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 a finished video on Instagram, you can either share it as a Post, a Story, a Reel, or an IGTV post. So how do you decide?
Each video is unique and likely lends itself more to one of these placements than the others, so we’ll walk you through each of the four options and how to choose the best one for your video.
Post vs. Story vs. Reel vs. IGTV
First, let’s start with some simple definitions. A Post is a regular video that you share to your profile, and it shows up in your followers’ main feeds. This is 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 a minute long.
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 ten seconds long each, but you can post as many of them 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 the relatively new short-form video feature that mimics TikTok’s platform. It allows for a video that’s up to 30 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, IGTV is the final video placement that allows for long-form content—up to 15 minutes if you post on a mobile device or 60 minutes on desktop. IGTV is more comparable to YouTube than it is to any other short-form video platform.
With those distinctions covered, let’s dive into when you might want to use each of the various placements.
When to Use a Post
A Post is the classic video option, and it plays an important role in the Instagram video ecosystem. A Post is a great option for content under a minute long that you want to live on your page forever. If someone clicks through to your profile and goes through your content, your video will be there for them to view and engage with. Posts 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. The exception is if your video meets these criteria but is longer than 60 seconds, which we’ll discuss options for below.
When to Use a Story
A Story video is great when your content is slightly more casual or underproduced. Story content is often designed to give your followers a glimpse behind-the-scenes 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. These types 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 that might have met the criteria for a Post video but are longer than 60 seconds long. By cutting your full video into 10-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. In that case, turn to IGTV instead.
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 IGTV
Lastly, IGTV is especially useful for content that is educational, like how-to videos or product demonstrations. On IGTV, you have a captive audience that typically knows they’re about to watch something that’s a little more in-depth than the other options on this list, so you can get away with content that’s slightly more of a time and attention investment.
IGTV also works well for content that doesn’t quite fit any of the criteria above. If you have a video that’s over 3 minutes long that would be difficult to parse into stories, IGTV is great. If you have content that might be suited for Reels but is a little more produced and formal looking, IGTV is a great alternative. And like Reels, IGTV is a great opportunity to reach new viewers with your video.
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 Post, Story, Reels, and Live. (If you click Live, your video selection will go away since it’s not actually a way to post an existing video.) IGTV is the outlier here, so we’ll share how to use that feature in a minute.
If you choose Post, 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 IGTV, your process looks a little different. Start on your Explore page (the magnifying glass icon at the bottom left of your screen). Then, click IGTV in the top left, followed by “+” in the top right. This is where you’ll select your video. Any content that’s shorter than a minute long will be blurred out since the minimum IGTV length is 60 seconds. When you’ve selected your video, click “Next” to continue posting.
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!
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