If you haven’t heard it yet you heard it here first: the future of TV will not only be mobile, it will be vertical. Why vertical? When you think of it, we use our phones vertically not because we can’t be bothered to turn them horizontally, but because it’s more comfortable to type and interact with the content on the screen. Although some might argue that vertical videos will never look as good as horizontal videos, designed to fit a TV set or a movie screen, it doesn’t seem to bother the 400 million people using Instagram stories. Take a look at Pinterest: vertical images are more shareable.
Enter IGTV, Instagram’s video platform that launched earlier this summer. The platform was designed for “creators” to share long-form videos with their followers, thus creating a space for video ads, like the ones you see on YouTube. (Now that I think about it, YouTube is pretty much the only place I willingly watch more than three seconds of ad content these days.) With over one billion users, Instagram is seizing the opportunity to keep users on the app even longer, and the company has plans to create a carousel for the videos that users can’t ignore. When Instagram released the app, it’s co-founder Kevin Systrom said, “teens are now watching 40% less TV than they did five years ago and on Instagram people are watching 60% more video in just the last year. So how we watch is changing quickly, but what we watch is changing too. An entirely new category of video now exists, and it’s being made by creators. Teens may be watching less TV, but they’re watching more creators online.” YouTube—which is undeniably king of the free, online video space— is reacting by making changes to how users monetize their videos, removing the black bars around vertical video content and spending money to keep users from straying.
Although not many people are using it—yet—brands with budgets for slick videos are already starting to produce content for it, and recently nonprofit Movember announced it is launching a documentary series on IGTV. Right now the orange icon is still an eyesore, according to my friends and a few critical tweets I’ve seen floating around, but I remember hearing the same about Instagram Stories when it launched two years ago. It's true that IGTV may not take off the way Instagram hopes it will... but people hate change. I can't help but think back to 2006 when I was working with a startup specializing in reviews that wanted to enter the Texas market. After banging my head against the wall for three months as the startup's first Texas contractor, I was convinced it would just NEVER take off but it did... four years later. A decade ago, my colleagues at that now successful company were saying another major Bay Area company specializing in video content predicted we would all be creating real-time restaurant review videos through our phones in the future. The future is now. If anything, IGTV will disrupt the market once more people figure out how to create engaging content. The app is still very much in its “early adaptor” stage, after all.
Our Hot Takes
After having a somewhat lengthy conversation about social media and IGTV with my college-aged interns (sprinkled with some reminiscing about Instagram's nascent, pre-Facebook days), I learned that they rarely use Facebook, are on Instagram and Snapchat (still!) and tune in regularly to YouTube shows. With that information, combined with what I've been reading and discussing with other colleagues in the digital marketing field, I predict that millennials and Generation Z users, who are spending less time in front of the TV and more time on their phones, will be the first to use IGTV on a regular basis, watching DIY music videos and shows during their commutes, before bed and whenever they're not in front of a TV, etc. They may also become more inspired to learn how to create their own engaging content, if they aren't already doing it. Here’s what my intern Allison Koontz has to say on the topic on her blog.
Taking the App for a Test Drive
Having learned in graduate school that every brand needs to be its own multimedia company, Small Coffee knows brands need to invest in high-quality photos and video as part of its marketing strategy. Wanting to know how I could capitalize IGTV for both Small Coffee and my clients, I decided to do some research by starting an IGTV "channel" on my personal account a month after the app’s launch. I chronicle myself tackling one new experience or challenge every day for my "100 Days, 100 Things" show. It's absurd, sometimes silly and radical (but totally PG, please!). Treating IGTV as a public access station, the tongue-in-cheek show is a mostly satirical commentary on influencer culture, inspired by Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Amy Sedaris, Anthony Bourdain and ’90s MTV. But enough about my pet project. Here’s what you should know about using IGTV before getting started, a link to Instagram’s lengthy creators handbook and here are my personal takeaways, so far, on using IGTV as a creator:
Make sure you have what you need before you start
All of the videos I’ve been making have been recorded directly on my phone. After realizing it was nearly impossible to rely on props and masking tape to hold up my phone, I purchased an $8 cell phone adaptor to put on my full-sized tripod. It makes a huge difference! When it comes to editing, I have been using the Filmmaker Pro app on my phone, and it’s been working out great. It takes me 30 to 60 minutes to edit each one-minute video. Also, videos take up a lot of storage on my phone, so I transfer the MP4 files over to Dropbox via the app.
You need to grab viewers’ attention immediately
Creators have to limit the length of their videos to 10 minutes, unless they are a large or verified account. While that’s generous, I find myself wanting to watch videos under four minutes unless I’m completely obsessed with the topic. Most of the videos I’ve created are around one-minute long, and based on the insights provided by IGTV, I’ll see a drop-off after 10 seconds if viewers aren't interested. The data provided could be misleading considering all of the videos play automatically on the app, so someone may not realize what they're watching until they're 10 seconds in.
Storytelling is important
The videos I share that have a narrative thread perform better than those that don't. In fact, I personally try to keep face-time to a minimum because there’s nothing more boring than watching someone just talk at you without any edits. This is why editing is important.
You need to promote your videos on Instagram
The downside to IGTV is only users with Instagram accounts can watch your content—and you can’t put keyword-rich metadata like you can in YouTube. When people login to the app, they’ll see your videos under “Following” if they are following you on Instagram – or eventually under the “For You” or “Popular” categories. So, in the meantime creators need to acknowledge that they are only targeting active Instagram users. I find that using hashtags in the description and linking to the videos via Instagram stories has been helpful in drawing traffic my episodes. To give you an idea of my traffic: I have just over 1000 followers and in the past three weeks, my posts receive between 30 to 90 views.
You cannot make edits to the written copy
Double-check everything before posting! Once you post your title and the description under your video, there’s no way to go back and make edits. (Early Instagram was like that for native posts.) At least for now, that description part doesn’t seem to matter because I haven’t found a way to read that content on the standalone app.
I'm looking forward to reporting more insights after my 100-day challenge is over. What do you think about IGTV? Leave us a comment in the comments section!