A few months ago, Facebook rolled out video capability for photo-sharing app Instagram in order to take on Twitter's Vine looping-video app. As both rise in popularity and begin to transform video into a truly social medium, marketers are asking: Which one is winning? Is Vine or Instagram a better tool for brands to connect with their fans?
To answer that question, let's go to the scoreboard and look at some basic metrics as well as at brands that are doing a great job with each one.
Round 1: Can You Tell Your Brand's Story?
A common knock on Vine is that the six-second video limit is just too short to tell a story. Instagram, in contrast, gives you fifteen seconds, basic editing capabilities, and the important ability to upload video from your iPhone. (Android phones, however, do not currently have this functionality.) This means that video can be created outside the app, or even edited from an existing professionally created video, as long as you can get it on your phone. In fairness, Vine's constraints could unleash creativity, just as Twitter and the 30-second television spot taught marketers the art of brevity (but if you really want to get external video into Vine, you can try this hack).
Ultimately, if you have a story to tell, Instagram gives you more room and options to get it across. Round 1 goes to Instagram.
Round 2: How Many Users Will See Your Video?
Vine has 40 million users, Instagram has 150 million. It'd be easy to hand this round to Instagram, but 100 million of those Instagram users joined before the app had video. I haven't found data on what percentage of Instagram posts are video rather than photos. A search on the popular hashtag #fashion returns close to 60 million results, but only two of the first 50 are video. Results for terms such as #phone, #shopping, and #haircare return similar results. By the numbers, Instagram is still a photo-sharing app with a video feature. More users will see your video with Vine than with Instagram, so round 2 goes to Vine.
Round 3: How Easily Can You Aggregate User-Generated Video Content?
The real promise of Vine and Instagram (and all social media) isn't that it gives marketers one more broadcast channel, but that it creates a two-way channel so that users can talk back. Smart marketers create promotions and campaigns to leverage this, because loyal customers are often your most persuasive advocates.
The best UGC campaigns engage fans on both digital and physical levels, like Nissan's #VersaVid Vine campaign. Users printed out a paper Versa from a special site, folded it into shape, and created Vines featuring their paper car. Disney recently launched a Vine campaign asking fans to "show your Disney side."
There have also been some excellent Instagram UGC campaigns, notably Red Bull's #shareyourwings. Most of that was photo content, though, as with excellent campaigns from Nike, Whole Foods, and Starbucks. If the goal is strictly to aggregate UGC, Instagram wins. However, brands aren't yet leveraging the video aspect of Instagram effectively. Round 3 goes to Vine.
Round 4: How Easy Is It for Users to Discover Your Content?
Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, great content might as well not exist if your target audience doesn't find it. Both platforms allow the use of hashtags. Vine features categories and trending topics on their Explore screen, while Instagram encourages serendipity (and smart merchandising of featured content) on theirs. In both cases the lion's share of content discovery may come from integration with Twitter and Facebook, which works equally well on both apps. Round 4 is a draw.
Round 5: Which Platform Is Better for Video Marketing?
If you had to choose only one, you'd choose Instagram for two reasons. First, although Instagram's 150 million users aren't all looking for video yet, it's a bigger audience. Second, the story-telling advantage—more time, more flexibility—are critical to brand marketers. Round 5 goes to Instagram.
There's another important element to the answer, though. Marketers tend to be fascinated with platforms and capabilities when they should be more focused on audiences and content. Vine and Instagram can both be important outposts for a video marketing strategy. They're not a substitute for it. Start at the highest level with the question "who is my audience, what content will engage them, and where will they find that content."
That's why leaders like fashion photographer and videographer @MeaganCignoli, who is often called a "pro Vine creator," posts work all over Instagram and other social networks too. Her first concern is creating great content for her audience.
Content comes first, as always. The channels and platforms are simply enablers. Invest time and care in creating the right content so that you'll have something that, through whichever channel makes sense, will engage your audience. You'll likely find that video can meet a number of needs for your audience... and that social tools like Vine and Instagram, while important (especially for UGC), are less important than developing an overall video strategy that engages and assists your customers at each point of interaction with your brand.