Getting to Know IGTV, Instagram’s Long-Form Video Protegè

Mackenzie Maher
By Mackenzie Maher

Yep, the platform that already dominates the visual realm of social media has decided to expand its reign with the introduction of IGTV in June of this year. Prior to this launch, Instagram was no stranger to video: over the last few years it has rolled out Instagram Live, Stories, and video posts that all allowed users to share and view this engaging media format. All of these features, however, have their limitations, and one of the biggest limitations–one that IGTV has much more freedom from–is the constraint of time.

The new offering is a place for vertical, long form videos, accessible within the native Instagram app as well as a standalone IGTV app (we’ve heard some rumors that this option won’t last much longer).

So, why did Instagram roll out this new feature? Well, if you haven’t heard the news by now, let us update you in four brief words: video content is king. The numbers continue to prove this month over month, and brands are responding to the reports. But not just any video–it’s the rise of mobile video that truly has marketers scrambling. Take a look at what YouTube did. Its usage has skyrocketed and now teens are turning to their phones rather than their living room set to get their fix of screen time. Case in point: the demographic spends approximately 40% less time watching TV. This leaves ample opportunity for an influential media service like–oh, I don’t know, Instagram for example– to swoop in and fill that void. Hence the birth of IGTV: it’s the platform’s way of upending the traditional TV experience and making it relevant in the world of mobile.

With the consumption of mobile video only expected to increase over time (analysts predict mobile video will comprise nearly 80% of all mobile traffic data by 2018), it’s no wonder Instagram made its foray into this world and even less of a wonder why everyone has their eyes on how IGTV will fare in the next months.

It’s hard to tell if IGTV is just the flavor of the month or the next big thing, but we’re along for the ride and enthusiastically tracking its reception by the social media world. In the meantime, let’s dive into what you need to know about it so you can decide for yourself

What It Is

By now, we’ve established that IGTV is a social platform that is an extension of its big brother, Instagram, and it’s used to share and view videos. But how is it different than what Instagram already offers, or other video platforms?

One big difference is the length and duration of availability. IGTV encourages long-form video (they can be up to an hour long), and the video doesn’t disappear after one day like Stories do. (Instagram has hinted that they will eventually remove the time maximum altogether). The idea here, we believe, is that with a longer shelf life the quality of video will likely increase.

Social Media Content Calendar

Another differentiator is that the videos display in full screen, vertical format, rather than in a square within your phone’s screen. With everyone already trained in vertical format video if they’ve ever recorded an Instagram Story, this requirement is much less jarring than one might assume.

The functionality of IGTV deviates from most of what we’ve seen before, too. In most platforms, you’re required to search for something before you get to view it. With IGTV, as soon as you open the app, it starts to play. Instagram curates videos for you based on your interests and who you follow, and you can also watch trending videos on the “popular” channel! You can still search for content within the app, but its not required to find something first before it begins sharing video with viewers.

One feature in particular that has been well received by users is the ability to pick up where you left off–similar to how if you return to an episode you were watching on Netflix but exited from, IGTV will begin any video you’ve already watched right where you paused it.  As for how and where to view, its up to you whether you want to watch them in the actual IGTV app or within Instagram itself–both are options. You can also check out the latest content from an account by tapping on the IGTV button on it’s profile. Something to keep in mind: every channel on IGTV is tied to an existing Instagram account, so anyone who follows you will also be able to view your content on IGTV. Likewise, if somebody you follow posts something new to IGTV, you’ll be notified within Instagram’s app.

TL; DR? Don’t worry. Here’s a quick recap:

  • IGTV was created by Instagram as a platform purely for video content.
  • It links to an Instagram account and users create a ‘channel’ on IGTV to share videos.
  • Videos are all vertical and full screen.
  • Video length can be anything from 15 seconds to 60 minutes – you need a certain amount of followers to share an hour long video though. Smaller accounts are typically limited to 10 minutes.
  • You can still feature call to action, swipe up buttons like in Instagram stories.
  • Viewers can watch IGTV videos from Instagram or the IGTV app.
  • Videos play automatically as soon as you open up IGTV and continue playing through every channel that has uploaded.
  • You can view video content by the accounts you are following or explore trending IGTV videos.
  • Users can like or comment on videos and send them to friends via direct message on Instagram.
  • Videos can be uploaded through the IGTV app or the web browser.
  • Instagram actually published a very detailed 50-page official how-to guide that gets into the nitty gritty of using IGTV. You can download it here.

Who Should Use It

As we’ve emphasized in plenty of social media blog posts, not every platform is right for every brand. Some make more sense than others depending on who you are and who your audience is, and it’s definitely not necessary to have a presence on all of them.

So, should your brand use IGTV? There are certainly benefits to this new vertical and if it makes sense within your overarching social marketing strategy then it might be worth considering for your business. Just look at how much Instagram Stories did for brands. If your brand has already had success with it’s video strategy on other platforms, all the better. You can test the waters on IGTV by repurposing existing content and see how receptive your followers are to longer-form videos. At the end of the day, IGTV has the potential for great opportunity if a brand executes it the right way.

In terms of the biggest benefits, we have to call out the audience first. IGTV is a new channel; that means a whole new audience that you’ve been given the ability to reach. Millions of eyes that you can get your content in front of. More eyes, more awareness, more profile views, more website views…you get the picture.

Next up is length. With most of our preferred platforms having serious time limitations, the flexibility of IGTV offers up a realm of new possibilities. Longer viewing times mean you can really bolster the impact of your bigger campaigns and artfully craft a message and content that doesn’t feel rushed. Now, brands can tell a real story through video, and in turn, build stronger, more meaningful connections with their audiences, because they aren’t trying to push a sale or product within a 10 second clip.

Before you jump right to the place where most marketers might go–oh, this will be a great place for ads–let us stop you. IGTV is not a platform that offers advertising to publishers. They are building a place for authentic creativity, engaging video content, and genuine connections. Not every brand will have the time or resources to make this happen, but if brand awareness and social visibility are priorities within your social strategies, it wouldn’t hurt to test the water here a bit.

With the vertical format feature, IGTV hopes to host content that is authentic and raw–videos that haven’t gone through rounds of expensive editing programs to achieve a certain look. Sure, there are ways around this and it’s not a hard and fast rule by any means. You can edit any content your share to your heart’s desire, but if you want to get on board with the essence of the platform, you should consider relinquishing some of your Type A content tendencies.

What to Use it For

With video content, there really are so many fun and creative ways to promote your specific campaign strategies, and with this new long-form platform, it opens your brand up to even more possibilities. So far, we’ve seen brands like Netflix, Warby Parker, Bacardi, and West Elm use IGTV to create content around a number of different initiatives, so if you’re looking to explore this medium and need some inspiration we’ve got you covered. Consider using IGTV for:

  • Interviews or Q&As
  • Product demos, tutorials or how tos
  • Sharing an ad from your latest sale campaign
  • Repurposing blog content
  • Introductions to a new brand or product
  • Product launch
  • Behind the scenes looks
  • Recurring video features, segments or vlogs
  • Webinars
  • Weekly Podcasts
  • Recipe testing
  • Workout routines
  • Testimonials or Reviews
  • Tips and Tricks
  • News commentary

See what we mean? You can do so much here. But remember, you don’t have to do it all. It’s up to you to take the best parts of your brand and develop it into content that will resonate with your audience.

More than ever, as brands and consumers, we’re being gifted with platforms that allow us to exercise our creativity and consume content in new and innovative ways. IGTV is no exception and even in its infant stages it’s already shown so much promise. Will your brand answer the call of long form video as part of your social strategy? There’s no better time to start than now!

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As a Social Media Account Manager, Mackenzie works to develop dynamic strategies and creative content that will help clients grow their organic social presence. With a strong background in writing and marketing, and an eye for design, her role at PDM allows her to flex her strongest muscles and indulge her outside-the-box thinking. Equally happy when creating a witty caption as she is mocking up a new visual concept, the San Diego local and UC Santa Barbara graduate treats every day as a new opportunity to achieve marketing greatness.