5 minute read

The Instagram videos your brand should be producing

Top brands are using these types of videos to increase engagement and showcase their products.

The Instagram videos your brand should be producing

At some point you and your team have likely become stuck in a rut brainstorming videos for social media. It can be almost impossible to come up with a concept if you sit down in front of a blank whiteboard aiming for a winning social video.

One of our jobs as a digital creative agency is to have a pulse on the latest trends in technology and social media to inform our creative concepts and processes. We’ve researched the most effective videos on social and created categories for you to use as jumping-off points for your next brainstorm.

We looked at the top 20 most followed brands on Instagram (~70 million followers) and analyzed the videos based on views and engagement. In our analysis, five key video types emerged as being the most effective. It’s not only the mega brands finding success with these categories; mid-size brands are producing these same videos, just in much simpler production styles.

1. The How-To Video

The how-to video is a short explainer video teaching followers how to use, do or make something.

  • Video value: engagement, building an audience
  • Winners: @BuzzfeedTasty, @GoPro

The how-to works for three main reasons. First, the idea of ending with a final product or completion encourages the viewer to watch the video to the end. Second, pair this video with a clever call to action, and you can convert that attention to engagement. For example, “Tag a friend who loves sushi” for a sushi-making how-to. You’ve just amplified your reach outside of your follower circle. Lastly, if your how-to involves one of your products, you’re validating the viewer who has already purchased that product.

2. The Behind-The-Scenes Video

Ephemeral video and live video have conditioned viewers to expect unpolished, in-the-moment videos. This is good news because your video production budgets will go much further within this construct.

  • Video value: Engagement, brand loyalty, humanizing brand
  • Winners: @JCrew, @BonAppetitMag, @JimmyFallon

Behind-the-scenes could be behind the brand (i.e., inside the office or with the creative director, CEO, etc.) or behind other content creation (i.e., on film or photo shoots, sketches in progress, etc.). As followers learn more about your brand, they feel more connected to not only your product but also your team, increasing their brand loyalty. Plus you’ve doubled your subject matter; now you have content about your team/talent and your product or service.

3. The Trailer/Announcement Video

On Instagram, there are two main types of trailers: the repurposed content and person on camera.

  • Video value: Creating buzz, repurposing content, remarketing
  • Winners: @Nike, @MoMA

Nike might have a full video on its website featuring its forthcoming sneaker design, but on Instagram, the trailer might feature only one scene along with the text, "COMING SOON." Many brands use this trailer as top-of-funnel content to garner interest, and then use longer form content to re-engage users.

The other type of trailer is the personal announcement. This style feels more spontaneous. For example, to announce a collaboration, the CEO of your brand might chug a SmartWater and then look at the camera saying, “We’ve teamed up!”

4. The Montage/Time-Lapse Video

The montage or time-lapse video is typically the most cinematic of the five categories. These videos often require the most production work. Then again, this video was shot on an iPhone.

  • Video value: Product placement, lifestyle-brand building, context for product
  • Winners: @lululemon, @REI

This category allows you to show your products in a variety of contexts, pieced together to create an overall feel for the experience. For example, a pair of running shoes can take you from the forest to city streets or from races to jogs with a stroller -- they’re both high-performance and everyday activities. You can build out a large story world or span of time for your event, product or aesthetic to show its various uses.

5. The User-Generated Content Video

User-generated content (UGC) is simply content that your audience posts involving your brand, events or products.

  • Video value: Engagement, amplifying brand voice, audience building
  • Winners: @kayla_itsines, @apple

One method of promoting UGC is to create a hashtag campaign by asking your audience to post a certain type of content with the hashtag. UGC works especially well for brands that are experiential or material and aesthetic (i.e. clothing, travel, fitness, food, etc.).

You can harvest UGC and repurpose it (often into a montage). This video is valuable for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t have to produce the content; you just need to edit it together in a way that creates a story. Second, when you showcase a user, you then loop in that user’s audience as they promote your brand’s post in which they are the star. Consider Apple’s campaign for its iPhone camera, "Shot on iPhone," that shows real users' iPhone photos.

Not all five of these categories will make sense for your brand. Good content has a strategy and goal behind it. Before you jump into production mode, think about your company and brand goals, as well as the audience you have and want to have.

Next time you're in the brainstorming room, these categories and examples are an ideal "mood board" to generate ideas for content specific to your strategy and goals. These videos are proven to be highly effective on social by top brands and are a useful tool to frame discussions with your content team.

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Jacob Johnson is a principal and co-founder of Gitwit, and a partner at 19days. Jacob studied business at the University of Tulsa where he helped co-found a center for creativity and innovation. He has led the product strategy for 15+ SaaS products, has invested in and co-founded multiple technology ventures, and has helped raise over $40MM in seed and growth capital.