By Ryan Harris published August 1, 2013

The Newest Social Media Content Features: What Marketers Need to Know

instabook imageConsumers already create and watch videos constantly, and then hit their social networks to find them, talk about them, share them, and create hashtags to help draw other viewers in. That’s a tremendous amount of engagement — and it doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon.

In fact, some new social tools have just come on the scene that are poised to make a big impact on social media content marketing: Facebook recently added hashtags to its own arsenal, Twitter introduced short-film creation in the form of Vine, and Instagram brought video to its growing set of capabilities.

What are these new social media content features?

Instagram videos: In addition to artsy pictures of food and nature, Instagram users can now upload 15-second clips to the platform — you can even apply a vintage filter (just like with photos) and eliminate hand-held video’s signature shakiness with its Cinema feature. Depending on your brand and the look you want to achieve, Instagram images and videos can be black and white, high-contrast, color saturated — you name it. Pretty cool — and pretty handy for marketers looking for a new outlet for branded video content.

instagram video effects

Source: gizmodo.com

With Instagram’s massive audience (130 million monthly active users), newly added web embedding capability, and its seamless integration with Facebook, the new video functionality means that brands have just been handed a powerful new way to create content with a built-in cool factor.

Vine: Twitter launched its Vine video platform in January of 2013. It’s 6-second video looping capabilities have already gained a lot of buzz, as both consumers and marketers have certainly taken notice.

However, even though conversations around video and social media content have received a boost from Vine, the recent launch of Instagram’s video platform has shifted many of these discussions to the comparative benefits (and shortcomings) of the two platforms. With Vine’s lack of stabilization and 6-second limitation, content creators have to think a little harder about how to say what they want to say when working with the platform, which may help Instagram take more of a dominant role among marketers.

Facebook hashtags: Just like Twitter hashtags before them, Facebook’s hashtags are clickable phrases that users add into their posts to make them more easily searchable. When someone clicks on a hashtag, they’re directed to a feed that shows others who are using the same keywords to describe their posts. Essentially, hashtags are used to extend the conversation beyond a brand’s fan base into the larger audience of the entire social media platform.

So what value do these new tools really provide? While consumers may find them to be convenient and fun to work with, it’s content marketers who really stand to reap the benefits.

Using Instagram video for content marketing

Advertisers have jumped on the opportunity to grow their brands with Instagram video. Within a day of the new feature being launched, more than 5 million videos had already been uploaded. One of the first was for the brand, Red Vines.

The candy maker uploaded its own Instagram video right away. What did the brand do right?

instagram-red vines

  • It showed the product.
  • It did this in a relaxed, artsy way.
  • This relaxed, artsy way didn’t feel like a commercial.

Go-to yoga outfitter Lululemon posted a video that followed the same rules as Red Vines: It’s got natural sound, a casual, easy feel and, most importantly, it doesn’t come across like an ad. As Instagram is known for letting users express their own personal styles, content that follows this aesthetic, like Lululemon’s, is likely to work well on the platform.

lululemon content

Videos on Instagram can last for up to 15 seconds — more than twice the length of a Vine video. Though it’s still a limited amount of time, it actually provides marketers with significantly greater time to get their points across. For example, brands can use this extra time to create a quick Q&A that features a company insider, or to share exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage from live events.

Using Vine for content marketing

Though marketers may appreciate the extra time provided by Instagram, content marketers for brands like ASOS and Chobani yogurt have still been able to find creative ways to use their 6 seconds of Vine fame to their advantage.

While it may not seem possible to cram a full tutorial into 6 seconds, Chobani created a helpful, informative “kitchen tricks” video series on Vine, which includes this video on how to gather just the seeds from a cut-up pomegranate.

pomegranate-chobani

Stop-motion instructional videos like these work particularly well with Vine, as the strict time limitation forces content marketers to strip their ideas down to just the bare essentials that audiences need. Clothing brand ASOS also implements a stop-motion technique in one of its Vine videos, adding in a social component by asking customers to tag their own videos with a branded hashtag.

asos content

This use of hashtags here is a perfect way to drive user-generated content that can be easily searched and monitored; but let’s take a look at how hashtags might work for content marketing on Facebook.

Using Facebook hashtags for content marketing

Because Facebook does such a thorough job of collecting specific information about its users (like age and sex), brands can see what hashtags specific people are using, and target them with their own hashtags to introduce (or re-introduce them) to their brand. But take note: Individuals’ privacy settings on Facebook can affect the way that hashtags will work there, so the social network has decided to roll them out slowly.

Though the platform may not be ready for full-scale hashtag functionality, there are still ways brands can test them out on Facebook — and several intrepid companies are already leading the way. For example, check out this Facebook photo post by Kohl’s, complete with a relevant hashtag the brand can use across multiple platforms.

kohl's tent

The general rule for hashtags, regardless of the platform, is to use (or create your own) terms that will appeal to your niche, but aren’t so specific that your messages get overlooked by other audiences that may want to take advantage of your products/services. #JoysOfSummer is fully clickable, and the term is both relevant to the brand’s products and general enough to have broad appeal.

Since it’s clear social media marketing will continue to evolve, it’s important to take stock of your audience before jumping on the bandwagon for each new tool that gets released. If you have an established base of followers on Twitter, delving into Vine may be worth looking into, whereas if you are strong on Facebook, experimenting with hashtags and Instagram videos may provide more value.

Videos engage, they’re dynamic and they’re easy/fun to watch/create. With Instagram you get the benefit of the Facebook connection as well as the ease of production for anyone. With Vine you may have to work a little harder to fit in a compelling message with just 6 seconds and a lack of filters/features, but there are plenty of was to use it effectively. Hashtags will help you find a consistent message to use across platforms. Regardless of whether you are ready to leverage any of these tools for your content marketing efforts, I’m sure they will be worth keeping an eye on over the long term.

For more examples of how brands are leveraging the latest tools and technologies in their content marketing efforts, download CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook.

Cover image via Flickr

Author: Ryan Harris

Ryan Harris is an Internet marketing strategist and copywriter who specializes in working with businesses, large and small, to develop strong brands. He writes for a wide array of tech sites including DSL.com. Connect with Ryan on Twitter @HarrisRyan30, or directly via email.

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  • carrie

    Priceless information shared here. Thoughts

  • Paweł Piejko

    Frankly, I don’t think using hashtags as parts of sentences is such a good idea. I’m afraid it might prevent numerous less hashtag-savvy Facebook users from clicking the link to my site.

  • Perk Idea

    Great write up, videos especially help engage users and also helps alot with word of mouth marketing. We are now in a generation where after viewing a video, we like comment, we share it out to the world as well.

    • Ryan Harris

      Thanks for the feedback, I agree, I’m inclined to not only watch videos but to share them, especially things like the chobani tutorials that provide real value.