Why Video won’t work on Instagram

29th June 2013

With Instagram launching their video product up against Twitter’s nascent ‘Vine’, there is plenty of ongoing debate concerning the continuing struggle between these two digital behemoths; as well as the importance of video – both to these protagonists and to the digital world in general.

Instagram are hoping to trump Vine’s six seconds, with a 15” capacity, along with a range of filters to help us beautify the content we post.

There is a lot of video content about already, and in volume terms, its only going to get bigger. For an extended list of mind boggling stats on this subject, see here for Cisco’s recent report into web traffic –
Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2012–2017 –http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-481360_ns827_Networking_Solutions_White_Paper.html

and here some ‘video highlights’ from the report –

It would take an individual over 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2017. Every second, nearly a million minutes of video content will cross the network in 2017.

Globally, consumer Internet video traffic will be 69 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2017, up from 57 percent in 2012. This percentage does not include video exchanged through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. The sum of all forms of video (TV, video on demand [VoD], Internet, and P2P) will be in the range of 80 to 90 percent of global consumer traffic by 2017.

My point is, that it is incorrect to assume that just because photo sharing apps like Instagram are huge; then the video based alternatives will be as well. I also think that the people who do share short form video, will do so in a very different fashion, compared to the manner in which they are currently sharing static images

Here’s why –

The photography filters that Instagram offers, along with the quality of cameras available on mobile devices, means that we can all be a ‘David Bailey’ (remember him?)

We share content we are proud of and which celebrates, with the help of filters, an embossed reality that we want to others to see and share. This is carefully hand picked and is not likely to represent an unedited or uncensored reality.

Jenna Wortham, from the New York Times, captures this succinctly – Instagram isn’t about reality – it’s about a well-crafted fantasy, a highlights reel of your life that shows off versions of yourself that you want to remember and put on display in a glass case for other people to admire and browse through –http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/24/digital-diary-instagram-video-and-death-of-fantasy/?_r=0

This democratization of photographic ‘excellence’ and the attendant artificiality of the process, is not everyone’s cup of tea. Although relatively niche, the traditional photographic community – especially those who still use cameras as they used to be (without phones attached!) are pushing in the other direction – and away from a homogenized approach to the recording of images. For example – Lomography – http://www.lomography.com – a magazine, a shop, and a community dedicated to analogue photography.

At this year’s Digital Shoreditch, Head Rabbit Dirk Singer, of the Rabbit Agency, provided an interesting perspective on the next wave of visual social networks’ – Beyond Instagram. http://www.slideshare.net/therabbitagency/beyond-instagram-visual-networks-to-look-out-for

This was particularly interesting to me as I have recently launched a concept in this space – Look Up More (www.lookupmore.info) which is a cross between Wikipedia and Instagram.

All those involved in this ‘next wave’ of visual social networks, have a different tale to tell – as they need to, because Instagram dominates the market in terms of size.

But what they all have in common, is providing to the average Joe, or Joanne, the functionality to take great photos and engage socially around content and experiences they can be proud off – whether they are ‘real’ or not

The same is not true of video. As noted above, there is a lot of it about, but it is of greatly varying quality. In the advertising space, brands are spending a lot of money, seeking to engage with their customers across their content and their own content channels. Brands searching for the digital nirvana of virality, are highly active in this area. A quick look at the Advertising Age viral video chart for this week gives some indication of the level of activity –


You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create engaging content; but you do need to make it look credible. For example :

Dollar Shave Club –

and SeoMoz’s excellent “When the boss is away’ – see this piece and other content here : Ten tips for SME’s to create Great Video Campaigns –


But a lot of user generated content is not at all good – a very brief trawl through You Tube will demonstrate this pretty quickly

Instagram’s intro to their video product includes a number of rather charming, slightly whimsical but ultimately very well shot pieces of content.http://blog.instagram.com/post/53448889009/video-on-instagram
This is not the kind of video that you or I will be creating on the hoof

People may use these short form video sharing services, but I predict they will not be as popular, or even used in the same way, as their photographic counterparts.
If the average person wants to craft a visual world that they are proud of and happy to share, then they won’t be using video to do it.

Nick Hammond