Stuck in the Visual Web: 6 Strategies for Winning Short-Form Video

When Instagram launched its video capabilities this past summer, users hurried to try their hand at creating a 15-second clip on the social networking site. So too did brands: within days, companies like Burberry and Red Vines Candy were uploading their first attempts. The latter created a video that it turned into an ad for use on Facebook and Twitter.

Since then, more than 80 different brands have welcomed Instagram Video into their digital campaigns. So says marketing company Unruly, which last week announced new usage data on the social video marketing technology platform.

Samsung, Nike, Disney, and Red Bull are among the brands generating online buzz, with MTV taking top honors as the “most shared brand.” Unruly also found that the Entertainment and Apparel verticals can lay claim to the largest percentage of popular clips, and that 90 percent of Instagram Video shares occur on Facebook.


“Video on Instagram is already working for many brand marketers across the globe,” says Richard Kosinski, US President of Unruly, “and I expect short-form video to appear on many more marketing plans over the coming months as brands embrace their role as a newsroom and look to embrace agile marketing.” The key, Kosinski says, is to engage, surprise, and entertain. Companies that can do this stand to “amplify their brand across the open Web.”

Of course, engaging your online audience is easier said than done. Whether it takes the form of Instagram Video or Twitter’s Vine, the social video space is already teeming with offerings from brands. Those that got in at the start benefited from early-adopter buzz, but the short-form videos released from here on in will be held to a higher standard.

What makes your branded video worth watching? How can you create something that has marketing chops, both as a product of the Visual Web and a social ad? What follows are six strategies–with plenty of brand examples–to see you along the way.

1. Be Seasonal

Whether it reflects a holiday or the weather, seasonal content is always popular (count the number of Halloween campaigns referenced in your Twitter feed and you’ll see what I mean).


As the purveyor of one of the greatest Halloween television classics of all time, Peanuts (the Charles M. Schulz comic strip turned brand) has plenty of Halloween content to work with. To highlight its seasonal relevance, it has been posting snippets from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to its Snoopygrams page, delighting followers and fans.

Apparel brand Topshop underscored its relevance to the holiday by posting a video of a fashion-forward manicure that resulted in “dripping blood” nails. Coke took a slightly different tack by publicly wishing it could “bottle summer” with an Instagram Video posted on September 1st.

2. Serialize Your Content

A single short-form video can get lost in the fray, but create a collection of content based on a single theme and your clips will have impact. Natural beauty care brand Burt’s Bees recently created seven Vines based on literary classics like Little Women and Gulliver’s Travels, using its “classic” products in the place of the stories’ characters. The videos were released through the Burt’s Bees Twitter feed over the course of several days and featured a #6SecondClassics hashtag to further promote online shares.

3. Tie In with TV

Dunkin’ Donuts has been experimenting with short-form video for some time, but last month it upped the stakes with a complex campaign that paired Vine videos with Monday Night Football. #DunkinReplay features Vines that reenact great recent football plays using hot and ice Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and items from the chain’s menu. The videos are shared on Twitter, and are also currently making history as the first Vine ads to appear on TV, airing during ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown. The brand is a sponsor of the show, and #DunkinReplay represents a way to connect its television audience with its social media presence on the Web.

4. Reference Popular Culture

Videos that prove culturally relevant and timely in their content are more likely to resonate with viewers. MTV is ideally positioned to post Instagram Videos of celebrity gossip in short-form previews for MTV News, but brands that aren’t as synonymous with pop culture can do the same. Last month, Sprite created a clever Instagram Video congratulating basketball star LeBron James on his wedding.


And this month, Tide launched a series of Halloween Vines that included a nod to the remake of “Carrie,” in theaters now.

5. Showcase Your Product

Online video allows marketers to put their products on display, but most consumers aren’t interested in drawn-out infomercials. With short form content, brands are forced to be succinct.


General Electric shot a time-lapse Instagram Video of fan blades being installed on a GE jet engine, and extended its reach by using hashtags like #Technology and #AVgeek. Playstation, meanwhile, used Instagram Video to give fans a sneak peek at the soundtrack for its upcoming PS4 action-adventure game, InFamous Second Son.

6. Reward Your Fans

Social media contests that boost brand exposure and reward customers aren’t new, but by using short-form video, brands can make them feel fresh and fun. This past summer retailer Urban Outfitters teamed up with Converse–maker of Chuck Taylor sneakers–for a Vine contest in which participants could win a stay in New York or San Francisco and tickets to a local event. Consumers were asked to create videos featuring their “Chucks,” and tag clips with the #yourchucks hashtag.

Dunkin’ Donuts launched a Vine contest last spring, this one offering the chance to win Iced Coffee for a year. The brand asked its followers to create a Vine that showed how #iceDD puts “a spring” in their step, rewarding customers while playing up both its product and the current season.

With short-form video in full swing, now’s the time to get involved. Be imaginative in your approach to the Visual Web. There’s still room for success.

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