The Best Instagram Video Format: Ads, Stories and IGTV

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Instagram’s rise has been phenomenal. In 2015, the platform’s advertising revenue stood at $0.63 billion. In three years, the revenue skyrocketed to $6.84 billion. Two years have passed, the ad revenues are still rising and touching new heights. 

What do the revenue numbers have anything to do with me, you ask?  Numbers don’t lie. More than 500 million people use Instagram every day. Moreover, the social media platform has more than a billion members. 

IG has spread far and wide. Only 12% of its uses are in the United States. In addition, 71% of people using the platform are 35 years of age or below – this is the demography that most businesses want to target.

Video Is the New King of the Jungle

Some 10-15 years ago, text content dominated the web while videos were restricted to television. The situation has changed. Video content is huge now, but it’s going to get even bigger and better. Soon 82% of all web traffic will move towards videos. Besides, we’ve seen a 4-time jump in video content in just 3 years.

And when you know for sure that embedding one of your IG videos in an email will double or triple the click-through rates, why not do it?

Faces that were glued to the TVs are now glued to mobile phones. It’s only natural that marketers and businesses would tail the public and adopt online videos as a new medium to promote products and services.

Instagram Is the Ideal Host for Video Content

Videos have played an important role in the staggering growth of Instagram. While the SM platforms were still dominated by texts and images, Instagram read the tea leaves. To attract new users and keep the members interested, IG introduced features that encouraged the creation of videos of various types and formats. 

Ads, Stories, and IGTV are IG tools that serve the users what they want – Video Content. These tools also give businesses an opportunity to reach out to a large audience. 

Bear in mind that thousands of businesses are already using the video tools on IG. Plus, tens and thousands more will hop the IG bandwagon in the coming years. Soon there will be millions of businesses and zillions of videos on IG. They are your competition. 

In addition, on IG it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Furthermore, your chances of success will slump faster than the crude oil prices if you don’t get the video format and specifications right. 

So, here is a crash course on the best Instagram video formats, and why and how to use them. 

Instagram Ads 

Apart from Instagram Ads, there are two other video marketing tools we’ll discuss. But, Ads is the faster of the select three. If you decide to go the Instagram Ads way, then keep in mind that advertisement videos appear at only two places – IG In-Feed and Story videos. 

Combine well-made video ads with optimized (right length, aspect ratio, and resolution) content, and you have a successful IG Ad campaign on your hands.

It has been our experience that Instagram Ads perform so well because they blend well with the regular posts. Hard selling your product or service sometimes repels the audience. Remember to use natural and authentic ads that offer something valuable to the target audience. 

Instagram Ads: Some Important Points to Remember

In-Feed Video Ads

Many marketers gravitate towards in-feed advertising because Instagram gives a whole 2 minutes to display the video, which is twice the length of the actual IG in-feed video (max. 60 seconds). 

In-Feed Video Specifications

  • The aspect ratio: 4:5 (minimum); 1.91:1 (maximum)
  • Video width: 500 pixels
  • Compression: H.264
  • Bitrate: 128 kbps

Carousel Video Ads

The in-feed carousel ads are ideal for brands that plan on advertising an entire product line. In a single ad, IG allows you to display 10 different videos with separate links for each. In each carousel video ad, brands get a maximum of 10 videos; each with a maximum duration of a minute (60 seconds). 

Carousel Video Specifications

  • The aspect ratio: 1:1 (square)
  • Video resolution: 1080 x 1080 pixels (recommended)
  • No. of cards: 10 cards (maximum) 
  • Duration: 60 seconds

Instagram Story Ads

You can include ads in the IG Stories as well. IG users can easily swipe and ignore ads that appear among the Story videos. So, to get these ads recognized, you need to make it catchy and engaging. 

Unlike IG Story videos, Story ads can be longer, up to 2 minutes. Here too, you can use carousel ads. Instagram gives you two options; the native stories carousel with a maximum of 3 cards and the expandable carousel that allows up to 10 cards.

Story Ads Video Specifications

  • The aspect ratios: from 9:16 to 4:5
  • Video resolution: 600 pixels (minimum)
  • Duration: 2 minutes (120 seconds)

Tips for Creating Instagram Ads That Convert

Creating Instagram Ads is easy, but before doing so keep in mind the following tips: 

It pains us to say that the attention span of a baby is longer than an internet user. Plus, the attention span is reducing by the decade. You have no more than 3 seconds to grab the attention of the viewer. 

Make each second and each part of the ad count. The still images, colours, actors, background, fonts, and CTA – each one of these has a role in engaging the viewer. 

Just because Instagram gives you 2 minutes for the advertisement you don’t have to use it in full. Decide on the ideal length of the ad video

In IG Ads, the sound is normally turned off. You have to click the video for sound. Besides, many users prefer to keep the sound off.  So, create a video that makes sense even without the sound.     

Finally, plan well with a clear goal in mind, use texts and images creatively, and include a clear Call to Action (CTA). 

Instagram Stories

Instagram Story is a tool to express a short story in an authentic and creative way. Content creators can use videos, images, text, and stickers to articulate a message that would be visible for 24 hours. After a day, the Instagram Story you uploaded goes poof – disappears forever. 

On the mobile phone, IG Stories appear as soon as the user opens the app. The video shows up on the top bar but doesn’t list on the news feed. This is a tool for content creators that use not-so-sophisticated recording equipment such as a mobile camera. Hence, IG Stories only accept vertical format videos. 

Instagram Stories are curtailed to 15-second clips. Even if you record and upload a minute-long video, the tool splits the content into four clips of 15 seconds each. 

If used right, you won’t need more than 15 seconds to grab the viewer’s attention, convey a message, and induce action. Instead of considering the time limitation as an impediment, businesses can use this tool to create short ads. The ads you create must be simple, clear, and easy to understand. 

Instagram Stories: Some Important Points to Remember

  • On the internet, a 15-second video is enough to tell a story. You can connect and engage with viewers by appealing to their emotions like empathy, curiosity, outrage, excitement, etc. 
  • Pay attention to the images, colour, background, text font, and stickers you use. To get these attributes right, create an audience persona. 
  • As mentioned above, Instagram Story is a canvas for authentic content that’s realistic, funny, foolish, and weird. 
  • Use augmented reality (AR) filters to make videos interesting and engaging
  • Every Story must have Call to Action (CTA). Moreover, make the CTA clear and visible.

Video Specifications

  • IG Stories only allows upload of videos in MP4 format. 
  • The aspect ratio of the video: no bigger than 9:16
  • Video dimensions: 600 x 1067 pixels (minimum); 1080 x 1920 pixels (maximum)
  • Video length and size: 15 seconds per video (maximum file size of 15 MB)

Why You Should Use Instagram Stories for Promoting Your Business?

Instagram Stories have a reach that goes beyond your followers. That is; Stories can be searched and viewed even by IG users who aren’t your followers. Using tags and hashtags increase your reach. You can use the hashtag of brands or tag other people to promote the video on Instagram. 

IG Stories are very popular. So, you can embed or display Instagram Stories on your website to make visitors spend more time on the site. 

Use Instagram Stories in a creative way to promote a product or service. IG Story works well as a teaser. A sticker or link can take the viewer to an IGTV video, blog, or website for further information. 

Stories have proven their worth in different stages of the marketing funnel, from brand awareness, lead generation, to sales. A persuasive Story connected to the product page can lead to conversion and sale. The same video tool is perfect for short how-to or tips and tricks content. 

Businesses can go beyond the sales motive. Businesses can create Stories to engage and build trust with consumers. Brands can show their humane side with ‘behind the scene’ videos or provide a link that would take the viewer to Instagram Messenger to chat with a brand representative, as part of your social media customer service plan

Example: Buck Mason IG Story

The Buck Mason IG Story showcases its products and their amazing features to the audience. The simple video provides a glimpse of the brand’s flexible-wear. Users can swipe up the video to reach the catalogue page where they can purchase the item of their choice. 


IGTV or Instagram TV – the name says it all. It’s a tool created for mobile-optimized viewing of videos. You can take it to be a longer form of Instagram Stories. 

This is where you can get creative with the video editing too.

Since this will be a longer video you might want to put in some extra work in post-production. Find yourself an Instagram video editor app or outsource the video editing to someone who knows the business.

Users can access the video tool from an icon on Instagram or use the standalone IGTV app. A lot like YouTube, one of the reasons for creating IGTV is to challenge YouTube (the current champion of online videos) in the future. 

The average time for videos uploaded on the app is 10 minutes for normal users. But, members with verified accounts and a large following can upload videos that are up to an hour-long. 

The user interface of the app is easy to understand and navigate features such as ‘Popular,’ ‘Following,’ and ‘For You.’ Opening the search bar will bring a list of suggestions based on your interests and search history. 

At the time of launch, IGTV was an exclusive domain for vertical videos. But, Instagram recently announced relaxing the conditions. Now, users can upload both vertical and horizontal videos. 

IGTV: Some Important Points to Remember 

  • To record and upload videos on IGTV, users have to first create a channel (just like a regular TV). Instagram and IGTV users have to visit your channel to watch the videos.
  • IGTV is flexible and versatile. Like YouTube, this app too is customized for mobile and desktop viewing. You can record a video, edit on your desktop, and upload it to IGTV – it’s that easy. 
  • You cannot record and upload videos from your mobile then and there. You can create one or several videos, upload all of them, and publish the videos for viewing whenever you want. 
  • Videos uploaded on IGTV are also available for users of the Instagram app. 

Video Specifications

  • Only videos in MP4 format are allowed.  
  • The aspect ratio of the video: no bigger than 9:16 (Vertical); 16:9 (Horizontal)
  • Minimum frame rate: 30 FPS
  • Minimum video resolution: 720 pixels
  • Video length and size: 15 seconds to 10 minutes (maximum file size of 650 MB); 60 minutes (max. file size of 3.6 GB)

Why You Should Use IGTV for Promoting Your Business?

IGTV is fairly new. By including IGTV in your marketing strategy, you get the first-mover advantage. To boot, you gain access to more than 1 billion Instagram users. 

IGTV’s current drawback is its biggest strength. It isn’t as big as YouTube yet. So, your content won’t be buried under a heap of cat videos. 

IGTV is ideal at every stage of the marketing funnel. You can use it for brand awareness, lead generation, lead nurturing, and sales. 

IGTV is a great place to use influencer marketing to promote your product and service. You can team up with influencers – IGTV has some of the best in the business – to create unboxing, how-to, and review videos to reach your target audience.

Example: Hubspot IGTV Video for Startups

The Tools for Startups video by Hubspot shows how complex and serious topics can be explained in less than 10 minutes. In the 8-minute video, the narrator elaborates on all the factors that are crucial for a start-up. The narrator conveys the message in a succinct and effective manner. 

Final Thoughts

Instagram presents businesses with several avenues to use video marketing to promote products and services. We have shown you the three best Instagram video formats, their video specifications, and reasons to use them. 

Now, it’s time to take your video marketing to the next level. 

Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios or brands all over the globe. You can catch up with him on his blog or on LinkedIn.

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