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Instagram TV: What Brands Need to Know to Get Started

On June 20th, 2018, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced the social network would be launching Instagram TV (IGTV), a long form video app that’s also accessible within Instagram. It will be rolling out over the next few weeks to global users on Android and iPhone devices.

The full-screen, vertical videos—which anyone can upload—can be up to an hour long, prompting speculation that Instagram is making a home for content typically suited to YouTube and Snapchat. At the very least, the move speaks to the dramatic rise in popularity of video content on social media.

In the same announcement, Instagram revealed that it has reached 1 billion users, meaning it’s the third largest social network after YouTube (Facebook is the largest). Not surprisingly, this means brands will likely be scrambling to figure out a long-form social video strategy (if they haven’t already) and be the first to make a big splash on IGTV.

What brands need to know about IGTV:

  • Videos are full screen and vertical

  • Video length is 15 seconds to 60 minutes (The full 60 minutes is currently only available to larger accounts or verified accounts. Everyone else has a limit of 10 minutes.)

  • Users can watch inside the Instagram app or on the IGTV app

  • Videos play automatically for users upon opening the IGTV app

  • Creators can add “swipe up” call-to-actions on videos

  • Within the IGTV app, users have the option to browse between “For You,” “Following,” “Popular,” and “Continue Watching” tabs

  • Engagement: users can like or comment on videos, or send videos to friends in Direct

  • Creators have their own channels, like YouTube (and anyone can be a creator)

  • Videos can be uploaded to the IGTV app or the web

  • Videos on IGTV can also be uploaded to Facebook Watch

  • File size: up to 3.6GB

  • File type: .MP4

  • Video size: 9:16

  • Video thumbnail / cover image: .JPG

  • As of launch, no advertising options are available, but Instagram says it eventually plans to make sure popular video creators are able to make money from their efforts

How should brands make the most of IGTV?

In his announcement, Systrom mentioned two Instagram influencers already using IGTV: LaurDIY, who is using it to post her newest DIY how-to videos, and King Bach, sharing his latest comedy skits. Beyond that, brands have a full range of possibility to work with. It would be smart to look to YouTube for inspiration and analyze what performs well there.

Examples of brands using IGTV

Influencers and brands alike have been quick to jump on the IGTV train, experimenting with a range of different styles and formats.

Zooey in the City The young style influencer is using IGTV to launch “The Zooey Show”, a personal channel similar to what we’ve come to expect from YouTube influencers. Episodes are a combination of Q&A and behind-the-scenes material, usually under a few minutes each. Besides the title, the content is not that different from her Instagram Stories content.

The first episode answers three common questions she gets from followers, like why she always wears sunglasses in pictures (answer: she’s a kid, so she often closes her eyes in pictures). Another episode features Zooey shopping at the Long Beach Flea Market.

Petra Collins The Canadian photographer and videographer used IGTV to debut excerpts of and build buzz around the new horror short she directed starring Selena Gomez. The teasers, which are around 30 seconds each, include nightmare-inducing imagery of Gomez sucking on an eyeball. The short film will eventually be debuting in full on IGTV.

Everlane Everlane is already known for their great Instagram Stories and it seems like their first crack at an IGTV strategy is more of the same. In their latest episode, an investigation into the Canadian Tuxedo, it appears that they’ve simply strung together some of their latest Instagram Stories into a longer, continuous video.

The Klog Similar to their Instagram Stories, The Klog (a Korean beauty blog) is bringing more of their userful skincare tips and how-to content to IGTV, with higher quality videos edited to fit the “tv” format (e.g., a soundtrack and voice overs are layered over shots to make the video appear continuous and professional). The length of their videos is between one and four minutes on average.

National Geographic National Geographic, the largest non-celebrity brand on Instagram, is already known for their amazing live video (and regular video) content. For the launch of IGTV, they’ve shared the first episode of “One Strange Rock”, a TV show directed by Darren Aranofsky and narrated by Will Smith for Natgeo TV. It’s 47 minutes long and includes interviews with astronauts, including Peggy Wilson and Chris Hadfield, about their perspectives of Earth.

Travel Alberta The tourism channel shared a two-minute bicycle tour of Edmonton called “Exploring Edmonton on Wheels.” There is also a Segway involved. Overall, the video presents as a more polished Instagram Story, or even a blog post turned into a professional video.

Man Repeller The quirky fashion channel and website debuted on IGTV with a three-minute behind-the-scenes expose called “A Week in the Life of Man Repeller HQ,” giving followers a peek at what it’s like to work for the media company. The video isn’t particularly polished or professional looking, keeping with the “honest, down-to-earth” quality the brand is known for, and features snippets of heated conversation about the texture of bananas and the weather in New York.

You don’t have to be a TV executive to know what kind of video content will resonate with your audience. But, it’s clear that Instagram is positioning IGTV as a home for content that entertains, rather than short personal updates. If you’re not sure what your followers might want to see on your channel, it never hurts to ask.

Keep in mind that Instagram users are more likely to follow people they don’t know than users on other platforms, and that younger audiences tend to prefer amateur content to professional, polished content. Furthermore, IGTV was created with a mobile-first audience in mind, unlike YouTube (where videos are often played on desktop and always horizontal, similar to TV).

In any case, before jumping into IGTV, it will be important to build a social video strategy for your brand and get equipped with our social video toolkit. Or, if you already have a social video strategy, you’ll need to figure out how IGTV fits into it. With a built-in audience nearly as large as YouTube, IGTV will certainly be hard to ignore.


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