The photo- and video-sharing network still has a long way to go
With Instagram’s announcement of IGTV, a special buzz seemed to accompany it. Long-form video content on one of the most widely used social media platforms? It sounded like a match made in heaven especially since brands have begun to turn to video of various lengths to tell their stories.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been offered branded long-form video on a silver platter. In 2011, YouTube reportedly gave out $150 million in advances to various brands to create original TV channels on their platform. Each channel embraced a traditional programming format with new episodes premiering on a set day and time. While the partnership didn’t last very long, the content produced was smart, of high quality, and could be seen as both entertaining and educational.
For years, Instagram has made splashes in the headlines for mimicking various features of its rivals. Despite receiving its fair share of criticisms, the app’s updates have been widely adopted by its global audience. Remember, Stories was originally panned and called a replica of Snapchat. However, Instagram recently announced that Stories had over 400 million active daily users, which is more than double that of Snapchat.
In a myriad of ways, Instagram has changed the way both brands and consumers behave in the digital space. It was natural, then, that the question floating around was if IGTV was Instagram’s official bid to take on YouTube. It’s worth nothing that the latter platform has been dominating mobile video for quite some time. Last year, YouTube shared that 1.5 billion logged-in users visited their site per month while logged-in users also spent more than one hour watching content on mobile alone.
As with any new platform or update, there will be kinks to work out before hitting its stride. Here are a few that have affected IGTV’s initial impact.
The mass accessibility
In the blink of an eye, IGTV was accessible to every user. Many have resorted to using this new feature as if it were Stories or Live. Its announcement gave the impression that there would be a sense of stronger storytelling which hasn’t been the case.
Piloting IGTV to a group of niche brands, influencers, and content creators would have been a great starting place. Now that YouTube is reportedly offering 6-figure checks to their most popular creators, IGTV has yet another hurdle to clear.
At the least, having premium content in the short-term could have potentially heightened an advertiser’s desire to appear there. With it being available to everyone so soon, IGTV runs the risk of burning out before it can really take off.
Some functionality issues
Searching within IGTV doesn’t provide the best user experience and often yields rudimentary results. If a user wants to find fashion content, they’re currently only going to see accounts that have the word ‘fashion’ represented in the handle or account name.
The recent update to Instagram’s Explore section could be of great benefit to IGTV. It would be smart to populate a list of relevant topics or categories for each user. This could increase a user’s ability to discover new content. Making it a legitimate destination within the app would be ideal as well. Right now, one wrong tap or swipe takes you back to your main Instagram feed which doesn’t provide an optimal interaction.
Do people actually want this format
Viewing video in a horizontal format is, without question, the standard. This is not to say horizontal video will always be the standard but when you also factor in our short attention spans, it’s a gamble for Instagram to expect its users to suddenly shift such a normalized behavior.
The rampant success of Stories stems largely from its ephemeral nature and interactive features like stickers and questions. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole in Stories because they’re over in a flash and allows the user to advance onto the next thing. That’s very different from devoting a chunk of time to digesting a story if, of course, that’s where IGTV is heading.
Granted, many thought YouTube was only good for watching videos of cats or babies doing the darnedest things. Now, popular content creators like Casey Neistat are averaging over 1–2 million views on videos up to 10+ minutes long on that platform so there is hope for IGTV yet.
Brands should still think long-term with IGTV. Since its launch, there was a mad dash to get content up. This resulted in a ton of repurposed content that didn’t really fit. It is good to remember that it’s okay not to be everywhere on social media. It’s even more important to speak to your audience where you see the most beneficial interactions. If it is on Instagram, take this time to observe the landscape, take note of what your competitors might be doing, and craft a real IGTV strategy that enables the brand to make a splash in the best way possible.
Video content has become such a powerful tool for brands, marketers, and influencers alike. Hopefully, IGTV isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan update for Instagram. With Instagram’s ability to be a successfully disruptive brand, IGTV has the potential to be a true game changer in video consumption.
This opinion piece was originally published on AdWeek.com.