Instagram Video Best Practices

On June 20th Instagram announced the addition of videos to its popular photo-sharing app.  Besides being an obvious response to the growing popularity of Twitter’s Vine app, this is another confirmation that short form content creation is on the rise.

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I was recently asked by DM Confidential to share some tips for marketers to create visually compelling content and test another content distribution channel. Article highlights are at the bottom of this post.

What are some best practices or tips for how marketers and brands should use videos on Instagram?

A couple come to mind right away: Brands can share unique branded experiences, highlight brand advocates, co-create content with audiences, preview products, highlight a specific cause, extend the brands persona via video, preview upcoming events by adding visual context, share important news, drive promotional awareness, leverage Instagram video for promotion, and create videos that show fan appreciation.  The key is to create content that is a natural extension of the brand.

How is it different from Vine, from a marketing perspective?

The first key difference is simply tied to reach potential. By embedding Instagram video within the existing application for both iOS and Android simultaneously, Facebook is providing access to a large and very active user base.

From a marketing perspective, the greater length of the video — 15 seconds vs. 6 — the ability to stabilize the shot, 13 filters and the ability to tap to focus allows for greater flexibility and complexity of a shot. This can provide greater depth in terms of the type of content that can be created and better represent the brand.

Examples of Instagram Video Filters

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My assumption is also that at some point Instagram Video will support the ability to create custom filters, similar to how brand applications can incorporate custom Instagram filters to further create associations with the brand.

Do you like this addition to Instagram?

I do like the addition of video to Instagram. Facebook is still the ideal storytelling and amplification platform. With so much attention given to Vine, this was the natural next step for Instagram. This combined with Facebook’s ability to support hashtags as well as photos in comments are all signs that the platform’s future is tied to visual content both static and active.

Example of Facebook Hashtag Support

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What does it say about the importance of visual content, and short-form videos specifically?

Compelling and relevant visual content has been a key element of driving engagement. An overwhelming majority of content shared is still tied to images. With that said, Vine and Instagram Video now offer quick and easy solutions for consumers to create short-form content. As brands become even more comfortable with their guidelines tied to user generated content, short-form videos will be another viable alternative to support their existing content strategies.

Here is the full DM Confidential Article

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Follow Tom Edwards @blackfin360

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Benefits of The New MySpace

I was recently briefed by the MySpace team prior to the re-launch of the brand. I had worked closely with the MySpace team back in 2006-2007 and was intrigued to see what’s new with the platform and what value the new platform can provide for brands.

My questions were primarily tied to 5 key areas:

1 – What is the “new” MySpace
2 – Discoverability of content
3 – Brand Value Proposition
4 – Amplification Capabilities
5 – Influencer Identification & Activation

The “New” MySpace

June 12th marked the official re-launch of MySpace.com. You may have seen the comprehensive media blitz tied to driving acquisition of new and nostalgic users. This is definitely not your old MySpace. Gone are rainbow unicorns and other elements that made MySpace what it was in its heyday.

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MySpace currently has a user base of 20 million that is primarily 18-29 years of age. The re-launch will focus on positioning itself as the alternative destination for the 18-34 set. One of the key goals is to add enough value with the experience to attract the 29-34 set  to increase the affluent user base.

The focus on a highly visual user experience (horizontal scroll vs. vertical) that is grounded in music, editorial & curated content and an advertising light/contextual ad experience was redesigned from the ground up with the goal of increasing the current base of users.

Landing Page

One of the key areas of strength for the platform is the focus on music. From high profile investors such as Justin Timberlake to the 52,000,000 songs free for consumers, MySpace is laser focused on connecting fans with artists and extending those connections through the re-launch.

When I asked the MySpace team to describe the new platform compared to existing platforms the team said that it is part Spotify, part Pandora and a little bit of Pinterest. It was interesting that Facebook was not directly mentioned and after reviewing the platform I can see why.

MySpace comparison

The key terms that were repeated by the team were tied to affinity, discoverability and connection with the key symbol of the platform being the infinity symbol.

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Discoverability

At its core Facebook is a story telling and amplification platform built on individual connections. MySpace, similar to Pinterest, is focused on discoverability and affinity. A subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.

One of the main areas of focus with the new experience is tied to Discovery. From the pervasive bottom navigation to the traditional discover tab, “discover” is front and center for the user.

When a user clicks into this section the MySpace team will feature editorial & trending curated content. This is also going to be a key area of aligning with brands via contextual advertising vs. traditional paid units. More on that in the amplification section.

Featured

Another key point of discovery tied to the platform is the visually appealing search functionality. Clear text ques and hashtag support is another element to drive discoverability of people, content & brands.

Search

MySpace Mobile

With the launch MySpace has also redesigned its iOS app to offer users the chance to upload animated GIFs and stream “social radio,”. This again is to further enable connection and discoverbility of artists & content.

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Brand Value Proposition

A number of my questions were focused on how brands can get the most out of the platform. I asked questions tied to content penetration, ability to support promotion, and opportunities tied to hyper local targeting.

One of the core areas of focus was tied to a brands ability to drive reach & engagement on the platform. I did not get definitive numbers such as those tied to Facebook and EdgeRank. The responses ranged from we will continue to refine the content that is presented as we continue to scale, so this will definitely be an area to focus on as more brands work to connect with users.

Brands with a close association to music & musical artists can find the platform to be a key element to consider in terms of driving sponsorship or activation. From contextual playlists to the ability to connect an artists performance on a show like Jimmy Kimmel that then kicks over to a exclusive live stream on MySpace, there are many opportunities to connect brands beyond the walls of MySpace to create more integrated engagements.

The platform also supports more traditional promotions that can tie into retail activations similar to the Bud Light example below into more comprehensive user engagements such as the 50 shows 50 states 1 day activation from Bud Light.

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Bud Light Home

50:50:1 example 

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Promotions are deep linkable so cross platform and traditional digital units can support awareness of activations. For brands that require age gating, the Bud Light example also showcases how this is handled in order to present content to those of legal age.

Example of Age Gating

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One of the other key attributes to the platform is the ability to drive purchase directly through the platform. This is where a Pinterest comparison comes into play. By enabling e-commerce through the experience the goal is to directly impact revenue for those organizations that choose to leverage the commerce and royalties functionality.

Amplification

When it comes to content and the importance of visibility of owned messages, I asked a series of questions tied to amplification capabilities of the platform. The following is the breakdown of key points of the discussion.

Owned Post Amplification – It appears that organic post level amplification to increase reach on an individual piece of content is not a current option at launch it is not out of the realm of possibility for the future.

Advertising – The ad types will vary depending on how the user interacts with the platform. There will be ads tied to the streaming service which may morph into a subscription type service to be ad free.

When it comes to in-stream advertising there are a few options to consider:

Log In Ad/Welcome Tray – Brands will have an opportunity to “own” the prime spot of log in prior to the user moving through their feed. This unit looks like a highlighted content unit and is built to look like a contextual placement vs. a traditional ad. This spot is owned by the brand for the day and will initially be available to all users. I did ask about targeting moving forward and that will more than likely be an option in future updates.

In Stream Ads – Brands will also have the option to position contextual ads in the horizontal stream of users. No additional details were shared beyond the fact that this option exists.

Discover Ad – This comes in the form of a contextual ad unit that could be as simple as a playlist that leads into a branded experience. The key again is to leverage the brands association with relevant and contextual content to maximize opportunities for engagement.

Discover Ad

Targeting – Ad targeting is based on three primary points of targeting:

1) Demographic & In Platform Behavior – The profile of a user is taken into consideration as one point of targeting
2) Inferences based on Affinity – The final element, similar to Twitter’s focus on the Interest graph is MySpace’s own ability to target based on users affinity signals.

Brand Messaging Capability – One of the key differences between MySpace & Facebook in terms of brands interacting with users is tied to the ability of brands to send messages to users via the MySpace mail & message service.

Extensibility – One of the other key elements is for elements of MySpace, such as the MySpace music player to extend to other networks, for example it is possible to live stream an event via an API onto Facebook if there is a goal to drive engagement with sponsored content cross platform.

Influencer Connection

One of the areas I was most excited to see is tied to what MySpace calls the Infinity Score. One of the big missing elements associated with the native Facebook platform is the ability to dive deeper into social & topical relevance of users.

With the upcoming launch, it is possible for bands & brands to see who their “top fans”. Top fans are people who have interacted the most with an artist or brands content. Top Fans are then granted exclusive access or available to activate against.

Top Fans

The key for a user to become a “top fan” is directly tied to factors such as impact of shareability through their network, interaction with the content (e.g. music listens) and other factors that MySpace did not fully reveal.

This level of visualization also incents users to continue to engage to maintain their position with this very passive gamification/engagement layer.

Next Steps

It will be very interesting to watch what happens post launch. Some of my questions were tied to considerations around rebranding vs. keeping the MySpace name. One thing is for sure. Most web users definitely have an opinion about MySpace. With the alignment with Specific Media there are definitely opportunities for MySpace to provide value for the right brand.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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The Move Towards Flat Design

Everywhere I look whether it is working on my desktop or browsing via mobile I am beginning to see recurring digital design patterns. This includes the use a lot of white space, simple and sometimes transparent backgrounds, symmetrical boxes and minimalist styling for user interfaces. This trend actually has a name… Flat design. You may not have heard of the flat design philosophy, but you will definitely recognize it when you see it especially if you have used a Microsoft or Google product recently.

Example from Xbox Live

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Example from Windows 8

Start screen

Example of an HTC Microsoft Phone

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Look familiar? It should. For a long time now graphical user interface (GUI) design has tried to make objects seem more familiar to us by using a design philosophy called Skeuomorphism. This is simply incorporating design ques from the physical world into the digital one. The visual cues and details such as shadows, beveled edges and texture create experiences that are relatable or designed to be visually interesting.

Multiple examples of Skeuomorphism from my iPad

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The icons themselves such as the Tech Crunch app icon almost appear to be 3-dimensional

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The move towards flat design is one that is less about style and more about optimizing functionality and focusing a users attention on the type of content they are about to interact with. The focus is on creating digital experiences that emphasize visual clarity to get the primary point across.

Google has always used a minimalist approach to GUI

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Google Now incorporates flat design principles into Google’s card style interface

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Especially with the move towards mobile first and responsive design, the limited real estate calls for very clear and simple interfaces that allow the reduced size to be maximized across devices. This is evident when you begin reviewing how Google Glass will present information.

Example of Google Glass Flat Design

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Social networks have even begun implementing certain elements of flat design. Take a look at the newly launched MySpace and their use of flat elements to bring their users streams to life.

MySpace has a new UX that features a clean design with the focus on simple visual content boxes

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Example of MySpace Feed

MySpace

Pinterest also incorporates flat design principles in their user experience with the recent redesign.

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Finally, with Apple’s recent announcements that iOS 7.0 will incorporate Flat Design elements into the user experience marks a significant shift as Apple since the 80’s has focused on creating graphical user interfaces that lean towards replicating physical objects vs. focusing on telling the user what type of content they are about to engage with.

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Dating back to the dot com days, I have been a student of all things digital. Flat Design is yet another entry into the ever evolving digital landscape. What was once old is new again. What are your thoughts and preferences? Do you prefer an interface that is familiar or do you have an affinity towards minimal elements with a clear visual cue to what you are about to do?

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