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I’m a little weird. Maybe it’s cause I’m older — I grew up reading books and magazines long before the Internet as we know it existed. And I’m a fast reader. Or maybe it’s because of my Protestant upbringing, that emphasized words over pictures and images. Whatever the case, even though creating videos has been part of my job for more than 30 years… I’d still rather read an FAQ or Tutorial or Guidebook, rather than watching a video of it.

But everyone else? Some 60-70% of consumers would prefer to watch videos from the businesses they work with. And video engagement is rising across all of the social media platforms at a dramatic rate, much more quickly, in fact, than images displaced text in the early days of social media.

I mean, the iPhone has only had video capabilities since 2009. (Nokia released a video capable camera phone in 2007, but was eclipsed by the original iPhone launch.) Instagram and Snapchat are both less than 10 years old, and Insta didn’t have video sharing options until 2013. So in terms of human or even computer history, the acceleration is quite remarkable.

And Cisco predicts that 82-percent of consumer internet traffic will be video by 2020.

The New 4-Quadrant Approach

In case you’ve missed our last couple of Instagram-centered articles (you can check them out here), you may not be aware that Instagram is growing at a lightning pace. It boasts more than 1-billion active monthly users; 500-million of whom use it daily. It appeals to a demographic sweet spot for many businesses, adults 18-29. And it racks up even higher engagement under 18. And unlike Facebook’s dwindling business returns, 80% of Instagram users actively follow at least one business.

The key, of course, is actively following. While Facebook grows older and businesses yield more and more virtual real estate to Facebook Stories and Groups, if you can effectively engage your customers on Instagram, there’s a great chance they’ll stick with you for life. Studies show at least 30% of Instagram users have purchased a product they first discovered on Instagram.

There are four basic ways that people use videos to interact on Instagram, and they’re all available for small business use as well.

Videos as Part of Your Instagram Feed

This is the original video posting that Instagram launched in 2013. They’re pretty straightforward, and because they’re the old guard of the Instagram brand, they can be in just about any format – square, vertical or horizontal.

Even though some of these are ancient, by Instagram terms, they’re still engaging people and they’re grandfathered in, so you don’t need to go back and re-shoot or re-edit these videos to have them work.

I would suggest that you go back in and see which ones have the most comments and likes, and either respond to some comments that you may have missed, or add a comment. Because of the way the Instagram algorithm operates, doing this will bump the videos back to the top of your company feed. That allows some of your newer clients who may not have seen them to engage. This is especially effective for inspirational or motivational videos.

The stats:

  • 3-60 seconds in length
  • Minimum 1.91:1, maximum 4:5 aspect ratio
  • 1080 x 608 or 1080 x 1350 pixels

Instagram Video Stories

Similar to the now ubiquitous Facebook stories, Instagram stories launched in 2016 as a way to compete with Snapchat stories, preferably without puppy dog ears and giant glasses. Or am I the only one creeped out by those filtered shots?

Because they’re designed to be short, Instagram stories work best for personal stories. A glimpse of the office; maybe someone’s birthday party; even a weekend gathering or team building trust exercise. Of course, just like Facebook stories, you can share a long series of 15 second videos strung together. But that kind of defeats the purpose of the shorter videos and can annoy some users.

And just like on Facebook, these stories disappear after 24 hours.

The stats:

  • 15 seconds apiece, may be consecutive
  • Always vertical, 9:16 aspect ratio
  • 1080 x 1920 pixels

Live Instagram Videos

Spontaneous, raw, unedited fun makes these videos unique – and effective. Live Videos appear as part of Instagram Stories, at the top of the feed – but Live Videos trump the rest and immediately post to the front of the line, with a clear “LIVE” tag to set them apart.

Although spontaneity is part of the whole “Insta” brand, there are advantages to consistency as well. If you know when your users are generally on the site, you can schedule a Live Broadcast of just about anything for them to see. And once they find the value of your live videos, they’ll show up for them on a regular schedule.

Some businesses live stream corporate events, entertaining meeting presentations, even trips to places like Word Camp seminars, networking brunches and more. Each Live video can run up to 60 minutes. How and how much of that time you use is up to you, but make sure it’s valuable to your customers that will “tune in,” or you might as well be cancelled.

Of course, even after your live broadcast has ended, the recorded video lives for 24 hours, but the more you can engage and interest your watchers during the live broadcast, the better off you’ll be.

The stats:

  • Up to 60 minutes long
  • Vertical, with an aspect ratio of 9:16
  • 1080 x 1920 pixels


Now here’s where things get really interesting. IGTV was designed to compete with Netflix, YouTube, and, when it arrives, Quibi. It even got its own IGTV app, although you can still post to it through the standard Instagram platform.

IGTV is set up so you can build a channel, connect with a niche audience, and even offer exclusive content. It’s also designed to work only vertically, instead of forcing viewers to attempt to “Go 90” to get the best experience.

The videos can run up to 10 minutes long – unless you’re verified, in which case the top end moves to 60 minutes. But IGTV is the best place to truly implement a specific strategy to connect with your customer base.

In addition to all the fun, lifestyle and behind the scenes corporate stuff you can share in the other forms of Instagram videos, you can also upload expert interviews, tell stories about your brand, share exclusive tutorials or walk-through’s. You can educate viewers about your product’s features, uses, as well as doing specific Ask Me Anythings (AMA’s), and going beyond the usual approach.

Extra Engagement Tip 1: Respond to your users comments on a regular basis. Doing so builds trust and rapport.

Did I mention the channel aspects? You no longer need to be an advertisement interrupting your customer’s entertainment or educational opportunities. Now you can create them for yourself – and nobody minds that it’s shot on your cell phone.

IGTV also allows you to curate and feature other relevant companies and products, user and influencer reviews, tutorials, and demonstrations. Nothing builds trust like word of mouth, and the right “mouths” on Instagram can reach millions of ears and eyes.

And building a Community is the number one thing small business marketing needs to focus on this year.

The stats:

  • 15 seconds to 10 minutes long
  • Verified or high-value (lots of followers) brands can be approved for up to 60 minutes
  • Vertical, 9:16 aspect ratio
  • 1080 x 1920 pixels
Extra Engagement Tip 2: Every week, take a few moments to review your most popular Instagram posts. Then add a comment or respond to a user comment. This pops the post back to the top of your feed and continues the cycle of engagement.

Using videos on Instagram is a fantastic way to continue to build your business’ social media presence and engagement. While I still prefer to read the step-by-step instructions on a task, I am aware that millions of others would rather watch someone following the steps in a video. And I create those videos on a regular basis for Grow the Dream and many of our clients.

Of course, all the old guidelines still apply. You want to be consistent with your brand, know who your ideal customers are, and what they are looking for. In fact, the deeper you drill to find what your ideal customer wants and needs, the more effective your videos will be.

Don’t be left behind – make videos a priority in your marketing plan this year. And if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, please reach out. As I said, Grow the Dream creates and curates videos for several of our clients and we’d be happy to help your business succeed in this area as well.