Yesterday, Instagram — now part of Facebook — introduced a video feature that allows users to share 15 second clips. The functionality is similar to Twitter's Vine which offers 6 second videos.
Currently, both consumers and marketers are accustomed to sharing photos and text-based status posts. Now, these brief video snippets offer an entirely new way to tell stories.
But haven't videos existed for a while?
It's true that marketers have mastered YouTube as a platform. Established brands routinely post their television spots online to make content available to a broader audience. Once in a while, these videos achieve the holy grail of digital marketing: virality. This was the case recently with the typically conservative retailer Kmart, whose semi-controversial Ship My Pants campaign got over 18 million views.
Then you have smaller companies with lower marketing budgets that are creating funny, entertaining content too. Dollar Shave Club's video had 10 million views and only cost about five thousand dollars to produce, which is a much smaller budget than the typical spend for a television commercial to reach an audience of that size.
But the important difference between traditional online videos and the new type of shorter clips, isn't just the length of the footage — it's customer expectations.
Customers expect social media — and now, bite-sized social videos — to be more casual and in-the-moment than a brand's official website or YouTube channel. The content is consumed in real-time and pushed down the newsfeed by newer posts, which creates an ephemeral nature for the platform.
The fact that videos, which were traditionally time and labor intensive compared to a quick status message or photo, can now also partake in the temporal aspect of social media fundamentally changes the way marketers operate.
It gives marketers the freedom to try new things with less risk. To test ideas with videos that are a few seconds long, instead of a few minutes long. To understand what customers like and dislike faster than ever before. To tell short stories that were not quite fleshed out enough for YouTube, but would feel dumbed down as a static photo.
In short, bite-sized video gives marketers a new way to be agile.
Already, large brands have jumped on the trend to be early adopters of Instagram Video, so far with positive engagement results. For example, Burberry showed a behind-the-scenes video of a fashion show and has gotten almost 16 thousand "likes." General Electric, Charity:water, and Michael Kors have already begun posting as well.
It's easy to see this becoming a tremendous source of advertising revenue for Facebook through promoted videos, much like promoted tweets or news feed stories today. The creative possibilities are endless, and in coming months, many brands will likely experiment with content that's quirky, evocative, shocking, or entertaining in the hopes that consumers will share the digestible videos.
Consumers will also jump at the ability to share their daily lives and interesting moments via animated — not static — content.
With the growth of social media, users have taken an increasingly active role in shaping how technology is incorporated into our daily lives, directly influencing marketers who follow what consumers want and how they live.
Consumer-facing startups have made a big impact on the way we interact, communicate, and tell stories. Tumblr coined the term micro-blogging, Twitter made writing in 140 characters a new skill to master, and user-created sites like WhatShouldWeCallMe made animated GIFs a new channel for memes.
It will be interesting to see the interplay between consumer-generated videos about brands, and what the brands produce themselves. What's certain is that both consumers and brands will actively shape the unwritten rules for the platform as it matures and evolves.