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Instagram Video: Can micro videos make for successful marketing?

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24th Jun 2013
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Instagram has launched a micro video blogging service to rival Vine. Does it have marketing potential?

With an estimated 13 million users, Twitter’s Vine has demonstrated that there the public has an appetite for bite-sized videos. And with the likes of Snapchat and Keek proving the popularity of micro video blogging can support more than one platform, it was only a matter of time before another big player sought out a piece of the lights, camera, action. 

Enter Instagram. Already present on millions of handsets worldwide, Facebook’s photo sharing app already has a distinct advantage. And it has further boosted its chances of success by enabling users to record and share clips of up to 15 seconds (compared to Vine’s six seconds), while also boasting Instagram’s trademark filters, enabling users to customise the look of the footage.

“The engagement levels on Vine have certainly raised a lot of eyebrows of late, particularly with long-term YouTube backers who have probably been caught on the back foot with Vine’s impressive user acquisition over the last few months,” notes Rax Lakhani is Group Head of Social Media at London at Lucre PR. “Instagram has the benefit of already being present on over 100m handsets. This is something that marketers and brands will undoubtedly be drawn to when designing user content campaigns.”

In article last year, MyCustomer.com explored the customer engagement potential that Vine has for brands.

Indeed, businesses wasted no time in getting to grips with the micro videos, with Urban Outfitters the first brand to make a Vine – playing it safe with a cute video containing puppies – while others such as Gap soon followed suit. And it wasn’t just large brands that were experimenting, even football clubs were quick to embrace the new platform.

And a similar rush to Instagram’s video service is expected.

“Marketers will unsurprisingly flock to test out the new feature to see if it can get a series of 15 second user generated content that could be used on social media channels and even possibly TV. 15 seconds is long enough to be engaging but short enough to be accessible to anybody,” says Lakhani. “There are already campaigns which have successfully been built around submitting video auditions via YouTube. Instagram Video, much like Vine, raises the game with its self-imposed time limit and could become a new platform for these kind of competitions.”

“Online short-form video is certainly where the advertising industry is headed,” adds Adrian Moxley, CMO and co-founder of WeSEE. “The captive prime-time audience is a dying thing with Video-On-Demand services like Netflix and brands can get significantly more bang for their buck through digital campaigns than more traditional TV or broadcast campaigns, as they’re only paying for clicks, views or engagement levels.”

He continues: “Using Instagram as part of an advertising or marketing campaigns would be a bold move; if a user got served an ad during a short 15-second video or content was heavily branded it is highly likely they would feel frustrated and stop using the service. However, what this can help advertisers and marketers with is understanding what a particular consumer is interested in by gathering data on what they’re viewing and sharing. This is keywords in visual form and as such extremely valuable.”

Short attention spans

Colin Grieves, general manager of Alchemy social & digital advertising services at Experian Marketing Services, believes that the advertising potential of Instagram Video will have been a major consideration by Facebook.

“From an advertising perspective, despite the meteoric rise of digital advertising, it is still dwarfed by TV advertising in terms of spend. All of the large internet companies, and particularly Facebook, have been looking for ways to unlock those TV budgets. This is evident through projects such as Apple TV, YouTube and Xbox, through to the announcement of video on Instagram.  

“Facebook has long targeted an environment where content was almost indistinguishable from advertising and this announcement is at least partially driven by that vision. Users’ attention spans are shorter online than when watching TV and you could argue that Twitter's Vine, with its six second video length, provides a better user experience with short focused clips. However, advertisers will want more time to deliver their message. Facebook has chosen 15 second slots which it believes, while half the length of a traditional TV slot, will best balance the needs of users and advertisers.  

“Due to the high cost of production I would eventually expect a consensus to be reached amongst the major digital channels. Although online video continues to go from strength-to-strength – with UK internet users spending 203 million hours watching YouTube content a month – brand advertisers will not want to produce one advert each for TV, Instagram, Vine and YouTube, and this should drive standardisation. 15 second slots therefore seem like a quite reasonable compromise.”

Just Eat is one brand that has embraced micro videos and is looking forward to getting its teeth into Instagram Video.

“Short form video is increasingly becoming part of our strategy - our testing on YouTube has taught us that short punchy clips work very well for driving customer acquisition. Our next TV campaign has been influenced by this insight as we are making a number of 10 second brand adverts. What works on TV will hopefully work well for our social channels, where we have over 1m fans,” says Mat Braddy, chief marketing officer at Just Eat.

“There is currently a proliferation of social apps but most marketers tend to focus on just Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is not well understood as a platform for brands but can work well in line with a strong communication platform – Red Bull's excellent work with extreme sports, for example. Despite being bought by Facebook last year, there is little integration across the two platforms so a brand doing well on Facebook has to start from scratch on Instagram which puts many off. As a brand that loves to pioneer social communications we will certainly have a play to see how we can use this new service in our campaigns.”

Time limitations

Nonetheless, as with Vine, the limited format could confound some brands, and many will question whether it is really worth a serious investment in time, manpower and money.

“Those brands that have established a Vine strategy will have the easiest time with Instagram Video, but as it stands, Twitter’s latest video offering is still a new concept for companies,” predicts James Hakesley, chief operating officer at nideo. “You just need to look at the disparity in how Vine is currently used to understand the confusion brands are going to face when experimenting with the new Instagram. For example: Cadbury uses it to promote facilities and new products; Adidas uses it to promote its high profile endorsed sports stars such as Andy Murray on photo-shoots; Samsung actually has the best Vine presence, as it puts thought and ideas into posts that it has specifically tailored for Vine’s features such as the ability to stop-start video.

“The key factor here is that the companies that currently use Instagram or Vine are very large B2C companies. If Instagram’s new platform is going to succeed, it’s going to need to figure out what it can offer to the B2B and SME sectors. The limitations of time and quality demand a truly creative approach to achieve success. Those 6-15 seconds are key, and content requires careful thought to make output engaging, particularly when you’re dealing with the potentially complex messages of a B2B business.”

And Hakesley has a word of warning: “The danger for serious businesses is that, as with most social networks and video platforms, videos are thrown into a sea of personal content from users posting about their ice creams or how sunny the day is. Businesses need to decide whether they really think that’s an important, or even appropriate environment for them to appear in.” 

Overall, the innovation is seen as a wise, if somewhat predictable, move by the social networking giant – and one that brands will be looking to capitalise on.

“This is a smart move by Facebook, given the huge consumer appetite for sharing short, snappy videos,” says Peter Heffring, CEO, Expion. “Once brand social media managers have let out an initial sigh at the thought of another channel to crib up on, we think they’ll get very excited about the potential to engage consumers in a new way. In particular, they will know that large images tend to get consumers to interact and the fact Instagram videos are going to publish to Facebook in the same way as a photo will be seen as a major plus.”

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