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When Facebook bought Instagram back in April 2012 for an estimated $1billion, many people were questioning the decision. Skeptics were left wondering just what they had to gain from the acquisition other than access to data and the ability to take photos in a different way, adding a variety of filters to the images and turning them into works of art that can make even the most amateur of photographers look like a pro.

Last week, they turned it up a notch by unveiling Instagram Video. In recent months, Vine has become an immensely popular platform for social fans, allowing them to create, edit and share six-second videos on anything they like. People have been recording things like fast cars driving by, party celebrations and even promotional or corporate videos – take a look at this clip from Lancashire County Cricket Club who used Vine earlier this week to officially open their revamped pavilion before their match with Scotland at Emirates Old Trafford.

The platform has caused such a stir that Facebook quite simply couldn’t ignore it. They even took a very public swipe at Vine during the announcement of Instagram Video, with co-founder Kevin Systrom saying “You can capture a lot in fifteen seconds. It’s the right balance between not too short that constrains your creativity, and not too long where you end up having to wait a lot of time for something to download. It’s fifteen seconds of beautiful video that you can record very easily. Not every time can you fit a single scene into fifteen seconds without going into multiple clips… It plays once, it doesn’t loop, it doesn’t get in the way, it fits right into Instagram.”

So what was the option? Well, short of buying out the platform (which is owned by Twitter so that was never likely to happen really), they had just one – create something of their own. So they did.

All leading on from that clever acquisition of Instagram just over twelve months ago, Facebook now has a ready-made alternative that is likely to do what all other Facebook acquisitions and developments do – blow their rivals out of the water.

Sure, the ability to record a six-second video clip that works as a visual alternative to a 140-character Tweet is highly attractive and there will still be the “Vine-hards” (if that’s not a term it definitely should be by the way), Instagram video will offer users the chance to record videos of up to fifteen seconds, as well as the chance to use the same filters that they would on the camera platform they know and love.

Vine was only released onto the market in January this year, and only became available to Android users this month, but by the end of April there were around 13-million users with registered Vine accounts, and there are already more than 130-million “Instagrammers”, which may have prompted Facebook to take action. If they can merge those users of the photo-sharing platform with the video platform, they’re onto a massive win and have essentially nipped Twitter’s idea in the bud while people are still trying to work out what it is.

So what will Instagram video actually offer?

  • 15-second video clips
  • 13 different filters
  • Add a cover frame to the video (a thumbnail image essentially, like your Facebook photo albums)
  • Stabilizing to help reduce camera shakes
  • Clip editing
  • “Tap to Focus”

The digital age is prompting everything to become more accessible, shorter and quicker. This allows an audience that is constantly on the go to access the latest news, events and gossip as well as to keep in touch with their friends. Newspaper sales are in decline with more and more people accessing the publications online through subscriptions or just a quick scroll through the pages on their lunch breaks, while others are downloading apps for their smartphones or tablets to read at their leisure. Whichever method they choose, digital is the only way to share anything it seems. Conversation is just a thing of the past!

First, we had Facebook letting us tell each other exactly what we’re up to. Then Twitter came along letting us do the same, only quicker. Then Vine let us show people what we’re doing in six seconds. Then things went a step further with Snapchat, which at this point in time is popular predominantly with the younger generation, sharing quick images and then disappearing forever in a “blink and you missed it style.”

Now, we get the opportunity to create innovative and attractive video clips with Instagram video. Some, myself included, think that this will just fuel the Facebook fire, helping it to attract more of its own customers after they reported a decline in the number of users on the social networking site itself, while others believe that the media storm this has created will help Vine reach a new audience for free, allowing those who never really understood it to read up on it, play with it, and choose to stick with it rather than going with the Facebook version.

The fact that they didn’t get in before Vine shows the world just how difficult it is even for those perceived to be at the pinnacle of the digital world to stay on top. Turn your back for a few seconds and you let your opponents get an advantage.

You have to question just how aware Facebook are of the goings on around them. Zazzle’s Ben Harper wrote about their introduction of hashtags just last week, another example of them reacting to a Twitter initiative to help create conversation and engage their users.

It remains to be seen just how popular Instagram video will be, but with an established group of users of the Facebook site, plus millions of establish Instagram users, you have to think that there will be plenty of people who will take advantage of the fifteen second videos to tell the world about their dinner. For businesses, it could prove to be an invaluable marketing technique. Six seconds might not be enough to sell your company or products, but fifteen gives you that window of opportunity to engage and persuade.

Burberry have already stolen a march by creating an Instagram video to showcase their 2014 spring/summer range. B3 cricket have also given it a go, helping to raise their profile and sell their range of custom made cricket bats. It’s so easy to do and just like taking a normal photograph with your Instagram app on your smartphone. Anyone can do it and that’s what makes it such a great platform for sharing visual content.

Author: Chris White

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