Instagram Reveals Video View Counts To Score Creators And Ad Dollars

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Video is booming on Instagram with watch time up 40% in 6 months, so now it’s trying to lure the best video makers and marketers from competitors like Vine and YouTube. Over the next few weeks, Instagram will begin showing view counts on videos where the Like number used to be, though you can still click through to see the heart count. As on Facebook, 3 seconds counts as a view.

With 400 million active users, Instagram’s bet is that view counts will be impressive, and they’ll convince video creators they should be on the platform. It’s hoping they won’t just post, but actually craft clips specifically for its 15-second, silent-until-tapped video format.

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Meanwhile, seeing how many views they could be getting might attract marketers to shoot video for Instagram and buy ads to promote them, rather than just porting over fragments of their YouTube clips or TV commercials. Ad buyers could already see their view counts. But exposing the standardized metric on videos across Instagram could let it prove the opportunity to advertisers and charge them more.

Where The Eyeballs Are

Instagram has already been working to win the art of top creators from other platforms. It recently launched its Spotlight Compilations atop the Explore tab. They open an auto-advancing vertical reel of videos, typically around a theme like cute animal duos or skateboarding tricks.

But Instagram has also begun Spotlighting individual creators like Zach King, a video effects magician known for using seamless cuts to transmute eggs or oranges into chickens or orange juice. Instagram says King is getting five million views per day. The company also cites that Spotlighted stop-motion animator Rachel Ryle is getting hundreds of thousands of views per video.

Here’s how view counts and the hidden Like counts will work on Instagram

With the combination of its user count, engagement, and a prime promotional placement, Instagram has plenty of leverage it can use to pull in creators.

King is also huge on Vine, where his clips get around 3 million to 8 million loops each, but that’s over the course of weeks or months. He’s less popular on YouTube, where he grabs 100,000 to 200,000 views per month. If Instagram can deliver him 5 million views per day, he could become an example of why other creators should focus on Instagram too. It’s the same playbook Facebook ran to seduce celebrities to Subscribe product that competes with Twitter.

Rachel Ryle became an Instagram star through her stop-motion animations

Instagram’s strategies to seduce creators and advertisers intertwine. Influencer marketing through sponsored video content has become the hottest thing in advertising. Businesses pay a creator to come up with a fun video that features the brand and share it with their massive audience. Last year, Twitter spent what sources say was $50 million to acquire a startup called Niche that brokered these deals. [Disclosure: My cousin Darren Lachtman is one of Niche’s founders]

By growing the following of star creators on its platform through Spotlights and other promotions, Instagram could prove their content will reach a massive audience. That in turn encourages advertisers to not only pay the creators to make and share videos for them, but to pay Instagram to boost their reach by buying ad space for the creator-made clips.

Zach King’s magical videos often include brand sponsorship, like this one for Xfinity

Instagram tells me there will also be more updates coming to both the video creation and consumption experience this year. A spokesperson said there was no current plan for making its own original content, and it had nothing to share about whether Instagram would start giving star video creators a cut of its ad revenue the way its parent company Facebook does.

Hosting creators could add another reason for people to constantly come back beyond just seeing what their friends make. Amateur sunset photos and concert videos can get boring over the years. But these bedroom virtuosos are always coming up with something new to delight their fans, so they’ll keep Instagram fresh.