Let’s set the scene. You’ve taken an awesome photo and you want to post it to your brand’s Instagram account. But you must choose between Post, Story, Reel or Live before you can upload it. It can’t be a Reel because it isn’t a video, and it isn’t Live either. But should you choose an Instagram Story or a Post? Let’s look at the differences between an Instagram Story and a Post and which is best for achieving specific objectives.
Main Differences Between Instagram Stories and Posts
Before we get into the marketing specifics, these are the main differences between the two types of uploads on Instagram.
- Instagram Stories appear at the top of the Instagram app while posts appear in your follower’s feeds.
- Instagram Story photos and videos are temporary and last for just 24 hours, while Instagram Posts are permanent and live in your profile. Some users preserve Stories (theirs and other people’s) by adding them to their highlights and therefore making them permanent.
- Conversely, Instagram posts are evergreen. That means they stay in your profile grid forever unless you delete them. Evergreen posts tend to get more views and likes over time as people check out your profile so the uptake might be greater. These can also contribute significantly to your web traffic.
- Instagram Stories offer interactive features like polls, questions, and quizzes. Right now, Posts don’t have these features.
- Instagram posts can have pretty long captions of up to 2,200 characters. We didn’t say you should write an essay on your posts, but you can if you want to! Remember they are truncated at 125 characters. You can also use more hashtags on your post as @contentworksagency did here.
- Stories have a much smaller caption limit due to their appearance. You might just write one word like Cheers as @lamaisonduvin_cyprus did in this post.
About Instagram Posts
Because Instagram posts last forever, they have a more extensive reach than Stories. They also facilitate better conversations, and interactions with followers which can happen over time. While they don’t have the interactive features like polls, questions, and quizzes, they do still offer different content options. These include carousels, videos, and single image posts. You can also add filters and more recently music.
When to Use Instagram Posts
So when should you choose the Instagram Post option? Let’s look at some examples.
Posts that mark business milestones, significant company events and core brand information should use Posts. These London business highlights from @barclaysbankus are great as a Post.
Visitors to your profile will love to see team photos in your Post grid. They keep your company presence authentic and put faces to your brand. Make sure you always get permission from individuals before you post team photos ,though! Loving the natural team photos vibe over at @unlimit_com. These photos and videos can be accessed anytime as Posts.
Core product guides, product information, and tutorials should stay in Posts. It might be helpful for users to be able to search for these, even years after you posted them. I love this employee run coffee brewing guide from @Starbucks. This can quite happily sit as an evergreen Post.
About Instagram Stories
Each area of Instagram has a different algorithm which finds and presents content uniquely. The Instagram Stories algorithm prioritizes content from the accounts you interact with most. It bases this on the number of times you view an account’s Story (and how long for), whether you engage by commenting, liking or sharing and your overall interaction with that user. Due to their short lifespans, Stories are more about instant sales, views or engagement rather than lifelong brand awareness.
When using Instagram Stories, take some time to learn about their effects and features. You can always experiment whilst still in draft mode. Try out layered photos on video, changing your text to match your brand colors, adding a link sticker and adding gifs and filters. You should also think about the Story structure. Aim to create a beginning a middle and an end with your Stories. Ideally, there will be 3-10 posts in each one.
When to Use Instagram Stories
Timely and breaking news
Stories only last 24 hours, so they are suitable for breaking news or timely updates. A recent example was the lost submarine voyage to the Titanic in June 2023. Viewers were desperate for updates about the ill-fated sub, and with news moving so fast, Stories were suitable for breaking updates. Popular news channel CNN uses Stories to display the latest daily news. With numerous posts in each Story sequence, users can click into any that interest them or just get an overview of breaking news items. Notice how the Stories have a “Tap To Read Story” Very nicely done from CNN.
Social media tip: Posting a Story at least once a day helps you to remain at the top of user feeds. Plan out your content to allow for continuous Story presence!
“Heat of the moment” updates
Instagram Stories are often used by celebrities and TV personalities to dish the dirt, make a confession or issue a statement. A recent example of this was the well-publicized rift between Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield of This Morning TV UK fame. Holly intentionally used Stories to get her message across, as she likely doesn’t want this message hanging around on her very beautifully crafted post grid. And as the story was breaking and therefore changing fast, a less permanent form of upload was preferable. Additionally, you can prevent or limit replies on Instagram Stories – something the pair have both done throughout the rift.
Remember: Just because Stories only last 24 hours, doesn’t mean screenshots won’t last forever. Everything you write on social media can be screenshotted and shared by users later!
Want to get your Instagram followers excited about a sale or special offer? Instagram Stories are the way to do that. Because they don’t last long, we know the sale won’t either. And FOMO (fear of missing out) is a powerful selling tool. You can utilize all the Story tools to run quiz based contests, link to discounts or sales and hype your promotion. Unlike Posts, you can add links to your Instagram Stories with stickers and arrows to emphasise the link. Stories are great for flash sales because you don’t need to delete the post later when the sale is over.
If you want to show off new products but also keep them active, you can highlight them as @LibertyLondon has done here.
Take the time to name and style your highlights so you can add Stories to a specific highlight and save them for later. This also makes collections easier to find for your visitors.
Agorapulse for Instagram Posts & Stories
Agorapulse helps content creators to upload, style, monitor, and report on their Instagram Posts and Stories.
Here are some of the tools you can check out in your Agorapulse dashboard.
- With Agorapulse, you can choose Post, Story or Reel option when you schedule content. The Agorapulse content calendar ensures creators maintain visibility of upcoming content and consistency over Instagram Stories and Posts.
- Check out your top Instagram Posts by selecting your Instagram account in reports, setting the timeframe and hitting content. You can do the same for Stories, too!
- As well as the usual Reach, Comments, Likes, Saves, and Engagement metrics, Agorapulse also provides ROI insights for each Post. If you’re tracking your links and have connected your Google Analytics account, you can view: Unique clicks, Goal completion, Goal value , Transactions and Generated revenue. This is a huge win for social media managers who increasingly need to report to shareholders on more than just vanity metrics.
- The Agorapulse dash will show you which Stories mention you, so you can easily jump in to say thank you, share the Story, (or exercise PR damage control).
- Schedule your Stories in advance to coincide with a launch day, special event or promotion. By scheduling in advance, you can be sure that your content, graphic design and videos are all planned out and executed perfectly!
- As a marketing agency director, I find the reporting really user-friendly. The highlights overview (seen here for Instagram) instantly shows clients the performance of their IG account. Remember to add your own commentary that makes reference to the client’s social media KPIs and how the metrics align with those.
Instagram Stories and Posts can both have a place in your social media strategy. Some brands are more “breaking news” and “industry gossip” than others and might therefore have more content to add to Stories than a brand who is just doing their thing without much fanfare. It’s important to remember your brand’s strategy, social media KPIs and brand style guide when choosing formats and uploading content.