Instagram marketing has always been a tricky task. The platform offers visual opportunities in a format that only recently has deviated from its core offering: the square photo. Now, you can post short videos and photos in ratios as unsquare as 3:4. Those small changes made a big difference in the potential for advertising. As Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of Jun Group, notes, "Mobile video is arguably the most important advertising format today, and its growth has been staggering."
Instagram has worked hard to make ads feel less like interrupt features and more like a normal part of a user's feed. Only the tiniest, light grey Sponsored indicates that the post is not from someone you follow. Now, it's rolled out a view count feature that brings it in-line with video giants YouTube and Vine and provides a third impression metric to add to "Likes" and comments.
Views have long been the most important tally on YouTube-but we wonder: Is this move meaningful for the enterprise marketer?
Why Didn't You Like It?
Mercifully (for my ego at least), the view count feature doesn't extend to individual photos; I know I'd be sad to know how many people saw a photo I posted and didn't Like it. Naysayers agree-who cares how many people let the video play on their screen if they didn't engage with it meaningfully via a Like or comment?
Gary Nix, President of The Brandarchist, wonders if too much weight will get placed on views. "The excitement over a high number or panic over a low number of views may distract brands (or people for that matter) from understanding or even paying attention to the actions the viewer takes afterward," he says.
This is a realistic concern, especially with a platform that primarily delivers short, snappy video content. Unlike YouTube, where plenty of visitors view videos without creating an account that enables them to Like or comment on videos, everyone browsing Instagram is logged in and has the ability to engage with a video beyond viewing it.
Jonathan Saipe, founder of Emarketeers, has an even less favorable opinion on view count as a marketing metric. "From a marketer's perspective, view counts are not dissimilar to the old-school acronym HITS (the highly-regarded Web analyst Avinash Kaushik claims HITS stands for How Idiots Track Success). In many ways, there are parallels here with view count. If a marketer's KPI is simply 'views,' then fair enough-he can measure success that way. But more often than not, social media content has other objectives and KPIs, such as increasing brand engagement, potential traffic to a website, or outcomes such as conversions. In this case, view counts offer minimal value."
Fragile egos and naysayers aside, for enterprises employing Instagram marketing strategies, view counts can provide helpful metrics for reach as well as much-needed credibility that anything labeled Sponsored inherently lacks. If a sponsored post shows up with a view count in the millions, it's more likely to stop a rapid-scroller dead in her tracks. Saipe tempered his outlook on view counts when it comes to their consumer-facing value. "View counts are in many ways considered social proof-confirmation that a piece of content is worth something. The impact of social proof is generally increased clicks and better engagement."
There's something about the psychology of peer-vetting. It's a big reason why Facebook shows a share count and why views are a driving force in the reason videos go viral. We assume that something is more "worth our time" if many other people have decided the same thing by watching long enough to contribute another view to that rapidly-rising count beneath the video.
View count can be equated with trust; even if you're leery about liking a marketing video, you might enjoy watching it enough that you'll let it play all the way through-maybe even two or three times. And that does matter.
Nariman Haghighi, CEO of Instagram platform Candid, agrees that social proof is a critical component of credibility. "Video counts simultaneously address the two groups that matter most at the moment: spotlight content producers drawing in large audiences and advertisers. The former gets amazing distribution, and the latter has to keep spending to have an impressive view count serve as 'social proof' of a thriving community behind the brand."
View count as a metric bridges the large gap between people who chuckle at something and those who are willing to use their thumbs to double tap or type something witty in the comment box. It's easy to be skeptical of its value, but there's a reason it's the most prominent thing displayed on YouTube videos aside from the title. And as platforms duke it out with one another, popular social media icons will be paying very close attention to see which platform earns them the most views.
The Votes Are In
Video view count may seem like a small iteration in the scheme of Instagram marketing, but its importance cannot be overstated. As Instagram (and parent company Facebook) continue to take aim at other video channels, you can bet that every small move has been toiled over at great length. Of course, some may argue over what counts as a video view. But on a platform known for videos running 15 seconds or less (with some noteworthy exceptions that we'll be exploring soon), it doesn't take much to watch the whole thing.
For the enterprise interested in Instagram marketing, the switch from Likes to view counts makes it much easier to generate quick credibility. The old popularity metric (Likes) took months of diligent campaigning to garner. Now, a quick, compelling video placed in the right feeds can rack up views overnight. Social proof by way of view counts is much better for brands. Don't treat it as the ultimate engagement metric, but do get excited that you're more likely to earn stingy double taps.
Want to learn more about Instagram for the enterprise? Download The Ultimate Enterprise Instagram Strategy Guide.