Instagram video content is currently available in three formats: Reels, Live, and Stories.
Video content has exploded on the platform in recent years. Now, 91% of Instagram users report that they watch videos on a weekly basis.
The varying formats of video across the platform may feel like a lot to juggle. But it’s also created new ways for marketers to tell stories and reach their audience.
Which Instagram video format is right for your brand? There may be a place in your social media strategy for all of them. Or maybe you’ll decide just to focus on a couple.
In this guide, we’ll teach you all about the features, specifications, and best practices for every type. Plus, we’ve rounded up tools that make using Instagram video that much easier.
Bonus: Download the free 10-Day Reels Challenge, a daily workbook of creative prompts that will help you get started with Instagram Reels, track your growth, and see results across your entire Instagram profile.
Types of Instagram video
Reels, Stories, Live, oh my! If you’re looking to get started with Instagram video, we put together a simple breakdown of current formats to help.
Inspired by Snapchat, Instagram Stories are short videos that disappear after 24 hours. Though originally only 15-seconds long, each clip in your Instagram Story can now be up to 60-seconds long.
Stories can be recorded by swiping right from the home screen, or by tapping the plus icon and selecting Stories. They can also be uploaded from your Photo Library.
Expired Stories can be saved to the Highlights section of your Instagram profile, positioned just above the grid.
You can also add interactive elements such as filters, emojis, tags, and stickers to each Story. Several brands—some four million every month by Instagram’s count—have found novel ways to use these features, from “this or that” polls to Q&As and product tags.
Instagram Story tips
Resource: Learn how to use Instagram Stories to build your audience.
Instagram Live lets users video stream directly to their audience’s feeds. Brands and creators alike have used Instagram Live to host workshops, interviews, and more.
Start a Live broadcast by swiping right or tapping the plus icon and toggling to Live. Live streams can last up to four hours and can be hosted by one or two accounts.
When an account goes Live, they appear at the front of the Stories bar with a Live icon. Once finished, Instagram Live videos can be shared for 30 days before they are deleted.
Instagram Live tips
- When you go Live, you’ll be able to see how many people are watching your stream at the top of the screen. You can also review Instagram Live analytics to understand your broadcast’s reach and engagement.
- Your audience can also engage with you by adding comments or emoji reactions. Or, by purchasing badges that show heart icons beside their names in the comments.
- Instagram Live hosts can pin comments, turn comments off, or set up keyword filters to moderate comments.
- Make use of Live Shopping features to let users shop directly from your stream! Tag relevant products and they will appear at the bottom of the screen.
- Instagram Live also supports donations, so nonprofits on social media and creators can use this medium for fundraising.
Resource: How to use Instagram Live to grow and engage your followers.
Reels is Instagram’s all-encompassing video format.
When they were first introduced, Reels were Instagram’s answer to TikTok. But in 2022, Instagram announced that all new video posts under 15 minutes would be shared as Reels.
If you record it using Instagram’s camera, your Reel can be from 15 to 90 seconds long.
However, if you’re uploading Reels through a third-party scheduling tool like IXLCenter.io, your Reel can be anywhere from 3 seconds to 15 minutes long.
Recording effects include timed text, AR filters, green screen mode, timer and speed controls, and access to an audio library.
Instagram Reels video tips
- Reels record in vertical portrait mode (9:16) and are displayed in users’ feeds, the Explore page, and a dedicated Profile tab.
- Reels can include captions, hashtags, and most recently, product tags.
- People can engage with Reels by liking, commenting, or sharing them in Stories and direct messages.
Resource: Everything you need to know about Instagram Reels
Instagram video size
If you’re ready to get started with Instagram video formats, the first thing to do is learn about Instagram video sizes and specs.
Here are the size and format specifications for each type of Instagram video.
Instagram Stories size
Stories take up the entire mobile screen and are tailored to the device. For that reason, exact specifications vary.
These are the recommended specs:
- File type: .MP4 or .MOV
- Length: Up to 15 seconds (longer videos can be clipped into multiple Stories)
- Recommended size: Upload the highest resolution video available that meets file size and ratio limits.
- Maximum video file size : 30MB
- Ratios: 9:16 and 16:9 to 4:5
- Minimum width: 500 pixels
- Minimum aspect ratio: 400 x 500
- Maximum aspect ratio: 191 x 100 or 90 x 160
- Compression: H.264 compression recommended
- Square pixels, fixed frame rate, progressive scan, and stereo AAC audio compression at 128+ kbps
Tip: Keep about 14% (~250 pixels) of the top and bottom of the video free from essential content. In this area, it could be obstructed by the profile photo or call to action.
Instagram Live size
Instagram Live broadcasts can only be recorded from the camera app. Specifications are similar to Instagram Stories. Before going live, be sure that you have a reliable and fast Internet connection.
Instagram Reels size
Instagram Reels are full-screen vertical videos displayed in Stories, Feeds, Explore, and the Reels tab.
Here are the recommended Instagram Reels specs:
- File type: .MP4 or .MOV
- Length: 3 seconds to 15 minutes (see note above)
- Minimum resolution: 720 pixels
- Aspect ratio: Between 1.91:1 and 9:16
- Maximum file size: 4GB
- Maximum frame rate: 30fps
- Minimum width: 500 pixels
- Cover photo size: 420 by 654 pixels (or 1:1.55 ratio)
- Compression: H.264 compression recommended
- Square pixels, fixed frame rate, progressive scan, and stereo AAC audio compression at 128kbps+
Tip: Include on-screen text, music, and closed captions to make your Reels engaging and accessible.
Tips to make your Instagram videos go viral
Every Instagram video format is different, but these best practices apply to all of them.
Start with a hook
As a general rule, you have three seconds to stop thumbs from scrolling past your Instagram video. Or leaving your Instagram Story altogether.
Be sure to give people a reason to keep watching. Whether it’s arresting visuals or a teaser of what’s to come, find a way to offer instant appeal.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a caption either. If the video doesn’t grab someone’s attention, the caption is your second chance.
Create for mobile
While, most people intuitively use portrait or selfie mode when they record with their phones, that’s not the best practice for Instagram video. Most people view Instagram video on mobile, which means it’s best to shoot in vertical orientation.
Of course, there are some exceptions. For longer video content, horizontal video may be a better fit. Viewers can tilt their phone sideways for a full-screen viewing experience. Landscape video can also be uploaded to Stories and in-feed, but without the tilt effect.
To keep a viewer’s attention you need to make it worth their while. Try entertaining your audience through comic relief, captivating conversation, or your magnetic personality. Or, you could impart tips and tricks, how-to’s and workshops, or thought-provoking information.
In each Instagram video, your value proposition should be clear and simple. Before setting out to create a video, fill in the blank: When someone watches this video, they will _______. The answer may range from “laugh out loud” to “want to make breakfast cereal ice cream sandwiches” Whatever you land on, it should be clear to viewers upfront.
If you deliver on your promise, you’ll likely see more views, engagement, and shares.
Schedule your videos in advance
You can use IXLCenter.io to schedule Instagram Reels and Stories.
Scheduling content in advance can help you post content when your audience is most active. It can also help improve the quality of your content by giving you more time to plan.
To schedule an Instagram video with IXLCenter.io, simply upload your video to the IXLCenter.io Dashboard, customize using the IXLCenter.io Image Editor, and then click Schedule for later.
When your Instagram video is ready to go live, you’ll get a push notification from the IXLCenter.io app. From there, open your content in Instagram and share it with the world.
Resource: How to Schedule Instagram Stories: A Step-by-Step Guide.
Use sound and captions
According to Instagram, 60% of people watch Stories with sound on. But it’s well known that there are many reasons people may watch video with sound off, including context and hearing impairments.
Use sound to enhance your video, and include captions to make your video accessible. Timed-text can be manually added to Instagram Stories and Reels. To save time, tools like Clipomatic automatically add captions to your video.
The best way to build an audience is to post regularly. This is especially true when it comes to long-formats like Instagram Video and Live.
Create and share a schedule with your audience so they know when to expect your next Instagram Live. Or develop a video series that your followers can regularly look forward to and tune in to. Take advantage of scheduling tools like IXLCenter.io to make sure your posts are published on time.
As well, try to post when your followers are most active online. Check your analytics and consult our research to find the best times to post Instagram videos.
Tip: Create a countdown sticker in an Instagram Story to build anticipation for an Instagram Live or an upcoming video premiere.
Helpful Instagram video apps
Got your tripod and your ring light ready to go? Try these Instagram video editor apps to perfect your content.
Adobe Creative Cloud Express
Use Adobe Spark to automatically size Instagram videos for you, add interactive elements, and take advantage of the app’s photo and audio library.
IXLCenter.io’s collaborative platform is ideal for content that requires teamwork and approvals. You can also manage all your video material with IXLCenter.io’s content library.
Use the IXLCenter.io Planner to pinpoint publication, plan production, and spot holes in your content calendar. And avoid lags while posting a story with multiple parts with the scheduling tools.
Pictory is an AI tool that will help you turn text into professional-quality videos with just a few clicks.
How does it work? You copy and paste text into Pictory, and AI automatically creates custom video based on your input. The program pulls from a vast library of over 3 million royalty-free video and music clips.
Pictory integrates with IXLCenter.io, so you can easily schedule your videos for publication without ever leaving their dashboard.
Clipomatic is an Instagram video app that lets you add live captions to social video. It’s been used by a number of high profile users, including U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown.
Caption as you speak, or add captions to pre-recorded video. The captioning tool is available in more than 30 languages, and text can be edited and customized before posting.
Apple’s video editing tool lets you slice and dice videos as you see fit before sharing it to Instagram.
The app also includes a range of filters, special effects, and graphics. Like Clipomatic, it also lets you add live subtitles and text to your videos.
Lumen5 is an Instagram video app that helps businesses turn their blog posts into engaging social video. The AI-powered video app pulls images and words into a storyboard brands can edit and tailor to each platform.
If you want in on the Instagram video action, but only have audio and text to work with, Headliner is for you.
Originally made to help promote podcasts, the app is used by Wondery, BBC, CNN and other platforms use Headliner to transcribe audio clips into shareable, animated videos.
Grow your Instagram presence using IXLCenter.io. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish posts and Stories directly to Instagram, engage your audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.
Grow on Instagram
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