Video for Instagram: How to Choose Between a Feed Video, a Story, a Reel, and Instagram Live

Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for video content, but as it keeps rolling out new features, it’s getting overwhelming to distinguish between the video options. When you want to share video content on Instagram, you can either share it as a Feed post, a Story, a Reel, or go on Instagram Live and engage with your audience in real time. So how do you decide?

Each video option is unique, so we’ll walk you through each of the four options and how to choose the best one for your video.

Feed Videos vs. Stories vs. Reels vs. Instagram Live

First, let’s start with some simple definitions. A Feed Video is a regular video that you share to your profile and it shows up in your followers’ main feeds. Instagram recently merged IGTV and Feed videos into one single format called Instagram Video in order to provide a clearer distinction between Reels. It can be thought of the “standard” option that, for a while, was the only way you could share video content on Instagram. Videos in this placement can be up to 60 minutes long for selected accounts.

A Story is a short clip that can be viewed on your profile or on your followers’ main feed in the little circles at the top. These clips can only be 15 seconds long, but you can post as many as you want in sequence. They’ll only show up on your page for 24 hours, after which time they’ll disappear. The only exception is if you save your content as a Story Highlight, which will pin the clips to the top of your profile permanently.

A Reel is Instagram’s short-form video feature that was designed in direct competition with TikTok. It allows for a video that’s up to 90 seconds long made up of a single clip or multiple clips edited together. Like TikTok, you can add music, on-screen text, closed captions, and visual effects to your video clips right in the app.

Lastly, Instagram Live is a feature that allows users to broadcast live videos to their followers. This can be a great option for marketers, as it allows them to connect with their audience in a more personal way and give them a behind-the-scenes look at their business. Additionally, Instagram Live can be used to promote events or products, answer questions from followers, and more.

Now, with those distinctions covered, let’s dive into when you might want to use each of the various placements.

When to Use a Feed Video

A Feed video is the classic video option, and it plays an important role in the Instagram video ecosystem. This option is great for content that you want to live on your page forever. If someone clicks through to your profile and peruses your content, your video will be there for them to view and engage with. Feed videos also work well when your goal is to engage with your existing audience rather than appeal to a potential new audience.

Types of content that work well here include promotional videos, testimonial videos, interviews with founders or employees, product launch videos, and any other content that has a slightly “produced” feel but appeals to your current followers.

When to Use a Story

Stories are great when your content is slightly more casual or underproduced. Story content is often designed to give your followers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your brand, meaning that it’s okay if it doesn’t look completely polished. Actually, the more authentic the better—bloopers and all.

Your Story is also a great place to post videos when you’re hoping to drive engagement with your current followers, as you can take advantage of other Story features like reaction emojis or polls. It offers a more interactive environment than many of the other options.

Another use case for your Story is videos that have time-sensitive info, like a video announcing a giveaway or counting down to a new product. This type of content might feel outdated if someone came across them on your main page after the fact, so the way Stories disappear after 24 hours is a benefit.

Lastly, you can use Stories to break up videos you’ve posted in other formats, giving users a preview. By cutting your full video into 15-second clips, you can post videos that hit longer than a minute and allow followers to tap through the pieces in sequence. This works well for videos in the 1-3 minute mark but it becomes tedious and potentially boring for viewers to use this strategy for videos longer than about 3 minutes.

When to Use a Reel

Like its competitor TikTok, the Reels feature is great for getting your content in front of a new audience. High-performing Reels content can help you attract new followers and even bring in new customers if you’re posting from a business profile.

If you’re going to post on Reels, make sure your content is attention-grabbing and engaging. Reels viewers are looking for content that’s either entertaining, educational, or a mix of both, and they’re attracted to authentic content over content that looks scripted or formal. If you have a video that fits these criteria, Reels is a great option.

When to Use Instagram Live

Instagram Live is a great option for promoting a product or service because it is interactive, making your audience feel like they are a part of your content. It allows viewers to ask questions and comment on the video in real time, which can create a more personal experience for them. Additionally, Instagram Live videos are automatically saved to your account, so viewers can watch them again later if they missed them live.

The fact that Instagram Live videos are ephemeral can encourage viewers to tune in sooner rather than later, lest they miss out on what’s happening. Creating a sense of urgency is key in not only engaging your target audience, but encouraging them to take a desired action.

How to Post Your Video

Now that you know where your video should live, let’s talk about how to actually post it using the method you’ve decided on.

When you share a video on Instagram, you can toggle between three of the four video options easily in the sharing process. To begin, you’ll click the “+” button at the top of your screen. Then, at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see options to toggle between the various formats.

If you choose a Feed video, you’ll scroll down through your camera roll to find the video that you’d like to post, then click “Next” in the top right corner to continue with the sharing process. If you choose Story, tap the little square in the bottom left to access your camera roll and choose your video, then click “Your Story” in the bottom left to post. If you choose Reels, tap the same square in the bottom left to access your video, then click “Share To” and “Share” to post. Depending on the choice you’ve made using our criteria above, you’ll choose either Post, Story, or Reels, then click “Next” to continue with the posting process.

To share your content to Instagram Live, your process looks a little different. Once you’re on your main feed, scroll all the way to the top and look for the “Live” option. Tap on this and then write a brief description of what your live video will be about. Once you’ve written your description, tap on “Go Live.” You’ll then be able to start broadcasting to all of your followers.

That’s it! Four Instagram video placements made simple, as promised. If you have any questions or have a video that doesn’t quite fit in any of the categories we’ve listed here, let us know and we’ll point you in the right direction!

Isaiah Shelton

Isaiah Shelton