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Instagram Quietly Testing Video Ads: Will They Be As Successful as Photos?

Instagram has started gingerly testing video ads, employing the same delicate approach it used while introducing photo ads. Instagram isn’t cannon ball-ing, it’s applying sunscreen, laying out the towel, dipping a toe in. In non-spring break metaphor, this means that Instagram is only working with a select group of advertising partners like Levi’s, Ben and Jerry’s, Burberry, and Starwood, and all content is developed hand-in-hand with Instagram to “learn the aesthetic” (and keep at least partial creative control in Instagram’s hands).

Self-serve tools are still far in the distance, but Instagram plans to slowly widen its video ads net to more high-end brands. The big question is: will Instagram video ads find the same success as Instagram photo ads? What can brands that are rolling out video ads learn from their current posting strategies? Which creative changes will this format addition encourage? And, ultimately, is it a worthy investment for brands who are already actively spending on other networks? Lets take a look:

So far, on Instagram…

Brands learned the following lessons about Instagram during the photo ad rollout:

1.Be Distinct in Your Content

There’s less resistance to ads on Instagram than on other social networks, suggesting that users are more comfortable with branded content when it’s visually appealing.
Implication for video ads: Don’t think of your video ads as ultra-short TV commercials. Use the novel format as a way to provide users with content that’s enjoyable for enjoyability’s sake and doesn’t hit the viewer over the head with overt branding. If you release distinctive, entertaining enough videos, you won’t even have to mention your brand to leave a significant impression. Taco Bell, part of the Instagram video testing group, has been doing a great job with this. Consider the following vid, a prime example of “Come at me bro” humor, directed at mega-rival McDonald’s.

2. Determine Your Cadence

Regular posting increases your follower count and brand exposure, but posting more than once a day can backfire.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.19.47 PMImplication for video ads: By now, if you’ve been doing your social media measurement due diligence, you’ve got a pretty good idea of the cadence required for your brand to be successful with Instagram photo ads. It would be smart to follow the same model for video ads, paying close attention to how your video posts are performing over the first few weeks. For instance, if you’ve found that posting one photo a day is successful for your brand, put your nose to the proverbial production grindstone and release one video a day for the first week. The next week, bump it down to 6 days a week, etc., etc. This is an ideal way to find the sweet spot between your company’s resources and the ROI of engagement with your videos.

3. Industry Matters

The automotive, media, and luxury industries dominate Instagram engagement,  receiving 83% of total engagement (as of October 2013).

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.21.24 PM Implication for video ads: The auto, media, and luxury industries stand to see even greater success now that videos are in the picture. For instance, BMW often posts photos of its new models – now it will be able to post videos of those babies in action. This strengthens the connection between the user and his/her ability to view him or herself in that vehicle. The same is true for media companies – instead of posting a screenshot of Rihanna waving at the TV during an awards show, why not a more personal video or interview series? And for the luxury industry, instead of posting designer fashion sketches, why not post a video of the making of Burberry’s famous trench coat? Yes, you can definitely expect smart companies in these categories to jump on the Instagram video bandwagon in a serious way.

4. Videos Create Dialog

As of October 2013, “likes” accounted for 99% of Instagram engagement among the Interbrand 100 over a three-month period, while comments only made up 1% of total engagement.
Implication for video ads: Videos are a great way to get folks more heavily engaged and dialoguing with your brand, since there’s richer content to react to. For instance, on April 24 Burberry posted a ton of content around its massive fashion show to celebrate a store opening in Shanghai. The Instagram blitz included both photo and video content.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.26.31 PM
Note that the videos here received more than double the amount of comments than the photos did, and almost reached the photos in “Likes.” This bodes well for the success Burberry’s videos might find on Instagram ads.

On the other hand, videos traditionally haven’t performed well via organic reach on Instagram. As of last fall, among the Interbrand 500, the following stats held true:

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.34.17 PM

Is this bad news for Instagram video ads, or further proof that Instagram’s selective video ads rollout is the right decision as advertisers attempt to decipher what their audiences want?

5. #Sophisticated #Hashtags #Rule

And they look nothing like what I typed above. At least 97% active brands on Instagram use hashtags, but, as of last fall, the top ten most engaged brands rarely overuse hashtags. In fact, they are less likely to include a hashtag in a post than the average Interbrand company. While 83% of posts include at least one hashtag, only 77% of posts made by the top ten brands contain one or more hashtags. Implication for video ads: Hashtags are a great tool for discovery and to piggyback on popular topics and trends, but overuse can negatively impact credibility with your audience.

Wrappin’ Up

What do you think about Instagram’s video ads? Will they work for your brand? What lessons have you learned from normal posting practices and/or photo ads that you intend to bring to the new format? Let me know in the comments below, or Tweet @SimplyMeasured or @LLHitz.

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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