By Rakesh Surya
When Instagram was launched in 2010, little did its creators know that a social image-sharing app fueled by its signature square photo-format and a handful of custom filters would take the digital world by storm. Fast-forward to five years later, Instagram released an update that lets its users upload short-form videos, and later, taking a cue from the god of ephemeral content—Snapchat—launched Instagram Stories.
In June 2018, Instagram founder and former CEO Kevin Systrom shared that it was “time for video to move forward and evolve,” signaling the launch of Instagram TV, better known as IGTV. The social media giant, currently amassing one billion monthly active users, has a very sound logic for this move—people in the U.S. and across the globe are watching less TV while consuming more digital video. By 2021, mobile video is projected to account for 78% of total mobile data traffic.
That’s not all. Younger digital audiences, particularly Gen Zers, prefer imperfect-yet-genuine content from amateur creators over glossed-over videos by professionals. These new kids on the block choose authentic and relatable content over what’s popular.
IGTV was launched with promises of some much-desired benefits for users of either the standalone platform or the feature accessible directly from Instagram.
Mobile-first: The driving feature of IGTV is its mobile-first nature, meaning it is built for how a smartphone is intuitively used—vertically and full screen. Also, video length is not limited to one minute; in fact, each video can run up to an hour (currently only for verified users), making it an ideal platform for long-form content.
Simple and intuitive: Videos start playing as soon the platform is opened (just like television!), making it easier to use. Moreover, the platform is designed in such a way that anyone can become a creator and upload videos to their channels.
Curated content: IGTV focuses on creators who its users already love and follow, so they get to view videos from their favorite influencers, micro or otherwise, about topics that either inform or entertain them (think ‘Ten ways to style your athleisure-wear for brunch’ videos). Video recommendations are generated based on user interest. The platform also lets its users swipe up to discover more videos, and like’ comment on, and share videos directly with their friends.
What’s in it for Marketers?
A few months after IGTV was launched, the platform witnessed a drop in its user and creator numbers, with many big names choosing to return to their digital video-roots—YouTube. Here’s why:
IGTV videos lack text search-based discoverability. Unless users are already following a brand, the chances of them stumbling upon their IGTV videos are slim, despite the ‘related videos’ feature. Another reason was the high investments required to produce quality long-form branded social videos.
Things took a positive turn in early 2019, when Instagram announced that verified content creators could share previews—one-minute highlight videos of their content—on their Instagram feeds. This feature improved discoverability, giving brands the chance to capture their followers’ attention.
Kylie Jenner uses her own face to market her brands. She promotes them not just on their official channels, but also on her personal account, which boasts a whopping 140 million followers. So far, she has leveraged IGTV to share her personal daily skin care routine using her new brand ‘Kylie Skin’, and constantly shares short ‘Get Ready with Me’ videos using her new makeup collections. Her social media strategy has helped her cut through the highly saturated cosmetics industry and engage with her core audience groups—younger Millennial and Gen Z women.
Making the Most out of IGTV
Whether your brand is heavy on Instagram Stories or not, IGTV is a realistic step-up for organic long-form content that is the base for deeper and more engaging storytelling.
- Experiment with short, mid-length, and long videos, Q&A, product descriptions, and even tutorial formats to build stronger connections with your audience.
- Repurpose your Facebook and/or YouTube videos by publishing them on your branded IGTV channel to get in front of a captive Instagram community.
- Collaborate with relevant influencers, leveraging their creativity and follower base to create engaging videos that soft-sell your brand.
Meredith launched 20 IGTV shows across 13 brands, including a beauty edit for Real Simple and a cooking edit for EatingWell. With nearly 200 videos on IGTV, Meredith has garnered 40 million total views and an average of 200,000+ views per episode.
What’s Next for IGTV?
Having entered the long-form video space thirteen years after YouTube, those at Instagram’s HQ have their work cut out for them. Luckily, they aren’t too worried about the slow traction. Former Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has said, “It’s a new format. It’s different. We have to wait for people to adopt it and that takes time.”
Currently, IGTV is an ad-free platform, with no direct monetization options for advertisers, agencies, and brands. Creators and influencers can breathe easy, though, as IGTV provides a huge boost for native and sponsored content. In fact, Activate, an influencer marketing company, released support for IGTV within its platform last August.
Besides being a great avenue for influencer marketing, IGTV videos can be supplemented with shoppable links and other touchpoints that are of interest to brands.
In April 2019, Instagram dropped hints that it was exploring ways to support IGTV content creators, mostly through ad programs. IGTV is also considering ad breaks, like the ones that appear in Watch, where publishers and creators split ad revenue from commercials in a pre-defined ratio.
A look at both Facebook and Instagram’s histories may reveal more. Display and in-app ads on Facebook and Instagram, respectively, are now the norm. Instagram Stories rolled out, quickly followed by Stories ads. Facebook Watch was launched, and ad breaks in Watch videos were introduced. Facebook’s standalone app, Messenger, soon featured Messenger ads. There is no reason why IGTV won’t follow suit.
Is the future bright for IGTV? Or will it become the next Google+?
I believe IGTV is a force to be reckoned with, despite its delayed entry into the long-form video format. Its glorification of vertical video, a strong and engaged user-base, and the creative, collaborative space it offers can open many doors for advertisers to boost awareness, engagement, and sales. One just needs to be patient with the platform. After all, it was the tortoise that eventually won the race, not the hare.