Instagram Reel vs Story - Who Wins?

Instagram Reel vs Story - Who Wins?

Learn the key differences between Instagram Reels and Stories, and find out which one is the better option for your social media strategy.

Oct 10, 2023
11 min read
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Instagram Reels vs Stories - Which Is Better?

As Instagram continues to evolve, it's an increasingly relevant question for social media marketers and creators alike.

Let's start with their definitions:

An Instagram Reel is a short video you can create and share on Instagram Feed or Stories. These can be edited with music, text and other creative video editing features, offering spectacular visuals that really catch the eye. It’s also the latest feature that Instagram has introduced to compete with TikTok.

An Instagram Story is a series of photos or short videos you can post to your profile. They only last for 24 hours before disappearing, perfect for sharing daily moments with your followers. Introduced in 2016, Stories are known for its more casual and spontaneous content compared to Instagram Reels.

The Differences Between Instagram Stories and Reels


An Instagram Story lasts up to 15 seconds long, while Instagram Reels are up to 90 seconds. 

Instagram Stories are designed to provide a quick, fleeting look into your brand or product, while Reels can be used for longer, more in-depth content. Both have their separate strengths and are typically used for the following types of content:

Instagram Stories (15 seconds):

  1. Behind-The-Scenes Content
  2. Limited-Time Offers and Announcements
  3. Event Highlights
  4. Daily Vlogs or Updates
  5. Countdowns and Teasers

Instagram Reels (90 seconds):

  1. Educational Content or Step-by-step Tutorials
  2. Creative and High-Quality Productions
  3. User-Generated Content and Collaboration
  4. Storytelling and Themed Series
  5. Product Demos and Showcases

If you want to post longer videos on your Instagram Stories, you can simply break them into several 15-second segments. But it generally makes more sense to use the full 90 seconds on Reels for these types of content.


Instagram Stories offers a range of filters, stickers, and text options. Users can upload images and videos, music and include interactive features like polls, quizzes, and countdowns. Other interactive elements include 'Add Yours' prompts, questions, and a link. Links can be used to direct users to an external landing page, ideal for product or service announcements or sales. 

On the other hand, Instagram Reels offers a more professional editing experience. Users can incorporate AR effects and speed controls, i.e. change playback speed, stitch multiple clips together, and import audio directly from their device or Instagram's music library. They even offer templates that follow preset formats, using popular layouts and timing to music beats.

Formats Available

Instagram Stories are video clips that can display static photos, photo collages, and posts from user feeds. This allows content creators to repurpose existing content for their Stories, saving time on production.

Instagram Reels focuses exclusively on video, meaning you can't incorporate static images and other content types. Like TikTok, Reels are short-form videos that aim to be highly engaging and entertaining. This is great when creating original content that dynamically showcases your creativity. 

Potential Reach and Discoverability

Instagram Reels can be found on a user's feed, 'Reel' tab, and the 'Explore' section. They can also be featured on the ‘Use effect’ page, enhancing the chance of discovery when users browse effects. Reels were designed to reach new audiences outside the user's existing follower base, enhancing its viral potential.

Instagram Stories, meanwhile, are primarily shown on the user's profile for their followers.  They're also displayed at the top of a follower's Feed,  so it's easier for them to spot. This is great if you already have a loyal following and want to keep them updated on your latest content.

However, non-followers can still see Instagram Stories if they visit the user's profile directly. They can also be featured in the 'Explore' section when tagged with popular hashtags or locations.


Stories can only be saved by the user who created it. However, Reels can be saved by other users to their own accounts, which can be viewed later on. This adds a collaborative and interactive element to the Reels experience, allowing for more engagement and growth within the community.

You can save Reels by clicking the three dots on the bottom right corner of the video and selecting 'Save'. This is then accessible in the menu icon on your profile feed.

User Sharing Feature

Instagram Stories and Reels can be shared by users through direct messages (DMs), emails and other social media platforms. Users can also share other people’s public stories if they’ve been tagged in them.

Reels, however, are more permanent than Stories, staying on your profile indefinitely. You can save them in your 'Saved' tab and share them again anytime. This makes it easier to share Reels multiple times, potentially helping them reach a wider audience

Audience Engagement

According to insights provided by Hootsuite, Instagram Stories have an average engagement of 1.08%. This means out of 100 views, 1.08 viewers will like, comment or share your content. 

On the other hand, Instagram Reels have an average engagement rate of 3.21%, three times higher than Stories. As such, you'll probably receive more reactions, comments and shares from your Reels, which can skyrocket your follower count.

Reels also performed better when covering trending topics or challenges. This is due to their longer duration, broader reach, and more advanced editing tools that can create more visually appealing videos.

Existing Followers Engagement

It's one thing to attract hordes of new followers but another to keep them.

The best way to retain followers is through regular and mouth-watering content.

Instagram Stories are viewed by 500 million accounts daily, with 58% of users reporting increased interest in brands after viewing their Stories​​. Story engagements can be measured in various ways, including shares, replies, likes, and profile visits. Furthermore, it's shown that around 5% of your existing audience will view your Story on any given day.

In comparison, Instagram Reels are a relatively new feature (2020), meaning there's less data on its  effect on existing followers. While its lack of interactive features may decrease the overall retention level compared to Stories, its engaging and entertaining content may still keep your current followers coming back for more. 

Music and Imported Audio

Both Stories and Reels let you add music from Instagram's music library. But how it's done is slightly different. With Stories, you can add music by using the sticker feature. With Reels, click the 'Use audio' icon to select your favorite tunes.

However, Reels allow users to also import any audio file, including other Reel audio from other users, voiceovers and insert sound effects. Furthermore, you can record a Reel with your own audio and add in music and sound effects from the library. This gives Reels a more versatile and customizable audio experience for content creators.


You can add hashtags and location tags to your Stories and Reels.

Instagram Stories allow you to add up to 10 hashtags. Reels, however, allow for a maximum of 30 hashtags. The more hashtags you use, the greater your chances of being discovered by potential followers and viewers.

While both content tools recommend that users select contextually relevant hashtags, you can really go all out on Reels. This means you can explore a more comprehensive array of themes and trends, even using hashtags that aren't laser-focused on your brand or niche.

Winner: Instagram Reels due to its higher hashtag limit and flexibility in content exploration. 

Reels Vs Stories - Which One Should You Use?

We've dived in on the vital difference between Instagram Reels and Stories, but which one should you use for your business or personal account?

Let's go through different digital marketing objectives and determine which feature would be more suitable for each goal:

Reels - Gaining New Followers and Going Viral

Instagram Reels can be discovered on your feed, Reels tab and the "Explore" page, making it substantially more visible than Stories. They're easier to search, discover and share and have no expiration date like Instagram Stories.

Furthermore, its focus on high-quality production value and audio options makes it more likely to gain traction and go viral.

Reels - Increasing Audience Engagement

Instagram Reels are highly engaging due to their dynamic and entertaining content. It's easy to get creative with music, filters and editing tools to produce engaging content that resonates with your audience.

In fact, Stories have experienced a 44% drop in engagement since Reels came onto the scene. Reels are also more searched on Google, making it a better choice for engagement in general.

Stories - Retaining and Nurturing Existing Followers

Instagram Stories are designed to be more personal and raw, showing shorter snippets of your daily life. It's the perfect feature for behind-the-scenes content, Q&A's quizzes and polls and engaging with your current followers. This type of content can nurture relationships and build a sense of community.

Since Stories disappear after 24 hours, it also compels users to regularly check your profile for updates, keeping them engaged with your brand. 

Remember that building a loyal audience means your followers are more likely to  recommend your brand to others and even defend it in the face of criticism. They're also more inclined to purchase your products or services, which is the ultimate goal of any business.

Stories and Reels - Promoting Your Brand

Reels and Stories can help put the public eye on your brand, but how you use them is key. 

As mentioned, Reel' TikTok-like format and enhanced visibility makes it more likely to go viral. With its ability to attract new followers through hashtags and the Explore page, your promotions can reach a new and larger audience. 

On the other hand, Stories offers a direct link to any external page, allowing users to explore your website and enter your marketing funnel. It's also an ideal tool for promoting time-sensitive offers and events. 

Reels - Influencer Collaborations

Reels and Stories can be utilized to partner up with an influencer. However, each has its benefits.

Reels showcase your brand's creativity and can potentially reach massive audiences, including other influencers and their fanbases. If more influencers see your Reels, you're more likely to attract new collaboration opportunities. 

Stories, meanwhile, provide an unfiltered and intimate connection between influencers who happen to follow you. This deeper connection increases trust and familiarity, making them more likely to share your brand with their audience. 

Use Reels and Stories to Enhance Your Brand

While we've clearly distinguished the differences between Reels and Stories, you can use both to enhance your brand's digital presence. 

Reels can help increase brand visibility and attract new followers, while Stories can help nurture your new following and direct traffic to your website. When used together, they create a well-rounded marketing strategy that appeals to different aspects of your target audience. 

We hope this guide has helped you to develop your Instagram strategy. Remember, it's not about choosing one over the other but utilizing both to maximize your brand's reach and engagement on the platform. Get creative, stay consistent, and watch your brand grow on Instagram!

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