Instagram Reel vs. Story: Which Video Format Should You Use?

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Karen Lin

Instagram 101 | May 30, 2024

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Instagram used to be all about pictures. People on the app used to focus on taking stunning photo sets and posting them on their feeds. But today, video is taking over the platform. And there are two key formats people are head over heels for—Instagram Reels and Stories. But which one is better? Let’s deeply dive into the battle of Instagram Reel vs. Story.

Reels and Stories have many similarities but boast unique features that make them better than the others in certain situations. Today, we’ll uncover what makes these two vertical, short-form video content formats tick and when you should use them.

Stories and Reels are both vertical video formats on Instagram. But they have a lot of differences that make them unique

Instagram Reel vs. Story: The Battle of Short-Form Video Content Formats

According to Microsoft, the human attention span in the digital age is down to eight seconds. To be honest, it’s probably a little less than that by now, as many experts think it’s rapidly declining. And if your audience’s attention span is that quick? You can’t expect to grab their attention and interest with outrageously long videos.

Short-form video content has taken over social media in recent years. Short videos under a minute long are concise, snappy, and get straight to the point while staying relevant. They’re also addicting to watch since you can simply scroll to watch the next one. They don’t waste any time and can catch someone’s attention fast.

Instagram has two short-form video formats on its platform—Stories and Reels. Both formats allow brands to express themselves creatively through videos while interacting with their followers. But which one is better? Let the battle of Instagram Reel vs. Story commence, starting with a quick definition of each format.

Reels 101: What Is an Instagram Reel vs. Story?

Let’s start with Reels. What is an Instagram Reel vs. Story? In a nutshell, Instagram Reels are short, entertaining, multi-clip videos people can make to express themselves. Many people use Reels to tell stories, jump on trendy challenges, and showcase their talent. It’s basically Instagram’s answer to TikTok videos.

Instagram has an in-app editor that makes it easy to stitch clips and photos together to create Reels. They even have easy templates to use if you’re not well-versed in video editing. These snackable videos can run up to 90 seconds long and run on a loop.

You can watch Instagram Reels on their own dedicated Explore tab. A lot of people scroll through these short videos for hours because they’re fun and easy to consume. Plus, the app’s algorithm makes it so that you see Reels that align with your interests!

Unlike regular posts, Instagram shows Reels even to people outside your follower base, allowing you to reach new audiences. That makes it an excellent tool for brands that want to make noise about their products creatively.

People who view your Reels can like and comment on it, just like regular posts. They can also share their favorite Reels with their friends over DM or on Stories. When this happens, your Reel gets more views!

Instagram Reels is undeniably a powerhouse format. Since their launch, there has been a decline in the average engagement rate of regular feed posts. At the same time, there’s been a massive increase in engagement for brands that focus their content on Reels instead.

So, do Stories stand a chance in the Instagram Reel vs. Story battle?

Unseen person deciding if they could create an Instagram Story or Reel with their content.

Everything About Instagram Stories: What Are They vs. Reels?

Reels might be great, but Instagram Stories have their advantages, too. Stories are bite-sized videos you can post on your profile. They used to be up to 15 seconds long only. But now, you can create Stories that are up to a full minute long.

After 24 hours, these videos expire and are kept in your archive. You can also choose to pin them on your Story Highlights, which sit on the top of your Instagram profile.

Because Stories are temporary, people love to use them for candid videos of self-expression. They use it to show people their food, express random thoughts, or pose silly questions to make their followers laugh. The best part is there’s no pressure to curate perfect, aesthetically pleasing Stories since they’ll expire anyway!

One of the coolest things about Stories is that you can use them to interact with your followers. You can use interactive stickers like polls, emoji sliders, Q&A tags, the trendy “add yours” sticker, and more to engage your followers. It adds a fun, personal touch to your daily content.

Instagram Stories are positioned right on the top of the Instagram app when you open it. This prime position lets people immediately see your Story if they follow you. However, unlike Reels, Instagram doesn’t show your Stories to new audiences. People must follow you or visit your page to watch your Stories.

What These Instagram Video Formats Have in Common

As you can tell, many differences exist between Instagram Stories and Reels. But they have tons of similarities as well.

The biggest thing they have in common is that they are both vertical video formats. That means they’re both designed for mobile-first consumption, making them addicting to watch if someone is on their phone.

How you create these videos are quite similar, too. For example, Instagram allows you to edit your Stories and Reels creatively. You can add music options and text overlays in both formats to make them more engaging.

Both short-form video content formats allow you to show more personality than in photos. They let you tell a more elevated visual story, especially when you add music and text to them. So, they’re both excellent for creating an emotional connection with your audience. That means you can use both in your social media engagement strategy if you want to.

Instagram Post vs. Story vs. Reel: What’s the Difference?

Now that you know about Instagram Reel vs. Story, let’s throw another format into the mix. How about Instagram Post vs. Story vs. Reel?

The difference between regular Instagram posts and video formats like Stories and Reels is that the latter can be static images only. Regular feed posts are simply one or more square or rectangular photos or videos on your feed.

Feed posts might be more challenging for others to view or discover than Stories and Reels. Reels have their own Explore tab, and Stories show up at the very top of the feed. But feed posts might not even show up on your followers’ feeds if it’s drowned out by other posts.

This can hurt your average engagement rate in the long run. To maintain a good engagement rate, focusing your content on Stories and Reels with just a few weekly feed posts is essential. And don’t worry about your feed looking empty. When you post Reels, you have the choice of putting it on your feed, too.

Another difference between regular feed posts and Instagram’s short video formats is their key performance indicators. The success of Stories and Reels relies heavily on video views. That’s not the case for regular posts—even those that include video clips. Here’s how most brands will measure success on their posts:

·   Regular posts: Likes, comments, and shares.

·   Instagram Stories: Likes, replies that go straight to DM, number of views, and number of interactions on stickers.

·   Instagram Reels: Likes, comments, shares, number of views, and reshares on Stories.

An Instagram feed full of regular photo posts and no video content.

Instagram Reels vs. Stories vs. IGTV: Why Short-Form Video Content Wins

Let’s compare our video content to one last format—Instagram Reels vs. Stories vs. IGTV.

IGTV was a feature Instagram had a few years back that allowed people to explore long-form videos. It was similar to the Instagram Reels Explore tab but with longer video content, including shows and vlogs.

Most people could post videos up to 10 minutes long. But bigger brands could post hour-long video content if they wanted to. But in 2022, when Instagram realized that people loved consuming short-form video content, IGTV was scrapped.

Across the board on social media, short-form videos are the way to go. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, making it difficult to catch their attention. So, piquing their interest with quick, snappy, witty videos is the key to social media success.

Here are just a few reasons why short-form videos (like Reels and Stories) are king on Instagram:

·   They’re easier to digest. The message is delivered quickly, and viewers don’t waste time watching unnecessarily long videos.

·   You can share them with other people. You can’t always expect your friends to watch a 15-minute YouTube video at any time of the day. But you can send them Instagram Reels or tag them in a quick Story without disrupting their day.

·   You can get more engagement with shorter videos than longer ones. People may skip your Stories if they’re way too long. They also might not finish your entire Reel if it feels dragging. Shorter videos allow for more complete views. And when people don’t skip your content and are interested in it, you could rake in more engagement.

Two girls filming a dance challenge for an Instagram Reel that they want to go viral.

When To Use Instagram Reels or Stories for Your Posts

Now, let’s go back to the main battle—Instagram Reels vs. Stories. When creating content for your brand, which one is better? The honest answer is that it depends on the content you aim for.

Reels and Stories each have their strengths and weaknesses. The type of video format you should use depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Let’s go through some common types of video content people love to post on Instagram and which format is best.

Entertaining Videos You Want To Go Viral

You want to post entertaining, relatable video clips and are crossing your fingers that they go viral. You should use Instagram Reels.

Stories are limited to your followers and expire after 24 hours, so virality isn’t exactly in the equation. But Reels are served even to people who don’t follow you. If you get enough views and engagements on your Reel, you could end up with thousands of views. And if it goes viral, you could find tons of new followers.

Reels are an awesome format for creating visual masterpieces or funny videos with trendy audio in the background. And because they don’t expire, people can continually rediscover them. Or go back to these to watch them again, increasing your total view count!

A man filming a video to update his followers on his hike.

Quick Daily Updates for Your Followers

What about daily life updates you want to give your friends and loyal followers? Instagram Story vs. Reel—Which is the better format to go with?

Because of the authentic and candid nature of Instagram Stories, they’re the perfect way to share lighthearted life updates with your followers. There’s no pressure to create polished photos or videos for Stories because they expire anyway.

Stories are a great way to share your day with other people. You can be as spontaneous as you want on Stories. Don’t be afraid just to whip out your phone, take a video to show your followers where you are, and then post it!

Information About Your Online Business

You can always post information about your business in your Instagram bio or regular feed posts. But to make it extra fun and attention-grabbing, consider doing it with short-form video content.

If you run an Instagram business, we highly recommend that you do this with Stories. Sure, they expire after a day. But you can always pin these Stories on your Highlights afterward. That way, potential customers who visit your page can find them at the very top of your profile for easy access.

You can create Story Highlights for business-related content, like FAQs, behind-the-scenes content, customer reviews, and return policies. Don’t forget to curate cute covers for your Highlights to make them look cohesive and tied together.

a woman in a white robe holding a small bottle of liquid and a phone

Product-Centric Content

Next up, we have product-centric content. Let’s say you want to feature your brand’s clothes, bags, fitness equipment, or other goods and services in your video content. Reels vs. Stories on Instagram—What is the best format to use?

Product-centric posts for businesses are considered evergreen content. They will always be relevant to the consumer, no matter when they see it. It simply doesn’t make sense to put them on Instagram Stories, which expire in just 24 hours. So, it’s best to put this type of content on Reels, where people can return to them anytime.

It’s also smart to put videos about your products on Instagram Reels because they’re more discoverable to people outside your fanbase. If new potential customers stumble upon your Reel, it could lead to more sales.

Reels are also allowed to go on longer than Stories by 30 seconds. That gives you more time to talk about your product and showcase all its best features. 

Visual Storytelling Posts

Videos that require visual storytelling also do very well on Instagram Reels vs. Stories. Content like picking an outfit to wear or following a recipe in the kitchen can look stunning when edited using the Reels creator. You can also use Reels to tell an aesthetically pleasing story about your recent travels.

Granted, you can do all these on Stories as well. However, they might not be as polished since you can’t creatively stitch together clips on Stories the way you can on Reels.

Announcing Limited-Time Offers and Brand Deals

If you have limited-time offers you want to share with your followers, it’s best to use Instagram Stories instead of Reels. These include affiliate links with brands that expire soon and discounts available for specific times of the day.

Because these offers aren’t relevant forever, you don’t want them up on your page for eternity. Since Stories expire after 24 hours, they’re perfect for this situation. Their position at the top of the app also allows your followers to see them right away—crucial for time-bound content.

Interacting With Your Followers

Instagram Reels vs. Stories—Which is best for engaging and interacting with your followers?

Technically, you can interact and spark conversation with your followers on both formats. On Reels, your followers can comment their thoughts under your video, and you can reply to them there, too.

However, interactions are a lot more fun on Instagram Stories. While people can’t comment on your Stories, a response they type out will automatically appear in your direct messages. Here, you can have a longer, more authentic conversation with them about your Story.

The Instagram Story editor also lets you use interactive stickers like emoji sliders and Q&A stickers. These are fun, creative ways to encourage your audience to interact with your video!

A girl taking photo from a plane.

You Don’t Have To Choose Just One Instagram Video Format

Even if using Instagram Stories vs. Reels in some situations and vice versa is better, it doesn’t mean you should drop the other. You can use both short-form video content formats to beef up your Instagram engagement strategy.

When crafting your content strategy, give Stories and Reels a specific role in your content plan. You can assign Stories as your format for reposting UGC and talking to your followers. Meanwhile, Reels will be your format for product-centric content and visual storytelling. You can get more views and engagement across your posts by using both.

You can also use Reels and Stories together to amplify your content. For example, after posting a Reel, you can share it on your Instagram Story. That way, your followers can see it even if they don’t scroll through their feed or the Reels Explore tab.

The Verdict on Instagram Stories vs. Reels: They Both Rule the Platform!

Choosing between Instagram Stories and Reels is difficult when making video content online. Stories are awesome because of their interactive features and the ability to pin them on your Highlights. But Reels are notable for their discoverability, shareability, and the potential to make your brand go viral.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between these short-form video content formats. Each of them is terrific for specific purposes. Instagram Stories is great for updating your followers on your daily life and announcing limited offers. Meanwhile, Instagram Reels are perfect for visual storytelling and product-centric content.

So, let’s end the battle of Instagram Reel vs. Story right this second. It would be wise to include both in your brand’s Instagram engagement strategy to help your brand succeed.

To ensure that more people see the Stories and Reels you post, think about growing your Instagram community. With the help of Path Social, you can gain more followers fast. Our proprietary targeting algorithm helps serve your content to people most likely to engage with it. This increases your average engagement rate while giving you an uptick in your follower count. Grow your fanbase today and get more views on your Instagram Stories and Reels!