Differences between Instagram Stories and Reels and how to use them - June 2021 edition.

David Brami
July 31, 2020

Despite appearances, Stories and Reels have very little in common and are often very different. Whether you're a brand, an artist or just a content creator for your personal account, there are a few things to know about using Stories and Reels wisely.

To begin, let's take a look at the main technical differences between Reels and Stories.

Property Stories Reels
Display As a Story (see detailed description below) As Reel & Story (see detailed description below)
Format Video - Photo - Posts from Instagram feed Video
Lifespan 24 hours Unlimited
Length Up to 15 seconds Up to 30 seconds
Editing None Slow down & speed up videos - Trim and align or “stitch” videos together
Audio Add and select the part of a music piece from the music library Add and select the part of a music piece from the music library + Automatic musical sequence from one clip to another
Draft None Save to publish later
Caption None Full caption like a post
Gif & Sticker Ok Ok
Hashtag & Mention You can mention people and hashtags, but the Stories are not directly displayed on the hashtags page You can mention people and hashtags, and the reels are displayed on the hashtag page
Placement & Share Share to your followers, close friends group only or Individually via Instagram messaging. On the explore tab (public accounts only) + on your own Reels feed & general Insta feed (shared with your followers like a post)+ as Story (your Reel will be displayed as a Story)
Engagement Private engagement: likes and comments arrive in your direct messaging Like feed posts, people can publicly comment Reels

Difference #1. Display

This is the main difference between Stories and Reels: the Story format is an ephemeral status pinned to your profile picture. The Story is a concept that allows you to tell the story of your day using video, photo or a post, as much as you want for 24 hours.

The Reel remains a creativity-driven single video that will be displayed in the feed as a post (which you can share as a Story as you would a post).

Stories

When a Story is available, a red circle surrounds the profile picture of the people you follow at the top of the screen (image 1). A simple click launches the video. Stories are visible for 24 hours only (image 2).

You can save your Stories on your profil in a Highlight every single time. You will find them above your posts on your profile, round thumbnails (image 3).

Instagram feed, stories and profile screenshots on iPhone

Reels

Reels from people you follow appear in your feed as a post and are recognizable by the play symbol at the bottom left of the video (image 1). A simple click launches the video.

You can also find Reels via the Explore tab - magnifying glass symbol - (image 2).

The Reels you create will remain visible on your profile in the Reels grid (central button) and in your general grid (left button) if you have checked the "Also share to Feed" option. (Image 3).

Instagram feed, Reels and Profile screenshots on iPhone

Difference #2. Format

This is probably one of the main difference between Reels and Stories. Initially Stories were synonymous with videos exclusively. Soon, Instagram expanded the range of options to allow sharing other content such as written posts and business links (for pro accounts only for the moment). This difference makes the Story a broader sharing format for content while Reels remain a video-only format.

Difference #3. Lifespan

Even if we can pin our Stories on our profile to make them accessible after 24 hours, we will see in the sharing options that this aspect is a determining factor when choosing between a Reel and a Story according to the use cases.

Difference #4. Length

As we saw in the "Display" section you can post as many Stories as you want during 24 hours. Each Story will have a maximum duration of 15 seconds while a Reel can go up to 30.

Difference #5. Editing

When it comes to video editing, Reels is the best. It offers additional video editing features to allow you to create more sophisticated videos than with the Story editor. These tools allow you to slow down or speed up clips, trim content and align or "stitch" videos for smooth transitions. Like the audio options we'll see below, the Reels features encourage creativity while the Story editor features emphasize immediacy.

Difference #6. Audio

For your Stories (photo or video) or your Reels, you have access to all the available music catalogs. Whether it is a Story or a Reel, you can illustrate your clip with the song of your choice by picking the part you like. Reels goes further: if you create several clips (within the 30 seconds limit), the editor will consider your clips as a single video and the music you choose will be played automatically and without any break between your different sequences. If you want the same song to continue on the next clip in a Story you will have to go back to the music bank to find the song and then tune it by ear, which can be fun or very very boring.

Difference #7. Draft

As we've seen, improvisation and immediacy are the DNA of Stories, which is also why you can't save a draft Story in Instagram. But there's nothing to stop you from shooting your clips with your favorite camera app to do your edits and then schedule the launch of your Stories. Reels are more elaborate videos that can be saved as drafts to be reworked. You will find your drafts in the Reels tab of your profile.

Difference #8. Caption

The ephemeral status and format of the Stories does not allow to add a caption like on the posts. However, the Story's logic of immediacy allows for liking and commenting as direct messages via Instagram messaging. Reels are creations that are displayed like classic posts. They are more sophisticated and are made to last and be seen again and again, that's why you can add a caption. Like a post you can comment and like them.

Difference #9. Gif - Sticker

Story or Reel, no difference here. In addition to the cosmetic enhancement tool and the different filters available, you can add GIFs, stickers, write a message or draw freehand.

Difference #10. Hashtag & Mention

Reel or Story, you can mention (@) people as well as add hashtags. However, you'll have a hard time finding Stories through hashtags whether your account is private or public. Indeed, unless you pay for Instagram to propose them beyond your circle of friends, the Stories are intended to be seen only by your followers. Regarding mentions, the only difference is related to the format: for Stories, these mentions will be on the visual (photo, video, post). For Reels, you can add them at the end of the process in the caption, exactly like for a post.

Difference #11. Placement & Share

The Story is something that you share with your followers, a group of close friends only or individually via Instagram messaging. And it makes sense: why would people who don't know you be interested in how you walk your dog or what you have on your plate at lunch (unless you are Will Smith starting a diet).

As a creation, Reels are like posts and are meant to be discovered. That's why they can appear on the explore tab (public accounts only). Like a post too, they will remain visible on your own Reel feed and your general Insta feed (to your followers only for private account). You can also share your reels as a Story, which means that your reel will be accessible as a Story, via your profile picture thumbnail.

Public or private, you can't re-share other people's Stories but you can re-share someone's reel as a Story (public account only).

Difference #12. Engagement

Public or private account, the Story is something that you share with your followers, a group of close friends only or individually via Instagram messaging. And it makes sense: why would people who don’t know you be interested in how you walk your dog or what you have on your plate at lunch (unless you are Will Smith starting a diet).

With a public account, Reels are like posts and are meant to be discovered. That’s why they can appear on the explore tab (public accounts only). Like a post too, they will remain visible on your own Reel feed and your general Insta feed (to your followers only for private account). You can also share your reels as a Story, which means that your reel will be accessible as a Story, via your profile picture thumbnail.

Public or private, you can’t re-share other people’s Stories but you can re-share someone’s reel as a Story (public account only).

Public VS Private account

Private Stories & Public Reels

You can create Stories and Reels with a public or private account. It all depends on your goals when making this choice. A private account is not intended to make you known beyond your followers. In this case, hashtags will not be useful for your Reels and even less for your Stories which are meant for private viewing. If you're creative and looking for an audience, regardless of your activity or status, a public account is all you need. Reels are increasingly highlighted by Instagram in the explore tab when you have a public account. Here is a tool to automatically generate relevant keywords for your Reels (and posts).

Free Reels & Paid Stories

Generally speaking, in the case of a public account, the Reels will allow you to grow your audience for free and the Stories to feed it daily and to nurture your relationship. You can however create paid campaigns to promote your Stories which will then be suggested to different audiences according to your activity and your objectives. Your Story ad will then be inserted between the personal Stories of profiles chosen by Instagram according to your criteria and affinities.

Tips

Get new followers

Instagram's algorithm loves consistency. Feeding your account regularly is very time consuming, which is why we created Pictalio.

1. Join the community by sharing your most beautiful vertical videos. Each use of your videos on Instagram by third parties will increase your visibility and consequently your audience.

2. Start testing your Stories and Reels now by downloading free vertical videos here.

Use Reels Editor for your Stories

The Stories editor is quite limited for creating more sophisticated videos, especially for transitions and audio. Don't hesitate to use the Reel tool to make beautiful videos! You can then save them as a draft in your profile (or in your smartphone) to make edits and even to plan the release of your Stories. Later is great at this!

Instagram new feature

‘Recently Deleted’

Whether you deleted content by mistake or your account was hacked (yes, hackers love to do that), you can now recover your content within 30 days. On the latest version of the Instagram app, during these 30 days, you can recover Posts, Stories and Reels just by going to Settings > Account > Recently Deleted. From there you can either restore or permanently delete them.

Take away

Once you've mastered the benefits of Reels and Stories, you'll see that they are complementary and serve very different purposes. Moral of the story: consider Reels to get growth and Stories to deepen the relationship and get engagement.