IGTV Is One Year Old. Should You Care?Emma Gallimore 06.18.2019
Instagram launched their longer-form video sharing platform, IGTV, a year ago with promises that it would become the next generation of video. It didn’t take long for users and brands alike to notice that the reality didn’t quite match the hype.
Today, new functionality and better integration mean IGTV might finally become a force to be reckoned with in the video sharing world. Here’s what brands need to know about this still-developing platform.
What Is IGTV?
Instagram TV shortened to IGTV is a social media video platform created by Instagram. With more than 1 billion users, Instagram seemed well-positioned to create a successful video sharing app. Their vision was simple. Let current IGTV users access long-form video via the standalone IGTV app or by clicking through their Instagram app.
While the app was originally introduced for vertical video only, Instagram has recently added horizontal video functionality to the mix. At launch, Instagram said vertical was the future of video, but the continued success of YouTube has shown that users are still willing to watch horizontal video.
Videos on IGTV can be as long as one hour. Regular users have a 10 minute limit but verified users can share videos up to an hour long. Some well-known brands, like Netflix and National Geographic, are using IGTV to share behind the scenes content and even whole TV shows designed specifically for the platform.
Searchability is limited. Users see videos created by profiles they already follow or related to topics they’re interested in. As soon as a user opens the app, videos start to play. It’s a little like turning on the TV in a world without Google or TV guide.
Why You’ve Never Heard Of IGTV
If you’ve never heard of IGTV, you’re not alone. Many brands haven’t bothered to create content for the new platform and viewership was lower than expected during the first year. Critics pointed to several aspects of the app that made them less-likely to create content for it.
- Searchability – While users can search for specific creators or channels on IGTV, they can’t search for videos by subject. That means users are at the mercy of the algorithm. They have to wade through a lot of content if they’re trying to find a video on a specific subject.
- Vertical-only format – The vertical-only format just wasn’t worth it to some creators. They didn’t want to go through the trouble of creating content specifically for vertical platforms and preferred to stick to the easier and more familiar horizontal video format. That’s changing.
- Separate from Instagram – Even though users could access IGTV through the Instagram app, there wasn’t much incentive to do so. That’s changing.
- No ads or monetization options – One of the biggest reasons brands haven’t taken IGTV seriously is due to the lack of monetization options. There are no commercials on IGTV. Brands are forced to engage with their viewers through content rather through advertising. What might be a drawback for some brands represents and opportunity for others.
While these drawbacks can create issues, some brands can still thrive on IGTV. Changes in the platform combined with a smart video marketing strategy can help your videos stand out and be seen.
Like most social media platforms, IGTV is constantly evolving. Two changes in the last few months have made IGTV more welcoming for brands, by giving them greater flexibility and visibility on the platform.
First, although IGTV was originally built for vertical video only, horizontal video formats are now supported. Vertical video is still the format of choice for IGTV, but this change means brands won’t have to create content exclusively for IGTV if they don’t want to.
Second, as of Feb 2019, Instagram content creators could share one-minute previews of their channels on their Instagram feeds. Since users no longer have to switch over to the IGTV section to get a look at the content, discoverability is easier. Users who are already on your profile might be caught by the content and be willing to click through. If not, they’ll at least be able to see that first minute.
These changes have caused a pretty huge uptick in viewership as more and more regular Instagram users discover IGTV. However, these two changes alone are unlikely to make IGTV a true competitor of YouTube anytime soon, but if you already have a strong fan base on Instagram, you may want to consider expanding your presence to IGTV as well.
How To Succeed On IGTV
There’s no perfect formula for succeeding on IGTV, but there are strategies you can use to increase your reach and enhance your presence.
- Start with Instagram. If you don’t already have a strong presence on Instagram, you’re unlikely to build a large IGTV following. Because the app is only searchable by profile name, not by subject, users need to already be familiar with you if they’re going to find you through search.
Just as Instagram and IGTV are companion apps, your strategies for the two platforms should be complementary.
- Use previews to your advantage. Brands succeed or fail based on the quality of their content. Pay special attention to the one minute preview you share on your Instagram profile. It should be engaging enough to hook viewers and entice them to keep watching. Ending your preview with a cliffhanger or unanswered question can keep viewers engaged.
- Follow best practices for vertical video. Fill the space, keep tight focus, and avoid fast pans. Make sure that your video meets technical specifications:
- 9:16 aspect ratio (the same as you’d use for IG stories or Facebook).
- minimum frame rate of 30 frames per second
- minimum resolution of 720 pixels.
- maximum file size for videos 10 minutes or shorter is 650MB
- maximum file size for videos up to 60 minutes is 3.6GB.
- Instagram recommends a MP4 file format.
Should You Use IGTV?
IGTV may not be the right choice for every brand. For now, it works best as an expansion to an already well-developed Instagram platform. In the future, who knows how IGTV could evolve?