4 Tips for Successful Instagram Videos

    by Liam Corcoran
    August 4, 2016
    Graphic by NewsWhip

    A version of this guest post was originally published on the NewsWhip blog.

    We already know that video is extremely popular for publishers on Facebook and Twitter. But what about Instagram?

    In the six months leading up to April 2016, the time people spent watching video on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent. More and more publishers are examining how they can most effectively use video on the platform.


    We took a closer look at Instagram videos in Spike to see what the most successful videos on the platform have in common.

    1. Length: Stick to the point

    The average length of the most shared videos is growing.

    In March, Instagram raised the permissible length of a video from 15 seconds to 60 seconds. Despite this change, the most popular Instagram videos are still fairly short, our data shows.


    The average length of the top 10 most ‘liked’ videos from BBC News in June was 32 seconds, our data shows. Of those 10 clips, three were the maximum 60 seconds, and they all had one thing in common: lots of stunning visual footage. Here was BBC News’ most liked Instagram video of June:

    Bleacher Report had some of the shortest videos (frequently 15 seconds or less), while maintaining the highest average engagement rate per video post in June (48,703 Likes per post).

    The message is simple: Be strict in editing the footage that makes it into your Instagram video, and only use as much as you think is really worth including.

    2. On-screen captions to help storytelling

    One of the most common elements of Instagram videos were the on-screen captions. We’ve seen this to be the case for Facebook videos, too.

    We found that captions were even more common on Instagram videos than on Facebook.

    Almost all of the videos we reviewed from the BBC News profile had large on-screen captions that were very easy to read. Fox News opted for a strip across the bottom of each video, spelling out the dialogue on each clip.


    Fox News Screenshot via NewsWhip

    Meanwhile, NowThis prefers larger, coloured font, over-layed on the footage itself.

    NowThis Screenshot via NewsWhip

    NowThis Screenshot via NewsWhip

    3. Text captions that speak to the audience

    As well as the video captions, there’s always the regular post caption that publishers still have control over. What you decide to do with your caption space depends on your audience.

    Text captions on Instagram are valuable for publishers looking to expand on the post. TIME make theirs long, expanding on the story in the clip and reminding viewers to visit their site if they’d like more information.

    TIME Screenshot via NewsWhip

    TIME Screenshot via NewsWhip

    Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s captions were much shorter, and made abundant use of emojis.

    You can use up to 2,200 characters in your Instagram captions, although you’ve got to consider how long people are going to spend reading the fairly small text on their phones.

    Hashtags are particularly important, as they point Instagram users towards your clips and get new viewers involved with your posts.

    It’s also important to tag any other users that might have been responsible for any of the footage you used in your clips.

    4. Shapes: More square than long

    Since last year, it has been possible to make landscape videos for Instagram. And while some of the videos we reviewed were in the landscape format, the vast majority of the most liked clips we looked at were square.

    There could be a simple explanation for this. Square videos get more space on a person’s phone than the landscape video.

    That’s not to say that the landscape option has been completely neglected. Fox News uses it extensively to share its TV clips, as does NowThis. It’s interesting to note that both of these pages caption their videos heavily, ensuring that they’re completely understandable.

    It’s a good idea to experiment with the different styles to make sure that whatever the format, your viewers can easily watch and understand the video.

    Do you have any tips for making the most of videos on Instagram? Let us know on Twitter, or in the comments below.

    Liam Corcoran is Head of Communications at NewsWhip. His analysis and opinions on news, publishing and social media are regularly featured by the likes of AdWeek, BBC, Business Insider, Digiday, Huffington Post, Mashable and Wall St Journal.

    Tagged: captions instagram instagram analytics social metrics video analytics

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