Small Business Marketing With Vine and Instagram Video

Friday Sep 6th 2013 by James A. Martin
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Short-form Vine and Instagram videos let you connect with customers in ways other small business marketing tools can’t. Learn how easy it is to get started.

You've mastered Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. You've figured out Pinterest. But are you using Vine or Instagram video in your small business marketing yet?

If not, you probably should be. But not to worry: Posting videos to Vine or Instagram is about as easy as it gets. And it can pay off by helping you get closer to your customers in ways that other social media networks can't.

"A small business should consider any marketing tool that makes the cash register ring," says Greg Jarboe, president and co-founder of SEO-PR and author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day. "Can Vine or Video on Instagram do that? Yes, they can. And a whole lot more cost-effectively than stapling flyers to telephone poles or wearing a sandwich board on the street corner."

Here's what you need to know to take advantage of these two new, free, easy-to-use, and effective marketing tools.

Vine: The Back Story

Vine is a Twitter-owned mobile/social video app released in January 2013 for iPhones and in June 2013 for Android devices.

Using Vine, you can shoot videos on your smartphone up to six seconds long. You can share them with other Vine app users as well as post them to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Vine videos play in a continual loop within the app. The six-second limitation is in keeping with Twitter, with its famous 140-character cut-off. You can add a caption to your Vine videos with hashtags and @mentions; add a location via Foursquare; and post your video to any of 15 "channels," such as "Comedy," "Cats," "Dogs," "Health & Fitness," and "Sports."

After its release, Vine quickly rocketed in popularity. Within five months of the iPhone app launch, Vine received 13 million downloads. It's become so popular, Vine has already become a verb, as in "Let's Vine it!" To get a taste for Vine videos, check out CNET's collection of Vine marketing videos.

Instagram Video: The Back Story

On June 20, an Instagram update for iPhones and Androids added the capability to shoot and share videos up to 15 seconds in length. (Facebook owns Instagram.)

This being Instagram, you can apply special-effects filters to your videos. Along with posting to Instagram, you can share videos on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and in email.

Though Vine continues to be wildly popular, Instagram's new video feature threatened to wither Vine, at least initially. The day before the Instagram video feature debuted, some 2.5 million Vine links were shared, according to Topsy, a Web analytics company. The next day, only about 1.5 million Vine links were shared.

Check out five Instagram video examples on Mashable from companies such as Burberry and Lululemon.

Worth mentioning: For additional exposure, consider embedding your Vine and Instagram videos on your blog or website. Laptop magazine has an article on how to embed Vine videos, and CNET offers details on how to embed Instagram videos.

Why Use Vine or Instagram Video?

"Vine and Instagram are excellent channels to build brand awareness and exposure while increasing your audience and growing your community," notes Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, an SEO, social media, and guest blogging service.

The two channels "play a similar role to YouTube videos and other social media content, but they differ in the sense that they're designed solely for use on mobile devices via apps," DeMers adds. "This distinction means that their content is largely more personal, as opposed to YouTube and other Web-based social media channels that host content ranging from amateur to professional."

Vine and Instagram target a mobile, ad-hoc, amateur niche, DeMers says. "This appeals to a wide range of users and can help 'humanize' a brand image by participating within these channels."

The brevity of Vine and Instagram videos makes them easier to digest than full-length videos, notes Megan Totka, editorial director of ChamberofCommerce.com and a Biznology blogger.

"Sometimes people are intimidated by full-length videos," Totka says. "Either they don't have the time or attention to devote to something that's a few minutes, or even 30 seconds, in length. Vine or Instagram videos are always very brief by design, so people are more likely to click 'play.' The length limits also allow for more creativity, so Vine and Instagram videos tend to be more interesting and viewer-friendly."

Businesses That Should Use Vine and Instagram Video

"Any business trying to build a brand reputation can benefit from these videos," says Totka. "There are companies that have used these platforms to introduce a product, but in general, these videos are better for conveying an idea, or a brand identity."

Vine and Instagram videos are ideal for "taking customers behind the scenes, demonstrating new products/services, running competitions, or simply sharing things with their community," says Jarboe. "The only requirement is imagination and creativity, not size and category."

More specifically, restaurants, local businesses, and product-based businesses that sell visually appealing products are "probably the most appropriate types of businesses for these channels," adds DeMers.

Examples of Businesses Using Vine, Instagram Video

Here are a few examples of businesses (large and small) successfully using short-form video to appeal to customers, as recommended by Jarboe, DeMers, or Totka:

  • Tropicana's Vine video for Valentine's Day
  • BuzzFeed's "first runway show" (Vine)
  • Nike's LeBron James voicemail video (Instagram)
  • Red Bull posts videos along with photos to its Instagram account  
  • CafeMokaVa, a café in Virginia Beach, VA, and Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, CA, both created short videos showcasing the art of making espresso

Vine vs. Instagram: Which One to Use?

Aside from the differences in maximum video length, why should a business choose Vine over Instagram video? Or should they use both?

"Businesses interested in providing video content to consumers should post to both platforms, as well as other video sites like YouTube, to provide variety in video offerings," says Totka. "A site like YouTube is great for tutorials in a particular industry, but Instagram and Vine videos are better for snapshots of what a company represents."

Jarboe points to Instagram's video filters as a key differentiator, along with the Cinema feature, which lets you stabilize video after you take it. "When you post a video on Instagram, you can also select your favorite scene from what you've recorded as your cover image," he adds. "Vine has redesigned the camera and included new grid, focus, and ghost tools. And Vine has introduced 15 channels for you to submit posts to or browse from the Explore screen, including comedy, music and nature, each with their own theme and Popular feed. I recommend using both."

DeMers recommends using both as well, and watching your analytics to see "which channel delivers better performance." 

For additional perspective, check out the Vine vs. Instagram video infographic.

5 Vine and Instagram Video Tips

Jarboe offers five tips for making the most effective Vine or Instagram videos:

1.   Be authentic. "Whether you're giving customers a behind-the-scenes snapshot or a "tweaser," short videos provide a great opportunity for small businesses to create a shared moment with their consumers and an intimate, authentic experience," Jarboe says.

2.   Make emotional connections. Because of the intimacy of the short, mobile video form, it's key to create videos that elicit powerful emotional responses.

3.   Give your audience a reason to share. "When creating the short video, think about why people would share your content," says Jarboe.

4.   Use hashtags in captions. Hashtags are highly trackable, allowing you to accurately monitor the ROI of your marketing campaign efforts.

5. Act in real time. "Users flock to Twitter and Facebook for all the latest news," Jarboe says. "Engage potential customers by showing them today's specials or last-minute deals."

Marketing with Vine and Instagram: Think It Through

As with any content marketing effort, you should always create a plan before you start.

"Decide what you're trying to accomplish before filming. After you make the video, use social media to promote it and consider a blog post that includes the embedded video—maybe even a 'behind the scenes' look at why you made it and why it matters,"  says Totka. "Measure the success through traditional means like page views, but also gauge how involved viewers are with the video. If a particular video creates a lot of buzz, follow up with a similar one."

James A. Martin is an SEO copywriter and social media consultant. Follow him on Twitter, @james_a_martin, and Google+.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!
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