A Guide to Instagram Video Formats

by Clodagh O’Brien

Posted on Jan 5, 2022

A Guide to Instagram Video Formats

Once known as the ultimate platform for sharing photos, Instagram has seen an explosion in video content. It now offers marketers great opportunities to connect with users on Instagram successfully using four video formats: Stories, Instagram Video, Live, and Reels. Instagram Video combines what was known as IGTV and feed videos.  

With 1.2 billion Instagram users projected by 2023, it’s the social network of choice for many visual creators. Using video on Instagram can be very effective for organic and paid campaigns as it allows you to: 

  • Build trust with your audience 
  • Bring your brand story to life 
  • Create a deeper relationship with your audience
  • Feature your products and show them in action

The best way to use video successfully on Instagram is to choose the type that will work for you. Read our guide to find out more about Instagram video types so you can create the right formats for your brand. 

What are the 4 Instagram Video Types?

As we mentioned there are four types of video on Instagram and each can promote your product or service in a different way.

1. Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are short 15-second videos that disappear after 24 hours. Ephemeral content has become a popular way to showcase raw, casual, and quirky content, in contrast to the more polished in-feed or IGTV marketing videos. Instagram Stories feel more real and less manicured.

The maximum length for an Instagram Story video is 15 seconds. However, you can create a series of Stories, in a slideshow narrative. Photos in Stories appear for 7 seconds.

Brands can post as many Stories as they like. Like TikTok videos, Stories display in vertical mode, taking up the full mobile screen. You can enhance your Stories with stickers, text, and emojis.

Because of their ephemeral nature, Stories are a great way to attract users’ attention and boost brand awareness. This format taps into FOMO as people want to check out the video before it disappears. 

Instagram Stories Case Study: The Economist

The Economist uses Instagram Stories to drive more traffic to the articles published on its website. By posting a weekly quiz they engage users by asking them to guess elements and facts in the latest news stories.

A Guide to Instagram Video Formats

The quiz goes live on the same day every week and uses a range of photography and video content, as well as the interactive polling sticker, to create ‘True or False’ type questions or multiple-choice questions asking users to guess the correct fact. The audience is drawn into each Story with eye-catching and unusual statements, and as each correct answer is revealed, they are asked to ‘Swipe up’ to read the full article on The Economist website.   

2. Instagram Video

This format was introduced in 2021 and combines IGTV and in-feed videos. This type of video can be up to one hour long and can be uploaded in the same way as IGTV videos using + sign in the top right-hand corner of the app. New features such as trimming, location tagging and filters have been introduced.  These videos live in the new ‘Video’ tab on Instagram.

The video shows when someone scrolls through your feed so you need to make sure the opening seconds are compelling so they watch the full video.

You can also create 60-second trailers for longer videos to give users a taste of what’s to come.

3. Instagram Live

Instagram Live enables you to broadcast videos to your followers in real-time. Followers can watch live while you’re streaming, or catch it later as a Story.

It takes courage to broadcast live as so many things can go wrong! However, it’s worth trying as live video is a highly engaging format, and enables you to be more ‘authentic’ and ‘in the moment’. You can show people sides of your brand that they wouldn’t normally see.

This type of video is ideal for brand events, demos, or tours, or showcasing a ‘day in the life’ of your brand or workforce. You can make live videos interactive by inviting viewers to comment on the video or submit questions.

Although you don’t want your live video to be too scripted, you do need to prepare for it carefully. Ensure you have a strong internet connection and aim to make your broadcast as clear, high resolution, and stable as possible. Plus, make sure you have a clear narrative in mind before you go live. Your live video should include an element of storytelling to engage a prospect or customer.

And if things go wrong on the day, just incorporate the mistakes into the live experience!

Instagram Live Case Study: Chipotle

Fast-food chain Chipotle uses Instagram Live to show people how to cook Mexican food. Featuring Chef Chad viewers can see step-by-step how to make a recipe such as the Margarita example below. This live session was linked to the Mexican festival Cinco de Mayo capitalizing on the annual celebration and promoting brand awareness. 

A Guide to Instagram Video Formats

Interestingly, during Covid-19 the appetite for how-to and tutorial videos went up by 600% making this Instagram video type a smart one for marketers in their campaign development.

4. Instagram Reels

Reels are Instagram’s take on the vertical-video format popularized by TikTok. Unlike TikTok, Instagram has created full-screen, portrait-oriented videos.

Reels are multi-clip videos, between 15-30 seconds. They are ideal for showcasing highly creative content using effects and music as they offer AR filters, timed text and green screen mode.

Users can discover Reels in the ‘Reels’ tab on your profile, or in the Explore tab of their Instagram feed. Reels are very popular with younger users, such as Millennials and Gen Z. Importantly for marketers, people don’t have to follow you on Instagram to discover your Reels.

It can be tempting to simply re-use your TikTok content for Reels. However, bear in mind that your Instagram followers are likely to be older than your TikTok followers.

You can use Reels to showcase engaging aspects of the brand’s personality and can include hashtags and product tags. Users often regard Reels content as more ‘authentic’ than professional video content. 

Reels Case Study: Apple - Everyday Experiments

The master of eye-catching imagery, Apple collaborated with Incite Design to create a video using the Slo-Mo function on the iPhone12. The aim was to teach people how to create loops using balloons, water, and paper. Once the video was taken people were then shown how to use Slo-Mo to create a mesmerizing and shareable video. Have a look at their other Experiments Reels on Instagram.

A Quick Guide to Instagram Video Formats

To help you pick the best video format on Instagram for your brand, we’ve created this handy guide.

A Guide to Instagram Video Formats

Become a Social Video & Instagram Expert

Learn how to create Instagram videos that attract and engage customers with DMI’s certified Social Media Marketing course. You will also understand how to use video as part of your content marketing, introduce social commerce and use advertising and analytics to drive successful visual campaigns.


Clodagh O’Brien

Clodagh O'Brien is a content creator and strategist. Over the last 12 years, she has created and managed content for many SMEs and global brands. She's passionate about digital marketing and the impact of technology on culture and society. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.  

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