How to Create ShortForm Videos on Instagram

Let’s get the reason for this blog post out of the way. You need to be making short-form videos on Instagram because:

  • This platform has two billion active users a month.
  • It is the fifth most visited website in the world.
  • Companies with fewer than 10,000 followers see conversion rates of 2.6%. (Those with higher followings only received a 1% conversion.) 
  • Approximately 70% of Instagram users admit to using the platform to shop!
How to Create Short-Form Videos for Instagram

Video is still king on social media, especially on Instagram. While Instagram users will gripe that they hate video, that’s not what the data says. More than 91% of Instagram users watch videos on Instagram. 

What Instagram small business users actually hate, however, is creating video. Gone are the days where you could post a picture of your pizza and get 10,000 likes. You now have to make the pizza, with closed captioning, with a trending song, and hope that it gets in front of the right audience. Oh, and don’t forget to edit it, put on the right filter, and find the right hashtags.

Yes, a video takes a little more effort. Which is why we’ll be discussing Stories vs. Reels, the two short-form videos on Instagram, and how to get yourself comfortable making them.

First, Study What Other People Do

Spend time on Instagram looking at Stories and Reels in your industry and other industries, as well from well-performing creator accounts. Save them to study later. 

And remember, 1)  you’re using them to become inspired and 2) you’re not expected to be perfect. Comparison is the thief of time and energy. Be you. Most of Instagram is people just being themselves.

As you study these videos, here are two questions you should ask yourself: 

  • Which videos do I like that also make me follow that brand/person?
  • How can I do this in a way that makes sense for what I’m comfortable doing?

For instance, you really like a cat video where it’s using a trending voiceover of “But I’m just a little baby.” Well, what if you’re an automotive repair company? And you have a set of wrenches, and your mechanic picks up the smallest one, using that voiceover, the mechanic cocks her head and says back “You may be little, but you’re mighty.”

Do you feel comfortable making this video? No? Then think of another aspect of what you like: the cat. Can you talk to a cat about how important it is to get scheduled oil changes?

Maybe you’re thinking “These are silly ideas! I can’t do this. Videos are silly, Instagram is not for me, I’m outta here.”

Brainstorming always sounds silly. But it’s what you need to do as you study the market and find a way to show up in your own videos.

Second, Create Short-Form Videos that Disappear

Stay with me here. “Why would I ever spend time creating something that…disappears?”

Because that’s the beauty of Stories. Stories are a great way to get your feet wet on Instagram. They disappear after 24 hours, but they stay in your archive if you ever decide to use them again under a highlight button, or to put them in your feed permanently, or even to repurpose them across another platform. They can also be cross-posted to your Facebook account at the same time you put them up on Instagram–one of the perks of Meta owning both platforms!

If you feel like you don’t want to put a lot of time or energy scripting/editing/filtering your appearance, Stories is the way to go. (Reels also don’t need you to be scripted/edited/filtered, either. But they don’t disappear, which is why we’ll start with Stories.)

Instagram users report liking short narrative Stories, and many companies use Stories to talk about something off-topic: sharing how much you love coffee or showing off your co-worker’s silly pet. Stories are the place to get more personal; Reels are where you stick to business.

It’s reported that 50% of viewers who see a Story that was cross-posted on Facebook go to that company’s website! Stories are a great way to get yourself to practice being in a video without a lot of prep time. Stories are also an easy way to “show up” on social media when you otherwise would not. Also, Stories are a great way to engage, through polls, questions, and other stickers.

HOMEWORK: Come up with three things to put in Stories each week that you can reiterate week after week. Here are some ideas for Stories:

  • Repost a Story from somewhere else that relates to your industry or just makes people feel good
  • Share a lifehack from your personal life or industry
  • Share a photo from your drive to work, outside your office, etc.

Third, Create Short-Form Videos that Stay–But Don’t Show You

On Instagram, the videos that are on your Feed are called Reels. They have a reach rate of between 15-20%. They are shot in portrait mode, just like a Story, and you can put a caption, closed captioning, and hashtags to further your reach and engagement.

When you create a Reel, you can show yourself or not. This section is for those who do not want to show themselves. Why don’t people like showing themselves? Most people report they don’t want anyone saying something negative about their looks. Others say they don’t feel like getting dressed up/cleaning their space for a 30-second video. (NOTE: You do not need to clean up your space to make a video; people love seeing how “real” people live.)

Unlike a Story, what people expect to see behind a Reel is one of three things: to inform, to entertain, or to inspire. Quick tips, funny voice overs, and showing off a skill in a fast edit make many viewers stop and like and engage. Note what these three ideas have in common: you do not have to show yourself, only your service/skill/product.

It’s also important to think about the reason behind why you’re creating the Reel. According to, when you plan a Reel, ask the following question: “When someone watches this video, they will _____.” 

It’s also important to note that the majority of people watch with the sound on–60%–but that means a rather large number of people watch with the sound off! This is why closed captioning is a must.

HOMEWORK: Study competitors’ “faceless” videos to see which have the highest views and likes and engagements. (Luckily on Reels, everyone gets to see everyone else’s view metrics on Reels.) Be inspired by what they’re doing–and remember, don’t copy and don’t compare yourself to others!

Fourth, Create Short-Form Videos that Stay– AND Shows You

Eventually, you will need to show up in your social media Reels, Stories, or photos. Why? People trust accounts where they’ve seen the person or people behind them. 

How can you ease into showing your face? Many people use a filter. In fact, a mind-blowing 90% of females use a filter on social media, according to a 2021 study, whether to whiten their teeth, smooth out their skin, or even make themselves more slender. 

But please note: more and more creators are showing up with no filter. Why? People are craving authenticity in a world becoming overrun by doctored images of people that don’t look like themselves.

Our favorite way to film around here is in a car or next to a window, which has the best natural light.

In terms of mindset, here are some tips to get ready to go on camera for an Instagram video: 

  • Figure out which video you want to emulate (it can be a trend or not)
  • Choose the setting you want to have: will you be talking to the camera? Inside or outside? Will you be at your computer typing? Will it just be a montage of shots that keep beat to the music?
  • Create a loose script of what you want to be said in the video so you can feel more comfortable speaking to the camera
  • Practice. Practice, practice, and practice some more!
  • Figure out if you will be speaking, if you will be adding a song and closed captioning, or creating a voice over after you’ve filmed  
  • If you go the lip-syncing route, don’t be discouraged. This takes time and, yes, practice!
  • Find good lighting!

HOMEWORK: Try your own video now! Here are a few ideas to inspire you:

  • Record yourself typing and working on your computer–you can speed this up and add text with trending music or a voice over sharing a tip to inform your audience
  • Tape a video showing how to use your product to inform your audience
  • Show yourself on a Zoom call or giving a presentation with closed captioning stating what you were really thinking (“Am I saying ‘um’ too much? I am. I am saying ‘um’ too much.”)
  • Share yourself making your product, sped up and to a trending song
  • Create a day-in-the-life with short, quick clips of various parts of your day from when you wake up with bedhead until you turn off the lights and your dog lays across on your legs

To Sum Up

Instagram video is a great way to grow your business. Just be aware that the algorithm keeps changing, and to be aware of algorithm changes (sites like Sprout Social and Hootsuite are great at staying on top of these changes!). As of March 2023, the Instagram algorithm still favors Reels for reach. Approximately 66% of Instagram users say videos are the most engaging form of content, followed by 61% who say photos.

Last tidbit: it’s all about posting consistently, not every day. It’s better to post once a week or twice a month then five times one week and then nothing for two weeks.

digit-ALL is a full-service marketing company that focuses on the people side of marketing. We focus on websites, social media and content creation, blogs, newsletters, and even corporate event planning. We’re here to help when you’re ready for it.