Instagram

Four Quick Things to Know About Successful Instagram Videos


By   |   July 26th, 2016   |   Reading time: 4 minutes Digital Journalism

Four crucial elements of success for video on Instagram, from using captions to tell a story, to watermarking your clips. 

We already know that video is extremely popular for publishers on Facebook and Twitter.

But what about Instagram?

In the six months to April 2016, the time people spent watching video on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent. More and more publishers are examining how they can most effectively using video on the platform.

Overall, average engagement rates for Instagram videos are very high, but they don’t see the same boost that videos on Facebook do. There’s reason for this:

However, with Instagram’s timeline now also algorithmically sorted and the aforementioned growth in engagement with video on the platform, it’s likely that these engagement rates will continue to rise.

It’s important to note that having a successful Instagram video strategy does not mean you’ll be able to directly transplant it to other networks. Although there are some elements that will cross over, and if the video itself is unique enough it will take off regardless, Instagram is very much its own place.

There will be differences from platform to platform, so assuming that the videos that you produce for your Facebook page will be immediate success on Instagram is a bad idea.

We took a closer look at Instagram videos in Spike to see what the most successful videos on the platform have in common.

1. Length: Stick to the point

The average length of the most shared videos are growing.

In March, Instagram raised the permissible length of a video from 15 seconds to 60 seconds. Despite this, the most popular Instagram videos are still fairly short, our data shows.

The average length of the top 10 most ‘liked’ videos from BBC News in June was 32 seconds, our data shows. Of those 10 clips, three were the maximum 60 seconds, and they all had one thing in common: lots of stunning visual footage. Here was BBC News’ most liked Instagram video of June:

Bleacher Report had some of the shortest videos (frequently 15 seconds or less), while maintaining the highest average engagement rate per video post in June (48,703 Likes per post).

The message is simple. Be strict in editing the footage that makes it into your Instagram video, and only use as much as you think is really worth including.

2. On-screen captions to help storytelling

One of the most common elements of Instagram videos were the on-screen captions. We’ve seen this to be the case for Facebook videos too.

We found that captions were even more common on Instagram videos than on Facebook.

Almost all of the videos we reviewed from the BBC News profile had large on-screen captions that were very easy to read. Fox News opted for a strip across the bottom of each video, spelling out the dialogue on each clip.

Fox News on Instagram

Meanwhile, NowThis prefer larger, coloured font, over-layed on the footage itself.

NowThis on Instagram

3. Text captions that speak to the audience

As well as the video captions, there’s always the regular post caption that publishers still have control over. What you decide to do with your caption space depends on your audience.

Text captions on Instagram are valuable for publishers looking to expand on the post. TIME make theirs long, expanding on the story in the clip and reminding viewers to visit their site if they’d like more information.

Time on Instagram

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s captions were much shorter, and made abundant use of emojis.

You can use up to 2,200 characters in your Instagram captions, although you’ve got to consider how long people are going to spend reading the fairly small text on their phones.

Hashtags are particularly important, as they point Instagram users towards your clips and get new viewers involved with your posts.

It’s also important to tag any other users that might have been responsible for any of the footage you used in your clips.

4. Shapes: More square than long

Since last year, it has been possible to make landscape videos for Instagram. And while some of the videos we reviewed were in the landscape format, the vast majority of the most liked clips we looked at were square.

There could be a simple explanation for this. Square videos get more space on a person’s phone than the landscape video.

That’s not to say that the landscape option isn’t been completely neglected. Fox News use it extensively to share their TV clips, as do NowThis. It’s interesting to note that both of these pages caption their videos heavily, ensuring that they’re completely understandable.

It’s a good idea to experiment with the different styles to make sure that whatever the format, your viewers can easily watch and understand the video.

Do you have any tips for making the most of videos on Instagram? Let us know on Twitter, or in the comments below.

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