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It has often been said in filmic terms that if a story can't be told in 90 minutes than it's not worth telling. Try telling that to The Godfather.

However this certainly rings true on some level, especially in advertising where you're engaging with a customer or selling a product rather than telling a sprawling, expansive story of gun violence and enemy disposal. 

Who does benefit from the longer format? For a customer it's good to keep things brief, nobody needs to sit through another colossal Thomson marathon, but conversely six second Vines may seem too short for the purpose. 

Six seconds may be the prime length for our fleeting attention spans, but for marketing, this truncated length can be too much of a handicap to get a brand message across.

Perhaps, for this reason, the 15 second Instagram video is a far more effective method and may explain why there was a dip in Vine usage during its launch period. Let’s investigate…

Instavid, a term that is quickly catching on to my increasing horror, is Instagram’s venture into the video world. Instavids are 15 seconds long and utilise the best of Instagram’s customisable features: 13 different filters, easy sociability and the ability to choose any frame for its cover image

This is of course in direct competition with Vine’s sole reason for being: six seconds of raw-unfiltered footage, edited by the seat of one’s pants.

In terms of the user, being able to film six seconds of a puppy dressed as a Victorian maid yelping at the lens isn’t that much different to 15 seconds of the exact same footage (although this can seem like an ocean of time to some).

The ability to edit a Vine into something remotely resembling a narrative can be a work of pure folly.

Vine was built for a single moving image captured in the wild, and can descend into Michael Bay style chaos when more than two edits are used. Ironically Vine always felt like the Instagram of video.

Now Instavid is the Vine of Instagram and Vine is understandably feeling a little nudged into limbo. 

Perhaps this is premature. What of the marketer? There are great examples of companies using the six second framework of Vine to positive effect, but now there’s an extra nine seconds to play with, there’s more scope to promote your message with a deeper narrative and more edits.

So with that in mind, since Instavid’s launch in June, have companies and brands adopted this ‘epic’ approach to social video marketing?

Let’s take a look at the top five companies on Instagram according to Nitrogram (they use number of account followers plus number of posts on their relative hashtag) and see how they compare in terms of Instavid usage vs. Vine usage.

1. Nike

Nike has used Instavid all of five times, with offshoot Nike Running being just as sporadic. 

This is a typical example of Nike's Instavids. Gorgeously shot images, run together like a convenient, yet hyperactive slideshow.

(As a sidenote: is it possible that a lot of instavids/vines aren’t created specifically for that medium? Is this footage that already exists and has merely been converted for the social platform? Nike uses a lot of stop-motion, something very difficult to do fluidly using Instavid & Vine, which makes me suspicious.)

2. Starbucks

Nothing particularly interesting here. Just some gormless faces drinking coffee. This uses the common (read over-used) technique of stop-motion, with only three individual shots used in the whole cycle.

Frankly, this may as well be a Vine. 

I’m starting to develop a real prejudice against the super-cut, frenetic editing of most of these videos. It’s still very early, so perhaps companies are still in the Vine mindset, but eventually the 15 second format will hopefully encourage a slower pace.

There’s not much technical pizzazz to this one, but it shows Starbucks in a more natural, sedate light, and may point to the future of how Instavid can be used effectively.

3. NBA

I was excited about the NBA Instagram feed and its video possibilities. As was the NBA itself… for approximately a month, then coming to a complete halt in mid-August.

The explanation for this drop-off? Perhaps it’s something obvious like it's suddenly busy preparing for the beginning of 2013-2014 season, but then that doesn’t explain why it is still regularly producing Vines.

4. Adidas

Adidas... Well Adidas hasn't done any Instaviding… Instavideoing… at all, which probably isn’t a surprise considering it barely scrapes into double figures with its standard Instagram posts per month.

It’s the brand awareness that gives Adidas 519k followers, not its social media strategy.

5. Topshop

Topshop is doing a lot better, with frequent Instavids of varying degrees of quality. This example unfortunately showcases how 15 seconds can feel like three hours.

The big five on Vine

It’s clear that Instavid is only being adopted by companies at a very slow rate, with a lot of them just feeling their way with the format. However if we take a look at the same companies’ Vine accounts, this is where things become quite telling.

Nike hasn’t posted anything on Vine, although it does have an account with 66,000 followers, same with Starbucks, which has yet to post anything for its 117,000. The NBA fairs a lot better with 142 posts briefly entertaining their 261,000 followers.

Topshop has 31,000 followers and has posted only a handful of Vines, however it tends to use the same footage for both Instavid and Vine. It’s noticeable that although Topshop has 31,000 followers on Vine, it has nearly 1.5m followers already on Instagram. 

In conclusion...

It is possible that companies may slowly drop their Vine feeds now that video has been introduced on Instagram.

  • 31,000 followers for Topshop on Vine is a fairly negligible amount compared to 1.5m.
  • Starbucks also has 1.5m compared to 117,000 on Vine.
  • The NBA has 1.3m on Instagram compared to 261,000.
  • Forever 21, in sixth place on the Nitrogram 50, is of particular note as it has nearly 2m followers on Instagram but only 240 on Vine.

Forever 21 gave Vine a brief try, with seven posts helping to amass this tiny but fashionable militia, but surely they must realise these Vine and Instagram followers are in exactly the same demographic and probably use both platforms

What would be the point in catering twice for the same audience? How much extra work or cost would it be to produce separate videos for each platform?

It could just be a question of shaving nine seconds off an existing Instavid to fit into a Vine, but as a Vine follower I’d probably feel a bit cheated that there was a longer version out there, just an open app away.

Instagram has used its considerable might and attempted to signal the end of Vine by introducing video functionality. It seems largely irrelevant that the length of video is different.

The silver lining could be that Vine’s future is secure in the hands of the everyday user; six seconds is the perfect length to capture footage quickly and furtively, with little technique needed, so Vine may well end up being the preferred format for the masses.

For the marketer though, seeing the relative numbers of followers for both Vine and Instagram, and the massive disparity in these figures, plus the longer format offered by Instavid and the marketing opportunities afforded therein, if there’s a decision to be made in the marketing budget, it won’t be a difficult one.

Personally I’d like to see Vine continue to be an effective medium. Six seconds is an interesting framework, instilling a certain amount of control and technique in the creative marketer. 15 seconds promotes a looser format and is more liable to wander into cinéma vérité territory.

Instavid is the languid, expressionistic Terrence Malick film to Vine’s lean Jason Statham vehicle. There’s room for both, just probably not at the same multiplex.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 2 October, 2013 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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