What’s the difference between Instagram Reels & Stories

Reels or Stories? Which format reaches more people and performs better? Let’s find out.

Stefan Lim / November 16, 2021

Reels, an Instagram feature for users to create and discover short videos, was enabled for most accounts in Southeast Asia last week. Similar to the increasingly popular TikTok, creators can record and edit 15 to 60-second video clips using a host of effects and audio tracks and share them to Stories, Explore feed and Reels tab.

This service garnered much attention from the creator and marketer community, due in part to how Instagram has prioritised the format over posts and stories. While a lot of talk has been centered on the similarity (and rivalry) between Tik Tok and Reels, many are also keen to understand design differences between Reels and Instagram Stories.

Which is more effective? Should we expect Reels to perform better than Stories? Let’s find out.

  1. Reels don’t disappear, but Stories do after 24 hours. So if Reels stay on the feed, there’s a chance they get discovered somewhere down the road, some time later.
  2. It’s easier for users to discover Reels.
    • Reels on the Explore page are prominent, at least for now. We no longer see Stories on the Explore page.
    • Reels are also served as part of the feed on Hashtag pages, Compare this to hashtags for Stories where you have to tap on a circle to watch Stories that appear based on an unknown algorithm.
  3. You can re-share anyone’s Reels.
    • You can share anyone’s Reels in your own Stories, but you cannot share Stories by others in your own Story (unless they tagged you)
  4. Unlike Stories, Reels can be ‘saved’.
    • Reels you discovered can be ‘saved’ just like how you can ‘save’ a post but Stories cannot be saved.
  5. By design, Reels should reach more people.
    • It’s easier to uncover Reels when they are prominent on Explore or Hashtag pages and, we believe, especially so when they are widely shared or saved. Therefore, it is likely that your reels can potentially reach a base beyond your own follower pool.
    • On the contrary, your Stories are predominantly served to people who are already following you, and reach is restricted to the follower pool.
  6. Stories can drive traffic to external sites – this is the only advantage Stories have over Reels (and a very important one).
    • You can place a link sticker on Stories (regardless of your follower base) that directs viewers to an external site – this is an extremely useful feature to track conversion and it’s a clear advantage that Stories have over Reels. You will not be able to include a link for Reels unless they are boosted at post level or re-shared via Stories.

Here’s a side by side comparison of the key differences between Reels and Stories:


Up to 60 secs

  • Video files only
  • 2200-char caption and up to 30 hashtags
  • Can receive comments publicly
  • Permanent - do not disappear after 24 hours
  • Placement on Explore and Hashtag pages and Stories feed
  • No links to external sites unless it's boosted as an ad


Up to 15 secs

  • Can add images and posts from the Instagram feed
  • No caption and up to 10 hashtags
  • Engagement via direct messaging - private
  • Lifespan of 24 hours and disappears after
  • Placement On Stories feed only
  • Everyone can place a link sticker that links out to the site you specify

Have Reels been effective for you? Speak to us at https://instagram.com/storify.me


Stefan takes a keen interest in developments related to digital marketing, gamification and influencer activation. He was co-founder of a digital creative agency, and is currently poking his nose into issues he feels strongly about.


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