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The differences between Instagram posts, stories and highlights

Instagram can be fun and entertaining but may also be used as an ideal vehicle for brands to reach their target market in a unique and creative manner. Unlike many social media sites Instagram is a little harder to fathom. In this blog the differences between an Instagram post, Instagram story and Instagram highlight will be explained and in addition we will show you the best way to use them and upload them to Instagram.

Before we begin the instructions on how to upload and share content on Instagram it is good to realize that this post only covers the most common uploading process via the mobile Instagram application.


A post is a square photo (or short video) shared on your Instagram account, remaining visible on your account. Text may be added to the photos but Instagram is mainly about images. To get a message across appealing photos and posts are essential.

The image of an Instagram profile consists of the sum total of all posts shared, which makes up the desired identity or image a brand wants to convey. Ideally the corporate identity is apparent throughout the whole Instagram profile, giving a professional and neat impression and contributing to instant recognition.

To upload a photo from your camera as a regular Instagram post, tap ‘Library’ (iOS) or ‘Gallery’ (Android) at the bottom of the screen and select the photo you wish to share. A new window will open where you can add text, tags and filters to your post before sharing it.

Three regular, square sized Instagram templates from the Los Angeles Social Media Pack


These are photos or videos which can be viewed for 24 hours only on someone’s profile. Posts are square images while stories are vertical in a 9:16 ratio. In case of several videos these are shown one after another, like a slideshow.

Instagram stories are the perfect tool for a brand to involve the target group. Contrary to posts these stories are shown for a limited period of time which accounts for their more casual approach. It is important to realize that a story can be viewed for a few seconds only - therefore it is crucial to convey a message in a clear and unequivocal way so that there is no need for the viewer to pauze or rewind. Avoid crowded photos or texts so that the message is obvious at a glance.

An example of an Instagram story of the Mallorca Instagram Stories

To upload a photo from your camera as a story to Instagram, tap the camera icon in the top left hand corner of your screen or swipe right from anywhere in Feed. To select a photo or video from the library or gallery of your phone, swipe up anywhere on the screen. When you are ready to share, tap ‘Your Story’ in the bottom left hand corner.


A highlight, or highlight cover, is a story or several stories which can be viewed permanently on an Instagram profile, instead of the usual 24 hours. It is possible to add several stories to a highlight and these will be shown one after another, just like stories.

An example of Highlights on an Instagram profile. The highlights shown in the image are from the Austria Instagram Highlights

Highlights are useful to brands because this way they can share their messages in a certain order. They are comparable to the trailer of a movie. Highlights emphasize the main points of a brand. For instance, a series of ‘Work in Progress’ will keep your target group informed about where a brand stands at a certain point in its development, and a ‘Recent Work’ highlight with images shows what you have been up to recently.

To post a highlight on your Instagram profile you add a regular daily story as mentioned above and hit ‘Save’ to add the image to your Instagram library. Click your profile’s thumbnail and then the ‘New’ button to add a new highlight story. From your Instagram library select the highlight image you saved. You can zoom and drag the highlight to the place of your choice. Finally tap ‘Confirm’ to add the highlight to your profile.


Whether it is best to share a regular post, a story or a highlight, and when to do so, depends on the desired goal. Regular posts serve well to inform, or reach as many (new) followers as possible. Stories and highlights are meant for existing followers. Stories may result in more interaction and bonding between a brand and its existing followers.

A regular, square sized Instagram template from the Kyoto Social Media Pack

Even though all three means of communication have their own advantages, a combination is the most powerful by far. A strategy needs to be developed to determine which combination works best in order to achieve the goal for a specific brand through an Instagram account. It is important that this strategy meets the requirements of the SMART method for the goal to be realistic and measurable. An example of such a goal might be: “Within 12 months I want my account to grow by at least 150 percent to a minimum of 4.000 followers”. Further reading about how to formulate goals and develop strategies you will find in “The Importance of Structured Planning + a Free Planner”. By all means do not create a goal for the long term only but make sure there is a clear message behind every single post, story or highlight.

It is important to consider not only the message conveyed by the content but also its timing: uploading content at regular intervals is vital to success. This can simply be achieved by making a schedule such as: Mondays and Fridays an inspiring post, Wednesdays an informative post, Tuesdays and Thursdays a story accompanied by a question addressed to followers as well as images of ‘Work in Progress’ meant for the highlights. What specific schedule works for a specific brand is hard to predict. Sharing content on a regular basis makes it easier to find out what works and what does not.


A regular Instagram post is a square photo (or a short video) shared on an Instagram account. An Instagram profile consists of the sum total of regular posts shared with the followers. To reach as many people as possible, posts are preferred - as stories and highlights are generally meant for existing followers. Contrary to posts, which are permanently visible on an account, the viewing of Instagram Stories is limited to 24 hours. Therefore stories are more suitable for a somewhat ‘casual’ approach and serve the purpose of bonding between a brand and its existing followers. However, should the need arise to show stories for a longer period of time, it is possible to place them collectively in a permanent location on an Instagram profile. In this case they are called Instagram highlights.

Characteristic of a good Instagram profile is one which shows the brand’s corporate identity, content with a well thought-out strategy and a clear message. Uploading content at regular intervals is of vital importance to build an optimal Instagram profile and will be helpful to discover what works best.