Posted on July 1, 2013 by Aaron Johnson
Last week, the digital photo program Instagram – best known for allowing smartphone users to tint and alter photographs and share them with friends – released a new feature: video. Instagram’s video service is up against competitors like Vine, which specializes in video, and already has a significant user base. Can Instagram’s video program compete with Vine? Or can it carve out a new market niche? Let’s look at some of Instagram’s video features.
Instagram’s video clips are 15 seconds long, more than twice the length of Vine’s 6-second video clips. While still short enough for the sort of instant uploading and sharing Instagram is known for, the 15-second format has generated a lot of interest. 15 seconds is also the length of short internet video advertisements. Many are wondering if there will be some kind of advertising connection coming in the near future.
It wouldn’t be Instagram if there weren’t an assortment of filters that could be applied to your video. There are currently 13 filters available for Instagram videos. Since filters are a large part of the Instagram brand, this is an unsurprising feature. Video filters work in much the same way as photo filters, adding a tint or coloration that often makes the product look vintage.
Instagram is no newbie to the internet ratings games, and so their video program was launched with accompanying analytics. This is great for bloggers who want to see how well the new video format is reaching their audience. The analytics feature encourages users and businesses to take their Instagram videos to bigger platforms.
As part of their video program, Instagram has integrated basic editing features. Essentially, users are expected to film their videos clip by clip. You can only delete the last clip that you filmed, so with Instagram video, you need to edit as you go. At this point, there is no hint that more comprehensive editing tools are anywhere in the pipeline.
Instagram’s video will eliminate the shaky hand effect that often accompanies smartphone videos. This is called the Cinema feature in the application and it definitely provides for a smoother video production experience for users.
Instagram allows users to select a single frame to show as the cover of their video. This can be a particularly great image from within the video or something like a blog URL written out, reminding users of the larger brand being marketed by the video.
Instagram’s video application is only days old, but already there are certain parts that have generated interest from both small and large businesses. The main point of interest is the video length. Because Instagram videos are the same length as internet advertising spots, many companies are in the process of working up Instagram-based product advertisements.
The cross-platform potential of Instagram is another popular feature that businesses are examining closely. Instagram is not yet offering embed codes for its videos, but you have always been able to cross-post things between Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. This means that Instagram videos have the potential to pop up on a variety of social networks.
Of course, another feature of Instagram video that is holding the attention of businesses is the cost of creating advertisements. Because Instagram is part of the level playing field that is social media, production costs can be low, but reap a major return on investment if an advertisement is successful.
Because Instagram video has just hit the scene, most companies aren’t ready to fully use it yet. One company, however, is well ahead of the rest, and has already posted its first Instagram video advertisement on Facebook. That brand is the American Licorice Co., the maker of the popular Red Vines candy. The American Licorice Co. quickly put together a 15-second film spot about how Red Vines candy “makes the day sweet, no matter where it takes you.” It’s too soon to say if customers are biting, but it’s not for lack of effort on the part of this company. Other brands are sure to follow.
As soon as Instagram video hit the ground, users started comparing it to another social media-style video platform – Vine. Vine is dedicated to making short videos and has a particular appeal among younger demographics. In many cases, though it only makes shorter videos, Vine is coming out ahead in the race between video applications. In one competition, a popular photographer and videographer on both platforms made identical stop motion animation videos on each platform and polled the viewers. Nearly every one of the thousands of viewers chose the Vine video over the Instagram video as their preferred video.
Vine and Instagram are perfectly paired to enter a video showdown, particularly because Vine is owned by Twitter, and Instagram is owned by Facebook. Each program matches the larger format of its owner well, with Vine making shorter videos that suit the abbreviated Twitter format, and Instagram working in the slightly longer form like Facebook. Instagram’s videos are more like YouTube videos, playing only a single time when the play button is pressed, as opposed to Vine’s constantly looping videos, which tend to appear more like GIFs.
Currently, one of the reasons Vine is pulling ahead of Instagram is the lack of an embed feature on Instagram. Vine’s videos can be easily embedded, meaning that they can be transported to any social networking or blogging platform. At launch, Vine was in the same position as Instagram, and did not offer an embed feature, so it is expected that Instagram will introduce this feature within a few months. A few months is more than enough time for Vine to pull ahead in the video production game.
Still, for those interested in making slightly longer videos, and those who are looking for more editing options, Instagram video might hold just the right amount of appeal. Because Vine doesn’t offer an editing option, you have to discard the entirety of any video that contains a mistake. Admittedly, because Vine’s videos are only 6 seconds long, you won’t be losing a lot of work, but it can still be a hassle. Instagram allows you to delete the most recent section of your video and start over from an earlier point. It also has its ubiquitous filter feature, without which it simply wouldn’t be Instagram. These editing features could be enough to sway some Vine users over to Instagram.
By and large, while Vine may remain popular with a small base of loyal, mostly younger users, Instagram video is a better format for businesses looking to get into video. The longer format is an advertising length that companies are used to, and the looping feature on Vine is more of an annoyance than an improvement when it comes to advertising. But the biggest aspect that should draw businesses to Instagram is the massive user base on Instagram. There are currently about 130 million Instagram users, compared to only about 13 million Vine users. If you want to reach a wide audience, Instagram is the way to go.
There’s still room for development in terms of video quality, embedding, and even editing, but Instagram video is well on its way to changing the face of online marketing for small and large businesses. In the short, do-it-yourself platform of Instagram video, everyone can compete for a share of the market.