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The very first article I wrote for Econsultancy was a comparison of Vine with Instagram’s then newly adopted video functionality.
Instagram added an extra nine whole seconds to Vine’s bordering on the absurd six. In the year since its introduction and the writing of that article, expectations that Instagram, with its incumbent 200m users and massive wealth of brands already using the format, would crush the fledgling Vine have ranged from the sensible to the hysterical.
Thankfully right now things are looking a lot more positive. With just nine extra seconds and its various filter settings, Instagram video has managed to separate itself from Vine and surprisingly each remains unique in its own way, with brands tending to choose one or the other platform based on its own audience, content and tone of voice.
I’ve been doing a monthly round-up of the best branded Vines and Instagram videos for the last year and in that time I’ve learnt a thing or two about what makes for a great super-miniature video. Plus I’m an overly critical curmudgeon with an extensive background in no-budget filmmaking so basically I’m all over this.
So based on the above shaky qualifications, I present my tips for making brilliant branded Instagram videos.
Make a series
Creating an ongoing series does not mean a narrower audience. Often one video from a series will ‘break out’ and become a hit, drawing a wider audience to the rest of your content. Content that they are likely to watch every episode of because it’s part of a wider picture.
Instagram videos are only 15 seconds long, even if you made 20 of them, it would still only take me five minutes to watch them all.
Just remember to ensure that each video also works in isolation from the rest of the series, and makes sense even if it’s the only one a user watches.
MINI has absolutely nailed the funny, charming, self-contained-but-part-of-a-bigger-picture Instagram video with its #asktheNEWMINI series. They're also inherently engaging by using the brilliant social strategy of tailoring content to one specific follower but harvesting the rest of the spectators’ enjoyment through shares.
To save time and money you’ll want to film a series in one batch. However do not be tempted to upload them all in one go, upload them on regularly scheduled days and times thereby creating anticipation.
Mix the series up with other completely different videos to offer variation for your followers. It’s a good way to define what works and what doesn’t.
Create original exclusive content for the channel
One of my least favourite practices on Instagram is when brand’s merely cut down existing YouTube or proper broadcast ads to 15 seconds and pretend it’s a new Instagram video. It’s just lazy and you’re fooling nobody.
Brands who upload the same content to Vine and Instagram are also shooting themselves in the foot. Why would a follower bother following you on another channel if you’re just going to broadcast the same thing across each.
LEGO began uploading videos to both Vine and Instagram channels this month, with exclusive content for each. You have to follow them both for the full effect.
Instagram is less aesthetically forgiving then Vine
But it's also easier to make your videos look good.
Although I quite like the fact that Burger King doesn’t try to artificially make its burgers look different from the actual product, thanks to some terrible lighting and unimaginative background the results are deeply unappealing. It’s inexcusable seeing as Instagram comes with a whole range of brilliant and easy to use filters to improve the production.
Stop motion is the read and butter of both Instagram video and Vine, but it really needs to be used in an innovative or at least vaguely humourous way. This just feels half-arsed.
Simple rule of video: never start with an image of where your audience might end up discarding your efforts.
To be less snarky, it's great that Burger King is using Instagram, and perhaps it speaks more about the channel than Burger King itself, but this sort of hokey, lo-fi ad works a lot better on the more forgiving Vine.
Develop relationships with your top contributors, they will ultimately become your most influential ambassadors. Brands on Vine often ask top Viners to make content for them. It’s a great cross promotional strategy that gives the user a new audience and brands can take advantage of the Viner’s fan base. In many cases on Vine, as with Batdad and Tide, the Viner’s audience far exceeds the brand. (2.4m vs. 4,999)
Here’s GoPro’s partnership with davidkalb.
Get even more sociable
Use a systematic approach when it comes to interacting with your audience to help build a community around your Instagram content.
Find out what other social channels your community is using, engage with them there too.
Let fans know that they are an integral part of shaping your channel. Give them the chance to connect with you. This can mean properly engaging with them in two-way conversation or even getting them involved with the creation of your videos.
This is a masterclass of direction, editing, sound design that just wouldn’t look as good on any other channel.
If you can't be innovative, be useful
Speak like a local. Well, order wine like one at least…
If you can't be useful, be informative
General Electric is great to follow for an intriguing regular science lesson. This is a mechanical exoskeleton built in the 1960s that never left the laboratory. Kevin Weir re-animated the wearable tech to help us imagine what it would have looked like.
And if you can't be informative... be funny
As a welcome to the new site, Virgin America uploaded this cheeky little video. One of the first Instagram videos that genuinely made me do an office-LOL I am not ashamed to say.
One more for good measure...
Further reading for beginners
During my first year at Econsultancy I’ve been making a point of writing beginner’s guides to any new terms or phrases I find particularly baffling, or that I might suspect other people may find baffling too.
The following related articles should help clear up a few things…