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Instagram is an excellent platform for getting the word out about your product or services, even if your product or service is your videography, to aspiring filmmakers and business owners alike.
In particular, a lot of filmmakers I respect have switched from other social media sites to Instagram almost entirely.
This includes directors and cinematographers who now share their work on Instagram instead of Facebook and even some Youtubers who have switched over to creating and sharing content solely on Instagram.
Most directors and cinematographers will still have a Vimeo page to share reels or shorts that finished their festival runs, but Instagram seems to be the current hub where the zeitgeist, at least in the video community, all come together and congregate these days.
Whether you’re a filmmaker looking to get your work out there, an aspiring influencer or content creator looking to grow your following, or a social media manager at a larger company looking to improve your social media following, here is a summary of ten solid tips for using video to better your Instagram game.
We’ll start with some basics, like the importance of using Instagram Stories and the new Instagram Creator account, and get into a few advanced tips towards the end, like how to utilize carousel video posts to promote your content.
That means that if you see a section that seems evident to you, just go ahead and skip to the next tip. I won’t be offended, I promise.
All right, let’s dive in!
1. Use Videos In Your Newsfeed to Increase Engagement
First and foremost, if you are an aspiring filmmaker of any kind, you should be sharing your work on Instagram. That doesn’t just mean sharing stills from your directing or cine projects, which you are likely already posting, but it also means sharing actual video clips.
While I understand you may be hesitant to share spoilers or in-progress work on your public Instagram page, especially if the square format is not the optimal aspect ratio for viewing, sharing your work with your followers is essential.
You can always delete a video from your newsfeed later or share it for a shorter time window through your Story, which we’ll get into in a minute.
Share Actual Video Footage
You should be sharing actual video footage on your newsfeed because video posts in the newsfeed get higher engagement than photo-only posts. Part of that is due to a video in the newsfeed naturally standing out more, as moving images catch one’s attention more than stationary images.
Another reason is that a video takes a viewer a few seconds longer to comprehend fully than a still image. It catches our attention and keeps us engaged just long enough for us to understand what we are looking at. If it’s engaging enough, we’ll keep watching long after we’ve figured out what it is we see and stick around to learn more.
Plus, a visually mesmerizing and appealing video that gets engagement, especially a short clip that people watch a few times in a row before scrolling away, can get high views and comment counts, which in turn cause it to show up in your followers’ Explore feed as something like-minded Instagram users can discover.
Remember to Include a Link in Your Bio
Then, if you include a link in your bio, those views can convert back to views on your actual video or filmmaker page.
I don’t personally know any filmmakers who have gotten jobs based on Instagram alone, but I know Instagram would be one of the first places producers look to research a potential hire for a director or cine they didn’t know already (after IMDB and Vimeo, of course).
The same process applies to videographers in the influencer space who are promoting products, like camera or gear reviews. Visually engaging video content that is educational or valuable enough to your followers for them to genuinely like, comment on, or share can result in new eyeballs viewing it in the Explore feed.
That can then lead to a click on a link in your bio out to a landing page that could convert into a sale of your product or service, whether it’s for you or a company you are partnering with to promote.
2. Don’t Forget to Create Instagram Stories Daily
While Instagram Stories can seem tedious to create and maintain because you have to create them new every day, they get solid engagement – maybe even more so than average newsfeed posts.
That’s because Instagram Stories are one of the places Instagram users go to find out what their friends are doing right now.
If you don’t check a story within twenty-four hours, whatever videos are posted there will disappear, and you will miss out forever. It’s gamified FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and whatever your thoughts on its morality, it effectively attracts eager eyeballs.
Instagram Stories Tips for Filmmakers
If you haven’t used Instagram Stories much yet, you can experiment with creating a few short video clips a day to get in the swing of things.
Getting into creating Stories for the first time as a filmmaker, aspiring or otherwise, you can start by creating and sharing videos of your Story from when you’re on set. Try first with short, handheld videos you take directly on your smartphone.
If you’re directing and aren’t able to shoot a video yourself, ask a fellow crew member to take some video on your phone for you. It’s an excellent job for a PA if your PA has their hands free.
You can also hire an on-set photographer to grab the footage for you to up the quality.
Make Your Instagram Stories Fresh and Authentic (imperfections are fine!)
The greatest appeal and benefit to video Stories is their genuine and authentic-feeling nature. It’s live video, unedited, captured as you go about your day, whether you are a director, cine, or production company sharing the unedited behind the scenes footage of your day.
Where newsfeed videos and photos have to be flawlessly edited and perfectly filtered because they will live on your feed forever, Stories can be imperfect because they disappear.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
One of the best parts of Instagram Stories is how you can experiment and take risks and only have to worry about how they affect your profile’s image for that one twenty four hour period. That being said, you can also save Stories to live on your profile as well, so if you do capture something worth holding onto, don’t forget to save it!
The goal of creating videos for your Story is not necessarily quality but quantity. You want your content to be valuable to the viewer, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. The “perfect” Story video should be exciting and over quickly.
The main goal is to get your profile’s Story to start showing up in the Story rotation of your followers. The more they engage and watch your content, the sooner your content will appear in their cue for them to view.
The more they watch, the more they will see.
3. Consider Switching to an Instagram Creator Account
I recently found out about this type of Instagram profile called the “Creator Account.” Under the Creator account rules, you can declare what type of creator you are and switch your account over to gain access to specific analytics to help control, assess, and monetize your content through a “Creator Studio Dashboard.”
While technically an add-on for Facebook’s Creator Studio, the company recently launched the Instagram version of the Creator Studio dashboard for desktop that you can use if you switch your account to a creator profile.
Similar to a business dashboard for business accounts, the creator dashboard is primarily to help creators view their analytics in a more streamlined way, so they can create breakdowns and reports to potential collaborators, like brands who hire them as an influencer to promote their products over a series of videos.
The idea is to treat your content creation as a business, so the dashboard is like a bridge between a business account and a regular profile and makes Instagram creators feel more like Youtube creators in terms of versatility of tools and visibility of analytics.
You can also manage ad revenue on your videos from the Creator Studio and even schedule Instagram TV videos without the need for a third-party social media management tool, which can be convenient.
Speaking of Instagram TV…
4. Create an IGTV Account As a Creator of Frequent Content
Instagram TV, otherwise known as IGTV, is Instagram’s long-form video platform. Available through both the regular Instagram app and a stand-alone IGTV app, IGTV is meant for videos up to ten minutes long or even up to an hour for some accounts.
While your average Instagram influencer or indie filmmaker might not need an IGTV account, if you plan to frequently create content to share on Instagram or even on Youtube or Vimeo, you should consider creating an IGTV account you can post there as well.
IGTV is meant to be more like Youtube than Netflix, but if you are creating short-form content and want eyeballs, IGTV is another great place to be sharing your content.
If you are an influencer and are looking to create more scripted or longer-form narrative projects, even longer vlogs like you would put on Youtube, IGTV is a great new venue for releasing that content.
Because the idea is to provide curated content directly to viewers, videos created on IGTV should be able to reach viewers in a more streamlined way.
Your content will show up automatically in the feeds of people who follow you in the “Following” feed and should show up in those who follow similar interests to you via the “For You” video feed.
Then, if you’re lucky or one of your video’s gains a massive following, it could even show up in the “Popular” video feed.
IGTV and Aspect Ratios for Filmmakers
If you are one of the filmmakers I mentioned above who is worried about the dimensions of your video content, rest easy knowing that you can now share content on IGTV in either vertical or horizontal formats, so your content can look the way it’s meant to look.
That means you can post a 4K video in a 16:9 aspect ratio, and it will look like you intended it to.
5. Use Instagram as a Funnel to Direct Viewers to Your Work
One of the benefits of Instagram is the sheer size of the user-base: One billion and counting, the last time I checked. It’s grown exponentially, and it’s a particularly useful portal for filmmakers because of the inherently visual nature of it.
In order to get the most out of your Instagram account, you should not just view it as another platform to be posting your work. Instead, you should think of it as a funnel, like a subway station, where viewers come to be sorted and directed to different content.
As such, you want to use it as a marketing tool to promote viewers to your content, wherever that content may be. This can look a couple of different ways depending on the promotional objective of your work and the Instagram-specific medium with which you are promoting said work.
Let’s say you are a director creating entertainment content across film and TV projects. You might be an indie director, so let’s assume your main content form is short films.
As previously established, IGTV is an excellent alternative to Youtube or Vimeo for posting longer content, so IGTV should be your main “hub” for content on Instagram.
Not everyone on Instagram uses IGTV. It’s relatively new, so you’ll have some early adopters who see your content there before everyone else, but this will be a smaller minority of your followers.
That means to promote that content, you will need to direct your followers there. Your objective will be to attract viewers to your content on your IGTV page.
As a filmmaker or videographer creating video content for a separate brand, your objective might be different than just driving a viewer to another video.
Instead, your objective might be to drive viewers to a landing page or e-commerce site where they can purchase a product from your employer. In that case, click-throughs to a third-party link are your objective.
For instance, if you’re working in the entertainment industry, you might be trying to get viewers to download a movie for $5.99, sign up to pre-order tickets for a premier, or visit a streaming service where a project was just released online.
Or you might be creating content for a publication trying to drive traffic back to their website for ad revenue, in which case you’ll want to create short snippets to promote a recent headline that will drive video viewers to click a link back to the full story.
As stated above, Instagram offers two different “mediums” to share video content: through the Newsfeed and through Stories. You should use both to funnel users to your objective, whether it be a longer video or an external link.
For example, to make good use of the Newsfeed, create a 30-second trailer video to promote your short film and get scrolling eyeballs intrigued by the concept.
Or share up to 60 seconds of an actual scene from your short to hook them in – something compelling that can be (mostly) understood in the time limit. Make sure by the time the clip ends, your audience will be asking themselves the all-important question: “What happens next?”
Once you decide on the video to share, you can boost the post with some ad spend (which we’ll get into shortly), and caption it to direct the viewers to click the link over to your IGTV page or link in bio to see more there.
The same tactic would apply if your video hub is on Youtube or Vimeo, but it’s easier to keep your viewers in-app, so a call to action to visit your IGTV may convert better than a call to click an external link in your bio.
Focusing on your Story as the medium, follow a similar tactic. Create a series of 5-15 second promotional clips, either quick snippets of an intriguing scene or a quick teaser trailer to get them to go to your IGTV page or third party link for more.
Something that might work even better is creating a short call-to-action of you talking directly to the camera about your project and sharing how much it means to you. You can even share behind the scenes footage or a funny or interesting anecdote about making the film that intrigues your followers to find out more.
Now let’s dig into the specific types of video content that does well on Instagram.
Because Instagram offers a few different options on how to use video, there are various tactics you can use to benefit from video on your Instagram account.
6. Create Live Videos to Engage With Your Community In Real-Time
A useful video-type to consider creating for Instagram is the live video. Good for growing your following or engaging your current community, live video promotes active engagement because of the real-time nature of its content. A few use cases:
Instagram is excellent for “going live” – especially in today’s influencer-oriented culture.
Popular Instagrammers can go live and even invite live viewers to go live with them, which can be fun for followers to tune in and request to go live with their favorite celebrity or influential Instagrammer.
However, even as a filmmaker live-streaming with a handful of your friends, going live or creating live videos is useful for networking and connecting with the filmmaker community around you.
You can go live and share about an upcoming project, or share your opinion on a new release and invite your filmmaker friends who have also seen the film to share their own thoughts. It might create a bit of a debate, but as long as everyone is civil, that can nurture friendships even in a digital medium.
You can even invite other filmmakers to come film a live video with you, and be featured on your page and interview each other about your recent films in a podcast style format.
It’s borrowing from the cross-promotional nature of the influencer community, but applying it to the creative arts to promote each other’s work instead of the latest beauty products.
Streaming Live Events
If you are a videographer capturing video for a news outlet or for a company presenting at a big industry trade expo, streaming live event videos are another excellent resource for reaching new audiences through Instagram.
By documenting your experience with video from the showroom floor of a popular trade show, you are creating quality content for those looking for live updates from the event at home.
Covering something like the video game expo E3, for example, where a lot of big video game announcements happen in real-time, opens your Instagram account to new followers who are looking for feeds streaming the event to see the new game footage themselves.
If you are a filmmaker or cinematographer, going to an industry expo on cameras and new film gear is a great way to open yourself up to new followers, too.
For instance, if you can interview reps from the different booths and try out the cameras while filming your live video, you’re likely to attract new followers, especially if you are expressive and share genuine opinions, or offer an educational, contextual angle to the conversation by sharing your knowledge.
You can also make a side career out of creating live videos for big company or small business owners hosting events by offering your skills on-site creating live video content.
By sharing a thriving community interacting with a business, you are creating third party validation and authenticity for them as a brand. As an example, you can interview restaurant patrons on why they love their local hangout or capture real first impressions from new customers discovering a bike rental shop at a local demo day for the first time.
Most importantly of all, if you are capturing genuine and compelling content, whether it’s the real-time unveiling of a product or honest user reactions to a product, you may want to save that video to your Instagram profile. You can actually save live videos and Instagram Stories to your profile for future use.
7. Create Tutorial Videos To Educate New Viewers
Tutorial and tips and tricks style-videos are another valuable Instagram video-type.
Video is a popular medium for learning – taking into account that Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google; people are always looking for ways to do things.
If you are creating tutorial videos to instruct viewers on a new piece of gear or demoing some tricks on how to achieve a certain cinematic style, you will probably attract like-minded individuals looking for information on that specific topic as well as those interested in the subject more generally.
The reason to create videos, especially a time-lapse before and after or step-by-step instructional tutorial, is that they catch a viewer’s attention and draws them in to find out what happens next.
Even if you are educating on a topic that a viewer isn’t explicitly interested in, they may be attracted by the actions captured in the video to tune in a couple of seconds longer than they expected to while scrolling through their feed.
This is useful both for establishing yourself as a credible source of information and putting your name out there as another touch point to connect with a potential collaborator or future customer.
They might not be interested in this particular topic, but if they see your name enough times, they’ll remember you as a resource when they do have a question or job for you in the future.
Besides, tutorial videos are just a popular type of content on Instagram in general. Everything from tech to beauty tutorials plays will with the Instagram audience.
Unboxing videos, in particular, have risen in popularity with the rise of the influencer marketing culture on Instagram. So many influencers are sent products that they unbox and show their followers, documenting their experience every step of the way.
Remember my earlier advice: since the various Instagram video options (Newsfeed and Stories) are limited in scope (square format or vertical format) and length of video (less than 60 seconds), your goal by creating this type of content on Instagram should be either:
- be as a marketing tool to promote you as a creator
- to promote a longer video on your Youtube or preferably IGTV account
- promote a specific product for interested viewers to click through to your sponsor company’s website for more information.
8. Partner with Influencers to Target Niche Communities
While various reports have declared the influencer bubble on the verge of popping, I’ve yet to see any hard evidence to support that theory, minus one or two stray cases of influencer marketing gone way wrong.
Even if you are a filmmaker trying to get your work out there, partnering with an influencer or creating influencer content can still be beneficial to promoting your work on Instagram, especially if you are going to be creating content for IGTV.
Use Videos to Get the Most Out of Your Influencer Content
The way to get the most out of influencer content on Instagram is with videos.
People who follow influencers do so because they are attracted to their personality. Something about that person speaks to them, whether it’s their brand aesthetic, appealing attitude, valuable knowledge, or funny commentary.
Featuring the influencer in video content is hands down the best way to get their followers engaged with whatever you are promoting, whether that is yourself as a filmmaker or a partner product, like a new Steadicam rig you’re trying for the first time.
For example, as a filmmaker, you may want to partner with a popular comedic actor for a series of sketches to get your name out there, whether you are directing content for their channel or directing them in your own short.
As a content creator, positioning yourself as a micro-influencer with an engaged audience of a couple of thousand followers can be a cost-effective way to share products or services with a like-minded audience and make some money on the side, too.
Create Content of Real Value to Your Audience
If you can create content that provides real value to viewers with an influencer partner who is trusted as a valued educator with lots of knowledge, that content will go miles farther than a ten-second shout out in a video from an influencer with two million followers that no one trusts for anything other than dumb prank videos.
Here’s an industry-specific example: let’s say you are a creator of fitness-related video content. You know that partnering with fitness influencers on Instagram to create videos opens you up to a massive market of potential collaborators and viewers.
But because the audience for this type of video content on Instagram is so big, you will have a lot of competition from other fitness creators promoting other branded content.
The audience for fitness content on Instagram may be used to getting sold to, and even buying products from branded promotions that appeal to them, but they might be just as equally jaded by getting sold to all the time.
In that case, it is wise to “niche down.”
Focus on a sub-niche. Instead of a general fitness influencer, focus on creating videos with influencers who focus on a specific sub-niche, like calisthenics routines.
Then, you can build a brand creating videos in a specific sub-genre, and get work creating content for similar creators trying to break into that space.
Just make sure whatever sub-niche you are diving into has enough of an audience to make it worth your time to invest in focusing on creating video content specific to such an area over a long period of time.
9. Try Promoting Your Videos With Paid Promotions
Whatever video content you create, you will want to promote it so it actually gets seen by your current followers and new audiences alike.
I remember when I first realized that certain social media sites were hiding my content from my followers to get me to boost posts so they would see it. I was so frustrated – that shouldn’t be how this works! They already follow me, right??
However, I began to realize that while I didn’t agree with it on a philosophical level, it was necessary if I wanted the companies and content I was representing to get noticed, so I gave in and learned how to create ads, particularly video ads, for my content.
Video ads on Instagram are very effective, as I’m sure you probably know from seeing so many of them daily.
On top of that, you can include links on the post that lead directly to a landing page, whether you are soliciting email sign-ups or an actual product page to buy your product or service.
Story ads vs In-Stream Video Ads
There are two types of video ads you can buy on Instagram that I’m aware of: Story ads and in-stream video ads, and you buy and monitor both of them through a business Facebook account.
However, if you are looking into transferring your account to a creator account, you may be able to promote video posts directly through the creator studio dashboard, but I don’t know that for sure as of this article’s publishing.
The Story Ads are the ads that show up in between your regular Story content from accounts you follow.
The In-Stream Ads are the ones that look like a regular newsfeed post but include a banner link in the form of a “Learn More” type of call to action.
However, these video ads are not the only way to promote your video content.
10. Use Carousel-Style Posts, Hashtags, and Other Accounts to Promote Your Work
You can similarly promote engagement with your video content through non-paid sources, including using trending hashtags, creating carousel-style newsfeed posts, and actively engaging with accounts that follow you back.
Create Carousel Posts to Increase Engagement
Creating carousel-style posts is an effective way to “game” the system by encouraging users to engage longer with your posts.
For example, if you want to share a video longer than 60 seconds in your Instagram feed, break the video up into multiple 60-second videos, and post it as a carousel.
This way, viewers who are engaged by the first video will stick around to swipe through to watch the rest, which will in turn cause Instagram’s internal algorithm to flag your content as valuable to viewers because of how long they spend on it and help increase the chance of it getting featured on the Explore page.
Include Trending Hashtags to Stay on Topic
Using trending hashtags should be obvious, but it’s part of the same algorithm referenced above.
The content you see in your Explore feed is filtered by popular hashtags that appear multiple times across various content you, and the people you follow or follow you, engage with.
Content with that hashtag on it then gets promoted based on how valuable it’s perceived, i.e., how much engagement it gets, and is promoted accordingly to you and your followers who engage with similar content.
Per the last point, the more that you engage with the content that the people you follow and follow your post, the more that you will show up in their feeds too, which in turn increases the likelihood of them engaging with you. This creates a positive feedback loop that then promotes your content to others.
When Non-Paid Tactics Do Well, Boost Them!
If you are genuinely looking to promote your video content on Instagram and get it out there, the best solution is to do both: work these tricks to get as much genuine engagement as you can, then boost popular posts to reach a wider audience.
Don’t spend too much on advertising, especially if you are an indie filmmaker just trying to get your work seen, but spend enough to push it past the limits of your current follower-count whenever possible.
Your video content will shine through and reach others through Instagram with enough talent and determination.
It’s a Wrap
All right. Those are my top ten tips for working with video on Instagram.
Feel free to leave a comment with your tip suggestions in the comments, and don’t be afraid to reach out and let me know if something doesn’t quite work the way it’s supposed to. Instagram is a popular social platform and changing all the time, so I’ll try to update this piece accordingly as we go!
Grant Harvey is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own feature-length screenplays and television pilots, Grant uses his passion and experience in film and videography to help others learn the tools, strategies, and equipment needed to create high-quality videos as a filmmaker of any skill level.