An illustration for an article about when to use Instagram Stories vs. Instagram posts

Instagram Stories vs. Instagram posts: When you should use each

Instagram has come a long way since it was a fun medium for self-expression for individuals.

Now, the platform offers a number of options – from regular posts to live video and Stories – for marketers looking to reach their audiences.

Instagram Stories offer a great opportunity for using your social media channel to connect with your audience.

But you can’t just throw a bunch of content up on your Stories and expect it to instantly connect with your audience.

You need to ensure your tactics for posting stories is complementary to the videos and images in your Instagram posts feed.

This post breaks down how you can create Stories and posts that work together to form a deeper connection with your audience on Instagram.

(This post covers organic Instagram strategy. Using Stories and regular posts for paid advertising is also an option).

Instagram stories

What they are

Instagram Stories are a more recent addition to the world of Instagram.

Instagram introduced Stories as a means of supplanting Snapchat’s appeal as a means for users to post “ephemeral” content.

Most stories exist for 24 hours before the system automatically deletes them (recently Instagram also introduced a feature that allows you to “save” stories as highlights. However you have to automatically select this option otherwise the system removes them).

Instagram Stories can be videos or images (videos are limited to 15 seconds), with the user also being able to add text to either format. Users are also able to post text-only versions of their stories.

What they’re good for

  • Showing a lighter side of your brand: Stories are less polished than posts. That makes them ideal for showing users how fun you can be. This could be anything from taking users behind the scenes at a work event to having fun with some customers or audience members.
  • Testing out new content formats: Stories are great because, after 24 hours, they are gone. This gives you the freedom to test out types of content that you might not want to live on in your Instagram account forever. With stories, you can experiment with new tactics. If they don’t work, they’re gone. If they do, you might want to start using them for posts.
  • Getting website clickthroughs: Some Instagram business accounts have access to the “swipe up” feature for their stories. This allows them to add a website link to their stories. It’s one of the few ways brands can get clickthroughs to a website from their Instagram presence. The catch? You need to have at least 10,000 followers to have access to the feature.

Instagram posts

What they are

Instagram posts are what Instagram was known for traditionally: The images and videos that show up in a user’s main feed.

Unlike stories, posts live on “forever” (or at least until they are deleted).

They also allow users to write captions that appear below the image or video.

What they’re good for

  • Sending out a longer message: Stories don’t provide much space for text. With posts, though, you can write a caption of up to 2,200 characters. Just be sure to communicate any key messages early on – anything longer than the first three lines will require a user’s interaction to read the rest of the caption.
  • Findable content: Unlike Stories, posts are “searchable”. By making use of features such as location targeting and trending hashtags, Instagram users can ensure their posts are more findable.
  • Providing polished content: Instagram posts are a primarily visual medium. This allows you to adopt a deliberate approach to branding and design, then make that the centrepiece of your posts.

How Instagram stories and posts can work together

Implement some of the content types you tested in Stories

Stories are a great testing ground for content types and topics you might want to try out in your posts.

If something works in a story, consider adopting it for the rest of your content strategy.

Use posts to gain followers

Stories are great for engaging users after they’ve started following you.

But you also need to let them know you exist in the first place.

By optimizing your posts with hashtags and location tagging, you can attract a larger audience for your channel and get closer to the 10,000 followers you need for the swipe up feature.

Be polished on posts, fun on Stories

Stories and posts can work together.

Say you’re running a contest. You might want to do a couple of posts to advertise that it’s happening.

In between though, you can use the stories feature to offer regular reminders that the contest is taking place – but in a fun way.


Posts and Stories allow you to offer complementary – but distinct – pieces of content.

How will you use them to connect with your audience?

Mark Brownlee is a digital marketing strategist in Ottawa, Canada.

Cover illustration by Erin Watson

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