Technology News

First there was Facebook and its lengthy status updates. Then came Twitter, limiting communication to 140 characters or less. Next, the rage was Instagram and its filtered photo-sharing. Now, video apps have entered the social-networking fray, and quicker than you can tweet a hashtag, they’ve been anointed the Next Big Thing.

The two biggest players in the video-app world, for the moment at least, are Vine and Instagram Video. Both offer a ready-made mix of YouTube and Twitter—videos limited in length that can be shared easily with others across a social network. Here, we provide the lowdown on how they can be used to enhance marketing and engagement strategies at meetings and events, with powerful results.

Instagram Video vs. Vine

In many ways, Instagram Video and Vine are very similar. The videos for both can be shared on social-networking sites, with hashtags or categories used to filter content. Both are available for Apple and Android devices. And both offer the chance to accompany the video with short text captions.

But there are also key distinctions to consider when making a decision on which to use. The main difference is the length of the videos: Vine allows for videos that are six seconds or shorter, while Instagram Video permits a maximum length of 15 seconds. Each offers unique advantages as well. Instagram Video, for instance, has a “Cinema” feature that helps eliminate shakiness, a service Vine lacks (as of press time). And Instagram photo filters can be added to Instagram videos, improving the look of the content. On the other hand, Vine is a bit easier to use—recording starts when any part of the touch screen is tapped, a much simpler process than with Instagram Video, which requires switching to video, holding down the record button, accepting a filter, choosing a photo cover and then sharing.

What’s best for meetings? Again, it depends.

Vine’s brevity and simplicity make it ideally suited to engagement during events; it won’t be difficult for attendees to share videos with it, and those videos won’t go on longer than needed. “I believe that Vine is great to capture impressions at an event—it is the perfect development of still images,” says Michael Heipel, who leads marketing and event management for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and advises international trade show and conference clients on social media.

For marketing, Instagram is probably the better choice, because it allows for longer and more professional-looking content. “When it comes to pre-show marketing, 15-second Instagram videos provide more substantial information and great video quality, even with an iPhone camera,” Heipel says.

It’s important to remember that there are other video services as well. One option specifically geared toward professional settings is Tout, which the company’s director of partner development, Gardner Loulan, describes as “Instagram and Vine’s older brother: perhaps less cute, maybe less artistic, but certainly more practical, professional and lucrative.” For example, users can add a Tout widget to their corporate or event website that showcases uploaded videos in real time. For marketing and monetization purposes, the widget can be customized with corporate branding and sponsor videos can be automatically added to the feed. An analytics dashboard allows users to track where the videos are being published and viewed the most. And the company can ship physical digital-video kiosks to events that display the video content in real time. The service’s revenue-minded approach has made it the preferred option at conferences including PCMA’s Convening Leaders and South by Southwest.

Join the Revolution

No matter which service you select, there are several ways video apps can be used to enhance the event experience. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Always market your meeting: Before the event gets started, use videos to generate interest in attendance. Have your keynote speaker talk about why attendees should come to the meeting; show a video of the event venue or a cool offsite space; or showcase some of the haute cuisine that will be available. The sky’s the limit: Be creative, and make it look like not participating in the event would mean missing something special.

It can also be helpful to use videos to prepare attendees for the event. The George Washington University, for instance, used Vine to share three tips to get ready for its 2013 Spring Fair.

  • Engage attendees: Once the event starts, encourage attendees to create videos tagged with the event hashtag, an easy way to share content from sessions, networking breakouts, food breaks and more. You can also share all the videos on a big screen located on the trade-show floor or somewhere else offering maximum exposure. To incentivize the process, consider awarding prizes to those who post the most or best videos throughout an event.
  • Attract visitors to exhibit booths & speaker sessions: Exhibitors at trade shows can use videos to tease what’s happening at their trade-show booth, luring people over to network and purchase products. Speakers can also use the service to generate excitement for their upcoming sessions by posting a video that, for instance, hints at the content or details how to get to the session.

No matter how you integrate videos, be smart about how you capture content, and encourage attendees to do the same. Rule No. 1: Don’t try to cram lots of information into one video. Decide on the theme of the video—a great speaker quip, for instance, or the decadence of the dessert table—and don’t veer from that very simple purpose. It’s also smart to add a little humor to the mix, a la Twitter.

True, there are an overwhelming number of social-networking sites already out there. But embracing video apps will put you on the cutting edge of the industry—and with the right approach, you could have a lot of fun with it, too.

“When it comes to trade shows and events, video apps don’t replace standard video produced by professionals,” says Heipel. “But they do add authenticity to the mix. Planners need to take them into account when creating their social-content strategy.”