18
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What is the Ideal Instagram Video Length? (5 Formats Compared)

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When businesses first decide to invest in an Instagram video content strategy, one of the first questions they ask is:

"What length should my videos be? What's ideal?"

The truth is, doing well with IG video content isn't about how long or short your video is. It's about whether you understand the nuances of each video format and work within their constraints to make videos people actually want to watch.

Done right, video length is an afterthought.

This article will cover the current length requirements for all five Instagram video formats. We'll help you decide which video formats to focus on, and we'll provide context around what video length tends to work best when you implement best practices.

By the end, you'll know exactly which video formats to focus on and how to start making videos that command your audience's attention from start to finish.

Instagram video length limits

As of 2022, there are four different types of Instagram video formats. Five when you include video ads. Each format has a specific length requirement and use case for businesses:

  1. Instagram Story videos: The maximum length for an Instagram Story video is 15 seconds. Stories are best for driving engagement among followers.
  2. Instagram Reels videos: TikTok-style videos up to 60 seconds long. Reels offer the most reach. They're the best way to grow your organic following quickly.
  3. Instagram Live videos: Live stream video shot from the Instagram app can be up to 4 hours long. They can also be uploaded in their entirety to your Story or Feed after they’ve ended. Live streams are ideal for long-form content educating people about your product and the problems they help solve.
  4. Instagram Video: As of October 2021, IGTV videos and Feed videos are now one format—Instagram Video. Instagram Video previews last up to 60 seconds long. Regular accounts can upload video clips between 15 seconds and 10 minutes. Verified accounts, or accounts with large followings, can upload up to 60-minute videos. Instagram Videos (Feed videos) are best for repurposing video content, testimonials, and brand awareness content.
  5. Instagram video ads: Instagram offers a few video ad placements to choose from. Story ads can last between 5-15 seconds. Reels ads, up to 30 seconds. And Feed video ads can last up to 60 minutes (yes, minutes, according to Facebook). Ads can help you acquire customers faster than organic methods. You can target who to show ads to and increase ad spend to reach more people.

There are several factors to consider when deciding on the right Instagram video length and format. Let’s take a look at how to make each format work for you. 

1. Instagram Stories: Up to 15 seconds

The maximum Instagram Story video length is 15 seconds. However, if your content is longer than the 15-second limit, you can string together multiple Story cards to create an extended Story sequence for your social media followers.

Stories are short, often raw-looking video clips that disappear after 24 hours, and they're only visible to your followers. Here's an example:

Summer Fridays Instagram Stories example
Summer Fridays takes a direct approach to new product development—going straight to their audience.
Source: Later

IG Stories are the ideal format to drive quality engagement among your followers.

To learn how to use them effectively in your business, check out our in-depth article on Instagram Story Video Length. You'll learn the do's and don'ts around video length, editing tips, best practices, and examples to help inspire your own Stories posts.

You can read the full article here.

2. Instagram Reels: Up to 60 seconds

The maximum length of an Instagram Reel video is 60 seconds.

Reels are Instagram's latest posting feature and response to the global TikTok phenomena: Fast, vertical clips that can be 15, 30, or 60 seconds long.

Curiously, the original length of Reels was just 15 seconds. But over time, Instagram slowly increased the length. This decision should tell you that, contrary to popular belief, users actually do have an attention span for longer content, provided the video is good, and the message resonates.

Reels are natively vertical, and users expect them to be more polished, scripted, and entertaining—the more creative and fun, the better.

To post video to Reels, upload an existing video from your Android or iPhone camera roll and use Instagram's native add-on features to edit and layer audiovisual effects to help make your content more enticing. 

Here's an example from Stitch Fix that teaches you three ways to fold jeans:

Best for

Reels are the best video format to expose your content to new audiences and grow your follower count quickly. They're unique because they're pushed to users regardless of whether they follow your Instagram account or not. 

After posting a Reel, Instagram's algorithm will show it to your followers, people who follow similar profiles as yours, and if your Reel gets strong engagement (likes, comments, shares), it'll be rewarded with even more reach. The more engagement, the more reach. The more reach, the more potential new customers can discover your brand.

The creative requirements are steeper than Stories or static Instagram posts, but that's also what makes Reels an untapped growth opportunity—there's less competition.

Long versus short

Considering the 60-second maximum limit, Reels are short by necessity. 

To find out the ideal video length for your audience, experiment with shorter videos (under 30 seconds) and longer videos (over 30 seconds), and use Reels Insights to determine what performs best.

Longer videos

Flavor God: 37 seconds

Flavor God’s Reels are intentionally sped up. Why do this? You can’t cook anything in less than 60 seconds, but there’s another reason: views. 

Views are a crucial video metric that Instagram looks at when deciding how to rank your content. 

Here's an example:

Why it works

Fast-paced cooking videos offer viewers a steady stream of dopamine hits. 

Thanks to careful editing, there isn't a single lull in the whole video, just pure action. This tends to keep users coming back for more. And if you wanted to try making the recipe for yourself, you’d have to pause, rewind, or rewatch the Reel several times just to get the gist of it. Every one of those actions is an engagement signal, which helps increase reach.

Shorter videos

With shorter Reels videos, the challenge is getting your entire message across as quickly and coherently as possible while holding the viewer's attention. 

Familiar visual products work well for short Reels because they don't require much explanation—up-close visuals and matching audio do most of the work for you. Here's how Glossier does it:

Glossier: 10 seconds

Why it works

  • Visually appealing: Close-up video that captures interesting physical textures resonates with certain audiences. Just look at the product's detail being applied to someone's fingertip. This reel also has a lot of motion, different angles, and camera shots—speed and variety keep you watching.
  • Familiar product: Facial cleanser is one of the most popular cosmetic products among skincare enthusiasts—it's familiar and easy to like, a mainstay in everyone's routine.
  • Audio reinforces the context: The background music is fun and upbeat, which aligns with the fast-paced and positive nature of the Reels format and the aspirational aesthetic of Glossier.

Engagement-wise, this 10-second video received nearly 9k likes and over 100 comments. Glosser publishes hundreds of these, so you can imagine the cumulative effect on audience growth.

Glossier's primary goal is sales. Brand awareness is a close second.

They know that Reels are the ideal format for generating broad brand awareness, not necessarily direct sales from the post. This video did its job: it garnered a ton of engagement, and anyone who saw the video will likely associate Glossier with conditioning face wash.

Instagram Reels tips

The ability to reach new audiences with Reels boils down to the quality of your content. If you can hold the viewer's attention and your message resonates, people will watch your videos no matter what length.

Integrate the following best practices in your Reels to get people to stop scrolling and watch all the way through:

  • Use vertical video: Like Stories, Reels are mobile-first vertical videos. If you have existing video assets to repurpose, crop the middle third and publish as a new vertical video to look more native.
  • Capture attention in the first 3 seconds: The hook is the most important part to get right because most people will swipe to another Reel during the first few seconds. With Reels, like TikTok videos, your content must be incredibly captivating in those first few seconds—even the first frame.
  • Maximize engagement with captions and audiovisual effects: The most engaging Reels are fast-paced, make full use of native audiovisual effects, and remove every frame that isn't necessary to tell their story—no lulls, only action.

3. Instagram Live: Up to 4 hours

The maximum length of an Instagram Live video is 4 hours (it used to be 60 minutes).

Use IG Live to live stream video straight from your Instagram profile. IG Live videos can also be uploaded in their entirety to your Story and Feed after they’ve ended.

Zero IG Live example

Best for

Instagram Live is ideal for interacting with your audience in real-time and educating them about your product or the broader context in which your product is used.

Here are a few best use cases for IG Live:

  • If you already have a following—it’s a direct line of communication to people already interested in your brand.
  • More structured programming (e.g., a webinar, interview, expert AMA) or off the cuff, behind the scenes (if you’re a product company, you could tour your fulfillment center).
  • Live product demonstration or tutorial.

Going live comes with a few benefits:

  • Followers are notified when you go live.
  • Because live videos can be deleted once they’re over or shared to stories for only 24 hours, there’s an added sense of urgency.
  • People like interaction. Viewers can leave comments in real-time so you can answer them while you’re live.

Prose uses IG Live to host AMA sessions with their audience to field questions about their hair products and hair care tips.

Prose IG Live example

Long versus short

The ideal length of your IG Live broadcasts depends on what you're trying to accomplish and how engaged your audience is with your content.

  • If you already have an engaged audience—regardless of how big or small—you'll likely have enough turnout to make it worthwhile, especially if you promote the live stream to your followers in advance.
  • On the other hand, if you're just getting started with organic Instagram and haven't built up an audience or a low-quality audience that doesn't engage with your posts in a meaningful way, it'll be harder to get people to show up let alone convert.

IG Live is the clear choice for long-form content. It's also distinct because people have to tap a button and opt in to your live streams. 

In that sense, everyone who tunes in is already qualified—they're there because the live stream topic appeals to them.

Let's look at a few examples.

Longer videos

Marc Maron: 115 minutes

Marc Maron is a comedian and host of the popular podcast WTF. He goes live a few times per week to chat with his fans, drink coffee, and noodle on the guitar. 

This kind of meandering long-form content wouldn't be appealing to outsiders, but his fans love it. Thousands of people tune in to join the conversation.

Marc Maron IG Live example

Why it works

This strategy works well for Marc Maron because he's a celebrity. His business is himself—Marc Maron is the product people want. 

Going live on Instagram strengthens his relationship with his audience, which boosts his podcast numbers and drives ticket sales to live shows.

People attend these real-time experiences because they feel like they're there hanging out with someone special. It's the same reason people listen to so many podcasts—they get to eavesdrop on interesting conversations they wouldn't otherwise be able to.

Celebrities and influencers should experiment with this type of IG live content, but companies are better off with a shorter, more purposeful format.

Shorter videos

Precision Nutrition: 35 minutes

Precision Nutrition's main product is a nutrition certification program. 

PN enrolls a cohort of new students who go through the program several times a year to become certified PN coaches. It's one of the most reputable certification programs in the industry, and it's trendy among people looking to change careers and become health coaches.

Here's a Q&A live stream with a former PN student who started her own successful coaching business after completing the program.

Precision Nutrition IG Live example

Why it works

First, this PN example is an interview with a former student about her experience in the program. Towards the end, it segues into a Q&A session for people who want to change careers and break into the nutrition field. It's a success story that shows people what's possible if you go through the program and invest in yourself.

Second, this Q&A live stream also functions as a lead gen webinar to bring prospects into PN's sales funnel. 

Educational webinars are a common sales tactic in B2B SaaS but can also work in B2C. Webinars typically work like this: 

  • Create a talk, presentation, or live demo about a topic that overlaps with your prospect's problem and the solution you sell that solves that problem. 
  • Promote the webinar to your prospect list to get people to show up. 
  • Typically, the first ~80% of a webinar is pure educational content (over-deliver on value first), and the last 20% is reserved for promoting the product.

One of the main reasons webinars are so successful is that they qualify people in advance with a specific topic.

It's likely that a high percentage of the people who tuned into the Precision Nutrition live stream were already considering a career change to nutrition coaching. And a portion of those viewers likely went to the sign-up page to learn more and potentially enroll.

Instagram Live tips

  • Promote the live stream in advance: To maximize the number of attendees, promote the live stream in advance. Create standalone Stories and Feed posts, use countdown timers, tease the content (give your audience a preview and focus on what's in it for them), and announce it in your profile bio. 
Source: Social Media Examiner
  • Go live when your audience is most active: In North America, posts shared in the evening and at night tend to get the most engagement, with engagement rates being highest on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. To find out when your audience is most active, visit the Insights tab in your business account and look at Most Active Times.
Source: Buffer
  • Have a goal and a plan: The content of your live stream should naturally lead into a CTA. For example, if your goal is to drive traffic back to a product on your website or custom landing page, you can include links during the stream and again at the end. Here's how hair care brand Prose does it:

4. Instagram Video: Up to 1 hour

Instagram Video is a new video format that replaced IGTV and Instagram Feed videos. For simplicity, we'll refer to these videos as "Feed videos" since that's the only place they appear—on the home feed.

The maximum length of a Feed video is 10 minutes, but for select accounts, it's 60 minutes (same as the previous IGTV video length limit). 

Feed videos appear alongside static posts and carousels in the home feed. Users can watch a 60-second preview directly in the feed or tap through to see the entire video.

For example, this Blue Apron Feed video is just under two minutes long. The video preview stops playing at the one-minute mark, and you're prompted to tap "Keep watching" to watch the rest in a full-screen view.

Blue Apron Feed Video example

Best for

90% of your video creation efforts should go into Reels and Stories because they drive more engagement and reach. Feed videos, not so much. When marketers say "organic reach is dead on Instagram," they're talking about Feed videos.

Fewer people visit the home feed to watch videos. Mostly they just want to quickly scroll through new posts and updates, occasionally pausing when something catches their eye.

Usually, this means static posts and carousels because they're quicker and easier to consume, with far less commitment. And carousels, in particular, get more engagement on average than Feed video posts.

Even though Feed videos aren't likely to move the needle in a significant way, there are a few specific use cases that make them including in your strategy: 

  • Repurposed content: It takes a lot of work to create even one great video for any format. Instead of creating lots of new Feed videos, you're better off repurposing existing Reels, saved IG Live streams, and quality video assets from other channels. The main benefit of Feed video is its versatility. You can upload most square, horizontal, and full-screen vertical formats.
  • Testimonials and social proof: When people discover your Instagram account for the first time, video testimonials help signal that you're trustworthy. Testimonials prove your product does what you say it does.
  • Carousel posts: After analyzing over 110 million Instagram posts in 2022, Hubspot found that carousel posts get significantly more engagement on average than Feed video content. Swiping through carousel cards is inherently more interactive than passively watching a video or looking at an image. And like Stories, carousels let you break down information into bite-sized pieces for users to tap-through instead of consuming all at once. Carousels can include up to 10 cards. Each card in the carousel provides a quick dopamine hit, especially when you intersperse video with static images. 

Here's an example of a carousel post from Twisted featuring four short recipe videos.

Long versus short

For Feed videos, it's best to stick within the 60-second preview limit, even though the maximum length is 10-60 minutes. Feed videos already struggle to get engagement. Asking users to tap through to finish a lengthier video only creates more friction. 

Exception

Reposting longer videos is an exception since you don't have to create new content. You can post long-form interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, or AMAs to your profile and let people discover them that way.

Now let's look at a few examples of how you might approach Feed video content.

Longer videos

Zero: 58 seconds

This testimonial video for a health tracker app stays within the preview limit.

Zero Instagram Video testimonial

Why it works

  • Clear captions and solid thumbnail: This post was very easy for Zero to create. While technically still a video, it's a static image accompanied by clear narration of the customer's success story. And the post includes large font subtitles for people watching with the sound off (most people use Instagram with the sound off).
  • Social proof: It's a before-and-after success story of a customer who used fasting to lose weight and get healthy.
  • Short and sweet: Short enough to sustain someone's interest if they're browning Zero's home feed. Long enough to tell the full customer story.

Now let's look at a shorter, product-focused Feed video from a brand we looked at earlier, Glossier.

Shorter videos

Glossier: 5 seconds

Why it works

As a brand awareness play, this Feed video gets straight to the point in just 5 seconds: it's retinol, it's Glossier, and it's over before you even know you're watching it. 

  • Combines motion and strong visuals: This Feed video (a GIF-style slideshow) is pure motion, featuring close-up product shots, vibrant textures, models, and customers showing off the product on their skin. People are used to mainly seeing static posts in the feed, so when such a visually-appealing video like this comes along and starts playing immediately, you can't help but look.
  • Matches the format: Carousel posts generally perform best. This post  functions like a self-playing carousel post and video all-in-one, making it more likely that people will stop and engage.
  • Familiar product: Retinol is one of the most popular cosmetic products among skincare enthusiasts—it's always top of mind and easy to like, making it easy for people to comment, like, and tag their friends.
Glossier feed video post comments

Instagram Video tips

The main advice we have for Feed videos is to stick to the use cases we mentioned at the beginning: 

  • Focus on video carousels and testimonials
  • Stay within the 60-second preview limit
  • Repurpose/repost existing video assets (e.g., Reels, IG Live videos, branded video content from other channels, user-generated content)

When creating new content, the same tips we recommended for Reels and Stories videos apply to Feed videos: Optimize the hook to draw people in and use Instagram's native audiovisual add-ons to increase Watch Time.

5. Instagram video ads: Up to 60 minutes

There are three primary video ad placements on Instagram: 

  1. Story video ads: Between 5 - 15 seconds
  2. Reels ads: Up to 30 seconds
  3. Feed video ads: Up to 60 minutes 

Across all placements, the most effective types of video ads we've seen:

  • For service businesses, videos of interviews with the real people behind the product, establishing their credibility.
  • Videos of press, like an appearance on The Today Show or a well-known interview.
  • Videos that combine live-action with product screenshots (think text bubbles popping up over people's heads) and a narrative voiceover.
Glossier ad example

Long versus short

At this point in the article, you know that organic videos need to work hard to grab and retain user interest—video ads need to work even harder. 

People are more media literate than ever and increasingly opposed to advertisements. Ads interrupt and annoy. They distract from the user's intended content experience and (usually) get ignored.

For that reason, ads on the shorter side (around 30 seconds) typically perform best, regardless of the placement. People already have a short attention span. And for ads, even more so.

Now let's look at a few quality video ads for each of the three placements.

Story video ads

IG Story ads can be 5 - 15 seconds long. They're placed in between Stories posts and act as a “commercial break” for users viewing their friends’ Stories. 

Unlike Feed ads, which are easy to swipe past unnoticed, Instagram Story ads capture attention immediately with vertical video or images. They take up the entire screen, and users have to actively decide to continue watching or tap to the next Story.

Gainful: 37 seconds

Gainful is an ecommerce company that sells personalized protein powder. 

Why it works

For starters, high-resolution vertical video blends in really well with Stories. This ad was designed specifically for the IG Stories format, and it shows.

  • Strong hook: The first frame of this ad is a close-up of the product with a text overlay as the hook. At a glance, it hardly looks like an ad, which makes people more likely to watch.
  • Clear value props and simple story structure: This raw-looking ad uses simple voice-over and engaging visuals to convey the product's value props and the contextual environment.
  • Shows the use case: For visual products, sometimes it's enough just to show how the product works. Throughout the video, you learn how to use the product, what it looks like, the different varieties, the unboxing experience, and even the personalized packaging—all through crisp visuals.
  • Unboxing and product demonstration: Unboxing videos are always popular. People watch them to experience the moment vicariously. To increase Watch Time, start your video by picking up a package from your front door, bringing it inside, cutting it open, picking through the contents, putting it together, and showing off the final product. People want to see how the product will look when it arrives.

Reels ads

Reels ads are full screen vertical, similar to Story ads, and appear between Reels videos. These ads can loop and last up to 30 seconds. 

Here's an example of a Reels video ad that clocks in at 19 seconds.

Cozy Band: 19 seconds

Why it works

  • User-generated content (UGC): UGC works exceptionally well in Reels ads because it looks natural and less like an ad. Even though this video was scripted, it doesn't have the polished, promotional look of more traditional ads—a dead giveaway.
  • Strong value props: Many people have difficulty getting to sleep at night. White noise, audio, and sleep masks are standard solutions, but wearing headphones to bed is neither comfortable nor practical. And sleep masks alone are guaranteed to solve the problem. Cozy Band innovated on existing solutions by creating a product that combines multiple known solutions into one great product—a comfortable sleep mask and headset you can wear while you sleep.
  • Ecommerce impulse buys: Visual, low-dollar consumer products (e.g., fashion, accessories, CPG products) tend to perform well across paid social. They have short sales cycles, and the low cost makes it more likely that viewers will convert directly from the ad.
  • Enriches content with audiovisual add-ons: Great Reels ads usually have two qualities: a believable on-camera performance and strategic editing. Integrate popular effects, animations, and audio into the creative (e.g., native captions, audio, quick cuts, robot voice narration, etc.) to give your ads a more natural look. Your ads will blend in more if they resemble organic Reels posts.

Feed video ads

Feed ads can be up to 60 minutes and appear between organic posts on the home feed. 

Here's an example of what you can accomplish in just 12 seconds.

Buckleband: 12 seconds

Why it works

  • Side-by-side product comparison: This is an excellent example of a side-by-side product comparison ad for a visual product with an extremely specific use case. Exercise bands are ubiquitous in fitness circles, and anyone who's ever used one like this knows there's a clunky process to get set up.
  • Innovates on a familiar product: At 11 seconds, this ad is a pure expression of product innovation. Unlike conventional bands, the Buckleband snaps together with zero hassle. The product doesn't even need words to demonstrate why it's better than the competition. It's undeniable. Simply snap the band around your legs, and you're ready to go.
  • Content designed for the format: This type of content is also an appropriate fit for a Feed video ad, specifically. We mentioned earlier that organic Feed videos typically get low engagement because static posts and carousels are easier to consume, with less commitment. This ad takes that limitation into account by keeping things short and sweet, letting the striking visuals do the heavy lifting.

Video ad tips

  • Drive results with Shoppable ads: If you're an ecommerce brand, Shoppable ads enable users to shop your products and transact within the Instagram app. Asking users to exit the app and complete a purchase in a web browser usually hurts conversion rates. Shoppable ads and Instagram Checkout remove the friction for a seamless checkout experience.
  • Experiment with UGC: 92% of consumers trust UGC more than traditional, glossy advertising. And creatives shot on mobile devices have a 63% chance of outperforming studio-shot creatives for purchases, checkouts, and app installs. UGC tends to perform better than conventional ads across paid social channels. Consider designing ads that closely resemble their organic counterparts.
  • Model functionality: Your ads need to come across as authentic and entertaining while also doing their job to convert users and move them down your sales funnel. One way to do this on Instagram is by literally demonstrating the product in action. A few templates to test: show the use case, unboxing and assembly experiences, before and after results, walkthroughs and product features, and educational content.
  • Lead with a hook: Most people decide whether to swipe or watch an ad based on the first few seconds, if not the thumbnail alone. Nobody will see your ad without a thumb-stopping hook, so plan on testing a variety of hooks, headlines, and video openers to find out what works best.

The relevance and quality of your video content is more important than the length

If there's one insight to take away from this article, it's this: Length isn't the determining factor for how well your videos perform—quality is.

When you understand how to create content that fits the format (Stories, Reels, IG Video, IG Live, Video ads), length is an afterthought.

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