Instagram video is available in five formats: Reels, Live, IGTV, Stories, and in-feed video posts.
The explosion of video across the platform is 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. Read our guide to learn about the features, specifications, and best practices for every type.
Plus, we’ve rounded up tools that make juggling Instagram video a little bit easier.
Bonus: Unlock our free, customizable Instagram storyboard template to save time and plan all your Stories content in advance.
Types of Instagram video
Here’s a breakdown of the different Instagram video formats.
Inspired by Snapchat, Instagram Stories are 15-second videos that disappear after 24 hours.
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 the Photo Library.
Expired Stories can be saved to the Highlights section of a person’s profile, positioned above the grid.
Interactive elements such as filters, emojis, tags, and stickers can be added 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.
Stories are also one of the rare places on Instagram that accounts can post links. (Only accounts that are verified or have 10,000+ followers have access to this feature.) For brands, it’s a significant way to drive organic leads and conversions. More than 50% of people polled by Facebook say they’ve visited a brand’s website after seeing a Story.
Despite their ephemerality, Stories are popular.
Their location at the top of the home feed may have something to do with it. The offhand nature of the disappearing format—removed from aesthetic pressures of the feed, is likely another factor.
Instagram feed video
In-feed video is the original Instagram video format on the app. Video posts are added the same way images are posted: using Instagram’s built-in camera or uploading from a Photo Library.
In-feed video must be three-60 seconds in length, which means Boomerangs and GIFs fall into this category, too.
Like an image post, an Instagram video post can include a filter, location, caption, as well as user, location, and product tags. Once posted, people can engage with likes, comments, and sharing public videos in Stories and direct messages.
On people’s profiles, video posts are labeled with a camcorder icon in the upper right corner.
Instagram Live lets people video stream from the built-in camera. With things going remote this year, brands have used Instagram Live to host workshops, interviews, and more, leading to a 70% increase in views between February and March.
Live broadcasts are started 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 saved to IGTV or shared for 30 days before they are deleted.
The number of viewers watching a live stream appears at the top of the screen, and people can engage by adding comments or emoji reactions. Viewers can also purchase badges so that heart icons appear beside their name in the comments. Instagram Live hosts can pin comments, turn comments off, or set up keyword filters to moderate comments.
Live Shopping features let businesses tag relevant products so that they 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.
IGTV (Instagram TV)
IGTV is Instagram’s format for in-feed video longer than one minute, stretching up to 60 minutes. Unlike shorter, in-feed video posts, IGTV must be pre-recorded and uploaded from the camera roll.
Before posting an IGTV video, creators have the option to add the video to a series and add a cover photo. Creators can post a 15-second preview to their feed (and the home feed), or elect not to. Either way, all IGTV videos appear in a dedicated tab on a user’s profile where they can be sorted by series.
IGTV videos are given extra real estate and a dedicated section in the Explore tab. Videos autoplay wherever they appear, and queue up one after another. People who watch IGTV videos can engage in the usual ways, with likes, comments, saves, and shares.
Reels is Instagram’s latest video format. Inspired by TikTok, these 15-30 second clips can be created with Instagram’s camera or uploaded from the Photo Library.
Recording effects include timed text, AR filters, green screen mode, timer and speed controls, and access to an audio library.
Reels record in vertical portrait mode (9:16) and are displayed in users’ feeds, the Reels tab, and a dedicated profile tab.
Like feed videos, 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.
Instagram video specs
Here are the size and format specifications for each type of Instagram video.
Instagram Stories specs
Stories take up the entire mobile screen and are tailored to the device. For that reason, exact specifications vary. These are the recommended specs: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 Recommended file type: .MP4 or .MOV format 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 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 feed video specsLength: 3 to 60 seconds Recommended size: Upload the highest resolution video available that meets file size and ratio limits. Recommended file type: .MP4 or .MOV format Maximum file size 30MB Maximum frame rate 30fps Minimum width: 500 pixels. H.264 compression recommended Square pixels, fixed frame rate, progressive scan, and stereo AAC audio compression at 128kbps+
Instagram Live specs
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.
IGTV specsMinimum length: 60 seconds Maximum length: 15 minutes when uploading via mobile and 60 minutes when uploading from the web File type: MP4 file format (required) Vertical video aspect ratio: 9:16 Horizontal video aspect ratio: 16:9 Minimum resolution:720 pixels Minimum frame rate: 30 frames per second Maximum file size (for videos 10 minutes or less): 650MB Maximum file size (for videos up to 60 minutes): 3.6GB
Recommended cover photo size: 420px by 654px (1:1.55 ratio)
Instagram video best practices
Every Instagram video format is different, but these best practices apply to all of them.
Create for mobile
The majority of people view Instagram video on mobile, which means it’s best to shoot in vertical orientation. Most people intuitively use portrait or selfie mode when they record with their phones. But for those who plan to use a camera and upload a video, this is something to keep in mind.
Of course, there are some exceptions. For longer IGTV 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.
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. 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.
To keep a viewer’s attention you need to provide some kind of value. Your pitch could be sheer entertainment value—like comic relief, captivating conversation, or your magnetic personality. Or you could impart tips and tricks, how-to’s and workshops, or thought-provoking information.
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 “learn how to make snowman-wiches.” 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.
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 your video with sound off, including context and hearing impairments.
Use sound to enhance your video, and include captions to make your video accessible. IGTV has the option to use automatic video captions, and 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. That’s especially true when it comes to long-formats like Instagram Live and IGTV.
Create and share a schedule with your audience so they know when to expect your next Instagram Live. Or develop an IGTV series that your followers can regularly look forward to and tune in to. Take advantage of scheduling tools like Hootsuite to make sure your posts are published on time.
Try to post when your followers or most online. Check your analytics and consult our research to determine when that is. Keep in mind that your schedule will not work for everyone. So make sure your Instagram videos remain accessible. Save Instagram Live videos to IGTV and share new IGTV episodes widely so people don’t miss them.
Tip: Create a countdown sticker in an Instagram Story to build anticipation for an Instagram Live or IGTV premiere.
Cross-promote your videos
There are lots of ways to boost the discoverability of videos. Use trending hashtags, geotags, tag relevant accounts. Add popular stickers to your Story. And of course you can always inject some ad dollars.
Once you’ve checked all of those boxes, plan cross-promote your Instagram videos before and after you’ve posted. Share your videos to Instagram Stories. Tease an upcoming Instagram Live on Twitter. Pin your videos on Pinterest.
Not only will this increase the view count, it drives engagement on other platforms, too—making the effort you put in to creating the video all the more worthwhile.
No caption needed.
Just grab a glass and tune in.
— Will Blackmon 🍷 (@WillBlackmon) December 14, 2020
Instagram video apps
You’ve got your tripod and your ring light ready to go. Now try these Instagram video apps to perfect your content.
Use Canva to automatically size Instagram videos for you, add interactive elements, and take advantage of the app’s photo and audio library.
Hootsuite’s collaborative platform is ideal for content that requires teamwork and approvals. You can also manage all your video material with Hootsuite’s content library.
Then, use the 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.
Clipomatic is the preferred way to add live captions to social video by a number of high profile users, include 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 editor 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.
Adobe Premiere Rush is included with as part of the Creative Cloud All Apps plan and with Premiere Pro. So if you’re already a customer, this app provides a slew of tools and features for social video. In addition to stuntworthy special effects, the app keeps its audio library fresh with custom recordings.
Lumen5 is a video creator 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 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 Hootsuite. 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.