By now, you’ve probably heard of IGTV.
Instagram’s answer to YouTube hasn’t quite gone viral just yet, but IGTV presents another opportunity for brands to engage, educate, and entertain their audience.
In this article, I’m going to go over some of the reasons why you may want to start fine-tuning your strategy before everyone else joins the party.
What You’ll Learn:
- What IGTV is
- How it compares to YouTube
- The drawbacks of IGTV for marketing
- How brands can effectively use it for marketing
- How to promote your videos
- Best practices for marketers
- How to tell if IGTV is right for your brand
What is IGTV?
IGTV, formally known as Instagram TV, is the newest video format from Instagram.
Short for Instagram TV, it’s an app that can be used as a standalone platform, or as an extension of the “regular” Instagram app, much like Facebook’s relationship to Facebook Messenger.
At a glance, IGTV looks similar to Instagram Stories. However, once you get into it, you’ll quickly realize that the two channels are actually quite different.
The platform allows creators to upload long-form content to their own channels. Like YouTube, video content is typically several minutes long and doesn’t disappear unless you delete it.
Launched in June 2018, IGTV lives inside Instagram, but also has its very own, standalone app. It allows brands and Instagram users to create their own channels, where they can upload and store videos for their followers.
Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, likens the new feature to “flipping channels on a TV.” Though, as it stands, the platform doesn’t support ads and you can engage with content—liking, sharing, and commenting just like any standard Instagram post.
Brands, influencers, and individuals can use the platform to create their own channels and upload videos. And while the emphasis is on “long form,” there are some restrictions when it comes to video length.
Anyone can create an IGTV video up to 10 minutes long–a considerable upgrade from the one-minute Stories limit. Verified users with 10,0000+ Instagram followers gain additional posting privileges, including a 60-minute time limit on videos.
Users can access IGTV with a personal or a business Instagram account either on Instagram or the IGTV app. On Instagram, simply tap the IGTV icon in the top right corner of the screen.
While originally users were able to choose from “For You,” “Following,” “Popular,” or “History” categories, Instagram has since done upgraded to a no-categories interface with a single feed.
What you see in your specific feed is largely up to the Instagram algorithm. It surfaces content based on who you follow and interests it’s picked up on.
Who Can See Your Videos?
The answer depends on your privacy settings.
Is IGTV Better Than YouTube?
Using IGTV presents a few advantages over using YouTube.
For one, you’re not dealing with commercials. And two, its designed for smartphones, with its vertical design, perfectly optimized for easy viewing.
And finally, IGTV comes with a built-in audience for those brands that have been able to grow an audience on Instagram.
Ultimately, though, asking whether it’s better than YouTube isn’t exactly the best way to think about it. Sure, the two apps are bound to compete, if IGTV gains some traction down the line.
It’s best to think of IGTV videos as something in-between Instagram or Facebook Stories and full-blown YouTube videos.
They likely won’t be as sophisticated and polished as a YouTube video, but less raw than a Story. Shorter than YouTube, but longer than a Story.
In most cases, you’ll want to use the two together to gain as much traction for your video as possible across both platforms.
As of now, IGTV hasn’t proven to be a huge rival to YouTube. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for it in your marketing strategy.
Lately, YouTube has begun putting a larger emphasis on the production quality of the videos it features and includes in its Google Preferred ad-buying program.
This means that IGTV, like Stories, is being used more and more as a place to post lower quality, on-the-go or in-the-moment videos. Unlike Stories, creators have a longer run time to play with, meaning that they can upload full, You-Tube worthy videos without the extensive editing process often required on YouTube.
Due to its rawer approach, many feel that IGTV offers a more personal, real-time experience, which can be a major benefit to brands looking to increase their authenticity.
According to a recent Digiday article, it’s also becoming a place for influencers and creators to test out and experiment with content they wouldn’t normally post on YouTube.
So, again, this isn’t really a case of either/or. Instead, it makes most sense for brands to think about how the channels complement each other, and the kinds of content they can produce to best suit each channel.
Should Your Brand Have an IGTV Marketing Strategy?
The fact that IGTV isn’t blowing up as expected may be one of the main reasons that brands shy away from investing time and energy into creating a dedicated marketing strategy.
Sure, a year in, IGTV has yet to produce any viral hits. But let me be clear, while the potential is certainly there, it doesn’t make sense to think about it as, say, a Netflix for mobile.
Instead, IGTV is more an extension of Instagram Stories or an alternative to YouTube (or the channel that bridges the gap). It’s one more place where brands can share educational and entertaining content. The goal (at least for now) isn’t really about creating viral memes or producing a full-fledged web series.
It’s also important to note that because it’s is linked to Instagram-proper, creators have a built-in audience.
Though Instagram began as a photo-driven channel, video is fast becoming the platform’s most popular format. In fact, there’s been an 80% increase year-over-year for videos, with the number of videos created each day now four times what it was in 2017.
That said, IGTV comes with challenges that extend beyond its growing pains—and those considering the platform as another engagement channel should be aware of the challenges they might face.
The biggest barrier right now remains the element of the unknown it presents.
What’s the return?
What kind of content works?
Are audiences even watching?
Because there’s not yet a clear formula to follow or emulate, many are hesitant to make the leap.
But be aware, brands are watching and waiting for an opportunity.
Here are a few examples of where IGTV falls short:
Lack of Monetization Options
IGTV doesn’t offer much in terms of a direct path toward monetization.
There are no ads available at this time, meaning it’s more of an awareness and resource channel rather than another revenue stream.
What will likely happen is Instagram will end up introducing ads after it starts to gain traction and they have a better idea of how traffic moves through the app.
One of the reasons that IGTV is experiencing slow uptake is that there’s little incentive in place for top influencers.
If Instagram plans to truly compete with YouTube, it will need to do more to attract its audience and the stars that keep them coming back.
For traditional brands, a lack of monetization options might not be a deal-breaker, but without buy-in from celebrities and influencers, the platform itself may not see the quality of content posted elsewhere—as developing high-level, long-form content takes time, energy, and money.
Search Functionality Isn’t Quite There Yet
IGTV videos are shown to users based on who they follow, what’s trending, and that person’s interests. While it’s made to work in a way that is similar to turning on the TV, it’s not exactly user-friendly.
The app does come with a search bar, but it only presents a list of profiles, not videos.
And, you can’t search for content by subject matter or title. This makes the whole concept of content discovery a real challenge; users can’t easily watch random videos on a topic they’re interested in and creators may have trouble getting viewers.
In February, Instagram released an update to the feature which allows creators to include one-minute previews in their Instagram feed, which gave viewership a significant boost.
How Brands Can Use IGTV for Marketing
While IGTV is making a bid for YouTube’s crown, it occupies a unique space within the social media landscape.
“IGTV is a content format that can extend and amplify and add further engagement from an existing campaign. Longer-form video is still based around YouTube, and IGTV is becoming a more important spoke to that wheel,” Activate’s McGrath said.
There’s an important takeaway here: IGTV is better when it works with other channels like Instagram and Facebook. Those brands finding success on the platform are leveraging their reach on other platforms to build a following for their channel.
And, because it hasn’t yet broken into mainstream marketing, it represents a big opportunity for brands willing to break new ground. This means, for now, brands that do incorporate the feature into their marketing strategies have a chance to get ahead of the game.
Here are a few ways marketers can incorporate IGTV into their strategy.
Use It As an Extension of Your Influencer Marketing Strategy
Though IGTV might not be the best platform for influencers, brands can benefit from working it into their influencer marketing strategy.
One of the more obvious reasons to give this a shot is that influencers can help with the distribution issues associated with the platform. Just keep in mind, your influencer efforts should center around awareness (top of the funnel, lighter fare) rather than driving conversions.
Look toward Netflix as an example. The streaming service enlisted the help of actor Cole Sprouse.
— Netflix US (@netflix) May 15, 2017
And the audience ate it up (no pun intended), with the video racking up over a million views.
While this may fit into the “weird” category, the brand chose to do something outside of the box, instead of trying to push more people toward subscribing to the service.
Create Product Hacks and How-To’s
One of the best ways to use video marketing is to give people an up-close and personal view of how your products work or how they look “in action.”
This is a departure from your old-school product demo. Instead, IGTV is the perfect place to show off hacks, new ideas, or DIYs associated with your products.
A good example here is J.Crew. While you might think of how-tos and demos as more of a crafting, cooking, or home improvement game, the fashion brand used the platform as a way to show users how they could style one dress three different ways.
Like Instagram, IGTV does seem to be naturally suited to a few choice niches–fashion, beauty, food, and anything that might fall under the lifestyle umbrella.
And while that might be true, technical industries shouldn’t shy away from the channel just because they’re not the next Kylie Cosmetics or Everlane.
Where Instagram has long been the domain for beauty brands and colorful smoothie bowls, B2B brands can benefit from the platform, too.
For example, take a look at this email from Drift highlighting a few little-known services their product provides.
Instead of relying just on email, they could produce a short video explaining how to set up and use some of these features.
Of course, it would need a catchy name and some intriguing graphics to go along with it, but it just goes to show that with a little creativity, you can translate many of your existing marketing materials into video format.
Showcase Long-Form Content
One way you might want to look at IGTV is as a way to share long-form content like podcasts and webinars.
Unlike Instagram Stories, where the videos you post are brief and ephemeral, IGTV allows you to take a deeper dive into your subject matter and really share your knowledge with your audience.
Take, for example, online entrepreneur James Wedmore, who posts his podcasts directly to the platform. Often, Wedmore posts a still graphic on the channel to promote the audio-only format, proving that you don’t necessarily have to shoot a bunch of footage to take advantage of the channel.
It doesn’t need to be a podcast. Look toward other pieces of long-form content – a blog post or white paper, for example – that would translate well to video.
This is a strategy I’ve talked about for Instagram Stories, but instead of chopping the content up into shorter sections, you can record and upload an entire video.
National Geographic – who kills it on Instagram – used IGTV to broadcast the finale of their show “One Strange Rock.”
The network took its TV broadcast and re-formatted it as a vertical video. And though many brands might not have their own TV shows, they likely have some type of long-form content that can be repurposed for IGTV.
Promoting Your Channel May Be a Challenge
It’s harder to optimize your content for increased visibility on IGTV than it is on other social platforms.
As such, marketers need to build promotion into their strategy, directing users to their channel. Link to your videos from your website, newsletters, blog, and other socials.
Brands may want to take a note from Nash Grier’s playbook. The social media influencer extraordinaire used his Twitter status to direct followers to his IGTV video.
You can also share previews in your Instagram feed or on Facebook to reach more of your audience.
Another idea is to share your video directly to Stories, so it takes up homepage real estate.
To do so, open up the video on IGTV and tap the send arrow. Then, tap “add to your Story.”
If you’d like, you can add in any filters, text, etc. Then tap Send to > Your Story > Share.
Best Practices for Marketers
Developing content exclusively for IGTV is yet another way to increase your brand’s reach and grow a loyal fan base. People watch tons of video, which is something we’ve said a million times and have read a million more.
When you look at the slow growth of the platform, it’s reasonable to think, “is this really the best channel to invest both my time and my marketing resources?” And it may not be, particularly if you don’t have the time to go “all in.”
If you’re considering making a splash on IGTV, here are some best practices that should be included in your strategy, no matter what kind of business you’re in.
The Instagram aesthetic is no joke, and IGTV should be treated as an extension of your IG feed’s look and feel.
Make sure any video you post represents your brand and appeals to your target audience. The idea here is that your viewers can instantly recognize your brand when they browse through the different channels on the platform.
Take a look at this example from The Lily News. The aesthetic stays consistent throughout their videos, making them easily recognizable as a user scrolls through their feed.
Optimize Titles and Descriptions
Unlike Stories, IGTV videos can include titles and descriptions.
So, make like you’re optimizing for SEO and use these to your advantage. Be sure to include descriptive keywords that help users find videos via search and best represent what users can expect from your content.
Choose Thumbnails Wisely
Similar to YouTube, IGTV videos come with thumbnail cover images. If you don’t choose one yourself, Instagram will pick a default image for you, but you’ll likely want to select an option that will optimize the number of views you receive.
Best practices here include selecting a clear shot, including a person in your photograph, using bright colors, and incorporating branding elements. Thumbnails are a lot like the cover of a book, people make a snap judgment before deciding whether it’s worth their time.
Cross-Promote Like Crazy
Remember, IGTV should be integrated into your overall marketing strategy, which means placing your video and cross-promoting it across social channels, in your email marketing campaigns, and so on.
As I’ve mentioned, search and discovery isn’t super straightforward and you may need to invest some time upfront in hyping up your channel.
Front Load Important Information
Back to this idea of creating a one-minute preview. Because the search functionality is, well, complicated, brands need to use this capability as a hook.
Try to capture viewers’ attention within the first 10 or 15 seconds, enticing them to swipe through for the full video.
Within the first minute, try to answer the following questions:
- What is the video about?
- Who is it for?
- Why should anyone watch it?
The idea here is similar to message match in PPC. You need to convince people to go to that second location, but also, you need to make sure that what happens on the other side of the click matches the expectations laid out in the preview. Otherwise, you risk frustrating viewers and losing followers.
Create Video that Works Without Sound
As I’ve brought up in another post about Facebook ads, any video content you post should work with or without sound.
How to Know if IGTV is Right for Your Brand
IGTV is a unique platform in that it doesn’t demand the level of polish you might find with a YouTube video, but you have more room to create informative content or episodic videos that present more opportunities for engaging with your audience.
As we’ve seen in some of the examples above, if out-of-the-box or quirky branding is up your alley, this could be a great place to let that freak flag fly, so to speak.
Or, if you’ve had previous success with Instagram – and especially Instagram Stories –it should be relatively easy to move some of that success over to IGTV.
Beyond that, if your brand has an effective video strategy, it should be relatively easy to make room in your content calendar for posting on one more channel.
If your brand isn’t leading the charge on Instagram or you’re still getting your feet wet with video in general, you may want to start slowly and get comfortable with posts and Stories before jumping into the longer video format.
Those that do decide to give it a try should keep the golden rule of marketing in mind: you need to create something of value to your audience.
Consider what types of content have worked well in the past, and jot down some ideas for creating content that fits in with the format.
Though it hasn’t yet received the engagement numbers the platform was anticipating, the channel offers brands an opportunity to engage with their audience, in a personal, engaging manner.
While it’s up to you to decide whether IGTV is worth the effort, there’s no doubt the platform has a whole lot of potential. Whether it ends up eclipsing YouTube or not, the promise is there–we’ll just have to wait and see what’s next for IGTV and its social channel surfing concept.
IGTV represents an opportunity for brands.
Though it hasn’t experienced the extreme popularity as other Instagram features, it’s likely only a matter of time before more marketers jump on the bandwagon.