Mike Isaac

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In the Instagram Vs. Vine War for Social Video, We Still Don’t Know Who’s Winning

Topsy-Pro-Instagram-VineEveryone loves a battle royale.

And in one fell swoop of video announcements last week, we’ve all watched and waited to see Facebook’s Instagram and Twitter’s Vine go to the mattresses. Will Vid-stagram kill Twitter’s video baby? Can the underdog Vine still grow after the 130-million-user behemoth Instagram lumbers into video sharing?

It looked like we had a first snapshot of who was winning the war this week. Technology site Marketing Land published what seemed like a damning graph, detailing the decline of Vine.co links shared to Twitter.com neatly dovetailing with the release of Instagram for video:

TopsyFreeVineInstagram

Here’s the problem: That graph is flawed in more ways than one, and Topsy, the analytics company behind the data, has hinted that Marketing Land’s chart isn’t the ideal way to measure the two services’ video-sharing success.

Marketing Land used Topsy’s free search tool to estimate how many links were tweeted from each service. But as Topsy wrote in a blog post on Friday evening, the free tool isn’t a fully representative depiction of all tweets being shared.

“While both products show trends in social conversation,” the blog post said, “the free Topsy service provides just a subset of the analysis available in Topsy Pro.” Here’s the key phrase: “The free Topsy service generates trend charts using a sample of the most influential people and tweets” (italics mine). The company’s paid product Topsy Pro, however, “counts all tweets and all people, both influential and less so.”

So basically, Marketing Land’s initial measurement method was flawed, insofar as the author’s graph only showed tweets and influential people, while presenting it as a representation of Twitter links as a whole.

To the site’s credit, another author (Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land’s founder) who did not write the original story did a follow-up post at 11:30 pm last night, noting that indeed the metrics for the first post weren’t an exact representation of overall sharing trends. The most important thing here is the latest graph Topsy shared, which was measured with the paid, Pro tool and over a much longer period of time (six months vs. the one week slice in the first story).

Topsy-Pro-Instagram-Vine

That chart tells us a few things. First, the activity on Instagram is so erratic and spiky, it’s nigh impossible to attribute any significant gains to the release of video on the service. Second, Vine does indeed have a large dip sometime in June, but again, there’s no direct way of attributing that to the release of Instagram video. Any sort of meaningful data, again, hasn’t come from the short slices we’ve seen in the week and a half since Instagram video was released. At least, not using Topsy.

But something else is bothering me here. Instagram was always “ahead” of Vine, just by the mere fact that A) it’s easily ten times Vine’s size and B) there’s tens of millions of photos being shared on a daily basis. Essentially, we can’t pull out the direct video sharing numbers from each service, and doing an apples-to-apples comparison isn’t really accurate because one is a photo-and-video-sharing service, and the other exclusively a video-sharing service. And for the moment, at least, we aren’t seeing a spike in raw Instagram activity at the expense of Vine sharing.

I’m not saying Vine shouldn’t be worried. Instagram flipping the video switch gives it instant scale, a terrifying prospect for the fledgling Vine. Facebook did say that users uploaded quite a bit of video in the first 24 hours after release. Not to mention you don’t need to download another app to use video on Instagram.

And it is entirely possible that some key Vine users — the most popular people using the service — may have stopped using Vine for a bit, potentially explaining the first graph’s dip. That wouldn’t be good news for Twitter and Vine, both services that rely on the most popular users and celebrities to drum up fun, engaging content in order to rile up the rest of the community.

Here’s my point: From the data available, we just don’t know who’s “winning” quite yet. And as both Topsy and Search Engine Land both said: “Only time will tell.”


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