Instagram IGTV: Everything Marketers Need to Know [Part 1]

Instagram recently rolled out IGTV to its app. Dubbed as “the next generation of video,” IGTV could be considered a direct competitor to YouTube. Until IGTV, brands were limited videos to short pieces of micro content

Instagram IGTV: Everything Marketers Need to Know [Part 1]

Now, with IGTV, brands can go long on video content and keep viewers engaged on Instagram. Is IGTV just another video content platform or is Instagram aiming for something bigger?

We’re going to answer these questions and cover best practices any brand can use for winning at IGTV. Now, with IGTV, videos can last up to 10 minutes. For brands with large audiences and verified accounts, Instagram bumps it up to 60 minutes (must be recorded via computer). Whether or not Instagram will open this longer feature to all users is still under debate. 

How can marketers capitalize on IGTV and leverage the plethora of opportunities? Let’s take a deep dive into IGTV! It seems that IGTV is positioning itself to be a direct competitor to YouTube.

Maybe, it’s more than that (more on that later). At the same time, Instagram is flexing its social media muscles and further proving its relevance in the face of its direct competitor, Snapchat.

Why did Instagram decide to go long with IGTV? 

Generation Z or Die Trying

Why would Instagram go bold with IGTV? One word, millennials.

Facebook is old school with teens – Gen Z – and Y, they don’t want to be associated with the grandpa of social media (don’t tell them that Instagram is owned by Facebook). The proof is that a recent Pew Study shows that Facebook is spiralling into irrelevance with this demographic.

For the mobile gen, visual content want a simple, seamless visual platform that offers long form video content. While YouTube is as old as social media, it’s strong in this market, as is Snapchat. Gen Z, a critical market for the future of social media, is speaking with their fingers – 80% of this critical market consumes YouTube for long form content.

It’s come time for Instagram to up its user generated content game. In the interest of staying relevant, placating the millennials and responding to generational trends is the only way to go.

Going Vertical

Long form content, strong platform, and mobile all sound perfect for Gen Z. But, there’s a catch, all videos on IGTV are vertical.

For the skeptical marketers, we all watch short videos vertically, it’s when we want to binge on Netflix or um, YouTube, that we flip the screen and go horizontal. Remember, today’s inclination is to be mobile and as Instagram’s business website claims, IGTV “is built for how you actually use your phone: vertical and full screen.” 

Any brands going vertical? How about the #1 brand on Instagram, National Geographic, who posted 48 minute IGTV video with the season’s finale of the documentary called One Strange Rock. The show is hosted by Will Smith and is produced by Darren Afonovsky. The move earned over a million views, and over a thousand comments.

The best part of IGTV? There’s no feature ads, at least not yet. So for now, viewers of branded content get your full attention without the annoying mid-roll ads. 

Is IGTV Copying Snapchat, Competing With YouTube, or Something Greater? 

At first glance, IGTV could be seen as competitor to Snapchat, YouTube and perhaps Netflix. Actually, it’s not the first time that Instagram has taken on a social media platform.

Ever since its massive acquisition by Facebook, Instagram has been strategically integrating new features to outperform its competition. In 2013, Instagram challenged Vine. We all know how that ended.

In 2016, Instagram proved its strength by boosting its video offerings to 60 seconds, thereby beating Snapchat at its own game. Perhaps IGTV isn’t only competing with social media platforms, maybe it’s looking to challenge the future of TV. Why else would it be called IGTV? What about the hat tip to the classic black and white fuzzy logic when you swipe through the videos?

Yeah, now that’s smart marketing. Just something to think about. 

IGTV Best Practices for Your Brand

So how does long form video content fit into an overall brand strategy on Instagram? There are actually plenty of reasons to dive into IGTV and make it work for your brand or agency. Like new social media platforms, IGTV works best with a clear strategy and goals.

  1. Brand Awareness: From what I’m seeing, IGTV is set to be a critical driver in increasing digital brand awareness. Currently, IGTV is missing a search function, which could be a concern for digital marketers. Right now, it’s based on user interest, followers and popularity. In my opinion, it puts brands at a unique advantage because it offers a deep content experience for an audience providing a brand with an opportunity to deliver a strong brand message to a captive audience. 
  2. Upgraded Stories: IGTV is a welcomed upgrade to Instagram Stories and the short-form videos that brands produce. Until now, adding interviews, tutorials, and discussions was just not viable on Instagram. IGTV means that brands and creators can start publishing some of the richest visual content around (besides going Live, of course). 
  3. Cross-Promotion: IGTV adds a whole new level of opportunity for video cross-promotion. For example, if you have a new YouTube video, tease it with a vertical video on IGTV. Or perhaps you might tease your new IGTV by uploading it on your Instagram feed or Facebook page.
  4. Focus: Your IGTV should be super focused. Stick to 1 – 3 topics. With long form content, it’s easier to go deep on 3 topics than going ‘wide’ on many topics. Cover these areas and make the content interesting. Staying laser focused makes production of the content much easier. More importantly, as always, valuable and quality content keeps viewers engaged and makes them hungry for more. 
  5. Stick to a Schedule: Like all social media, launching is easy, it’s the consistency that’s key. The excitement of a shiny new platform teeters quickly, so plan out your IGTV content. You can record it in bulk, but please don’t upload all at once. Keep your audience thirsty for more by keeping the content fresh and interesting. IGTV is no different than Instagram, stick to a schedule and commit to it. 
  6. Important Editing: Yes, IGTV is mobile first, which means that videos need to be launched from mobile. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for editing. Grab the content on your phone but invest in editing because that’s the where great brands stand out. Editing includes maintaining a 9:16 aspect ratio. Brands should maximize the mobile estate. Editing also means crafting a strong title. According to Instagram expert, Jenn Herman, titles should be limited to 20 – 25 characters. After that, she says content may get cropped. Remember, videos autoplay, so avoid loud intros or any other distractions. 
  7. Hashtags Galore: Instagram is home to hashtags. So integrating them only helps promote the content. The sweet spot is somewhere between 5 -7 hashtags. Please don’t be a brand that stuffs hashtags. 
  8. Length: Just because IGTV offers 15 minutes videos, doesn’t mean that brands should use all of that time. Start with 2 – 3 minute content, then scale up. 
  9. Cover Images: Like Instagram Story Highlights, IGTV gives you the ability to select a custom cover for the channel. Here’s a chance for brands to make a name for themselves. Why would a brand choose a blurry default image of the video over a customized image?! 
  10. Call to Action: Of course, like any digital content a strong call-to-action (CTA) is essential to maximize the power of IGTV. With IGTV being just 3 months old, most brands are still getting accustomed to the platforms strengths. IGTV allows viewers to click on a link or read a description, which means that a strong CTA (in the description) can be powerful.

The bottom line is that IGTV is intriguing to social media marketers, especially those who realize that video content is trending. As brands start integrating IGTV, the competition will rise. Gaining more views is good, but keeping your audiences interested is key. As always, quality content that’s valuable will yield the best results.

The Takeaway

While IGTV is still in its infancy, I’m already looking ahead to the potential of the platform for digital marketers. Here are my predictions for IGTV: 

  • Monetizing. IGTV needs to make money. So they’ll offer a subscription model for content creators and brands. So IGTV will offer gated content. 
  • Flip Flop. While Instagram and Facebook may be challenging the norm with vertical, it won’t be long before they bring back horizontal format. 
  • Instagram played this release of IGTV correctly. They brought on many brands including Nike, National Geographic, Warby Parker to create long form content. Using these brands as leverage, many more brands and creators will follow. 
  • Cross Promotion and Live: With Facebook Watch already picking up, cross promoting content within the Facebook family. If the company is smart, they’ll be able to pitch the opportunity to broadcast content from Instagram (something brands aren’t doing now) to large events and venues. 

Mordecai is the Chief Strategist of Blue Thread Marketing, a boutique digital agency, based in Israel. Mordecai is an avid blogger and an active contributor to the digital marketing space, including contributions to Fast Company and mentions in Buzzfeed,, Forbes & Inc. His articles have been featured on industry-leading sites including Social Media TodayBusiness2Community, Social Media World, Post Planner, and coschedule. Mordecai recently launched Empathize It, a podcast focused on entrepreneurship, empathy and the digital economy.

Chief Strategist of Blue Thread Marketing

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