Since it launched Stories in 2016 and TV in June 2018, Instagram has positioned itself as a destination for consuming videos. Instagram’s “Reels,” which mimics TikTok, follows that trend.
“With the rise of Instagram Stories and TikTok, consumers are primed for videos and find them more engaging than static images or blogs,” says Mark Kapczynski, chief marketing officer of Gooten, a print-on-demand service. “Ecommerce stores, in particular, bode well with video marketing because it shows their products in a clear, direct manner.”
In this post, I’ll address options for posting videos on Instagram to drive awareness and sales for your ecommerce company.
Instagram TV (IGTV) features long-form, vertical videos. It’s more akin to YouTube in which “creators” (Instagram’s term) have air time. While other videos on Instagram cap at 15 seconds (Stories) or one minute (video feed posts), IGTV allows up to 10 minutes for regular business accounts and up to one hour for verified accounts.
Note the screenshot below from Benefit Cosmetics, a direct-to-consumer manufacturer. The company’s Instagram account has a tab for IGTV videos.
Videos on IGTV can be 10 minutes for regular business accounts.
IGTV can drive sales in multiple ways. Benefit Cosmetics, above, uses (i) influencer marketing by bringing on prominent personalities, (ii) how-to videos, and (iii) a “Brand New Product!” announcement to promote a new item.
Another example, below, is from The Happy Pear, a vegetarian-based restaurant chain and food manufacturer in Ireland. The founders, twins “Dave and Steve,” take a more humanistic approach to IGTV. They appear on camera to show recipes, behind-the-scenes cooking, and host Q&As — all helpful and low-budget ways to connect with an audience.
The founders of The Happy Pear, a vegetarian-based restaurant chain and food manufacturer, use IGTV to show recipes, behind-the-scenes cooking, and host Q&As.
Stories emulate Snapchat’s photo and video slideshows that disappear in 24 hours. Now more than 500 million people reportedly view Instagram Stories daily. Each Story, again, caps at 15 seconds — making it a simple, consumable way for merchants to share videos.
There are many ways for ecommerce companies to showcase their brand and products in these 24-hour posts. A simple behind-the-scenes video is a good example, such as the example below from Hotsy Totsy, a vegan skin-care retailer.
Instagram frequently expands the inventory of interactive items you can add to Stories, such as stickers, music, geo-tags, filters, and more.
Stories work best for accounts with at least 10,000 followers, as Instagram enables the “Swipe Up” feature at that level. Users typically swipe through Stories quickly. So don’t be afraid to post a lot of content. Experiment with new ideas.
Instagram Live is live streaming in the Stories section of the app. You can apply any strategy from Stories, but instead of pre-recorded or written, it would be live. A popular trend in 2020 is to have conversations with your customers around your products. You could also answer live questions about your items and record it for those who could not attend.
The live video will disappear unless you share the replay to a Story. Promoting an upcoming Instagram Live can boost attendance. Do this by reminding followers in your feed posts that you’ll be going live, using the countdown sticker on Stories, and by keeping a consistent Live schedule, such as every Tuesday at 9 p.m.
The original method for posting videos on Instagram is through an account’s feed. Feed videos can be up to one minute. Anything longer is moved to IGTV. The benefit of posting here is that the video lives on your account’s main visual feed, as we can see in the example below from retailer Heyday Skincare. Videos appear on the account’s main feed, marked by a camera icon in the top right corner of the post.
Videos posted in an account’s feed can run one minute. A camera icon in the top right of the post indicates it’s a video, not a photo.
Videos auto-play in the feed, but without sound, initially. Most users don’t click to play sound. So make sure your videos have subtitles or are understandable without sound.
Reels, Instagram’s newest addition to its video offerings, is similar to TikTok. It allows users to record and edit short-form videos with audio.
Instagram states, “Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage.”
But Reels hasn’t been well-received by businesses, yet.
“Initial reactions to Reels, Instagram’s newest foray into short-form video content and a direct response to TikTok, are underwhelming and frankly, confusing,” says Gooten’s Mark Kapczynski. “The feature combines all the current functionality on Stories — which allows users to add a montage of photos and videos with added text, filters, and music — and crammed them into a separate, complicated interface. At the onset, it’s unclear who Reels is really for.”
Thus far, videos on Reels often mimic TikTok. These include dances, tutorials, everyday life, as well as quirky and engaging items.
Keep in Mind
Instagram video is inexpensive. There’s little need for professional productions with high-dollar equipment. Do-it-yourself videos are typically the most popular. Also, you can create one video and crop and cut it to fit different places on Instagram.
- IGTV. Best for long videos (up to one hour), educational content, storytelling, how-to videos, commercial videos.
- Stories. Good for accounts with 10,000 or more followers that can post “Swipe Up” links to product pages, behind-the-scenes, FAQs, multi-story content, and slightly off-brand content.
- Live. Best for recording in-the-moment events and scheduled content, such as Q&A sessions every Tuesday at 9 p.m.
- Video feed. Helpful for evergreen, on-brand, and promotional content.
- Reels. Suitable for content that’s quirky, experimental, instructional, or fun.