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Instagram TV is Here

September 4th, 2018

Co-authored by Rebecca Weber and Justin Henriksen

We are so excited that Instagram TV has finally launched. One piece of the puzzle that seemingly has been missing from this platform is long-form vertical video. For marketers and businesses, this can build upon the growing need and proven success of sharing consumable content, which will impact your brand and bottom-line revenue.

What is IGTV?

Facebook, the owner of Instagram, has made it no mystery their desire to create a video platform and enter the television space. In an effort to compete with Netflix and Amazon Video, their first foray was Facebook Watch, but IGTV’s focus is different. It is centered on more homegrown, organic content.

Instagram now has one billion monthly active users – up from 800 million in September of 2017. For marketers and businesses, that’s a lot of extra eyeballs and a lot of extra attention. And in our business, attention is good.

Teens are now watching 40 percent less TV than they did five years ago and, instead, are watching niche online content by their favorite creators. And viewers, overall, are watching 60 percent more video on Instagram than only one year ago. So the supply for vertical video content is apparent and in-demand.

With IGTV, YouTube stars now have another platform to showcase their long-form videos, (though we don’t anticipate the educational/instructional crowd to change over).

A long-form video is anything more than 10 minutes in length. And while they get a bad rap because its short-form counterpart gets more “likes and shares,” the thing about long-form video is that it’s definitely more of a brand play. As a company/product/service, you’re showing what your brand is and creating loyalty. You’re giving consumers a taste of what you stand for, who you are, and what kind of value you can bring them – and that can definitely bring more lifetime-value (LTV).

Snapchat attempted this with their “Discover” section for media partners, but it hasn’t done as well as hoped. With adults now predicted to spend more time watching video on mobile than TV, coupled with Instagram’s already successful Stories feature, it is not unlikely for IGTV to become a central hub for video consumption, also taking into consideration that YouTube’s mobile app isn’t considered very user-friendly.

What does this mean for marketers and companies?

First, we will see IGTV take the form of re-purposed Instagram Stories and YouTube videos, so there will be many skeptics as to whether it’s a platform worth investing time. But we are smart people. We will see what others don’t. We see that the potential is storytelling and entertainment, not simply selling. But make no mistake, you will sell. Where short-form video encourages generous engagement rates, including quick likes and shares, long-form content will be a new, more diverse way for brands to tell their stories and showcase what sets them apart. Devoting time, budget and creativity to this new feature will pay off for brands by creating a slow burn of steadily high-quality content.

Second, the vertical video turns many marketers off. But here’s the thing: we cannot get romantic about horizontal video. We need to remember to follow what people are doing, not what we think we want them to do. Or worse, what they’ve always done. Our phones are much more comfortable to hold vertically. According to an early 2018 Forbes article, “The Rise of Vertical Video,” research shows that users generally hold their phone vertically 94 percent of the time. Vertical video definitely has a future and it’s just getting started.

Not sure you believe me? There are several startups purely focused on stock vertical video.  Because of the increased demand for more vertical video content, as highlighted in Adweek, Snap Inc. implemented an accelerator program offering free ad credits to venture capitalists, incubators and start-up programs – both current Snapchat users and non-Snapchat users who are utilizing Instagram Stories. According to a case study with 8fit, a fitness and nutrition app, they now have 20 times more app downloads than before from taking advantage of the Snap credits showcasing vertical video.

Sports media outlets like ESPN and the Golf Channel have embraced this trend on social media by offering quick, short clips in vertical format for a more up-close-and-personal experience with people’s favorite athletes and sports.

Third, this is a time to experiment. What works? What doesn’t work? Create, test, iterate and be as agile in your process as you can afford to be. As creatives, this is what we live to do.

Many of the beneficial features available in Instagram Stories are also available in IGTV, including clickable links, use of hashtags, ability to respond to comments, and access to insights (Social Media Examiner, July 2018). One downside is that you can only upload external videos from your files, as it does not let you record video directly inside the IGTV app (though you can upload saved Instagram Live videos). The continuity between already-understood Stories and the new platform will allow brands to comfortably and creatively expand on what they already know.

Major brands are already jumping on the opportunity to be the first few in IGTV land, though many are still struggling to reach the 60-minute mark. Louis Vuitton and Gucci are sharing their fashion shows, Netflix is highlighting actors in funny clips, and Chipotle is entertaining with long-form highlights of different food combinations available.

What would it have been like to be on Facebook or Google AdWords as a marketer in the early days? Pure gold and an opportunity worth embracing. And this is the direction advertising is headed: storytelling. In fact, it has always been there. I think we may have just forgotten that a little bit.

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