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Vine vs. Instagram: Which Platform Should Marketers Bank On?

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By Danielle Johnsen Karr, Supervisor of Digital Communities at 360i & Tatiana Urriaga, Senior Community Manager at 360i

As short form video continues to rise in popularity in accordance with mobile usage, marketers are challenged to determine which platform is right for their brand. While most players in this space produce similar types of content, the platforms themselves offer unique features and nuances that can affect a brand’s decision to play in a specific arena.

This post focuses on the two most popular platforms in short-form video right now, Vine and Instagram, and highlights the core attributes of each so that marketers may make more informed decisions before diving into one or both communities.

Vine vs. Instagram: A Battle of Micro-Content Titans

When Twitter launched the Vine platform earlier this year, some people were curious as to what a brand could do with just six seconds. The answer: A lot. Since the launch, many brands have found success by launching micro-content series and partnering with influencers like Meagan Cignoli. Some brands are even turning Vine content into mini-TV spots.

Not long after Vine’s rise, Facebook-owned Instagram upped the content ante by introducing video functionality this past June. Unlike Vine videos, Instagram videos can be up to 15 seconds in length, creating a competitive landscape for micro-content. As a result, brands have been left to wonder which platform they should enter, and who would be engaging with the content in each.

By the Numbers

As of last week, Instagram has amassed 150 million users, while Vine currently sits at 40 million users. Raw numbers aside, it’s important to keep in mind the growth potential for each. Since Vine skews younger than Instagram, it’s likely that its user base will continue to grow at an accelerated rate, especially with the increased number of influencers and brands tapping into the six-second platform.

Key Product Differences

Both Vine and Instagram allow their users to capture and share short-form video content, but that is where their similarities end. The table below provides a side by side look at the key functionality differences between the two.

User Behavior

Since both Vine and Instagram are exclusively mobile apps, demographics will only include smartphone users, automatically skewing away from an older demographic. Though Instagram has a desktop feature, Vine does not, and users tend to stay within the mobile device.

Based on the content alone, creativity and humor seem to be Vine’s strongest assets. The unaltered, unvarnished interface makes for great stop-motion animation, which is abundant on the Vine platform. And, potentially due to cross-pollination from Twitter, Vine content also tends to be more comedic as compared to Instagram, which continues to focus on capturing and creating moments of beauty.

Contrary to predictions that Instagram video would be a “Vine killer,” Vine’s user base is on the rise. That said, Instagram’s giant user base is also extremely active: content there registers consumer engagement at 18X that of Facebook. This stat is not surprising, as many studies have show that social media users engage with visual content more often than other types of content.

Moreover, since Instagram’s platform is best known for visuals, it plays well into live coverage of events and back-to-school content for entertainment and lifestyle brands. Instagram also extended the DIY aspect that used to just exist on Pinterest to a video format. Most recently, Instagram took Fashion Week by storm with editors and celebrities alike leveraging the platform to report on backstage interviews and new clothing trends.

How brands are Using Vine & Instagram

Brands have launched content series and campaigns across both platforms, but much of the recent industry buzz has been geared towards what brands are doing on Vine. Mashable’s recent roundup, “15 Brands Kicking Butt on Vine,” includes several lifestyle brands, which seem to be dominating the platform. Interestingly enough, traditionally “non-creative” brands like GE have been using the platform to shift brand perception and celebrate ingenuity.

Marketers have also been finding value in partnering with Vine influencers to create relevant content series that help extend their brand to popular Vine users. Influencers like Meagan Cignoli, who won a Cannes Cyber Lion for her work on behalf of Lowes, has created stop-motion videos for at least 14 campaigns, helping brands leverage her more than 350K followers. This kind of success has helped foster further brand integration with users, and helped in the creation of a talent agency for the stars on the platform.

Retailers and fashion brands, on the other hand, have taken to Instagram video like fish to water. After all, the dream-like aesthetic that the platform provides fits with the experience that many fashion brands are looking to create. Companies like TopShop and Forever21 have made use of their 15 seconds by featuring products in a “lifestylish” way. Most recently, Instagram has seemingly become overrun with videos of runway shows from New York Fashion Week, making it clear where the alliance of fashion brands lies. Of course, it’s not just fashion and retail brands that are getting excited. NowThisNews, a video-service platform that focuses on social, is using Instagram to post clips of news as content.

With brands investing in short-form content, it makes sense that marketers would want to extend these experiences beyond the mobile app and incorporate them into their OOH and on-air promotions. Dunkin Donuts recently expanded Vine content to an on-air promotion during ESPN’s coverage of Monday Night Football. Similarly, Instagram will soon be using user-generated Instagram content in outdoor ads.

Making the call

When deciding which platform to be on, marketers should be conscious of their overall brand voice as well as the behaviors and platform preferences of the audiences they are trying to activate. While the Millennial set seems to be the coveted demo of choice for many brands, it doesn’t make sense for everyone to move full steam to these apps.

Brands should maintain a test-and-learn mindset when approaching both Vine and Instagram, keeping in mind the various nuances between the two platforms. For comedic, entertainment-based content strategies, Vine is likely the best way to go. And on the contrary, content with a more artistic (or more produced) aesthetic will be a better suited for Instagram.

If the spike in users and engagement across these platforms is any indication, Vine and Instagram will continue to be ripe environments for brands to enter, should they do so in a strategic and thoughtful way.

Cover photo via Mashable