Instagram Videos and the Content Trends You Need to Know


By   |   August 30th, 2016   |   Reading time: 8 minutes Digital Journalism

With video growing more prevalent on every platform, here are the must-know content trends for successful Instagram video. 

Instagram has been making big moves this summer. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say, and Instagram has adopted several of visual platform Snapchat’s features, including Instagram Stories to match Snapchat Stories.

Last month, we looked at four quick things to know about successful Instagram videos. In the six months leading up to April 2016, the time users spent watching video on Instagram increased by over 40 percent.

With Instagram Stories featuring prominently at the top of the feed, this number will likely grow.

Top Video News Publishers

We looked at the top news publishers on Instagram in June and July to see how publishers were engaging their followers amid the shift to an algorithmic news feed.

This time, we’re examining only how these publishers fared on their video content. The data comes from NewsWhip Spike

Instagram Video Publishers

The top publishers were the same, however Bleacher Report and ESPN beat out National Geographic for engagements. Bleacher Report drove nearly 11.9 million likes and comments for their Instagram videos from August 1st to 28th.

Of course, this could also be due to the sheer number of video these sports publishers are putting out: 238 (Bleacher Report) and 180 (ESPN) to National Geographic’s 20.

Per video, National Geographic drives an average 4,539 comments and astounding 447,372 likes.

BBC News breaks into the top five as the only general news publisher, though Fox News and CNN joins them in the top ten.

What works on one platform doesn’t necessarily translate to the other. Video on Facebook is a different animal than on Instagram. When we looked at Instagram last month, we saw the top videos were fairly short, captioned, had accompanying text caption for context, and were often square.

Since we already looked at the video tactics, let’s examine some of the content trends driving engagement.

Human Interest Stories Resonate

The majority of the top ten videos from general news publishers were human interest pieces, both negative and positive.

Instagram Video News Publishers

This video from CNN drove over 29,000 likes, and 6,600 comments, on a small child Syrian refugee.

The simple video gives viewers a glimpse into the realities of the Syrian conflict that CNN does significant reporting on. It humanizes what might otherwise be another story about far off places, and far off people.

Other videos were less solemn. This video of a cop pulling drivers over to give them ice cream on a hot day drove over 24,000 Instagram likes and comments.

These sort of ‘public service’ videos were quite popular. BBC News had one about a hairdresser giving haircuts to the homeless, and there was another from Fox News about a preschooler being accompanied to his first day of school by dozens of cops after his police officer father passed away.

Human interest stories do well on social media because they put people at the heart of a story. There’s genuine emotion behind the stories. Social media is an already personal medium, so it makes sense these sort of videos appeal.

Extra Context and Community

As we saw with Facebook’s initiative toward more personal news feeds, peer-to-peer sharing is going to be more important than ever. Publishers are responding to this by having contributors build up communities who are fans of their individual work.

On Instagram, this is effortless. Users can quickly tap the contributor’s name in the caption, and then click again to follow if they please. This lets them associate a human face with the publication.

Bertie Gregory, the videographer of the above National Geographic video, has over 22.8 thousand followers.

Go Behind the Scenes with Influencers

Vogue was number four for the publishers we analyzed. Their top video provided a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot for the September issue.

Of course, showing off some of the hottest celebrities in your content doesn’t hurt either. Other publishers may want to try working with influencers for some of their own social content. This doesn’t have to be promotional, necessarily. Publishers can use influencers as experts on what they’re reporting on.

Vogue does this with their other hit videos too. Their second top video was a look at a photoshoot with Irina Shayk and commenting on her reshaping standards of beauty.  Meanwhile the third top video offered “jetlag beauty tips” from model Bella Hadid.

Positive Moments

ESPN and Bleacher Report saw the biggest engagement this month from focusing on sports’ happiest moments. This post of Simone Biles meeting her celebrity crush was the top video from either publisher.

It's safe to say Simone is one happy lady. ???? (via @simonebiles)

A video posted by espn (@espn) on

Bleacher Report’s top video was about the United States’ performance in the Olympics, and the next two were about Usain Bolt’s records.

JACKPOT! ????#USA becomes the 1st country to reach 1000 gold medals in Summer Olympics history!

A video posted by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

“Feel good” content is often inherently sharable. Not only that, but Bleacher Report’s videos were about making history in the world of sports.

Bring Your Fans Into the Conversation

ESPN and Bleacher Report also had some of the top commented Instagram videos (after National Geographic stealing the show, of course).


The video made arguments for both sides and ultimately drove over 7,200 comments as users cast their votes and debated.

Bleacher Report also joined in, asking fans if LeBron James could catch up to Michael Jordan on a video that superimposed Jordan on a shot of LeBron dunking.

By asking followers their opinions on passionate topics, you bring them into the conversation and make them feel invested in and listened to by the publication and their fellow fans.

Humanity, Exclusivity, and Connection

Many of the best Instagram trends from news publishers were about providing users with more intimate access to the stories they’d care about.

Human interest stories from general news publishers struck an emotional chord with Instagram followers who already use their social media to share their personal lives. Seeing positive videos also let users join in happy moments and victories, like with the Olympics.

This video from BBC News drove over 16,000 engagements.

Going behind the scenes and getting extra context on videos provided Instagram users with a feeling of exclusivity, something they couldn’t see elsewhere.

And opening up conversations allowed followers to connect with both the publication and their fellow fans in the comments.

As video becomes more prevalent across all social platforms, it’s necessary to figure out the strategies of which video works for which platforms.

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