as “What’s the best way to deal with rejection?”, “How do you find love?”, or “Are you in the top 10%?”.
You can address your questions directly to the audience or to a third person who appears in the Reel and answers the posed question.
You can also use provocative questions to entertain the audience and arouse curiosity.
However, if you combine your questions with this next element, you can also increase your engagement rates.
Building anticipation with hooks increases both reach and engagement
When you are creating a Reel, it can pay to build excitement and anticipation for your content right from the start. Our study shows that hooks that stir expectations and pique audience curiosity average 55% higher reach and 50% higher engagement rates. But how exactly do you raise the right expectations? Here are some ideas …
At the beginning of your Reel, formulate a goal, a reward, or open with a challenge such as: “The last person to leave the roller coaster wins 1,000 Euros.” You can also announce in your opening statement that your Reel will feature a stand-out moment or that your viewer will experience intense emotions when watching your Reel, e.g. “The most beautiful declaration of love ever will leave you speechless.”
Alternatively, you can phrase your suspense-generating hook in a way that convinces the viewer to learn something important or that they will uncover a secret when they watch your Reel.
To create expectations with your hook, it’s important not to give away exactly what’s behind your first statement. To find out more, the viewer must decide to keep watching.
Reels that cover a theme that the widest possible user base can relate to will generally receive the highest reach. The most suitable topics to achieve this are those that concern us all, such as love/hate, money, success/failure, and freedom/restriction.
Statements and odd facts will boost your Reels’ reach, but not your engagement rates
Captivating Reels can also start with a sensational fact or a strong personal opinion. In this case too, the goal is to jolt the viewer out of his or her scrolling “rut.” Some examples of attention-grabbing statements are: “This is how the IRS pays for your very own Porsche” and “This man scammed the U.S. government out of $60 million.”
Highly polarizing statements such as “Women belong in the kitchen!” work just as well, of course, although it does not sit well with us to recommend flooding the Internet with even more dubious content.
For the hook to work, the only thing that matters is that the fact or personal opinion is presented with conviction and triggers an emotional reaction for the viewer. The statement should appeal to your target audience and pique their curiosity. Here, Fanpage Karma can assist you in identifying the interests of your own target audience.
Reels that use these types of hooks have 117% higher reach, but only 17% higher engagement rates than Reels that don’t have a compelling start. If you want your Reels to reach twice as many people, you might want to try this technique.
Unconventional hooks arouse curiosity, but rarely show better results
Unconventional and creative starts can be another hook you can use to arouse curiosity and generate attention. Examples of this type of hook include wearing crazy outfits, showing curious objects, and filming taboo topics. Unconventional ideas such as dogs’ tails wagging to the beat of the Reel’s music, filming the handwriting of a personal letter, or employing graphic elements such as magnifying glasses to highlight some area of your Reel and direct your viewer’s gaze were also used.
Surprisingly, however, our study found that Reels with such creative ideas showed only slightly higher reach and engagement rates than Reels without a gripping start (+11% reach, +17% engagement).
However, you cannot only use curiosity as a way to motivate viewers to watch your Reel. Strong emotions are another commonly used tool to convince viewers to keep watching. That’s why we’ve taken a closer look at how highly emotional starts resonate with Reel viewers, which you will find out about now.
Apart from the Reels with anticipation-generating and curiosity-awakening hooks, other Reels go into full swing right away. These Reels emphasize creating emotions right from the get-go. In this section, you will find the most effective hooks that employ strong emotions along with those that you might think will work, but you’d better leave alone.
Negative emotions as a Reel hook lend itself to high reach, but can ultimately backfire
Angry, fear-inducing, and loss-of-focus hooks increase Reel reach by an average of 80%, but not engagement (+2%). Unfortunately, there are many polarizing examples of this type of hook, such as “Germany’s douchebag plan for nuclear power plants.” But you can use negative emotions also in another way, as the following example shows.
We came across a Reel in which a female realtor was browsing the web for new real estate to acquire. The Reel starts with the hook: “The feeling when someone snatches something away from under your nose 😡” and then goes on to act out a scene in which she found a great offer, but upon calling the owner she was informed that “
Unfortunately, two minutes before her someone else called and already showed ‘major‘ interest.” The remarkable thing about this second example is that it addresses a situation that (almost) everyone can identify with. Every one of us has had something snatched from under our noses. This makes the Reel less divisive, and more unifying in its anger.
If you want to express negative emotions, always make sure that your audience can identify with the content of your Reel or support your opinion. Otherwise, such Reels can backfire very quickly.
Hooks that “wow” lead to high engagement rates, but often receive low reach
Hooks that amaze or positively shock viewers increase engagement rates by 134% compared to Reels without a captivating start. However, those Reels often reach fewer people (26% less reach compared to Reels with no hooks) since the viewer’s initial sense of wonder wears off throughout the Reel.
To avoid this, you should impress not only at the beginning, but throughout your entire Reel. It is important not to set high expectations at the start which your content will not be able to fulfill. If you already have a gripping story, you can try a “WOW start” to snatch the viewer out of their scrolling.
Examples of WOW starts include: showcasing something novel, filming awe-inspiring natural phenomena, spectacular outfits, magical locations, highlights from sporting events, crazy stunts, or exceptional talent.
Enthusiasm is well shared, but not much more liked
Not only starts that cause amazement can trigger emotions in viewers, but enthusiastic and passionate starts, too. If you produce Reels in which your protagonists are burning with passion and enthusiasm right from the start, you can increase your reach by 80% on average. However, you’re only likely to see your engagement rates grow by 11%.
You can express such enthusiasm from the beginning by displaying dancing and singing in your Reel, filming exuberant celebrations, a sports commentator raising his voice and excitedly reporting on an incredible highlight, as well as emotional highlights from concerts or emotional moments, such as celebrating personal successes.
High spirits are contagious, and so is passion. But you shouldn’t make the mistake of confusing passion and enthusiasm with the following …
Surprise: Contrary to popular belief, action-packed or fast-cut starts do not work well
The notion that Reels can only be successful if they have an action-packed start is endorsed by many content creators. But surprisingly, our Reels study revealed that Reels featuring quick cuts and lots of action in the first few seconds doesn’t yield better results than not using them. In fact, on average, they even have slightly less reach and significantly worse engagement rates.
Instead of starting with fast cuts, we recommend starting with a short lead-in, a question, or a challenge to connect with the viewer and pique their curiosity. The viewer needs to be led into the situation and the emotional meanings behind the actions being shown. From our point of view, it is important that the viewer can relate to the thoughts, emotions, and challenges of the protagonists.
Can you perhaps make a Reel more personally relevant by looking at your audience at the beginning of a Reel? Some Reels try to do that …
Surprise: Eye contact has no influence on reach and engagement
Eye contact at the beginning of a Reel does not affect reach and engagement. In our study, the average reach of Reels with eye contact was only nine percent higher and engagement rates were seven percent lower than for Reels that did not establish eye contact in the first seconds. In other words, it is unnecessary to look directly at the camera in order to capture viewers’ attention. Other factors play a more important role.
Surprise: Introductory texts also don’t help your Reels reach a wider audience
Our research reveals that introductory texts by themselves do not necessarily lead to significantly increased reach. Results vary widely, with some Reels containing introductory text receiving only a few views, while others reach a broad audience. Overall, engagement rates increase by 20% when introduction text is used, while reach increases by only 9%.
To maximize the potential of an introductory text in your Reels, make sure that the intro stirs curiosity or explains the scene being featured in the Reel. Avoid advertising copy, brand names, or introductory text in front of a plain background that fills the entire screen. We also recommend creating the text directly in the Instagram app. This way you create a more native look and feel to gain more trust of your viewers. For more advice on crafting your intro text, check out the first part of this blog article.
Increase your engagement rates by showing beauty
Our study shows that Reels displaying something particularly beautiful in the first few seconds land on one-fifth more screens and get 64% more likes and comments on average.
Show gorgeous landscapes or impressive architecture, for example, but combine them with a story or an emotion to maximize your audience’s engagement. This way you keep the viewer as a viewer after the initial WOW moment. Give your viewer more than just beautiful video footage, let them partake in your feelings and experiences.
Arouse your viewers’ curiosity in the first few seconds and let them know the wonderful things they can expect from your Reel. Surprise, amaze, and raise questions. Be sure to pick up your viewers and lead them into the situation you’re showing.
But our study also shows that the hook isn’t everything. A catchy hook doesn’t guarantee high engagement rates, and it doesn’t cover up bad content. At all costs, avoid creating high expectations and, consequently, disappointment. “Watch-bait” – i.e. not delivering on what you promised – will be punished and hurt you in your quest for higher reach. Focus on good content and combine it with an anticipation-building hook to get the most out of your Reels.
All of our results were obtained through an analysis in Fanpage Karma. If you want to find out for yourself what works best in your industry and with your fans, we invite you to try Fanpage Karma for free and find out for yourself.
Also check out our other tips on Instagram Reels.