A new app adds GIFs to Instagram's list of video offerings for advertisers. Creating content that's inherently shareable is one way marketers can use it successfully.

Instagram launched a new app last week that adds GIFs to its growing video repertoire.

Boomerang falls somewhere in between a photo and a GIF. When you push a button, the app takes a burst of pictures and stitches them together, creating a one-second mini video that plays both forward and backwards, in either landscape or portrait.

"It's about engagement and creativity and the visual experience," says Joe Cecin, president and chief operating officer of Nervve Technologies. "Anything that enhances that, I think will make [Instagram] a more powerful platform. Clearly, having an animated GIF or a one-second video is more engaging than a static image."

Other than increasing engagement, how else can Boomerang enhance the experience for Instagram advertisers? Here are a few ways:



1. Popularity

GIFs are all the rage and though Boomerang videos aren't technically GIFs, they're close enough to fall under that umbrella. Over the last few months, Facebook has rolled out GIF ads, while Tumblr has made them searchable.

According to David McIntosh, chief executive (CEO) of Riffsy, Instagram's latest offering demonstrates the growing shift toward more visual forms of communication, a trend that started with emoji.

"The most used word [on smartphones] in 2014 wasn't even a word; it was the heart emoji," says McIntosh. "Language is becoming more visual and more expressive. One reason is that now, there's a critical mass of network speed on carriers, so it's fast enough to be able to send GIFs, videos and photos."

Emoji has become such a staple of text messages that even your mom is using them. (My mom favors the face with the heart eyes, (Read more...) the one with the big grin and blushing cheeks.)

McIntosh believes GIFs could potentially serve the same function on just as broad of a scale.

"What's great about a GIF is that it feels so native. For an advertiser, it's an opportunity to build a native mobile experience that's fundamentally shareable," he says. "You can actually get people to take these sponsored GIFs and use them as their language in the most intimate places possible."

2. Simplicity

Boomerang is remarkably simple and user-friendly, which will probably makes Instagram more appealing to the small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) that don't always have the resources to fully master social media. According to an Australian survey from May, 57 percent of SMB have no idea whether they've recovered investment in social, which leads many to stop bothering.

"If something is complicated, big brands will figure it out. They'll pay someone a lot of money to figure it out for them," says Cecin. "But if you create the capability to create interactive content quickly and make it easy to share, I think it becomes more broadly adopted."

Appealing to SMB is something of a pattern for Instagram. Last week, the platform even launched a new account that exists to give marketers ideas for how to use it.

"It's almost like [Instagram is] leading the horse to water," says Cicen. "Clearly, it's trying to improve the way brands engage the user base, so that's pretty smart on its part."

By making Boomerang easy to use, Instagram can appeal to a greater cross-section of potential advertisers.

3. Shareability

Quick videos are inherently shareable. As a result, Boomerang may give marketers the opportunity to extend their reach in a way they maybe couldn't with traditional static photos.

"From an advertiser's standpoint, this has clear benefits, as fun, interactive and snackable content is more easily consumed by smartphone-obsessed digital consumers who, in turn, are more likely to interact with brands that can find a smart way to integrate their ad messages into such formats," says Shaul Olmert, co-founder and chief executive of Playbuzz.

Because this kind of content is more likely to be shared, advertisers should always keep that in mind when using Boomerang.

Even though the videos are just one second long, that's still one second of branding. Figure out how to incorporate a strategically-placed logo in there somewhere. After all, there's no way to predict what's going to go viral.

4. Standing up to Snapchat

Boomerang has the potential to improve the Instagram advertising experience not only for marketers, but Instagram itself. While the two platforms are too different to seem like competitors, Snapchat is by far Instagram's biggest rival when it comes to being considered the social network among young people.

Snapchat is kind of the flavor of the week at the moment. From an advertising perspective, it has a fun interactive element, which Olmert believes Boomerang gives Instagram.  

"Snapchat has gained a lot of attention from brands and marketers because it's ad options are both exclusive and interactive, befitting the nature of how people use Snapchat," says Olmert. "Instagram needs to create a similar ecosystem for advertisers, giving them the ability to engage and interact with consumers in the way that people consume media today: via bite-size content formats that are easily sharable and fun to interact with."

In a recent survey, Refuel Agency found that behind YouTube and Facebook, Instagram is the app where teens spend the most time. But barely - Snapchat is right on its heels, with the luxury of being the fastest-growing platform.


While Snapchat's popularity is gaining on Instagram's among teens, could Boomerang ensure the same doesn't happen among advertisers?

Only time will tell, though the simplicity mentioned above is one thing Instagram has going for it. Snapchat remains a mystery to many marketers.


Imagery is increasingly replacing text as people's go-to form of communication. Just think about how excited people were to upgrade iOS last week to get the taco, unicorn and middle finger emojis.

GIFs could potentially be the next emoji and Boomerang allows you to create them, with the same level of difficulty as taking a picture. Get in on the ground floor and start using them. In addition to being more engaging and visually interesting than static images, they come with an inherent shareability that increases the reach of your content.

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