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Instagram vs. Vine: Cut Through the Hype and Make Short Form Video Work for You

Twitter’s video service, Vine, has been around since early this year, but lately it has been getting more attention than ever. This is due mostly to Facebook’s announcement on June 20 that Instagram now has its own video capability. The news sent the Internet into a spiral of speculation about the implications for Twitter’s fledgling video platform.

Now that the dust has settled a bit and brands have gotten into the social video space more aggressively, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the two platforms, and what it all means for marketers.

Right out of the gate, Instagram video appeared to have the upper hand in terms of features. The 13 vintage photo filters of Instagram that make your photos look so hip and retro are all available for your videos, too, so let them work their magic.

Also, Instagram has enabled Cinema, or video stabilization, which is a huge advantage over Vine videos that at times appear shaky and out of focus. And amateur videographers everywhere can appreciate the editing capability afforded by Instagram, where it’s possible to go back and delete the most recently filmed clip.

Moreover, the biggest format advantage over Vine for marketers is the time length. Instagram videos can be up to 15 seconds long, the same as a short-form TV commercial, while Vine videos max out at just 6 seconds.

On top of all of that, there’s Instagram’s seamless integration with Facebook, and the audience of 1 billion users it brings with it. With Instagram, you have the power to choose a still frame from your video for the thumbnail; not so with Vine, which plays continuously on a loop.

The shorter time frame of Vine videos, combined with the lack of stabilization and the looping playback, leaves some of the videos resembling low-budget commercials or gifs, like this Vine from a red carpet event by NBC, which is not exactly the slick professional content marketers strive for.


However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the advantages of Vine and the brands that have excelled in Vine video marketing. Vine’s stripped down interface and lack of auto-stabilization lends itself well to stop-motion clips, and many of the users who have jumped on the Vine bandwagon have utilized this technique to produce some amazing videos.

Lowe’s is certainly one of the most successful brands in this realm, having produced a bevy of ridiculously helpful lifehacks that provide simple solutions to everyday hassles. Lowe’s also created a branded hashtag, #lowesfixinsix, to accompany each video in the series. This particular stop-motion clip gives us a handy tip on how to drill holes while avoiding the pesky drill dust that often results.


Though not quite as slick, PayPal also created a Vine tutorial. Despite the fact that the audio is a little distracting, it gets the point across – pay with your PayPal app and skip the long checkout line. There are plenty of ways to build on this idea for software programs and apps; it’s all in the editing.


While there are plenty of brands that have had success with Vine, many marketers may find it a little intimidating, given the 6-second restriction and lack of features (like stabilization) that can make amateur videos look a little less amateurish. If you’re ready to jump in and experiment with video for your brand, take a look at some of the strategies brands have used to find success with Instagram video thus far.

Tell a Story

Fifteen seconds is enough time to do some creative promotion, and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for storytelling, as evidenced by Starbucks. They released a popular Instagram video in which they take viewers back to where all of the caffeinated magic began – their very first store in Seattle’s Pike Place.


If you’ve got some time on your hands, you may want to tell a longer story. Check out Episode 1 of the first-ever brand Instagram video series by office supply retailer ReStockIt. They’re calling it “Revenge of the Interns.”


This sort of content is highly sharable because it’s funny, and the series format gives fans an extra incentive to follow the brand and see what happens. (Hint: it’s not good for the interns.)

Go Behind the Scenes

Fans can be drawn in by compelling visuals, and they love to see the inner workings of their favorite brands. Why not give them a sneak peek into the creative process? Fashion brands have done a great job with exclusive-feeling content like this video from Sabo Skirt.


Another fashion brand, Burberry, produced a dynamic Instagram video showcasing an event. After viewing this series of short scenes from a menswear show in London, viewers may feel almost as if they had been there.


Bringing customers into the fold with behind the scenes footage and intimate snippets of the “magic” that goes into the creation of your product can be much more effective in establishing a real connection with customers than a traditional commercial video.

Create a Mini-Tutorial

Here’s where you impart some knowledge and provide some real value. Create a mini-tutorial for one aspect of your brand, the more innovative the better. With the added time limit afforded by Instagram, you have a bit more room to breathe. Instagram released this tutorial, appropriately enough on the platform itself, as soon as it launched in order to show people how to use it.


Check out this handy little guide for how to make a laptop holder out of a sweatshirt, courtesy of Intel, shot in the stop-motion style for which Vine is known, without the looping effect, but with some extra time.


The possibilities for product tutorials are endless, from short clips that show users a better way to do something to a quick video of a team member answering a question. Don’t forget that real people are using your products and at times may need some guidance on the best way to do so.

Share the News

MTV announced their VMA Awards via Instagram video this year and reached new heights in consumer engagement.


If you don’t have a glitzy awards show to showcase, you still may want to show off what you’ve been working on. And a condensed mini-business review a la Instagram video may be a good way to showcase your brand. Check out this week-in-review from Cisco Systems, which nicely sums up some of the highlights of the company’s week in a casual, creative way.


The main lesson we can learn from these brands is to stick to the Instagram aesthetic. You’ve got 15 seconds to work with in a highly personal live feed of friends and family pictures that feels like flipping through an old family photo album. It’s not the time for heavy product promotion; it’s time to engage. Don’t be afraid to show off the quirks that make your brand unique.

About the Author: Ryan Harris is a tech copywriter and marketing consultant who works with business owners on a budget to help build strong brands. He writes for a wide array of tech sites including You can email Ryan directly if you want to talk marketing strategy, professional soccer, or both.

  1. This was so useful! I love the idea of doing weekly updates via Instagram video. Maybe film different team members summarizing their week in a couple words? I think it would do a lot to humanize a brand.

    • Absolutely agreed, Sydney. These types of videos don’t have to be uber-slick, just a quick little update is enough to do the trick in most cases. I like your idea about summarizing your week in a couple words, and it doubles as a nice learning exercise for team members working on a project.

  2. One of my favorite Vine users showcased his work as an illustrator by making stop-motion clips of his works in progress. Great idea!

    • Yeah, gotta love the stop-motion videos, very retro, and it’s actually doable in the 6 or 15 second time frame. Any more time than that and it can get to be a long, painstaking process for the video creators (I mean unless you like that sort of thing:)

  3. Marketers interested in Instagram video might want to try Brickflow. It’s the only tool for connecting Instagram videos into a story. Makes it possible to do crowdsourced ad campaigns, or make short films together with the audience.

  4. Great article Ryan! I have struggled with some aspects of Vine and am excited to try Instagram video….it will actually be a nice complement to Vine. I really enjoyed the examples you shared too. Thanks!

    Tim Hewitt

    • Glad you enjoyed it Tim! I think you’ve got something there; it may be best to view Vine and Instagram more as complements to one another rather than competitors since they are so different. It will be interesting to see which brands are able to sort out the differences and leverage them effectively. Good luck with your social video efforts!

  5. Deborah Anderson Jul 31, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Great ideas! I especially like the idea of a tutorial via instagram.

  6. Tutorials are a great idea – definitely a fantastic medium that cuts “through the clutter”…


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