Video for Instagram: What Content Performs Best in 2021

“Online video is the Swiss army knife of internet marketing. It really can be used all over the customer lifecycle, whether it’s customer service, marketing, or even recruitment.” — Mark Robertson

For businesses of any size and industry, social video can be a driving force for new audience growth, engagement, and conversions. It’s one of the reasons why video has become such an integral marketing tool for 86% of marketers

Using video marketing in tandem with social media marketing can pay off in a major way for your business, but unfortunately, this isn’t the outcome all brands face. The last thing that you want is to invest time, money, and resources into producing content that your audience doesn’t actually find relevant or engaging. To avoid this issue altogether, you have to find out what your audience responds best to and build your content calendar from there. 

Given that Instagram has 1.074 billion global users—and five different ways to distribute video content—the potential for content creation and audience engagement is practically endless. While variety and options are great, this can also leave you struggling with the paradox of choice, or having a plethora of options hamstring you from making a choice. 

To help you simplify and streamline your content creation process, we’ve created this guide to share how you can leverage Instagram’s five video formats to produce top-performing content in 2021. 

How to Create Top-Performing Content Using Instagram’s 5 Video Formats

1. In-feed video posts

In-feed video posts are a staple form of content on Instagram and have been since 2013. Uploading organic and paid videos to your business’s Instagram feed is a great way to generate more engagement in the form of likes, views, comments, shares, and saves. 

Because video outperforms links and text by 1200% when it comes to shareability, making regular video posts can boost your engagement and, in turn, help you reach more users via the algorithm. In-feed videos like the one below can be extremely effective in creating public buzz around a campaign, a new initiative, a product, etc.

A screenshot from Starbucks Instagram account. What videos work best on Instagram in 2021

Source: Starbucks

2. Stories

Instagram Stories has been around since 2016, and the feature is used by 500+ million Instagram users every day. Over the years, the programmers at Instagram have modified this feature so that users can engage with their followers in various different ways. 

When you create a Stories video post, you can add a poll sticker, emoji slider sticker, question sticker, quiz sticker, or chat sticker to incentivize your followers to interact with your content. With a business account or at least 10,000 followers, you have the ability to include swipe-up links that redirect viewers to a pricing page, blog post, or any other relevant webpage. 

To put the importance of Stories into perspective, top-ranking influencers typically post 6-7 Stories each day. In the example below, HubSpot uses the Stories feature to generate more clicks on a guide that is published on their profile page. 

Source: HubSpot

3. Reels

Instagram released its Reels feature in August of 2020, partly to compete with the growing popularity of TikTok’s video platform. 

Essentially, Reels are 15-second multi-clip videos that you can customize by including songs from the Instagram music library, AR effects, a countdown timer, and more. Not only are these videos engaging for your followers, but they are also designed to be shared on the Explore page—making it easier for you to expand your reach to new audiences.  

In the example below, Daily Harvest uses the Reels feature to create a series that supports and celebrates the work of entrepreneurs in the food and wellness industry.

Source: Daily Harvest


IGTV is a video feature that has been available to users since 2018. One of the perks of IGTV is that users are able to share and save long-form content on Instagram without needing to create an Instagram Live first. 

Like the other video features, IGTV content is fully customizable. From a business perspective, you could utilize this feature to film how-to videos, tutorials, product releases, news releases, and more. Instagram also makes it easy to track the analytics on these videos. By navigating to IGTV insights, you can track engagement stats such as views, likes, and comments. 

Take a look at this IGTV video from Nike:

Source: Nike

In a similar way that Daily Harvest utilizes its Reels to create video series, Nike uses IGTV to share short episodes, athlete spotlights, and more.  

5. Instagram Live

Instagram Live gives users the ability to broadcast content and engage with their followers in real-time. For businesses and influencers, creating an Instagram Live video is a great way to connect in a more personal, meaningful way with followers.

This video feature could be used for Q&As, fundraisers, panels, and more. And, once the Instagram Live wraps, you have the option to download and store the recorded live on your profile. 

3 Types of Content You Should Definitely Use in 2021

Mixed Media Carousels

One type of in-feed post that is widely successful but underutilized by businesses is a carousel with videos and images. In fact, one study found that even though mixed media carousels generated the highest engagement (2.33%), they were only used 7% of the time. 

Carousels are fully customizable, which is to say that you can adapt the format to create and share different types of organic and paid content. 

Mixed media carousels are important for instagram reach and maintaining attention

Short-Form Videos

While businesses can and should share long-form content on IGTV and Instagram Live, short-form videos—specifically, Reels and Stories—are expected to continue trending in 2021. 

The reason? Short-form content is easily digestible, visually engaging, and entertaining for audiences. It allows for a casual and convenient viewing experience that users can opt out of at any time. 

And from a creator standpoint, this type of content requires less time, planning, and resources to produce than long-form content. All that you need to create and market your business’s content quickly is a smartphone and an editing app. 

User-Generated Videos

Not only is user-generated content 29% more effective at converting prospects during campaigns, but your marketing team can also save time and resources by simply re-sharing this type of content on Instagram

By running giveaways and/or giving participants a shoutout on Instagram, you can incentivize your current customers to create videos about their experience with your business and products. At the same time, prospective customers feel more enticed to try out your product and create their own videos too. 

Over time, you generate a content library of user-generated videos that you can share at any time. 

Create Content, Monitor Results & Adapt Your Content Strategy

Creating top-performing content isn’t an exact science, but there is data to back why certain types of video tend to perform better than others. Knowing which types of content perform best for other businesses can benefit your business in a major way if you turn this knowledge into something actionable. 

To get the results you want, you have to take these different content formats and customize your videos to the audiences you’re trying to connect with. Aside from some proactive market research, all you can really do is monitor your content’s performance and make adjustments to your content strategy when necessary. 

Mackenzie is a copywriter at Soundstripe, a royalty-free background music company that provides filmmakers, creators, and advertisers with royalty-free sports music, among other genres.