It’s now been 10 months since Instagram launched its long-form video feature ‘IGTV’ in a bid to “change the video landscape forever”.
Instagram talked a big game when they initially launched the feature, but since launching the platform have faced a significant lack of momentum for the channel addition they hoped would ensure their platform rivalled giants like YouTube in the long-form video social space. IGTV is long-form because videos can be up to 60 minutes long, and the channel itself is designed for how we actually use our phones, meaning everything is portrait-orientated video – how 94% of us view video on mobile. IGTV was also the first feature to be fully monetized by Instagram, meaning it’s fair to say they backed this as a huge platform development.
After IGTV’s initial launch came the usual frenzy of brands wanting to innovatively be the first ones on the scene to utilize the channel, but in the months following came a surprising plateau in activity. While influencers and editorials became the figures really owning Instagram’s latest feature, significant brand activity seemed to drop off and as a result there were murmurs throughout the industry that IGTV had never really taken off, or been the game-changing platform attribute it was expected to be.
Influencers Are The IGTV Experts
In the absence of willingness from brands to commit to full social strategies on IGTV, influencers and editorials have capitalized on it as a place to create richer content around their existing platforms, breathing a new air of authenticity into their online personas. This has especially been the case for those who don’t already have existing presence on YouTube, and want to focus their efforts on utilising Instagram as their primary platform for both content and business strategies. The content creators who have seized IGTV as an opportunity to expand their social repertoire are seeing significantly higher engagement rates, compared to the rest of the content they are producing. It is unclear whether this is to do with Instagram’s control of IGTV’s algorithm, in a potential bid to boost the channel, or perhaps simply because the channel is less saturated and therefore easier to stand out on.
StyleLobster, an emergent tier influencer with an Instagram following of around 50k, has at times racked up to 1m+ views on her IGTV videos (now deleted due to such significant attention), mostly due to her early adoption of the platform and her eagerness to capitalise on an opportunity that could expand her existing social network. Since launching, Instagram integrated the IGTV feature into their standard news feed, meaning viewers could watch one minute of content via its feeds and then continue watching via IGTV if they wished. This addition significantly encourages discoverability, and those creators using the IGTV already have seen even more successes since, with users such as The Hook’s social media team reporting a “33% increase in views on our IGTV content once this feature was rolled out.”
Thanks to Instagram’s constant innovation to boost accessibility, IGTV is fast becoming the new podcast; a place to launch content series that carry far more authenticity and interesting points of discussion that truly tap into this new trend of long-form, mindful media. Gord Ray, Brand Development lead at Instagram says:
“Instagram is first and foremost a storytelling platform, and IGTV gives brands and creators the opportunity to explore long-form storytelling. The most successful brands on Instagram are those who are nimble, brave and willing to try new things. Our community wants to understand the story behind the brand and see what makes it so special. People on the platform are looking for personality over polish – content that feels real and candid tends to resonate better than a beautifully curated shot.
We’ve introduced more ways to connect IGTV videos with Instagram's main experience so businesses can reach communities where they already are. That includes sharing IGTV previews in feed and discovering new IGTV videos in Explore.”
One creator really doubling down on the authenticity of IGTV, is actress Jameela Jamil who recently launched a series on her platform surrounding self-love and acceptance called @i_weigh, which works to dismantle society’s damaging standards of appearance; @i_weigh was a huge success, and eventually launched as its own platform. As part of @i_weigh’s social strategy, Jamil interviews fellow celebrities on their relationships with their bodies and how that relationship has been influenced throughout their lives and careers, with the videos created being posted to @i_weigh’s IGTV channel. The first episode, that features singer Sam Smith, launched in March 2019 and already has 100k+ views – double the average ‘Likes’ on the account’s standard in-feed content.
Despite @i_weigh’s impact being consistently positive, it’s no coincidence that the content resonating so well with viewers are long-form videos. Instagram is a platform that houses an eighth of the global population in social personas, meaning its undoubtedly going to be saturated with content that can feel alien and in-authentic at times. Utilizing the platform’s features that allow for excess authenticity will only ever capture more engaged attention, that allows your content to exist on a relatable pedestal. Isaac Carew is another influencer who decided to launch his most recent social venture – a book – on IGTV. It is clear his reasoning for this is an attempt to tap into his most engaged and loyal fans, giving them cause to continue their loyalty by rewarding them with exclusivity, and more enticing, engaging content on his channel.
IGTV is here to stay – so how can brands cash in?
Having seen a boost in usage from content creators after integrating IGTV into standard feed posts, Instagram is reportedly increasing focus on making IGTV more irresistible as a long-form video platform choice. The Verge reported that Instagram have cited increasing IGTV’s popularity is a major project this coming year, and its influencer dedicated team have set goals to not only identify global talent, but support them in their content creation as well. This support – both financial and non-financial – comes in return for creators utilizing IGTV, with Instagram promising creators that when the feature inevitably booms, they will be ahead of the curve. You might be wondering how Instagram are going about discovering these talented IGTV content creators, and interestingly, they’re not relying on algorithms to discover this best-in-class talent roster. Instead, they’ve employed the man referred to as “Instagram Dad”, Justin Antony, who is one of the world’s most prolific and successful talent scouts out there. It seems there is no time like the present to make IGTV a more consistent part of your always-on content strategy – especially if you’re looking to connect with your brand audience in a more meaningful, personal way.
IGTV is clearly working for influencers, so how exactly can brands learn from their success and get a head start on the competition? Just like any social strategy, the biggest and most important step is to just start – consistency is key to growing any form of social following. Video content continues to lead the way in social due to its engaging format, capability to instil more emotion and ability to show more product. Already, 81% of businesses now use some form of video content as a marketing tool, so brands should be building an insight-driven strategy to implement it into their social persona effectively. If you’re already using Instagram to advertise, it’s a wasted opportunity to not integrate video format content into that pre-existing strategy.
Luxury make-up brand Charlotte Tilbury is an excellent example of a business embracing all features of online exposure, to align their marketing strategy with millennial and Gen Z shopping habits. A spokesperson from Charlotte Tilbury provided us with the following quote: “Whilst Instagram has primarily been a platform for short content, the introduction of IGTV has proved a huge success with our audience. Charlotte’s followers constantly ask for more in-depth tutorials to be posted online, which we are now able to provide via IGTV. We were invited by Instagram to create IGTV content on the platform at the point of Instagram’s IGTV public launch, and have continued to see high engagement rates with our long-form content. We have used this format to exclusively reveal new product launches and makeup looks to our followers.”
Just like Charlotte Tilbury has shown, as a brand it is imperative to think about the purpose your content will serve on IGTV and always remember that you’ll be producing bespoke, portrait-shot content tailored to one particular platform your followers can’t access anywhere else. Instead of fighting the format, embrace the pioneer attitude and allow your strategy to reflect how social savvy your marketing team really are. One way to implement branded long-form video content on Instagram into your social strategy with less risk, is to build it into your pre-existing influencer strategy. Influencers are already mastering the IGTV feature by producing content that works for their channels and audiences, so utilize this to its fullest extent by building scope to create more long-form branded content into your current model of always-on influencer work. If you gift or pay content creators to promote your products, build video into this strategy – both on their own platforms and for yours as a brand. Not only is it cost effective, it taps into the way long-form video content is being used natively. Just like it’s happening in the podcast world, brands will start monetising IGTV by through sponsorships and partnerships, so start thinking about what this could look like for your business, and which creative individuals you could be backing.
What can we expect in the future?
The next big thing we predict Instagram to introduce as IGTV’s popularity blossoms are innovative ad formats across various channel features like the shoppable overlays that currently exist on grid posts and stories. The more live products that become clickable, tap-able and shop-able, the more affiliate revenue can be driven, and the more influencers will flock to the platform. If there’s one final element we’re hoping to see Instagram work on over the next 12 months, it’s the development of IGTV’s search functionality. Discoverability might have been dramatically improved as a result of the IGTV in-feed feature, but right now searching for specific content is next to impossible – even with the existence of hashtags. The inability to do so not only puts brands on the back foot and acts as a demotivator for using the feature, it has potential to alienate followers and contribute to a negative user experience. If Instagram can nail their search feature in the same way YouTube have, IGTV could well be the video platform rival they hoped it might be. The best part is, IGTV might just be the internet’s best-kept secret – but not for long: watch this space.
Sedge Beswick is the founder of SeenConnects