Using Instagram Reels vs Story: What's the Difference?
Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with over one billion active users. Outside of organic static posts, the Instagram Reels and Instagram Story features have become increasingly popular among content creators and brands looking to engage with their audiences.
We’re taking a look at using Instagram Reels vs Story to see what their differences are and how each can be used for effectiveness. Compare the features of an Instagram Reel vs Story to see which is right for your content.
What are Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories?
Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories are features of the Instagram app that allow users to create and share short-form vertical media.
Instagram Reels were introduced in 2020 as a direct competitor to the popular video-sharing app TikTok. They allow users to create videos up to 90 seconds long and can be set to music and include a range of creative tools, such as AR effects, timers, video captions, and speed adjustments. Instagram Reels have been part of the evolution of the social media platform and the shift in its focus from image posts to video content. Reports of a new rectangular grid further show Reels poised to take center stage on the app.
Instagram Stories were an earlier introduction to the platform, debuting in 2016. Stories allow users to share temporary content with their followers. Stories can include photos, videos, and text overlays. Because they’re intended to be temporary, an Instagram Story will disappear after 24 hours. Like Reels, they also include a range of creative tools, such as filters, stickers, and GIFs allowing creators to other websites, take polls, and more. Instagram Stories also have access to the platform’s music and sound library.
How are Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories used?
Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories are both used by social media content creators and brands looking to engage with their audiences and increase visibility. Instagram Reels are ideal for creating short, snappy videos that are highly shareable and can go viral. They can be used to showcase products or services, share tutorials, or simply entertain followers. Comparing Instagram Reels vs Story features, you’ll find Reels often show a more polished aesthetic for lifestyle content and are ideal for building a consistent brand image.
Instagram Stories are ideal for creators showing more casual, behind-the-scenes content that offers a glimpse into a content creator's daily life. They’re also ideal for creators and brands promoting temporary sales, timely reactions to trending news, or wanting to create a “real-time” feel to their posts. The comparison of an Instagram Story vs Reels shows that a Story is often used for sharing personal stories, updates, or sneak peeks of upcoming Reels content. They can also be used to drive engagement with followers by including polls, quizzes, or questions.
Comparing Features of Instagram Reels vs Story
While both are features of the same social media platform designed to allow users to share visual content, Instagram Reels vs Story features are different in many ways. Each offers creators a music library, ways to engage with viewers, and social media accessibility features, but their differences serve as the catalyst for how each is used most effectively.
- Vertical media formatting
- Variety of creative tools in the native toolkit
- Creators can add links and mentions
📹 Vertical Media Formatting
Instagram Reels: Vertical short form video content.
Instagram Stories: Vertical short form media using images, text, or video.
Comparing Instagram Reels vs Story posts shows that both are formatted the same, showing vertical media. There is a slight difference between them in that an Instagram Story vs Reel is meant to share static photos, video, or even just text. Looking at Reels vs Story, creators immediately notice Reels are meant to support video content (although you could create a slideshow or static image formatted as a video and upload that).
Vertical short-form media puts both Instagram Reels and Stories in the same format as other popular social media posts from TikTok and YouTube Shorts.
✍️ Creative Tools for Editing
Instagram Reels: Native platform editing toolkit including captions and more.
Instagram Stories: Native editing toolkit is a little different but offers a wide variety.
Another similarity seen while comparing Instagram Reels vs Story posts is the in-app native toolkit for editing media. Both features include a range of creative tools, such as filters, stickers, and text overlays. While they both also have access to the platform’s music library and multiple accessibility features such as adding captions to video, they integrate these tools differently.
For example, looking at an Instagram Reel vs Story you’ll see Reels get a different menu setup for their editing toolkit. Features like video captions show up automatically in the toolkit for editing Reels, but are only seen as an option if you record video for your Story (unavailable for static images). Instagram Reels also includes additional tools, such as AR effects, timers, and speed adjustments.
🔗 Links and Mentions
Instagram Reels: Allows links and mentions by content creators.
Instagram Stories: Also allows links and mentions to be added by creators.
Instagram offers content creators stickers to place links and mentions for both Reels and Stories. These links and mentions are able to be styled and displayed in a few different ways, including changing the color of the font for better social media accessibility.
Instagram Reels: Can be shared within the app and externally. Reel shares don’t disappear.
Instagram Stories: Stories can be shared between users but disappear with the Story post unless saved as a Highlight and shared from there.
Instagram Story posts are able to be shared as another Story via the in-app messaging function. These disappear alongside the Story post 24 hours after its initial publication unless the creator saves it to their Highlights. These Story Highlights are visible and shareable until pushed out or removed from that list. Instagram Reels are able to be shared within the app or externally and links do not disappear, as the Reels stay live indefinitely.
- Availability or life span of a post
- Media length
- Media saves
🤳🏼 Availability, or Post Lifespan
Instagram Reels: Reel lives on indefinitely, posted under your Reels tab.
Instagram Stories: Stories last for 24 hours and then disappear unless saved as a Highlight.
A comparison of Instagram Reels vs Story posts shows the first of many differences between the two features. Instagram Reels are published to the Reels section but also live indefinitely on your profile under the Reels tab.
Conversely, Instagram Story posts are posted for just 24 hours before disappearing unless they are saved as a Highlight. Highlights will live on until the max number of Highlights are reached, then they are removed in order from the oldest.
Instagram Reels: More effective and likely to show up in Search, improving reach potential.
Instagram Stories: Hashtags take up visual space and add less reach potential.
The use of hashtags on Instagram Reels vs Story posts is also different. Content creators can add a hashtag sticker to Stories but are less likely than Reels to show up in a given hashtag search using the platform’s Search function.
Instagram Reels are also able to use hashtags within the video content itself as well as in the video description. These are more likely to show up in a Search on the app, making hashtags more effective for an Instagram Reel vs Story post.
Instagram Reels: Highest reach potential on the Platform, averaging over 20%.
Instagram Stories: Low organic reach potential and on the decline.
One of the biggest differences between Instagram Reels vs Story posts is their reach. Instagram Reels have much higher reach rates, with statistics showing an average of 20.59%. Their added visibility via the platform’s Search function improves brand discoverability and makes it more likely that Reels will be seen by viewers who may not yet be followers.
The reach of an Instagram Story vs Reels has been noted to be on the decline across the board for accounts of all follower sizes. The least affected were accounts with less than 10,000 followers, which saw an average Instagram Story reach decline to just 4.8% in 2022. This is, in part, due to the nature of Instagram Stories being viewed almost exclusively by existing followers and not reaching new viewers.
📲 Media Saves
Instagram Reels: Instagram Reels can be saved by viewers to view later.
Instagram Stories: Instagram Stories cannot be saved by viewers.
Some viewers want to save media they enjoy to view it again at a later date. When it comes to an Instagram Story vs Reels, they’re presently unable to do so. This stems from the temporal nature of Instagram Story posts disappearing after 24 hours.
In contrast, Instagram Reels can be saved by viewers to be viewed again or shared later.
⏱ Media Length
Instagram Reels: Can be up to 90 seconds long as of the time of this article’s publication.
Instagram Stories: Up to 60 seconds long, but creators can string together multiple clips for longer stories.
Another one of the key differences between Instagram Reels vs Story posts is the length of the content that can be created. Instagram Reels can be up to 90 seconds long, while Instagram Stories can now be up to 60 seconds long per clip without being broken up into 15-second increments when viewed on the app. Users can create multiple clips and string them together to create longer stories.
Instagram Reels: Live on the Reels section of the app, Explore page, a profile’s Reels tab, and can be added to the creator’s main feed.
Instagram Stories: Appear at the top of the home screen or by clicking the user’s profile photo.
Another difference between Instagram Reels vs Story posts is their availability for users. While both are available to all users, they’re located in different areas of the app.
Instagram Reels are found in the Reels section of the app, as well as on the Explore page. Once published, they also live on the Reels tab of the creator’s profile and can be published to their main feed. Instagram Stories appear at the top of the home screen of the app or can be seen by clicking on the profile image of the creator who posted it.
Instagram Reels: Highly discoverable via Search, the Explore page, and the Reels section.
Instagram Stories: Mainly meant for existing followers. Less discoverability, though place or location tags will pull them into Search.
When it comes to the discoverability of Instagram Reels vs Story posts by new viewers, Reels have the advantage. They are designed to be highly shareable and can go viral, making them a great way to reach new audiences. They can also be found on the Explore page, where users can discover new content based on their interests.
Instagram Stories, on the other hand, are primarily designed to be shared with followers. While they can be discovered by new viewers through the use of hashtags, location tags, or by appearing on the Explore page, they are not as easily shareable as Reels and don’t show up in those Search features as often.
Creator Resources for Instagram Reels and Stories
For content creators looking for ideas, inspiration, and guidance to produce better media for Instagram Reels and Stories, check out these guides:
- Different Ways to Add Captions for Videos on Instagram
- How to Do a Voice Over on Instagram Reels
- Instagram Reels Ideas for Creating Engaging Content
- Platform Battles: Instagram Reels vs TikTok
- Video Accessibility Checklist for Content Creators
The comparison of using Instagram Reels vs Story posts shows they’re both powerful tools for social media content creators on the platform. While they share some similarities, their differences highlight their individual best-use cases. Reels win out for reaching wider audiences and building up engagement via storytelling and entertainment while Stories are most beneficial for engaging existing followers and showcasing behind-the-scenes looks or insights into the creator’s daily life. Using each to their strengths gives creators diversified methods for engaging viewers and building their brand.