How Brands Use, Gauge Results on Vine, Instagram

April 9, 2014

by Mark Walsh

Vine and Instagram have become the social marketing tools of choice when it comes to short-form video. The two are often mentioned together, as their respective parents -- Twitter and Facebook -- have long been, rivals on a smaller scale.
Plenty of brands have jumped on the Vine and Instagram bandwagons, if for no other reason than to garner publicity for being with it, fun and willing to experiment. (“Look, we made a Vine!”) A panel at MediaPost’s Video Insider Summit on Wednesday took a closer look at how advertisers are using the two platforms, what works, and how they’re measuring campaign success on these emerging tools.
One observation was that Vine content doesn’t necessarily have to be quirky and whimsical simply because of the six-second length. Mark Smith, manager of social media marketing for USA Today, explained that the company switched from making Vines of “fun stuff” to delivering news briefs because that’s what users wanted. “They really expect we deliver actual content,” he said.
Smith noted that nostalgia has been another successful theme, with USA Today offering “This day in history”-type snippets, as well as broader data about society and demographics. He said a Vine based on a USA Today story about a study naming St. Louis as America’s happiest city drew the most engagement.
“People love to know how they fit in with the world around them,” he said.
Jeff Melton, chief distribution officer at social media-focused agency MRY, pointed to GE and Lowe’s as brands fitting Vine and Instagram to their purposes. GE, for example, is using the platforms to focus on science and interesting facts, which end up getting shared among friends. Lowe’s, meanwhile, is using them to offer home improvement “tips ‘n’ tricks’” rather than goofy videos.
But how do brands judge whether their efforts on Vine and Instagram are effective without established measurement standards? According to panelist Greg Leavens, principal engineer, MomentFeed, a link can be drawn across social metrics and sales.
He said the firm, which offers a location-based marketing platform for brands, has done studies correlating retail point-of-sale (POS) data for brands across multiple locations with social media activity. “And, yes, we can actually say these locations with higher social engagement did lead to higher sales,” he said.
He said local businesses are also developing loyalty programs that tie into social tools like Instagram. A Santa Monica, Calif. –based gastro pub chain called Barney’s Beanery, for example, has created a program that awards points for geo-tagging Instagram photos while at one of its locations. Leavans said that led to a virtuous cycle of higher Instagram activity, sharing, and increased business for the company.
MRY’s Melton suggested, however, that drawing a line between social and sales was not the point. “These platforms aren’t going to be an efficient direct response driver. They’re for building a brand’s equity," he said. As part of tracking brand equity, he said agencies should figure out how much exposure comes through Instagram or Vine versus other media to grasp what role they play in lifting brand awareness or recall.
“These platforms really struggle on their back-end, with really clear data. There are these traditional devices we can use to try to look at the lift,” he said.
Smith said the publisher embraced Vine, Instagram and other buzzy social platforms in the last couple of years as part of its broader effort to update its brand as “smarter, faster, more colorful.” Just having a presence was the goal.
After introducing a new Vine every day last year, he said USA Today is scaling back on that front to focus more broadly on social media. It’s also retooling its Instagram strategy to shift away from just showing beautiful photos to adding more social context or captions to images, he said.
What about advertising on Instagram, which the company began testing last fall with a handful of brands? The jury is still out. “What we’ve seen in looking at the beta (test) and sentiment coming back in the comments for some of the brands that have pushed out ad products is very mixed,” said Melton. “And that’s making us very cautious.”
He said MRY could increase spending on behalf of brands to expand reach and exposure, but the impact may not be positive. He and the other panelists also indicated they have used the more developed ad offerings on Twitter and Facebook to promote content from Vine and Instagram.


"How Brands Use, Gauge Results on Vine, Instragram." MediaPost, 2014.

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