How to Make a Perfect Instagram Video & Seize Its Social Marketing Potential

I recently heard someone refer to Instagram as “the queen of all social networks,” and although I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why at the time, it was an epithet that felt just right for the platform.

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Boasting some astonishing metrics, Instagram rests as an essential piece for most social marketing strategies. Granting access to a mind boggling number of users, a fantastic potential for global reach, and the possibility to target crucial demographics with relative ease, to anyone smart and committed enough to seize it.

And even though it wasn’t there since its inception, much of the sway Instagram currently wields over the social marketing landscape is due in no small part to the company’s adoption of video as a core feature for the platform.

Over the past year, Instagram has shown its commitment to the format, doubling down on its support for video over a series of updates. By introducing a host of new features centered around their Instagram Stories and Timeline Videos features, and the announcement of their ambitious new project IGTV, the company is sending an unambiguous message: Video is the way going forward.

Which means that whether you are a content creator, influencer, or social marketer, stepping up on your Instagram video content production and quality is no longer an alternative, but a necessity. And that’s precisely what this post is about.

I want to share with you a few practical insights on what makes a killer Instagram video. The types of videos that resonate the most with its user base, the mechanics that perform best (length, format, etc.), and a couple of good optimization tips you can use to boost your videos’ overall performance. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Which video styles work best on Instagram?

Each social media network tends to work as an enclosed ecosystem, as their users develop idiosyncrasies that do not always translate well across all platforms. Instagram is no exception.

Due to imposed limitations the service has (or had in the past,) certain kinds of videos tend to outperform others regarding user response. It's something we'll touch on a bit more in detail when we discuss video lengths later on, but for now, let's go over a number of video styles that seem to work well with current engagement patterns.

Explainer Videos: These types of videos in conjunction with Instagram are a match made in heaven. By their very nature, explainer videos aim to be short, informative, and entertaining. Three of the most sought-after characteristics you should be striving for with your Instagram content.

If you are a company, adding explainer videos to your Instagram social marketing can do wonders for your branding efforts. If you are a content creator or influencer, these videos work as an ideal indirect promotional tool. For example, a brief and charming explainer video can help you quickly cross-pollinate your following across different platforms by showing your audience where they can go to support you, or enjoy more of your content.

Company Story Videos: Don’t let the name throw you off, this video format was made popular by companies looking to reach their audiences with a more informal and personal touch, and that’s something anyone using Instagram wants. Think of them as an “About Me” type of video.

The gist of company story videos is to showcase yourself, or your business, in a candid way that lets your audience know what you are all about, and helps to set their expectations for your content. Check out this example:

How-to Videos: When it comes to social media content, your aim should always be to provide value. This goal can be attained in several ways; the most popular one being by entertaining, informing or teaching. How-to videos are a style of content that can accomplish all three marvelously.

As a company, you can use them to explain processes or services that might be of interest to your followers. If you are a content creator, How-to’s can be applied to your type of content (recipe preparation videos, makeup tutorials, etc.) and engage your viewers in useful, compelling ways that leave them wanting more.

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Live Videos: Live videos have a big draw on Instagram. They capture the original essence this social network was built upon (share what’s happening right now) in a way that is easy to produce and even easier to consume.

Live video’s format is one of the reasons why Instagram stories have had such rapid acceptance, and one of the main draws IGTV is bringing to the table, allowing you to provide the same quality of entertainment and feel found in live videos, even if pre-recorded.

As you shift your focus and lean more heavily on video content for Instagram, keep these formats in mind and incorporate them into your productions. Make them your own. And you’ll see the power that video brings to the table on this amazing platform.

Timing is everything: Why you should care about video length.

A few months back, this topic had pretty solid guidelines. Now, with the introduction of IGTV and a push for more long-form content, new possibilities sit on the horizon.

So, let’s unpack the issue of optimal video lengths under two – very different, but equally valid – lenses: Instagram stories/Timeline Videos, and the new IGTV format.

Instagram Stories and Timeline Videos Length:

Instagram is a very sharp, snappy, and on-the-go kind of service. It always has been. So, it is not surprising that their users have grown used to video content that conforms with these qualities.

Now, no two situations are exactly alike. But when it comes to Instagram stories and timeline videos, we’ve found that the sweet spot you should aim for is within the 30 second mark.

By using these lengths, shorts videos have proven to be more prone to generate user interactions (comments, shares, tagging), which is what you are going after at the end of the day. However, this is not mandatory, and some slightly longer videos can and do work by merits of their content alone.

IGTV Length:

To be honest, the rules are still being written when it comes to IGTV. The service is still too young to be drawing solid conclusions about the trends people will end up settling on. However, by paying attention to these initial beats, and comparing it to what similar platforms have done in the past, we can get a pretty good idea to get started.

Video Lengths on IGTV are capped right now to 10 minutes, with select accounts being allowed to extend to up to an hour recordings. The company has also stated that eventually there won’t be a time limit.

Experimentation seems to be the name of the game here, but right now, there appears to be a trend of keeping most videos under the 4 minute’ mark (closer to three minutes actually,) which strikes me as somewhat similar to the beginnings of YouTube and the way content was shaped in short snippets.

My recommendation would be to try different things out for now and see what gets the most engagement. Beginning with 3 to 3 and a half minute lengths is a good place to start.

Optimization: Doing it right, so it counts.

Unless you get extremely lucky, no video thrives on any platform unless it is at least decently optimized for exposure. This means applying SEO and proper content formatting to increase the chances of those fantastic timeline videos you are putting together finding their way in front of as many people as possible.

However, you don't need to be intimidated by technical sounding words like search engine optimization. Instagram's makes it pretty easy for you to optimize your content properly, and we are going to go over the most relevant ones. Covering a few do’s and don’ts along the way.

Autoplay is there for a reason: The first few seconds of any video you make are paramount, as many of your viewers decide to watch the whole thing based on them. You should spend as much time and energy as possible to ensure they are flawless. Make your video's beginnings crisp from a technical standpoint and interesting content-wise, and you'll have your viewers hooked from the very first second.

Don’t Spam Hashtags: Adding a bunch of Hashtags when you post a video might seem like a good idea at first, but in reality, the overuse of hashtags can work against you. A lot of Instagram users dislike these hashtag walls, which dilutes the potential you can otherwise get out of your video’s descriptions and the content you put there. Do a bit of keyword research to find out the most relevant ones for your content, and stick to the most relevant ones to use as hashtags.

Make them look pretty so people listen: Here’s a curious phenomenon you should be aware of. When it comes to Instagram videos, most people take their first look at them with the sound off. Your videos should be visually stimulating from the get-go, enough to have people enabling sound, as this makes them more likely to engage with the entirety of your content.

Endeavor to make the perfect caption: Video captions are more critical than most people give them credit for. The right caption can be the difference between someone clicking or ignoring your video. Generic and overly complicated captions are easily overlooked, while interesting ones can entice even the most disinterested viewers. Think about the best way to phrase the content of your video intriguingly or excitingly, and you'll be on the right path even before you upload it.

While there are other things you can take care of to improve your video content’s performance on Instagram, the ones we’ve covered so far are the perfect place to start.

Choose the right type of format, combine it with the right length, and make sure to optimize them properly, and you’ll have a powerful piece of video content primed to impress new followers into following you, and keeping those who already do, engaged and sharing.

As the tech keeps overcoming past limitations, videos continue to take center stage in social networks. If you aren’t taking advantage of video content on Instagram, you are most certainly falling behind.

Don’t lose an opportunity ripe for the taking. Start hitting that record button!