Samantha Gordon

Instagram’s push for more video content could be a boon for social media marketing. Following a 40 percent increase in video engagement on the social network in the past six months, Instagram has been developing new ways for users to enjoy the visual medium.

On April 14, Instagram announced that more videos will begin to appear in the Featured section of the Explore tab. This is the second of many changes Instagram has been hinting at regarding videos on the platform. They started by increasing the maximum length of videos from 15 to 60 seconds in late March, and more updates will follow.

Why marketers should take notice: Engagement

This presents an opportunity for all marketers (yes, even B2B businesses can find success) to develop a broader presence on the social channel, which has more than 400 million users. The Explore tab is especially valuable for marketers, because it shows users results outside their current network of friends and followers. Now that videos are the first thing people see in this section of the app, marketers have a greater chance to organically reach and connect with new users. Video posts traditionally result in higher engagement, and the longer they are the more engagement they’re likely to get.

Pixability’s chief data scientist, John Baker, recently explained the reasoning behind the move to video in an interview with Social Media & Marketing Daily.

“After investing the time to consume longer content, people are more motivated to engage. We’ve seen this on YouTube, with longer-form content generating higher engagement rates on average compared to 30-second videos,” Baker said.

The biggest hurdle to overcome: Attention spans

The challenge marketers will face as Instagram shifts to encourage longer video content will be using the bite-sized nature of the platform to their advantage. Instagram has always been a fast-paced social channel. The ability to scroll fluidly through mostly photo-based content may mean, even though video is already proving successful, there will be an adjustment period before longer content reaches its full potential on the platform.

You need to give people a reason to stop scrolling and start watching. Perhaps due to the easy browsing style of Instagram, photos receive more likes. However, the interaction with photos ends there – people simple double tap images they like and move on. When they stop to watch videos, they’re far more likely to leave comments, tag their friends and even repost the content, creating opportunities to extend your reach and have conversations with your followers and potential customers.

There are two opportunities to do this: the Cover Frame and the first five seconds. As users can disable auto-play, both factors bear equal importance.

Grab attention with the right Cover Frame

When people are browsing for interesting content, they won’t stop and wait for a video to load if the screenshot doesn’t tell them anything about the content. This goes double for those without auto-play enabled, as they have to actively tap a video to load it.

Choosing the right Cover Frame from the video is a must. It should be high-quality and interesting enough to make viewers want to give the video a chance. As of right now, options are limited to using a single frame from your video, so be thoughtful.

A good Cover Frame should:

  • Show an interesting moment.
  • Hint at what the video is about.
  • Be sharp, not blurry.

Introduce intrigue in first 5 seconds

As soon as a user stops scrolling, the video will start (when auto-play is enabled). This is your chance to grab their attention. If people aren’t engaged right away, they’re going to move on. The first few seconds must give them a reason to keep watching.

A good opener should:

  • Dive right into the story.
  • Be visually appealing.
  • Make sense with or without sound.

This video, shared during the 13th Worldwide InstaMeet, encompasses all the right attributes. The Cover Frame lets you know clip will focus on people, and when you hit play, the story starting moving quickly. There is no dialogue, only a soundtrack, so people who keep their phones on mute won’t miss a thing.

How to reach the right people: Know your audience

As I already mentioned, the potential value for marketers lies in the ability to organically engage your target audience and reach new followers. In order to appear on their personalized Featured feed, you need to post the type of content they’re already looking at.

Get inside the heads of your target consumer to develop a strategy. If you don’t already have buyer personas in place, this is a good time to start building them out. When you know who makes up your audience, you can research them more thoroughly.

Look into your current followers on Instagram and other social channels.

  • Explore the other accounts they follow – what are they doing with video?
  • Use social media analysis tools to get more data on their behavior.
  • Pinpoint common interests that could work for your brand.

So often, social media marketing is seen as a way to get users to click links, visit a business’s site and convert. While this is certainly the case for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Instagram is a bit more long-term. This outlet is a way to build your brand reputation and foster relationships with the audience. Especially since you can’t include URLs in captions, the best way to turn Instagram followers into customers is to create a strong relationship with them. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll think of you first.