Instead of heading to Netflix for the latest series, users soon might seek must-see video on an unusual platform: Instagram.
National Geographic, one of the most-followed accounts on Instagram (they have 52 million followers), will launch its first Instagram video series about photographers in the field this August during the National Park Service’s centennial celebration. If the experiment works, it’s a sign serial videos could become an Instagram marketing trend. It’s also a reminder that social-first video is quickly becoming the norm for brands and publishers alike.
National Geographic may have built its massive fan following with stunning photos, but it’s betting on video in the future. With such a large social following, the digital powerhouse is the top non-celebrity brand on Instagram, as noted by Social Blade. Video content is driving engagement. “Now that Instagram is tracking views, it’s crazy. We have 15-second video clips getting 3 million views,” National Geographic’s chief marketing and brand officer Claudia Malley told Adweek.
The new original Instagram series MoviNG Pictures builds on that success. The series will capture intimate moments from photographers working in the field, giving followers an up-close look at life behind the lens.
Other planned digital video series including adventure guides, explainer videos, and travel content. Slices of content will be shared on other social platforms in clips ranging from 90 seconds to three minutes. Additionally, the company is strengthening its virtual reality offerings with a new virtual reality studio, NG VR Studio. The studio will build upon the success the company noticed after experimenting with four Facebook VR videos that garnered over 30 million views, Adweek reported.
“There’s a lot of folks launching VR, but what makes National Geographic VR different is that this is going to be in the hands of the folks in the field,” Malley told Adweek.
National Geographic’s Instagram-first video series aligns with recent video content trends. Video is dramatically changing how users digest content, fueled in part by the ubiquity of mobile devices. According to a study from Cisco, by 2020, over 75 percent of global mobile traffic will be video content, ReelSEO reported.
More traditional social networks like Facebook and Twitter have scrambled to integrate video into their platforms in a meaningful way, including live video. Instagram, too, has toyed with new ways of allowing users to discover video content through dedicated video channels. There’s good reason for that: In the last six months, the time people spent watching video on Instagram increased by more than 40 percent, the company reported.
Still, using Instagram for serial video content is a novel development, in part because of previous limitations on video length. Instagram only recently increased its maximum video length to 60 seconds, up from 15 seconds previously. In Shield 5, one of the few apparent video series created specifically for Instagram, the super-short format works to the story’s advantage and helps heighten suspense. The super stripped-down story follows a security driver framed for a diamond heist, with supplemental photos included to draw the viewer into the mystery. Viewers can “binge watch” the entire 28-clip series in under 10 minutes.
Publishers like National Geographic have an advantage in this video content arms race: It already has a bastion of photographers, videographers, and journalists who are creating content for the company’s existing traditional media channels. It isn’t building those resources from scratch.
Snapchat found that issue out the hard way. It nixed its Snap Channel in 2015 after it struggled to create its own original shows. One problem, according to Engadget, was cost: creating a great video series from the ground up required more dough than Snapchat was willing to spend.
Not every brand will want or need to create original video series for Instagram marketing purposes. The more important takeaway from National Geographic’s example is this: The future of video is social-first video.
Consider late night talk shows, once a bastion of traditional media. Today’s new crop of social media savvy hosts has realized it doesn’t matter if people don’t tune in live—they can get the audience later online.
More and more, late-night show content is tailor-made for the social audience. Jimmy Fallon’s lip sync battles, or his brilliant concept of getting musical guests to record acoustic versions of hit songs (with kindergarten musical instruments), are perfect, standalone bits to share on social media, as noted by NPR. James Corden’s “Adele Carpool Karaoke” is another example—it’s become the most-viewed late-night clip in social media history. It’s hilarious and appealing, and you don’t need to watch the full show to enjoy it.
National Geographic itself was not so dissimilar. The media behemoth evolved from a society, to a magazine, to a TV channel, to now a digital video and social media heavyweight.