The Evolution of Instagram for Marketers: Pictures to Video

I’ll admit, for a long time I didn’t see the purpose of having an Instagram account.

I already post pictures on Facebook. Why would I need to post them on Instagram as well?

When I was working in retail managing a store, a 17 year old employee said to me, “Oh my god, you have a Facebook still? You’re so old!”

I was 22 at the time.

She went on to tell me how her main social media account was Instagram, and all I could think was, “Isn’t Instagram just for cheesy pictures of food?”

evolution of instagram for marketers

It turns out my former employee was on to something. As Instagram has grown, so have its features and usability. Now that I’m a  marketer rather than a manager, it seems that it’s time to take another look at Instagram.

Marketers have been using Instagram as a social media channel to post photos representing their brands and company culture for a while now. Instagram is the place that brands can post more artistic and fun photos that people will not only look at, but share as well.

With recent expansions into alternative image formats and video, Instagram offers great features and a diverse audience for marketers beyond simply posting branded images.

A Brief History of Instagram

Instagram is an app that is self described as, “a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”

Instagram has been a quickly growing social media channel ever since it was launched in October of 2010 as a place to share photographs. By September of 2011, Instagram had 10 million users, an impressive growth rate that hasn’t slowed down, topping 300 million in 2015.

One factor that may have helped in this growth was Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in April of 2012.

Then on June 20, 2013 Instagram launched a huge new feature: video.

This feature grew in usage very quickly and laid the groundwork for one of the newest major features that Instagram has put out: Hyperlapse.

Released in August of 2014, Hyperlapse allows users to create smooth timelapse videos using their cell phone and post them straight to Instagram.

Instagram for Video Marketing

With the attention spans of viewers continuing to dwindle, catching people’s attention long enough to convince them to watch a video can be somewhat difficult for marketers.

Short form video seems to be the answer, but placement has often been a problem.

Do you set them up as ads on YouTube, or put them up as their own stand-alone videos?

This quandary was a difficult aspect of online video marketing for a while. Then Instagram came along and offered the ability to post videos with one simple limitation: they can only be 15 seconds long.

This was a very similar idea to Vine’s 6-second video time limit. For a lot of marketers this feature didn’t really stand out as a hugely useful tool when it first came out. But now, marketers and major companies are using this feature all the time!

There are a few reasons why these types of videos are such a useful tool for marketers:

  • Videos on Instagram are short, making them very consumable.
  • Videos are not expected to be of “professional” quality on Instagram.
  • Using Instagram makes it easy to share videos and increases their chances at broad exposure.

Short Form Video Marketing

Reaching any audience with video is difficult, and holding their attention is even more difficult. But by limiting all videos to fifteen seconds, Instagram has made it that much easier to create content that everyone has time for.

However, short form marketing videos are an art.

Trying to fit enough information in a small amount of time without going overboard can be difficult and somewhat intimidating. But there are so many advantages to short form video — quality expectations, opportunities to go viral, and consumability to name a few — that it’s well worth marketers’ time to tackle the challenge.

Different Video Quality Expectations

Many small companies are hesitant about creating video content because they feel like they don’t have the means or budget to create the commercial quality video that viewers have come to expect on Youtube and Vimeo.

This is one reason that Instagram video works well for any company.

Even big companies create videos for Instagram that are, by most people’s standards, pretty simple. But this style fits into Instagram more smoothly than a polished, professional commercial would.

Instagram hosts pictures and videos taken by regular people, and the videos that many companies are putting up fit into that style. Companies can actually get their videos shared more by making videos that don’t show off a huge marketing budget or feel like they belong on TV.

They feel like they belong on Instagram. They’re simple, enjoyable, and get a point across that is easily understood.

Making Videos Shareable

This is a huge advantage to video marketing on Instagram: the videos are beyond easy to share on any platform.

Whether you’re posting to Facebook or Twitter, sharing an Instagram video is just as easy as sharing a picture.

But possibly the best aspect of video marketing via Instagram is how its videos perform on mobile.

For example, when an Instagram video is shared on Facebook, viewers can play it directly on Facebook, even on a mobile device.

Youtube videos, on the other hand, will only play on a page if they are embedded; they will not redirect mobile users to the app in order to play the video.

Not only is an Instragram video easily shared across the different platforms, it is also easily played. It can therefore gain more views more easily.

Using Instagram Hyperlapse For Marketing

Instagram’s Hyperlapse tool is a great way to make quick time lapse videos that are actually of a pretty decent quality. What does this mean for marketing? Simply put, it’s another great video tool that can be put into every marketer’s bag of tricks without blowing the budget.

As a reminder, time lapse video is created by using photographs (or short video clips) with intervals of time in between each shot. When they’re played back, they appear to be on fast forward, or jumping through time.

Time lapse videos can be used for a lot of different purposes. Maybe you want to give a tour of your office, or maybe take the customer on a trip with a delivery truck. With time lapse video you can compress a 15-minute office tour into less than a minute, or a whole day’s delivery run into just a few minutes.

This fits especially well into the Instagram video time limit of 15 seconds.

Low Risk Video Marketing on Instagram

Instagram offers marketers a low-risk, low-cost entry point into the endless possibilities of video marketing. The videos are expected to be short and don’t need to be professionally created, lowering the barriers to entry for many marketers.

Keep in mind that your videos still need to be clever and engaging.

Just because the Instagram audience isn’t demanding perfection doesn’t mean that it’s automatically going to share everything you create.

Use the time you would have spent on editing and reshoots to make sure your idea and execution are clever and engaging, and you can take advantage of all the benefits of Instagram’s evolution from cheesy food shots to sophisticated marketing campaigns.  

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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