On Wednesday 20th June 2018, Instagram announced the launch of IGTV, the platform’s new application for vertical video, downloadable as its own standalone app, but also integrated into users’ standard accounts through a graphic next to Instagram Direct. This is a big update for not just the network but also its major competitors. As Instagram challenges YouTube’s dominance in the video content market, it’s putting mobile first and offering a video platform orientated to suit how its users already behave. 

For influencer marketing we think this new feature comes at a crucial time, offering a new channel to bring brands closer to their consumers both through their own accounts and influencer partnerships. For influencers, those who have successfully grown a dedicated YouTube following with horizontal video now have a new style to contend with, working out how a new video channel can fit into their content plan. But for those who have been debating YouTube, it comes as the perfect answer to branching into video, without the stress of setting up an entirely new channel and growing a following. For brands, it throws up a wealth of creative production opportunities. However, with this comes a word of caution as well: do understand that IGTV doesn't currently run advertising on the platform, so posting advertorial-style content will seem disruptive for followers. IGTV currently seems more to lean towards raw, unedited and impromptu video moments than high-production, sleek content. 

IGTV is an exciting update and with creators already uploading, it doesn’t look like it’s set to mirror Facebook’s own notably unsuccessful attempt; Watch. Most notably, it’s not looking to take on all its competitors, not yet at least. It’s not challenging original TV, but rather wants to pull across the YouTube vloggers, (most specifically the 18-24 yr olds) and impose a road block to older bloggers and vloggers, contemplating a new video channel, holding them on Instagram before they move over to YouTube. Wise. This is video moulded by new generations, as told through stories and lifestyle vlogs; a network designed for the vloggers and personalities that have found fame through video content as creators themselves, and for the audiences that have constructed their road to stardom. 

What is IGTV?

IGTV is Instagram’s new vertical video application, accessible from the Instagram you all know and love, and also downloadable as a separate app. Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s Co-Founder, has stated that “it’s mobile first” and this is integral to the developing experience of online video; with 63% of online traffic predicted to come from mobile and wireless devices by 2021, an important feature of launching this new application has been to make it as mobile-optimised and intuitive as possible, integrating it into users’ existing behaviour and introducing something new, but not unfamiliar. 

All videos on IGTV are vertical and full screen, which is a game changer in some respects and a slight shortfall in others. Remember that this isn't the first time that Instagram have started a new creative style; square images were very unpopular before their platform launched, leading to sales of square photo frames to go up exponentially in the last five years, and even Apple integrating a square-image function into their camera. The bottom line is if Instagram start something, the masses tend to follow. 

IGTV works effortlessly on mobile, bringing the audience in closer than ever to the creators and the ability to scroll through videos without having to pause or search is experientially, incredibly satisfying. Videos automatically load so as soon as you click onto the app, you’ll be watching one until you want to move onto another. Unlike video content uploaded to Instagram, there’s a scrub bar so you can stop, start and repeat whenever you like, instead of having to wait for the video to loop. Most notably, the one-minute time limit on videos uploaded to the original Instagram has been dramatically increased. For now, most users with access to the feature can upload videos up to 10 minutes, with larger accounts able to run them for up to one hour. Instagram has said that in future, all accounts will be able to upload and there will be no limit on video length, opening up endless creativity and possibility for creators and their content.

However, for the cinematographic creators out there, most obviously those involved in travel and sport, IGTV is poses its questions, as vertical video just doesn’t allow for panoramic, wide-screen shots, popular with these types of accounts. Where it can be of immense potential is bringing your audience in even closer to the adventure with you guiding them literally in the palm of their hand. However, though major videographers in their fields, IGTV isn’t going after these creators; the focus is on personality over production, targeting the Ted Talks over the Blue Planet enthusiasts. For now, the latter will remain firmly on YouTube, but we don’t think it’ll be long until one side, and we assume it’ll be the creators, unlocks the key to vertical video with the same impact of wide angle. 

How Influencers can work with IGTV?

YouTube has, until now, set the standard for classifying oneself as a “vlogger”, the final step, (before a book we suppose) of total influencer success and generating bigger revenue for creators than any other platform; many bloggers have most recently branched into the vlogging status, starting a YouTube channel to develop their video content as focus on this medium grows ever sharper. However, growing a whole new following from scratch on a new platform, and one that which requires a substantially different and bigger effort on the production side, is no easy feat. On top of that, YouTube’s tightening on standards for monetizing your channel has made the initial establishing of one a fairly long and time-investing process. That was until IGTV. 

What Instagram has done with IGTV is opened up for influencers the opportunity to explore video with an audience already watching and accustomed to their style. It offers creators the opportunity to return their original Instagram feed back to pictorial, keep their stories short and sweet and have a separate video channel for longer content, all three within a few clicks of each other and all resonating amongst same, yet somewhat different audiences. Different because video is different and vertical video, even more so. Though these audiences will have overarching similarities, your post likers, story audience and video watchers all have different nuances when it comes to the type of things they like to see and how they engage with them. 

Our advice? Define exactly what these three channels serve as because they’ve each got to hold a different and additional value when it comes to effectively maintaining and growing your audience and ultimately monetizing your content. Much like you’ve defined your brand across different networks, now is the opportunity to do so within one itself, where the differences and similarities will only stand out even stronger side by side. 

We also think IGTV will throw up questions around pricing content used in this context for brand partnerships: though your audience will be carried over, the engagement will take a while to mirror that of your still feed and stories as users experiment, and this will be a tricky aspect to quantify. Though video content, there’s not such a focus on production or editing, so shouldn’t be used to justify substantially increased fees. That said, with video content holding such specific value amongst target audiences, IGTV is going to be an invaluable channel for multimedia collaborations targeting different types of users but with the same end objective. 

How can Brands work with IGTV?

For a while now, most brands haven’t really managed to conquer the video platforms, mainly using a YouTube channel as a place to store commercials or promotional footage. What IGTV gives to brands is the opportunity to do more with video content, bringing through the personality of the brand across a more informal landscape, where different types of video can sit alongside each other under general brand image. We’re not saying that brands should go down the route of low-cost video, but much like they’ve used stories, this is an opportunity to tap into the most popular form of media without major production effort and in doing so, engage better with your audience. 

What’s more, we think that integrating influencers’ own video content onto brand IGTV channels will be a major point of success where it hasn’t achieved victory on other networks. IGTV has managed a uniform look to its stories, which we believe will make hosting on brand channels much easier and improved than previous attempts on other networks.  

But IGTV for brands we believe should come with a word of caution. This isn’t the moment to move your advertorial video campaigns into this space, placing ads without having to pay for the ad break. Cost effective perhaps, but community damaging and the platform won’t respond well. IGTV is curating users feeds, just as they have done with Instagram and Stories and if the content isn’t engaging enough, it’s not going to be seen or explored. Instead, use it as a channel to showcase a side of the brand that your audience hasn’t yet seen through still image, stories or ads: humanise your brand, show tutorials and offer useful video content that really captures your identity. 

Video killed the radio star… who’s next?

This new update from Instagram is certainly a confident step in a new direction for the platform. It wants a piece of YouTube’s pie but humbly, hasn’t gone for the whole goods…yet. Instead, it’s focused on attracting a particular type of vlogger and blogger, those who have already made a name for themselves with this style of video content; by encouraging their influence and power on IGTV during the initial launch, the network is hoping that others will follow suit. For all it’s worth, we think they will. 

Back in March we saw the little uproar of a new network, Vero, taking the shortfalls of the existing social networks and seeking to solve these in its own independent social platform. Fast forward to last Wednesday, and Facebook and Instagram are key examples of how you don’t need a new network, but rather just one big and bold enough to swallow the features of the others. 

With the introduction of stories back in 2016, Instagram reshaped video content in its own way, offering a more informal style but one that resonated even stronger with audiences than the still feed. Now with IGTV, it’s giving more, lengthening videos and optimising them for mobile, allowing users greater access to this media, but without cutting them off from the platform they love already. That’s important for the current users, but we think IGTV is a stronger move towards video that’s than ever before, confirmed by Instagram launching it also as a standalone app; this is their way of future-proofing for the generation where video reigns supreme and still content is a thing of the past. 

Rhian Hart