A Quick Recap: IGTV’s Struggles

Instagram announced that its video platform, IGTV, would begin supporting horizontal video earlier this month. Almost a year after the initial launch of IGTV, IGTV has failed to gain traction where social media competitors YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat have maintained or grown their video offerings.

Instagram hoped to succeed where Facebook Watch and YouTube failed with vertical video, but IGTV has proven that even Instagram can miss the mark. IGTV is less popular than ever; its standalone app only ranked at #171 in photo & video on the Apple App Store, while Instagram is ranked #2. Instagram’s initial strategy of differentiating itself by only offering support for vertical video backfired when content creators refused to make creative media that couldn’t be repurposed elsewhere for IGTV.

For an inside look at the incredulous reactions a handful of YouTubers had when IGTV was initially released, check out Fine Brothers’ Entertainment’s “YouTubers React to IGTV”. You’ll likely get a good laugh out of the Green Brothers’ dry jabs at IGTV and be impressed with Emma Blackery’s take on IGTV needing both horizontal & vertical video. (Foreshadowing! Check out 6:45 for the clip.)

Instagram’s Solution: Cater to Creators

Most content creators initially rejected IGTV because investing time, energy, and money into a social media platform with no monetization options was not worth creating new assets. After realizing that crudely cropped horizontal media was making its way onto IGTV regardless, IGTV announced the new ability to upload horizontal video in May of 2019. Instagram justified the update with the statement:

“We’ve heard from creators who want to upload landscape videos for IGTV. Similarly, we’ve heard from viewers who come across landscape videos in IGTV but want to watch them in a more natural way. That’s why we’re announcing support for landscape videos in addition to vertical.”

However, the cover photo for IGTV will still remain vertical, so have your camera roll ready with your thumbnail of choice. The 2 x infinity grid popularized on Snapchat Stories will still be IGTV’s mode of organization.

Mavrck POV: About Time Instagram

Instagram’s initial press release about IGTV cited LaurDIY and King Bach as examples of creators who would be active on IGTV, but 11 months later, LaurDIY only has one IGTV video uploaded and King Bach has a paltry 13. In comparison, LaurDIY uploaded 101 videos to her main YouTube channel and King Bach uploaded 55 videos to TikTok within the same time frame. IGTV has had an identity crisis since YouTube has been the king of landscape video since its inception, and TikTok and Snapchat have been the dominant forces in vertical video innovation. While IGTV doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, it needs to be on par with its competitors.

At the same time, IGTV needs a differentiating factor for creators to choose IGTV over YouTube. One gateway IGTV could explore is encouraging Instagram users with many followers but no video presence to use IGTV as a gateway. Instagrammers could expand reach without creating a new account. In addition, Instagrammers could optimize editing processes by creating content in-app for a more casual, insider feel. Micro-influencers especially could benefit from IGTV as they would not have to rebuild brand awareness or follower counts on a different platform. Daily vlogs, get-ready-with-me’s, and quick dance challenges would lend themselves well to this format. However, while companies and Instagram itself could help sponsor IGTV videos, Adsense, YouTube’s monetization method, offers more sustainable income in greater quantities. This is a hurdle IGTV would have to overcome in the long-run if influencer campaigns are to be implemented to the same extent on IGTV as they are in the traditional post format.

The tech and social media industry has widely viewed Instagram’s landscape update as caving into pressure from fans and a further attempt to copy YouTube. However, the update simply proves the need to maximize influencer and creator engagement where possible. Influencers who post above and beyond the perceived minimum of uploaded content are usually the most successful. IGTV presents the opportunity to offer a more intimate, behind-the-scenes look at influencers’ lives and creative processes, and savvy creators will use the opportunity to leverage more interest in their traditional landscape content. The biggest win for Instagram? Users will spend more time in app as they won’t need to switch to YouTube or other media platforms.

Influencers’ Point of View: Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle Content

In order to understand influencers’ point of view on the latest update to IGTV, we surveyed Mavrck’s Influencer Advisory Board, who are a curated group of influencers who help us build tools, run better campaigns, and establish empathy within the influencer marketing ecosystem by providing us with data-driven, anecdotal, and creative insight. Based on our conversations with influencers, we are able to conclude that influencers’ reactions to Instagram’s update have been largely positive. As Miranda Mendelson of Slashed Beauty stated,

“I think we’ll [now] see a boom in influencers utilizing this feature. Especially for those of us who upload content across several platforms, the need to re-format (or even re-film entirely!) footage for the IGTV vertical dimensions was the biggest pain point… Right now, I will definitely be testing out the new features of IGTV on more casual, less “produced” content or teaser videos leading to monetized videos on YouTube.”

Austin Sprinz of AustinSprinz had a similarly positive reaction, expressing interest in supplementing his repurposed TikTok videos with YouTube content on IGTV.

However, Dan Whalen of TFIMB had a negative reaction:

“This feels like too little too late to me. I’m trying to focus on new platforms where people might actually see my content instead of catering to every w[h]im of Instagram and what they decide I need to be doing at any given time.”

Will IGTV Succeed Moving Forward?

Only time will tell, but IGTV needs to find a new differentiating factor and aggressively promote it in order to attract the masses. No specific viral challenges or video formats have been started or popularized on IGTV yet, and Instagram has the opportunity to invest in a creative team to develop the next big thing on IGTV. Properly repurposed, horizontal influencer content will extend the life of IGTV, but it won’t save it. Instagram needs to manufacture a boom in user-generated content on IGTV, and then create a complimentary monetization strategy. Instagram has stated that monetization options are in the works for IGTV, but no specifics have been released yet. Miranda Mendelson of Slashed Beauty stated that “This update is a step in the right direction, though I’m not sure about creators uploading [original content] exclusively to the platform until there is a way to monetize or run ads on the videos.” Creators need to pay bills as well, so IGTV should ramp up the monetization strategy development now.

How Marketers Can Use IGTV

Given that IGTV is a largely unexplored platform embedded inside one of the most recognizable social media platforms, IGTV has a lot of potential for the digital marketing industry.

While Instagram feeds can serve as a marketing hub for social media influencers seeking to cultivate long-term relationships with their target audience, IGTV provides another avenue for engagement beyond the comments section of a post. It allows influencers to diversify their content, provide more access to fans, and ultimately grow their brand and potential for revenue.

Brands have the opportunity to teach clients the do’s and don’ts of IGTV to strengthen their overall marketing strategy. Influencers with collaborations resulting in unboxing videos or merchandise have the opportunity to reveal their collections in video format on IGTV, particularly if they don’t have YouTube channels. Repurposing old social content, creating a recurring show like weekly vlogs or how-to’s, hosting live Q & A sessions, or live-streaming major announcements, are all great ways to get started with IGTV.

Interested in more of this week’s top news? Check out our latest edition of #SubjectToChange.