You're scrolling down through your Instagram feed and pause momentarily on a new image when you realize it is not an image after all but a still from a video. You move on quickly because if you remain the video will start playing and interrupt your music. It's left behind, unviewed - a momentary hindrance.
Ever since Instagram permitted videos to be uploaded, brands have been putting out ever more elaborate and involving shorts. Many of them are nothing more than a 15-second commercial, but we are slowly starting to see more creative responsiveness to the new functionality. Of recent note, IBM Sports started to put out moving infographics in real-time to follow along with the US Tennis Open. So it begs the question: is this effort being rewarded with engagement, or has the quick skip become de rigueur?
It was the IBM example in particular that got my attention. First thought: a unique and intriguing use of the medium. Second though: could this content have been more readily displayed as a static infographic - did they just use a video for the sake of using a video? In the past, the social media world encountered "Shiny New Object Syndrome" in which brands put out content simply because they could, not because they should. So much in social is perceived - we tend to take our own personal habits and blanket that behavior across entire networks. Therefore, I took a look at several brands across different verticals that are publishing to Instagram with both video and stills to see if engagement drop-off on Instgram vidoes is real or just a perception through personal user behavior. Here are the results:
- IBM Sports, of the aforementioned video infographics, averaged 97 likes per photo and 49 likes per video during the US Open. An average of 49% fewer likes per video.
- In recent weeks, the LA Dodgers have averaged 36,462 likes per photo and 29,693 likes per video. An average of 19% fewer likes per video.
- Call of Duty, which is fast approaching the release of its next installment, averaged 6,968 likes per photo and 6,583 likes per video. An average of 6% fewer likes per video.
- General Electric, a company that excels at selling its story through images on Instagram, averaged 1,743 likes per photo and 1,884 likes per video. An average of 8% more likes per video.
- The Department of the Interior, the premier governmental agency in social, averaged 9,151 likes per photo and 4,059 likes per video. An average of 56% fewer likes per video.
- Wolfgang Puck has averaged 632 likes per photo and 245 likes per video, across recent weeks. An average of 62% fewer likes per video.
- The St. Louis Cardinals, who are of special interest because they are currently running a video series on Instagram, have averaged 5,392 likes per photo and 1,454 likes per video. An average of 73% fewer likes per video.
Almost uniformly, brand videos result in less engagement on Instagram, and this drop-off can be incredibly significant, with upwards of 75% fewer likes over stills. This fact obviously depends greatly on content and audience - GE's videos have continued their innovative look at the length and breadth of the company's inventions, and their audience has responded in kind. Likewise, Call of Duty's visuals translate well to video and its gaming audience naturally receptive to the presentation. Conversely, the Cardinals' experiment in an InstaVid series has fallen limp, resulting in their huge engagement drop-off.
So no, you aren't the only one skipping over Instagram videos. Vine and now Instagram have finally captured and matured the market for social video, something that 8 Seconds was 5 years too early to achieve, and SocialCam was unable to hold onto after it lost access to the Facebook open graph. But like all social, you live and die by your audience and its expectations. Your audience originally signed up for Instagram because they want photos; so unless a video can offer something over and above, give them photos. Will audiences eventually warm to the video format in Instagram? Maybe, but in the meantime going that route may seriously affect your engagement bottom line.