Instagram Stories vs. Instagram Reels – What’s the Difference?

a yellow background with a person's hand holding up a smartphone with an instagram feed on the screen

How You Can Use the Latest Social Media Marketing Craze to Reach Your Target Audience

After a recent update to the Instagram app, one billion users noticed a few changes: notifications are now at the top right of the screen; there’s a shopping tab next to your profile icon; and a new feature, “Reels,” is located where the post creation button used to be.

Marketers are left wondering what Reels is, how to use it, and how it differs from Instagram Stories. The social media experts at iFocus Marketing can help your business engage with your audiences on social media, including Instagram Reels and Stories, to help you reach your business goals. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between the two app features.

Instagram Stories Engage Your Audience with Full-Screen Vertical Photos and Videos

Of the 500 million accounts using Instagram Stories, one-third of the most-viewed stories come from businesses! Thirty-six percent use Instagram stories for product promotion, and 59 percent link Instagram Stories to a shoppable page.

Instagram Stories gives your audience a taste of what you have to offer. Positioned at the top of the page, Stories entices users to get daily updates like featured products, service highlights, influencer collaborations, or a peek behind the curtain of day-to-day activities in your organization. 

But Instagram Stories is more than just another corner of social media to promote your products. With fun, interactive features like polls, quizzes, countdowns, and challenges, users sample your business offerings and engage with your brand – which helps them to remember you when it’s time to buy! 

a screenshot of drew barrymore putting on makeup in an instagram reels video as a brand advocate for walmartWalmart, on Instagram as @Walmart, recently utilized Instagram Stories to promote their recent makeup collaboration with actress Drew Barrymore. They used a poll to ask their audience what they love most from the product line, and featured Barrymore herself! Even if you don’t have your own influencer actress talking on the Internet about your products, you can still use the power of human connection to increase sales and spark interest through Instagram Stories.

screenshot of the kansas city chiefs' instagram account on wallpaper wednesday

Brands and businesses also can use Stories to share user content and develop a relationship with their audience. Our very own hometown football team, the Kansas City Chiefs, used this social media marketing tactic. They shared content from fans on game days and promoted their free branded items, like Chiefs-themed cell phone wallpapers – a value-added incentive for fans to interact with the team’s brand and intentionally watch their Stories stream! See their tactics in action on Instagram, @Chiefs. 

Instagram Stories as Ad Types

With one-in-four Millennials and Gen Z-ers using Instagram Stories to look for products and services they want to buy, this feature is a great way to get your business in front of new eyes!

In addition to engaging your current audience, Instagram stories can also be used as an ad type to reach more customers. Target Instagram users for brand awareness, traffic, and conversion campaigns by serving social media ads on Instagram. Instagram story ad campaigns are managed within Facebook’s Ads Manager. Story ads appear when users are browsing stories of accounts they already follow. With the same full screen video, Instagram Story ads put your product or service in full view. To see how campaigns are performing, analytics are in the insights section of a business profile in the app. 

Story Ads video example 1 

Story Ads video example 2

Instagram Reels is a Response to the Popularity of TikTok

In August 2020, with the threat of a TikTok ban in America, Instagram quickly rolled out Reels to secure its place in the video content creation category of social media. 

Announced August 5, Instagram Reels invites users to create video content on the subjects of their choice and share it with the world. Users record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with new creative tools, like AR Effects, self-timers, and audio. Reels can be recorded directly on Instagram within the Reels camera, or uploaded from your camera roll on your mobile device. 

Reels has been thrust into the spotlight on Instagram since its debut. The recent layout update makes it easier to find the feature on the Explore page, and users can post their Reels videos in their feeds or via Instagram Stories. The user’s distinction between Reels and longer videos on IGTV is the Reels icon appearing in the lower left corner of the video, or the upper right corner on a profile. 

Because it is still new, there isn’t much universal data about how many users watch and create Reels and the effect it has on their shopping tendencies. However, according to Forbes, 87 percent of TikTok users think Instagram Reels are “basically the same” as the original app, and fashion house Louis Vuitton, serving looks @LouisVuitton, reports the average across all their Reels views is nearly 7 million. What do we know for sure? Just like posting in the Instagram Feed, the best practice is to use hashtags to help users discover your Reels. Because Reels is a relatively new feature, there are no advertising options like TikTok offers. However, businesses and marketers are able to add shopping tags that link directly to products.

two smartphones side-by-side with instagram stories promoting a camping hammock

Instagram Reels as Video Advertising

Reels take your Instagram presence to a new level because they are rich with creative content packed into short videos. Like Instagram Stories, you can use Reels to highlight specific products or services and connect with your audience. The biggest difference that Reels provides is that your brand can become an active participant in the culture of your target audience, following video trends to help tell your brand’s story.

Pandr Design Co., a small business, used Reels to highlight features of their graphic design and creative services, and provided useful content on the design process and why your building may need a mural! See how they did it on their Instagram, @PandrDesignCo

Add Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories to Your Social Media Strategy

While staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, social media users are seeking connections to their favorite brands and ways to engage with others like them. Satisfy this urge by using Instagram Stories and Instagram Reels to bond them to your business and see results.

Using Instagram stories and Reels together in your marketing strategy will help your business maintain and grow an engaged audience. Strategic use of these features and provides your audience with more value and leads to more credibility and trust with your consumers. The more different types of content you publish to your followers, the more opportunities they have to get to know what your business is about, keeping you top of mind during their purchasing journey. 

Let iFocus Marketing devise a clever social media strategy for your business and any other digital marketing needs. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation

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