When Instagram video burst on the scene last month, people were quick to try the new feature. In fact, some reports indicated users uploaded five million “InstaVideos” in the first 24 hours after its debut. It’s no surprise, then, that many brands are trying to get in on the action as well.

The video feature works similarly to photo capture for Instagram users. Once you open the app, you click the camera button and then the video icon. From there, simply press and hold the red camera button to record. Lift your finger, and the recording stops. The recording picks up sound, lasts 15 seconds, and can be overlaid with a filter before publishing. Once the video goes live, it plays on loop in the user’s stream.

Simply Measured reports that 67% of the world’s leading brands maintain Instagram accounts, making it all the easier for many of them to start using the video feature. While some of these brands are merely dabbling, others have begun to make their marks in the moving pictures realm. One of these is Jeni’s Ice Creams, a brand whose social media confections are more than icy treats. Another leader in the space is Ford Motor Company, whose enthusiastic followers love the behind-the-scenes look at their favorite automobiles.

We chatted with the social media managers of both these companies to find out how they use Instagram video to engage their audiences.

Stand Apart From Photos


This may seem obvious, but simply extending your Instagram photo strategy to video won’t do much to stir your followers’ hearts. Instead, leading brands take the video function as an opportunity to showcase something that cannot be portrayed with a still shot. Take Ford’s videos following a recent conference featuring experts in the fields of green, tech and marketing.

“Video allowed us to feature sound bites from those panels and share them in ways photos never could,” says Karen Untereker, who leads Ford’s social media for the U.S. To her, video gives Ford a chance to learn more about its followers by allowing the social media team to experiment with figuring out what interests them most beyond what Untereker calls “vehicle beauty shots.”

On the contrary, beauty shots are a particular focus for the Jeni’s team; its Instagram feed is littered with beautiful images of its products. While the brand’s videos echo this emphasis on ice cream, it also lets Jeni’s show off a bit of its production as well.

“Our most popular video to date was shot behind the counter in one of our scoop shops and shows the process of how we make our waffle cones,” says Ryan Morgan, Jeni’s social media manager. “For us, a video that gets great engagement shows people something they haven’t seen before — a true behind-the-scenes peek with beautiful ingredients and great color.”

According to Morgan, that post made Instagram’s Explore page, earning the post over 4,500 Likes and more than 200 comments. What stands out here is not that the videos are particularly sophisticated or complex. Rather, it is the simplicity of their content and the clarity with which they present brand messaging and culture that makes them appealing.

Don’t Rely on Sound


While Ford has used Instagram video for sound bites, moving forward, Untereker says she recognizes the importance of a video standing on its own. “Allowing fans to enjoy the video without sound is key. Not everyone has great audio functionality when they’re using Instagram, whether on a computer or mobile phone, so a video that doesn’t require sound to be understood and appreciated can reach more people,” Untereker says.

While sound quality is an important factor to consider, another point to note is that many Instagram users may not want to interrupt their surroundings to hear your video’s sound anyway. Whether it’s a commuter scrolling with his or her phone on silent, or a gym rat listening to tunes while on the bike, that person may not be open to introducing new sounds to the mix. This is especially true since Instagrammers often leave the auto-play setting on, meaning videos can start without warning, possibly startling the viewer.

This is all to say that sound, while often a hallmark of great video content, should not be integral to a viewer’s enjoyment of Instagram videos. As such, interviews may be less suited to this form of media than, say, a person rolling fresh-from-the-iron waffle cones!

Define Success For Your Brand


As with any social media marketing, the value to two brands as different as Ford and Jeni’s may be as different as the companies themselves. That’s why we asked each of them what makes a successful Instagram video.

According to Untereker, a Ford video that followed rules for success “featured a product with a passionate enthusiast base, was a story that couldn’t be told in a single image, and asked a question.” That call for action at the end is especially important, since it asks the follower to respond to the video. Much of the time, fans will take an action if you ask them to, and that converts into greater engagement.

For Morgan, it comes down to showcasing what the Jeni’s team does best. “Ideally, it’s the process of making something, start to finish, which is hard to do when you’re talking about complex and multi-step processes. Or it’s just a beautiful moment in the process,” he says. “Not only will a video like that typically get great engagement but it’s us executing on a strategy that’s tied to clear business goals.”

[Image credits: Craig MoreyjsawkinsGarry Knightbrewbooks]