Last week, we discussed how a few brands are using Instagram creatively as a promotion and engagement platform. While they've had time to cultivate a following and define their brand's presence on the media-sharing network, Instagram's new video capability represents a massive opportunity for brands hoping to improve their ability to leverage it as a promotion engine. But Instagram isn't the uncontested leader in social video content.
Instagram video launched in June 2013 and brands were quick to start exploring the new capability. Instagram already has twice the number of users of Vine and because it's owned by Facebook, it has deep integration with users' social networks (98% of Instagram posts are shared on Facebook according to a Pew Study). When Instagram introduced "Video on Instagram," criticisms emerged, saying that it was merely a desperate attempt to capitalize on the growing popularity of Vine. Others dug an early grave for Vine, as Instagram already has more than twice the user base and market penetration. While both these criticisms have some validity, these two apps operate differently from one another in a few key aspects.
Let's talk about Vine, Twitter's video creation and sharing app. It has definitely hit its stride, boasting more than 40 million users since being launched in January and following the release of the Android version in June. Vine allows users to take videos on mobile devices and edit them into 6-second clips that are then shared on their social networks. Like Twitter, vines can be tagged with other users and hashtags.
First, Vines are limited to 6 seconds, play on mute by default, loop automatically, and must be created and edited in the app. These content restrictions have significant impact on how the two apps are used differently, and how the content they host is received. Vine's restrictions seem to take inspiration from Twitter's word limit, forcing the content to be quickly consumable. Additionally, the clips loop automatically, so the 6-second length doesn't feel as anti-climatic as one might expect. The video creation process also adds to the medium, as video is recorded only when you're touching the screen, and reacts with precision. This means you can create stop-motion clips and record in short bursts. Perhaps the best analogy I have read is that Vine's relationship to social video content is akin to Haiku's relationship to poetry. It is a genre defined by the rules of the medium, restrictions that are simultaneously limiting and inspiring. There have been some great examples of Vine users making the most of the medium, and several creative users have helped Vine come into its own, like user JehReh who challenges other users to replicate his illusion. Oreo has been using Vine to give fans creative uses for Oreos that aren't otherwise apparent (see below).
Instagram Video shares several similarities with Vine. Like Vine, Instagram can record in bursts whenever the user is holding the record button, allowing for quick cuts and stop-motion or a continuous roll of video. Like Vine, Instagram videos can be shared on Facebook, and Twitter. Both apps can pull your friend list and facilitate following people that you know already outside the app.
Now, the juicy part... let's address the key differences of Instagram Video. The implications of these differences become significant when the discussion moves to brand messaging.
- Maximum video length: 15 seconds
- Editing capabilities: add a color filter, stabilize video, and choose a cover thumbnail
- Other networks with integrated sharing capabilities: Flickr, email, tumblr, and FourSquare.
- (Most importantly,) videos can be uploaded into the app, rather than being taken exclusively through the app.
SimplyMeasured conducted a simple study in late June around brand adoption of Instagram vs. Vine. The results showed that brand use of Instagram was considerably higher (twice as many Top 100 brands use Instagram over Vine), largely as a result of Vine's delayed entry in the market (read more about it here). What's important here is not what other brands are using either platform, nor which brands are using it better than others. What's important is how accessible and attractive the platforms are for brands at every level.
When it comes to effectiveness for branding, Instagram wins, for now. Instagram has a larger user base, and because it's been around longer, it has wider adoption among brands, especially big ones. Some might challenge this assertion, because many of the brands using Vine have lots of followers on Twitter, far more than they do on Vine alone, but the same argument could be made for Instagram and Facebook follower-masses, so that point is moot. 6 seconds is long enough to convey a message, but the short potential command a 6-second clip has over the attention span of its viewer is not likely to resonate as well as a 15-second clip could. Moreover, longer clip length makes it easier for brands to paint a cohesive picture, to tell a story, and to make an impression on viewers. Instagram also has the advantage of its trademark filters, which add an aura to content that isn't possible in Vine.
Perhaps the most resounding advantage Instagram has over Vine is the ability to create and upload content from outside the app. What that means is that brands can film and edit their content using professional equipment and software and then share it using the app, or reuse content distributed across other channels. Vine users can only create content inside the app (note: there are workarounds), and that puts a ceiling on the quality of the content possible in the app. For example, Red Bull and Lululemon have just scored big wins on Instagram with these videos:
The Red Bull video won in a few ways. By using #tbt (a trendy hashtag on Instagram which stands for throw-back Thursday) Red Bull repurposed a video of Russian daredevil Valery Rozov base jumping from Mount Everest. While the full-length video aired in May on Youtube, they repurposed it effectively, getting around 30K likes in just 12 hours. With the Lululemon clip, you can see a clear improvement in production value and attention put into creating truly compelling content, and Instagram's platform makes that vastly more accessible than Vine.
What It Means Going Forward
I'm not advocating for high-production-value 15-second commercials, as Instagram users might see this as a violation of the purity of otherwise 'genuine' content. And when it comes to the authenticity of content, I have to give the points to Vine. Because its videos can only be created in the app, it takes spontaneity, creativity, and an ability to work within external confines to create cool engagement-worthy content, and on Vine, it shows. Even if Instagrammers start seeing full-blown TV commercial spots on their beloved news feeds, they'll eventually either get used to seeing commercials and engage with them, or simply unfollow the brands.
The fact remains, however, that the advanced editing and sharing features on top of the ability to use outside hardware and software to make more compelling content puts Instagram ahead of Vine for social brand messaging. Vine still has immense potential, and like it's parent, has been growing rapidly despite early dismissals based on the way its content is created and consumed. I look forward to revisiting this debate in 6 months and reporting on how wrong or right I was.