Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has evolved from an online photo-sharing app into a platform that empowers its users to easily create, edit, and share their own videos in a variety of forms.
These videos, whether shared as Instagram stories, posts in your feed, or on your IGTV channel, add a new dimension to Instagram that static photos can’t achieve. These Instagram videos don’t have to be expensive, complicated productions either.
In fact, videos shot on a budget can often appear more authentic (and be more effective) than high production videos. You can shoot compelling videos for your brand’s Instagram page on just a smartphone, with the option to edit it using Instagram itself, a computer, or a variety of useful mobile apps.
If you’re not already using Instagram to reach your audience or need help with a social media strategy, check out How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy: A Beginner's Guide to get started.
Creating a video for an Instagram post
While photos are still the most popular kind of post on Instagram, videos actually get 21% more interactions, according to a recent study by Quintly. For this reason, posting videos to your brand’s Instagram page is a smart way to boost your overall engagement.
You can film your video directly in the Instagram app, a different camera app, or using an actual camera, but the final video—whether edited or raw—should be under a minute in length.
Once you’re happy with your video, you can upload it the same way you upload a photo to your feed:
- Click the + sign in the app.
- Choose the video from the appropriate folder on your device.
- Review the video and choose whether or not you want it to be part of a carousel post of multiple photos and videos before you click through to the next step.
- Test filters, turn the audio on or off, trim the length of the clip, and select a frame that will act as the cover image for the post.
Lastly, you’ll be able to add a caption, tag people, and add a location before you post. At this final step, you’re also able to share the video to your other linked social channels. If you’ve ever posted a photo to your Instagram feed, this final stage is the same as it is for photos.
As for the specifications of the video, here is everything you need to know about videos in your feed:
- File Size: 4GB max
- File Type: MP4 or MOV recommended
- Max length: 60 seconds
- Orientation: square or landscape
- Aspect ratio: 1:91:1
Quick and authentic vs. High production and promotional
There are two main styles of videos that businesses often share on Instagram:
- Polished high-quality videos for advertising and brand awareness
- Amateur videos that give viewers a peek behind the curtain so they can get to know the people that use the products or make up the brand.
You’ll be happy to know that what most viewers have come to expect on the app is the second format—quick and easy videos you make yourself. Whether the footage is shot at your office, on location at your latest pop-up shop, or at an event that your brand is attending, lightly edited videos filmed on your mobile device are the perfect way to let your audience know your brand is authentic and approachable.
Just take a look at this Instagram video post from Molekule. It's not a polished ad for their product by any means but is able to garner a lot of engagement because it feels authentic and at home on the platform.
On the other hand, if you have the resources to shoot footage with high production values (or have access to high-res footage from an event or advertisement shoot) it’s best spent on footage that can be used and reused over time.
Think of videos that speak to the core values of your brand, an origin story about the start of your company, or branded content that shows your core product line. This kind of footage can be edited and polished into evergreen content that can live on all your social channels and as marketing materials elsewhere for a long time.
If you don’t have a huge budget but want to do some editing yourself, there is free video editing software for home editing on a desktop or some fantastic mobile video editing apps available to help you create polished videos on your mobile device, such as:
- Clipomatic (iOS only) to automatically translate all speech from your videos into captions. This ensures that your audience doesn’t miss a beat—even when the video is muted.
- Splice (iOS only) or Quik to crop videos, add transitions, and music.
- FilmoraGo to create lightly edited stories on the fly, adding music and filters before sharing them with your followers.
If you’re concerned about the aesthetic of your brand’s feed, you may find it best to use your more polished videos as posts and save the lower quality videos for your stories—that way they won’t show up in your feed and they expire after 24 hours.
Creating a video for Instagram Stories
Unlike an Instagram post, Instagram Stories don’t post to your brand’s feed. They also disappear after 24 hours unless you save them to your page’s highlights. Don’t worry though, you can still access them in your archive in case you want to use them later.
To post a video that you’ve already shot to your stories, have it ready to go in your mobile device’s camera roll. From there, click the same + button in your story section, but instead of clicking the record button, you need to find the video in your camera roll. Just like adding a photo from your camera roll to your stories, you can add Instagram stickers, text, and filters at this point before you share with your followers.
Each piece of your story needs to be under 15 seconds in length—if it’s not, then the app will automatically break up the video into 15-second segments when you share it. To prevent an awkward cut at an important part of your video, be sure to cut segments that are 15 seconds or less beforehand.
The specifications for story videos are as follows:
- Max length per segment: 15 seconds
- Aspect ratio: 9:16 with 1080 x 1920 pixels are the recommended resolution, however, you can resize your videos before posting them.
Creating live videos for Instagram
If you have an impromptu video idea that doesn’t require editing, or you have an idea that’s best done in real-time, can also use the Live video feature for Instagram Stories. You can film directly in the app and notify your followers of your live stream by going to your story in the top left corner of the app and clicking the record button. This is a great way to capture live events and show your followers what you’re up to right this second.
Many brands also use Instagram Live to collaborate with influencers, having them take over the brand’s live feed for a set period of time. When these takeovers are promoted by both parties, it’s a great way to gain new followers and build new relationships.
Instagram Live is also an approachable, authentic way to build hype and share big news with your followers—like the launch of a new product. Want to thank your audience for reaching a milestone or react to something going on in the industry that requires speed? Live videos ensure you don’t miss out on current happenings by taking the time to shoot, edit and upload a polished video. You can even make your live video more of a conversation with your followers by turning commenting on.
If you want the video you created to extend beyond the live broadcast, you can share the video to Instagram stories afterward, so anyone who missed it can still enjoy it.
Creating videos for IGTV
So what kind of videos should you be uploading to IGTV? The short answer is any video where you want to explore an idea beyond the time constraints (60 seconds) of stories and posts. Tutorials, interviews, episodes, behind-the-scenes clips, and how-to videos are just a few examples of content that you can share on IGTV (the kinds of videos you might upload to a YouTube channel).
And if you’re worried that your followers aren’t using IGTV yet because it’s so new, you can also share previews in your regular feed to tease new videos that followers can click through to.
Just keep in mind that IGTV was made for vertical videos (similar to stories), like this example from MVMT below.
The specifications for IGTV are as follows:
- Video length: up to 10 minutes for regular users and 1 hour for verified users
- Aspect ratio: 9:16
- File type: MP4
Promoting your brand with Instagram video
As a marketing tool, Instagram videos are a great way to build brand awareness. They give you a chance to speak to your followers with more than just a short caption. Your videos can include interviews, dialogue, and voice-overs to speak to your followers—assuming, of course, they’ve turned on their audio. Because so many Instagram users have the app muted, it’s best to include a “sound on” sticker in your stories if the audio is important.
For your feed, you can ask viewers in the caption to turn on audio, but remember not everyone will do this, so try to ensure that your video can still tell its story with visuals or captions alone.
For more on marketing your business through Instagram, check out Instagram Marketing 101: Using Hashtags, Stories, and More to Grow Your Business and our guide on how to do an Instagram hashtag search.
By tagging the location of your video content and using popular hashtags, your videos can reach beyond just your followers—hopefully attracting the attention of new followers. If your video content resonates with this new audience, you’ll hopefully gain them as new followers, expanding the reach of your next post as well.
Plus, the more users engage with your video, the more likely Instagram’s algorithm will push the video to the Explore tab where you can reach an even larger audience.
Driving sales with Instagram video
In addition to promoting your brand and gaining followers, Instagram videos can be used to make sales directly. With 60% of Instagram users looking to find new products, tagging your products through Shopping on Instagram can help you convert video views into sales.
Use appropriate shopping hashtags as well so you’re reaching more than just your existing followers with all videos that showcase your offerings. Now with Instagram’s in-app shopping feature, users can complete a purchase without actually leaving Instagram, so it’s important that you’re set up to make sales on Instagram. You can also try to drive viewers back to your website by guiding them to a “link in bio” on your business’ Instagram page.
If you’re light on content that showcases your product offerings, try sourcing videos from your customers. See what kinds of posts and stories they’ve tagged your brand in. Whether it’s customer reviews or their own video content where they’ve just tagged your product because it’s visible, your audience can be a huge source of user-generated video content. Just be sure that anytime you’re sharing user-generated content that you’re giving proper credit to the creator.
If you’re already making sales through Instagram, you can consider buying ads to amplify your results. Instagram ads can be bought as either stories or posts that appear in users’ feeds. The easiest way to buy ads is to use content that you’ve already shared organically and target a new audience by demographic, location, interest, or behavior.
Examples of brands using Instagram video well
Here are just a few examples of businesses using Instagram videos to drive sales, build brand awareness, and connect with their audience.
Makeup giant Kylie Cosmetics uses videos on Instagram to showcase their products in action to inspire viewers to create beautiful looks of their own. The following is a video showing off a new makeup kit, how to use it, and the final look. The caption breaks down which colors are used to help customers decide on a palette color, as well as the price and launch time of the product.
This video that cookie brand Oreo shared to their Instagram uses footage from their commercial spot with artist Wiz Khalifa to tell the story of a heart-warming moment between father and son. The footage doesn’t need audio to convey the message and highlight the product’s role in the special moment.
Vehicle brand Tesla Motors has the resources to shoot incredibly high production videos, and their Instagram includes stunning footage of their streamlined cars across the globe. But they also use the platform to share videos shot by their customers, showing them enjoying real-life moments in their vehicles. The following video shows a group of passengers using the G-force of the powerful car to enjoy a snack—a funny moment shot on a cell phone that makes the brand seem approachable.
Ready to incorporate video into your Instagram marketing?
As a small business owner, video can seem like an intimidating or expensive medium. But Instagram videos can be a flexible format for showcasing your products and your brand, whether you choose to invest in higher polish or embrace a more organic approach.
If you’re not sharing video content on Instagram, you could be missing out on connecting with tons of new potential customers. Don’t be afraid to play around with Instagram videos to see what works for you—remember Instagram stories only live for 24 hours so they’re the perfect place to test the waters with video content.