How Instagram and SnapChat Are Shaping the Future of Video

How Instagram and SnapChat Are Shaping the Future of Video
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Video content is the future of online interaction--you could even argue it's the present. Over the course of the past decade or so, video uploads and views have multiplied many times over, and users are starting to prefer video content over any other medium. It's projected that by 2018, approximately 69 percent of all Internet traffic will be for video content, and even now, users watch hundreds of millions of hours of video every day.

As a result, there's been an enormous trend pushing the power of video content marketing, and I've been a part of it. I've recommended integrating more video-related strategies into your content marketing campaigns, from producing standalone videos to embedding videos in written posts. But as content marketers talk about the future of "video marketing," we tend to visualize it in the forms and contexts it exists today. In reality, the world of video is undergoing some drastic changes; in the long-term, this will probably be driven by major technology shifts, like the rise of virtual reality, but in the short-term this is being driven by existing platforms.

The two platforms doing the most to advance video as a medium online are SnapChat and Instagram, two rising stars in the social media world who are reshaping the ways we interact.

Why These Two?

There are a handful of reasons why SnapChat and Instagram are the forerunners in certain video trends. You might think of YouTube, or the equally powerful and less-video-focused Facebook as being the trend-setting giants here, but SnapChat and Instagram have these advantages:

  • Demographics. There are bigger and more popular platforms out there, but SnapChat and Instagram have a massive skew toward younger generations. These younger demographics mean they can introduce changes more easily (as younger users are less resistant to change), and even better--because they're hip, they're trendsetters.

  • Age. Every time Facebook pushes a change, even a minor one, there's a major backlash. This is because Facebook has been around longer, and people are used to the way it works. Instagram and SnapChat are much younger, and much more agile when it comes to making changes.
  • Fight-or-Flight. The social media world is highly competitive, and these two platforms still have much to prove. They're forced to differentiate themselves, and constantly strive to do more to stay alive.
  • Mobile Focus. Both these platforms are also predominantly used on mobile devices. Mobile use is increasingly favored by the majority of the population, so any video-related trends they spark or changes they make are much easier adapted.
  • With that understanding, let's look at how these platforms are shaping our world of online videos.


    Originally focused exclusively on images, it was a big deal when Instagram started allowing users to upload videos. Now, Instagram is doubling down on the strategy and hoping it's accepted well enough to support the platform's continued, and unprecedented growth.

    Videos on Instagram were once limited to 15 seconds; time limits are the norm in social video creation. Now, the limit extends to a minute. This was a bigger challenge than it appears on the surface--longer videos require more bandwidth and support, and video quality can become an issue at larger scales. To resolve the discrepancy, Instagram actually borrowed a video streaming cache technology from its parent company, Facebook, to bring these videos more efficiently to their users. File size is reduced by 15 to 20 percent, while maintaining a high standard of quality for almost any device.

    The big factors to watch for here are user interaction and quality; users produce videos immediately when uploading them to Instagram, and with such a visual nature, quality is a major priority for most Instagram users. I wouldn't be surprised to see Instagram roll out new video functionality in the coming months as a way to expand on these advantages.


    SnapChat has two big plays in the video world. The first has to do with its original, signature concept: the temporariness of its messaging. Messages sent over SnapChat have a natural lifespan, disappearing forever (kind of) after the time limit expires. This immediate, fleeting nature has produced an interesting effect on user engagement; SnapChat users tend to be more engaged with the material they view, because they know it can't be recalled easily. This new standard of immediacy and real-time updating mirrors Instagram's in-the-moment video capture, and leads to higher user engagement rates, which marketers can start drooling at.

    SnapChat is also sparking a new wave of vertically-justified videos. The trend makes sense, even though few platforms have ventured toward it in the past; horizontal videos require users either change the position of their mobile device or be forced to view the video at an inappropriate size. This change caters to a mobile audience specifically, and may start dictating the way other new platforms feature and promote videos.


    Though still in their relative infancy, Instagram and SnapChat have tremendous power to change the way we use, view, and think about video. Thanks to their impressive growth rates, sway in the millennial crowd, and forward-thinking attitudes, I expect we'll see even more trends develop as these platforms grow into their own. The way we harness and watch online videos today won't remain the same for very long, and it's newcomer platforms like these--not the corporate tech giants--that will likely push those changes forward.

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