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The Ultimate Guide: Instagram Story vs Reel – Which is Right for You?

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Instagram Story and Reel are common features brands and businesses can utilize to grow their reach and followers. While these two features are essential, they serve different functions, which confuses many people. 

The dynamic nature of Instagram makes it challenging for new and small business owners to navigate its features fully and stay on top of things. We speak particularly about Stories and Reels. Both are popular video-content-sharing features, but which one will serve your purpose? 

Without a proper understanding of these features, unlocking their potential becomes problematic. It’s critical to understand Story and Reel to use them effectively in your content marketing strategy. This is what this comparison article is all about – to help you understand the differences between these two Instagram features, their functions, and how you can use them to enhance reach.

Understanding Instagram Stories and Reels on Social Media Platforms

Stories and Reels are features of the Instagram app that allow users to create and share short-form vertical media. However, that’s where their similarity ends. 

Instagram Stories

Phone screen showing Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories appear next to your Instagram display profile picture and can be viewed by your followers for only 24 hours, after which they disappear. The length is usually capped at 15 seconds.

Debuted in 2016, Stories provides a subtle glance into your brand’s or life’s daily activity. It’s more private than other Instagram features, as the content gets pushed out to your followers first. Therefore, It’s best to provide casual updates to your followers.

Because Stories are viewable from your display picture, followers are easily alerted when a new story pops up at the top of the Instagram home screen. Instagram Story can drive engagement and encourage action from followers. It is also useful when you want to post links that connect to a shopping website or run a poll.

Instagram Reels

Phone showing Insgram Reels

Reels is one of the latest features added to Instagram to help content creators. Launched in 2020 as a direct competitor to TikTok’s video format, Instagram Reels focuses on creating short videos with background music. It has a longer video length, lasting up to 90 seconds. Users can create and share up to 90-second videos set to background music or original audio, showcasing talents, DIY tutorials, and behind-the-scenes glimpses with Reels.

Unlike Stories, Instagram Reels don’t disappear after 24 hours. In addition, you can polish your Reels. The content doesn’t need to be genuine or candid. Think of Reels as a prelude to gaining reach and engagement. For instance, if you want to list some unique product features engagingly, Instagram Reels is the feature. 

Both Instagram Stories and Reels offer a range of creative tools, such as filters, stickers, and text overlays. Now, let’s move to their more distinct features. 

Key Features of Instagram Stories and Reels

Visual Content and Formatting

Instagram Stories are a sneak peek of your day-to-day activities, temporarily available 24 hours. You can upload Instagram photos and other visual content or repost on your Insta Stories. You aren’t limited to videos. Instagram Story features stickers, polls, questions, and links, allowing for interactive engagement.

Given the nature of Instagram Stories, they are more suited for announcements, polls, and getting feedback from your followers. The good news is Instagram has tweaked the feature to allow users to make these stories a permanent part of their profiles by saving them as ‘Highlights.’ 

You can download Instagram Stories for free to share on other social media platforms.

Instagram Reels are different because they are video-only. However, they are more production-intensive. Therefore, they aren’t meant for everyday use. Instagram Reels are best to boost engagement and go viral because their rate of discoverability is unparalleled. 

Creative Tools and Editing Options

Instagram Reels has an extensive set of editing tools that allow you to add some touches to your video content. Users can edit multimedia, select layouts, and include sound effects from other saved audio Reels or mash up your own. In addition, you can add voiceovers, adjust the length and speed, and use gesture control. The flexibility of Instagram Reels makes it a standout feature for creators, allowing you to add a personal touch to your content. 

They have a dedicated section on user profiles, offering the opportunity to reach a broader audience beyond your followers. According to Rival IQ, Instagram Reels boast an impressive reach rate of 14%, outshining other media formats. Do you know why? Because of its music choice. 

Stories also have editing features, but not as extensive as Reels. You can create, choose a layout, add a boomerang, etc.

Engagement and Shareability

Instagram Reels and Stories engage with your audience, showcase your brand’s personality, and promote your products or services. However, they have varying interactivity levels and different user engagement. 

For instance, you can access Instagram Stories via your profile, which may be imperfect for reaching a wider audience. Conversely, Instagram Reels can generate more reach and engagement because they are made public. 

Your potential audience can discover your profile through hashtags and Explore feeds with Instagram Reels. While you can add hashtags on Instagram Stories, it’s limited to 10. On the other hand, Reels have a 30-limit hashtag, thus perfect for creating shareable and short, snappy videos.

Meanwhile, Instagram Stories are better for creators showing more casual, behind-the-scenes content that offers a glimpse into their daily lives. It’s ideal for building a connection with your existing audience. 

Post Lifespan and Availability

Instagram Stories and Reels have different post lifespans and archiving. The Reels format live on indefinitely, while Instagram Stories last for 24 hours and then disappear unless saved as a Highlight.

Stories are added to your Highlights manually, while Instagram Reels are added automatically to their appropriate section. Instagram Reels can be saved by viewers to view later, while Instagram Stories cannot be saved unless you want to keep them as Highlights. 


Instagram Stories allow you to upload videos no longer than 15 seconds. It’s not ideal for users who want to post a long video at once. However, there’s a workaround for that. You can upload a long video and split it into multiple clips of 15-second videos.

Reels are also short-form videos, but they can be 90 seconds long. Previously, they used to be 30 seconds long. The extended time gives creators more opportunity to develop their content.

Choosing Between Instagram Story and Reel

Instagram Story and Reels feed are great features that serve distinctive purposes. Each content format communicates best to a specific audience base. As a result, some instances warrant using one feature over the other. These are aspects to consider if you wonder when to use this feature. Here are a few key differences between to note:


Your content and goals will determine which feature to use. Instagram Reels are best for boosting engagement if the numbers are down the drain because they are public and, thus, more discoverable. Moreover, you can post your Reels as Stories to enhance engagement further. That’s killing two birds with a stone.

Instagram Reels are also best for entertaining and eye-catching content. On the other hand, Stories excel at showcasing authenticity and building relationships with followers. If you want your followers to engage with your brand, Stories are a better feature.

Increasing Follower Count and Going Viral

Instagram Reels are also powerful in increasing follower count if your main goal is to get new followers. Posting shareable and entertaining content increases the chances of getting new followers who will interact with your brand. 

Reels are also recommended if you want to go viral. They are highly prioritized and perfectly align with the Instagram algorithm. Therefore, the chances of going viral are high. You can craft a compelling script and add trending music as the background to keep the audience engaged.

Announcements and Promotions

Since Stories can help you build a loyal audience, you can leverage your followers to showcase your products and services to them. You’re increasing their awareness of your offerings and pushing them down the sales funnel.

Insta Stories are also ideal for announcing an upcoming event or limited-time promotional offer. It will drive traffic to your business and maximize sales during the period. 

Experiment with both features and assess what works best for you and your business.

Best Practices for Creating Engaging Content

Phone showing Instagram features

Creating engaging content is as crucial as ever in today’s digital age. Not only does it capture the audience’s attention, but it helps in building a loyal following. In addition, it enhances brand visibility and drives conversion. Engaging content helps to maintain the audience’s interest and make the posts more consumable, whether Instagram Stories or Reels.

Tips for Creating Engaging Instagram Stories and Reels

  • Keep your Instagram video concise and easily consumable. The first few seconds are crucial in grabbing attention quickly. Therefore, incorporate eye-catching, high-quality visuals and powerful hooks to capture interest immediately.
  • Use Instagram’s interactive elements, such as polls and questions, to encourage active participation.
  • Use the story narrative to craft clear and engaging content. It will keep your viewers invested in your post.
  • Incorporate text overlays and captions to ensure the clarity of your content.
  • Post regularly to keep your audience engaged. Consistency is vital, especially when trying to build an audience.
  • Use Instagram’s Highlights to save essential Stories on your profile.
  • Leverage viral challenges to create content. In addition, use trending sound and relevant hashtags to increase discoverability.
  • Experiment with different formats to keep your Stories interesting.
  • Encourage your viewers to take action if need be. Clear CTAs can drive conversions. 

Overall, creating compelling Stories and Reels requires skill and attention to detail. Use valuable tips to create engaging content, such as high-quality visuals and captions. More importantly, be strategic and think about what you’re trying to achieve and how it plays into your brand’s broader goals.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways

Instagram is a powerful tool for many brands, and both Instagram Reels and Stories are great for capturing the audience’s attention. Each format provides brands with tools to drive growth.

Reels and Stories have their strengths and can help your brand shine and establish a deep connection with your audience. Once you’ve understood the power of Instagram Reels and Stories, you can achieve better results on Instagram. 

So, which is right for you? It depends on the content and objectives. Reels and Stories are both excellent features that communicate to different audiences. Insta Stories are ideal for building and retaining relationships with followers, while Instagram Reels are better for virality. 

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