Learn how to maximize the organic reach and sell your art using vertical video on Instagram via the Stories, Reels, IGTV, and Live formats.
As a creator, you are no doubt familiar with how to post images and videos to your Instagram profile so that they show up in the feeds of your followers. This has been the core of Instagram for almost a decade.
Over the past five years, vertical video has exploded in popularity because the format matches the way we naturally hold our phones. Nowadays, Instagram allows us to put out vertical videos in four different formats.
- Stories: 15-second vertical (9:16) posts (videos or photos) that disappear after 24-hours.
- Reels: 15-second vertical looping videos.
- IGTV: Vertical videos 1–60 minutes long.
- Live: Streaming vertical video.
Instagram is relatively straightforward to use. As long as you have the patience, it’s pretty easy to figure things out. Therefore, rather than being a step-by-step manual, the purpose of this guide is to give you tips on aspects that might not be immediately obvious. Once you understand them, you can incorporate them into your unique approach.
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Instagram Stories is a vertical and fullscreen format (9:16 aspect ratio) with either images or video. Each Story automatically disappears after 24 hours. Videos can be up to 15-seconds (longer videos will be split up). They don’t show up in the Instagram Feed but do in the Explore and search results pages.
Compared to Feed posts, which can be quite polished, Stories are generally expected to be more casual. They are ideal for sharing a behind-the-scenes look at your creation process, sharing drafts, showing what’s happening at an event, or giving a preview of new releases.
Here are some tips for making the most of Instagram Stories:
- Apps: Polarr Memoir is an iOS app that will suggest old images and use AI to suggest the best 9:16 aspect ratio crop. CapCut is a multi-platform app that can be used to create slideshows in time with music.
- Frequency: Since they don’t show up in your Followers’ feeds, you can post Stories as often as you want without annoying anyone. Try to post at least once a day.
- Engagement: If someone comments on one of your Stories, even just leaving a single emoji, be sure to send them a like back. This will earn you points with Instagram’s algorithm, as it will see that you care about your audience.
- Insights: Be sure to track your Stories’ performance. Viewing your own Stories will show you the number of viewers. Visit your Insights for more metrics.
- Photos: Not as compelling as videos, but can be a good stand-in.
- Recycle: Vertical content created for Instagram Stories can be shared on other platforms such as TikTok (video-only), Twitter Fleets, and Pinterest.
- Sound-Independent: Many Instagram users access the app with their sound turned off, so make sure your video will still make sense to them. That said, ensure those with the sound on have a good experience also.
- Stickers: The Location and Hashtag stickers can help your Stories show up on the Explore page or relevant search result pages. However, avoid using too many stickers.
- Value: Your Story should be educational, entertaining, or both. Don’t waste people’s time.
- Vertical: Use vertical content because that will fill the screen when users are holding their phones upright.
- Videos: These attract more attention because they auto-play on the Explore and search results pages, making them stand out visually.
Instagram Reels allows for 30-second videos to be shared. Unlike Stories, Reels will remain until you delete them and reside in their tab within your Profile. You can discover Reels by other users on the Explore and search results pages.
Here are some tips for making the most of Instagram Reels:
- Educational: Teach your Followers how to do something related to your art in under 30 seconds.
- Entertaining: Share a brief Story about your creation process or show a time-lapse video of creating an artwork.
- Products: Share slideshows of your artworks along with mockups of how they might look hanging on walls.
Avoid re-uploading TikTok videos to Instagram Reels for these reasons:
- Licensing: The two platforms handle music licensing separately, so music allowed on one may not be permitted on the other.
- Limited Reach: Instagram and TikTok are fierce competitors. TikTok leaves watermarks, and Instagram’s systems can detect them. It is said that Instagram limits the reach of TikTok videos because they are essentially advertising their competitor.
IGTV is where you can upload videos over 60-seconds. As with Stories and Reels, IGTV is best-suited to vertical content. If you upload an IGTV video, it will live in its dedicated tab within your Profile. There is also a dedicated app, but you don’t need to use it to achieve results with IGTV.
Here are some tips for making the most of IGTV:
- Recycling YouTube Videos: Tools such as Kamua can be used to crop horizontal videos to fit IGTV’s 9:16 aspect ratio.
- Covers: These are key to getting views. Make sure they are attractive even when viewed on a small smartphone screen.
- Title: Keep it under 50 characters and use relevant keywords.
- Description: Same rules here as for Feed posts, meaning you can include hashtags.
- Links: It is possible to insert clickable links in IGTV video descriptions. However, the click-through rate (CTR) is unlikely to be high unless you specifically direct your viewers to check the description.
- Grid: You can decide to post a preview of your IGTV video to your Profile grid or not. If you do add it, you will have the option to remove it later without deleting the video.
- Insights: Studying your Insights can give you hints on how to improve your content. In addition to basic engagement metrics (views, likes, and comments), you can see the average length of your video watched by all viewers.
Instagram Live allows you to stream a real-time broadcast to other mobile app and desktop web versions of Instagram. The intuitive real-time interactivity and collaboration provide a highly effective way for artists to build a relationship with their fans. You can share behind-the-scenes views or hold Q&A sessions. It is excellent for getting insights and feedback directly from your community.
It also is a powerful way to gain free exposure for your account. The Live feature is integrated with Stories. The latest Stories of an account are displayed at the top of its Followers’ Home Feed. The accounts currently Live are shown first within the Stories section highlighted and with a “Live” icon. Furthermore, Followers who haven’t turned off notifications will get a message telling them when you go Live.
Below are some tips for making the most of Instagram Live.
- Schedule: Consistency is vital. To reach more people and build relationships with your audience, you need to go Live regularly.
- Focus: Perhaps you want to strengthen customer relations, grow your following, increase email signups, or boost sales of a specific product. To avoid overwhelming your audience, it’s best to prioritize one objective per broadcast.
- Format: By sticking to a format, regular viewers will know what to expect, you’ll have a framework to keep things interesting, and you’ll develop fall-back measures for when there are unexpected difficulties.
- Promote: For example, if you plan to go live every Thursday at 7 pm, you can promote this weekly event to your audience. Then, in time, your more engaged followers will look forward to each Live stream.
- Practice: Set up a second Instagram account for experimentation so that you can play around with all the features and learn without bothering your main account’s followers.
Features & Settings
- Engagement: Tap the settings gear icon at the top-left of the screen and open “Story Controls.” Ensure that everyone can send replies, as this will allow you to interact with your audience better.
- Re-Use: Instagram lets you save your Stories to your camera roll or your Instagram archive. Only the video is saved, and not interactions such as comments, likes, and views. The saved stream can be edited down to the key moments and reposted elsewhere.
- Facebook: If you have set Instagram to share Stories to your Facebook Business Page automatically, it will save you from creating more content for your Facebook Stories.
- Collaborations: Selecting Go Live with a Friend and selecting another user sends them a notification telling them that you want them to be in your stream. They can then tap “Go Live with @yourusername” to join.
- Comments: Do your best to keep up with comments. If you lose track, tell the audience that you’re having trouble keeping up. That way, they won’t think they’re being ignored.
- IGTV: It is possible to share your saved Live video to IGTV as soon as the broadcast is over. However, if possible, consider taking the time to edit it and re-upload it.
If you're feeling overwhelmed with all of the above, you're not alone. While Instagram has many strengths as a platform, it has become quite complicated. The good news is that you now know more than 90% of users. Get started by choosing one format and start experimenting. Find Instagram users in your niche and learn from them. Eventually, you'll find your own style and rhythm.
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