What are the best video formats for Instagram?

In this post, we focus on video formats for Instagram. For each we will list technical features and best practices, with concrete suggestions for making them more effective, engaging, and how to blend them into a functional mix.

What are the best video formats for Instagram?
Marketing Team
Video Marketing What are the best video formats for Instagram?

Everyone is familiar with Instagram.

We’re talking about a social media platform that has about 2 billion active users every month, worldwide

It’s currently the fifth most visited site in the world

In 2022, it generated $43.2 billion in revenue, registering growth from 2021.

Clearly, Instagram is a key playing field for all digital marketing strategies:

90% of Instagram users follow at least one business profile. For people, this social media is the favorite for building relationships with brands;

– The second most popular activity on Instagram is to search for brands or products. And 70% of users use the platform specifically for guidance on their upcoming purchases.

Let’s take it a step further.

What type of content guarantees the best performance in terms of visibility and engagement on Instagram? 

There is no doubt about it: it’s video.

In this regard, let’s limit ourselves to one statistic: 

The average engagement rate of video posts on Instagram is about twice that of all other types of content.

These are just a few premises.

In the remainder of this post, we want to go even deeper and analyze the different types of video formats for Instagram.

There are four: 

1) Videos posted in the feed; 

2) Instagram Reels; 

3) Instagram Stories

4) Instagram Live, which fits into the Stories stream.

We will analyze the technical features and main best practices of these four Instagram video formats.

1) Instagram Feed Video

Let’s start with the length: 3 to 60 seconds. 

By placing the video directly in a post there is some freedom on the size. 

The recommended sizes are: 1080 x 1080 pixels for landscape video; 1080 x 1350 for portrait video.

The accepted file types: .MP4 or .MOV 

As for file size: Instagram allows file uploads up to 4GB…of course, much better to stay well below this threshold!

This video format for Instagram is very important to define the identity of your profile, therefore of your brand.

So: pay attention to quality and all aspects related to graphics and corporate image.

Also, don’t forget that the user can skip whole parts of the video and skip forward and backward.

What does this translate into? There is a risk that users may miss crucial points related to changes in the narrative, punchlines, or calls to action.

An always-valid best practice is to start with a strong hook, something that sticks firmly in the user’s mind and prompts him or her to continue viewing.

One tip: You can put your videos in a carousel, even alternating them with other types of content. This is something that always works well.

Another tip: In videos with audio, it’s a good rule of thumb to include subtitles.

2) Instagram Reels  

After the more “classic” format, we come to the one that’s growing the fastest. 

Again, we start with the duration: up to 15 seconds. With a public profile you can go up to 90 seconds.

The format: vertical, in 9:16. 

They can be filmed directly from the Instagram app or uploaded from your own device.

This video format for Instagram came about in the wake of the overwhelming success of TikTok. 

So, first of all, it’s the perfect type of content when it comes to tapping into younger audiences.

Some best practices: use Instagram Reels especially for content that is less “institutional” and aimed more at “entertainment.” 

It’s also great for showing everything that usually remains “behind the scenes:” backstage videos and “meet the staff” videos, for example.

Another highly successful format that lends itself very well to Reels is tutorials / how-to videos. Just remember to keep it down to a few seconds.

Beware of one aspect: sometimes, in a rather naive way, there is a tendency to mimic the trends that emerge on TikTok. This is not an effective strategy: in fact, this could result in an “already seen” effect where users tend to skip viewing.

Instead, try to ride these trends in an original way. Take advantage of their wave, without flattening the image of the profile…therefore of the brand.

Another tip: make good use of all the tools at your disposal; from the choice of music to the use of different effects. 

Again, the goals of the campaign and the brand identity must guide your choices.

Overall: Reels are the type of video format for Instagram with the highest coverage data. According to a study conducted by Rival IQ I Reels, they have an average reach rate of 14%. Other formats stop between 9% and 10%.

3) Instagram Stories   

Here, we turn to a format that was introduced before Instagram Reels…but is still successful.

The duration: up to 15 seconds. Videos up to 60 seconds can be uploaded, which will be divided into blocks. 

The format is always vertical, in 9:16. Again, videos can be filmed directly through the app or uploaded from your device.

The strength of Instagram Stories lies entirely in their ephemeral nature

After 24 hours, the content is no longer visible to users…unless you decide to repost it in “featured stories” (a feature that brands are exploiting to great effect).

What does this translate into? 

Mainly in a sense of closeness.

In fact, Instagram Stories are the type of communication that humanizes the brand and gives a feeling of dialog with followers.

It’s also the perfect venue for taking up content from followers themselves, so-called User Generated Content.

Upstream, then, another good rule of thumb is to stimulate dialog by directly mentioning people (for example, exploiting the possibilities from Question & Answer forms or surveys)

Of course, the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories is also the limitation of this format; which is therefore not suitable for productions that involve a large expenditure of time, energy or money.

4) Instagram Live   

Speaking of closeness between audience and brand, one of the latest in video formats for Instagram is Instagram Live. 

This is about streaming live videos. 

It’s the perfect place to host presentations, live feeds from events, workshops that are open to the public, interviews, and much more.

In this case, the duration can be up to four hours. 

Up to two profiles can broadcast live at the same time.

And, later, live feeds can be shared in posts that last for 30 days before being deleted. 

All must be sent online directly from your device(s).

Here, best practices always pertain to live events: have a plot in mind without being too improvisational. At the same time, don’t get trapped by a scheme that is too rigid.

During live feeds, users can interact with reactions and comments. It’s always recommended to stimulate this involvement with those on the other side of the screen.

A very interesting side concerns the possibilities of “live shopping.” This is an aspect that needs to be managed as best as possible, and should be set based on your goals.

You’ll want to especially pay attention to technical aspects: first of all, watch out for the quality of the connection; a poor connection could negatively impact performance and enjoyment. Also pay close attention to audio quality and lighting.


Finally, a general best practice 

We will close this post with a best practice that applies to all video formats for Instagram and which – after all – lies at the heart of video marketing on social networks…and marketing more generally. 

There is no single format that is more valid than another, ever.

It all depends on two factors:

1) the objectives of your campaign, first and foremost 

2) your target audience

The second is the most sensitive factor.

And here, the question arises:

How do you know who is “on the other side”? How can you get a snapshot of your audience when it consists of thousands or millions of people?

There is an answer: it’s called data analysis.

That is, inferring the characteristics of your followers (and customers) based on the digital traces they disseminate online: understanding who they are, their behaviors, their tastes and preferences, therefore their possible desires.

Data is the real, inexhaustible engine of Digital Transformation. 

And it’s the compass that every good marketer today must know how to use to the fullest!

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