Has Instagram killed the Twitter star?

Has Instagram killed the Twitter star?
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Instagram has just launched an update to their photo sharing app which allows users to now share video content. Surprising? No. It was only a matter of time until the darling of photo sharing apps provided a video option given the huge demand for video content, and the continuing rise and rise of Twitter’s Vine app.

This latest update for Instagram creates some serious competition for Vine. Earlier this month, Topsy Analytics reported that for the first time, there were more Vines shared on Twitter than Instagram photos. While there has been a lot of discussion as to the actual point of Vines, critics have had to tread carefully as Twitter’s video service continues to gain popularity and support globally.

Instagram, the photo sharing behemoth, is in a perfect position to take on Twitter though.

With 130 million monthly users, 16 billion photos and 1 billion ‘Likes’ shared to date, it can confidently expect to grow its video service, well, like instantly. And so it did. Blowing a virtual raspberry at Vine, Instagram launched on June 20 with 5 million video uploads in the first 24 hours. Launching on the day of the NBA final would have certainly helped keep the scoreboard ticking over, as post game results showed almost 40 hours of Instagram video uploaded per minute!

At Visual Jazz Isobar, we took the opportunity to update our Instagram app and take the new video option for a test drive. For existing Instagram users, you’ll be pleased to know it’s a seamless transition from the photo sharing experience, with the same functionality, filter process and sharing options already available.

Only now, when choosing to shoot, the user has an option to click on the photo icon or the video icon. This caused me some unexpected confusion while shooting my first video only because I’m so used to pressing the photo icon. Why am I fessing up to this? Only to ensure you don’t make the same rookie error in front of colleagues!

It’s like Vine, but longer

For those who have dabbled with Twitter’s video service, Vine, it will be a familiar experience in the way that you capture video content. The touch to record function means that you can stop and start your video recording session to capture an experience over time rather than in real time. What I like more about Instagram’s video service is that it allows for 15 seconds worth of video recording, seven seconds more than Vine.

Now, it might sound like we’re splitting hairs when dealing in seconds, but it does make a significant difference.

I’ve tinkered with Vine on several occasions, but the limitation of six seconds makes me feel like I need to be incredibly creative in how I shoot such a hyper short video. So I often don’t bother. There are some brilliant Vine videos that demonstrate how creative people can be under pressure, most of them utilising the stop-start function to create really interesting augmented stories. Others just capture 6 seconds worth of incredibly mind-numbing content that is 6 seconds too long!

Vine has already announced that it will be adding more features to its app shortly.

Rumour has it that it will include a shoot and save function so you don’t have to finish your video recording session in one go (I wonder why this wasn’t available straight up?). Apparently there will also be changes to the design of the video stream, the inclusion of standardised categories instead of the current hashtag and Editor’s Picks layout, and comments and likes will only be visible once the Vine is clicked.

But they’re still 6 seconds.

I think Instagram have been clever to launch with a video play length of 15 seconds as this allows for much more expressive and interesting content, and it doubles the storytelling time for what will no doubt be an influx of instant filmmaking auteurs.

Combine this with Instagram’s easy integration into Facebook feeds, and you can expect a lot more visual content to be shared across social networks. I can see data viz designers rubbing their hot sweaty hands already – all these delicious new data sets coming their way!

So how do you get going with Video for Instagram (as it is so eloquently called)?

Firstly, make sure you’ve downloaded or updated your Instagram app to the latest version. For iPhone users, you’ll need a 3GS device or newer running iOS 5.0 or later. For Android, 4.1 or later will do the job. Like Vines, you can only share videos on Instagram that you record from the app. We got excited with the launch of Vine thinking we could repurpose some of our client’s video content and upload it but no.

Once you’ve opened the video recorder, it’s a pretty intuitive experience. Hold down the record button and it starts recording. Once you take your thumb off the record button, it pauses the recording session. Easy.

One great feature is that you can delete the previous segment on your recording timeline and shoot the scene again. Once you have captured your video, there are 13 filters to choose from. There’s little between most of them so I wasn’t wowed with the options, but you can certainly add some interesting finishes to your native video.

Once you’ve selected your filter, you can then choose the cover image for your video (choice of 8 frames) and then sharing your video is the same experience as with photos. You can add your video to Photo Map and name the location, and then share across Twitter, Facebook, email, Tumblr and Foursquare.

While you can’t edit the audio level once you shoot your video, you can use the volume control setting on your smartphone to determine the audio level prior to shooting. It might take a few goes to get audio levels right – level 11 isn’t always a good thing!

Opportunity for Brands

For brands, the opportunities to use Instagram videos are extensive. Competitions, call-to-actions, compilations of your brand audience’s videos (with permission of course) and short form content like how-to videos are a no brainer. It means that brands can start populating their Facebook pages with a lot more video content that is easily shot, made to look pretty and shared across multiple social sites. But, like any new toy, brands should test it out and then figure out whether it offers any value to their community and to their content strategy. Remember, clutter is clutter. Oh, and that cool filter you’ve just applied to your video is probably being used by your competitor too

What are your thoughts on Video for Instragram? Amazeballs or just meh-balls?

Paul Chappell is content director for Visual Jazz Isobar. To watch his test-drive video on Instagram search for @pchappy. 

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