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IGTV: What You Need to Know About the Instagram Video Sharing App

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.


On June 20, 2018, photo and video sharing social media network, Instagram, launched IGTV, a mobile video sharing app.

What exactly is IGTV? How should authors and content creators use IGTV? How does it compare to YouTube? And will IGTV be a threat to YouTube?

I’m on Instagram and now IGTV (@heidithorne on both). So here are my initial impressions and insight on this new entry in the social media and video content space.

Vertical Orientation for IGTV Videos

Of all the features that IGTV offers, this is certainly going to be the favorite of many, including me! IGTV videos, like all videos on Instagram, are viewed vertically.

We mostly use our smartphones in the vertical position, right? So this is definitely a welcome feature, and a reason that some people think it will present a challenge to the horizontally oriented YouTube (to be discussed again in a bit).

Video Time Allotment

IGTV differs from Instagram in that it allows longer videos of up to 1 hour for larger and verified accounts (like celebrities and big influencers) and up to 10 minutes for regular users. Previously, Instagram videos were limited to 60 seconds in the standard news feed and 15 seconds in the Stories feature (which disappear after 24 hours, similar to Snapchat), except for Instagram Live streamed video for which up to 1 hour was allowed in the Stories feature.

Those time restraints can be annoying since it can be difficult to compress a message in that 15 or 60 second timeframe, unless you’re willing to do a Live video stream. But streaming a Live video is a completely different experience and sometimes a difficult one, too. Being live on camera, with no ability to edit, can be nerve wracking, especially for self conscious folks.

One way that some users got around the short video time limit on Instagram was to string a bunch of 15-second Stories posts together. Whether users are creating or viewing, this is very, VERY awkward.

Now, users can create and upload their longer videos to IGTV. Then they can include a swipe up link to the whole video in their Instagram Stories posts. This is huge improvement because users will be less tempted to load up Stories with a lot of annoying fragmented posts. Nice job, Instagram!

But here’s the interesting thing I’ve noticed. You would think that some of the Stories power users would be delighted to have this new functionality. But I’m seeing only a very few of them actually trying it, either by posting or linking to IGTV videos. True, it’s early and everybody’s trying to figure this out. So it’ll be interesting to see how the Instagram power users will adapt, or not.

What Kinds of Videos Should You Post on IGTV?

Where I think users will have some challenges is in figuring out what video content to put on IGTV.

As just discussed, IGTV could be used for any content that’s traditionally been too long for the standard Instagram platform. Like on YouTube, videos are UPLOADED to IGTV. The IGTV app has no native tools to help users create videos as Instagram does. So videos created in Instagram need to be saved to your phone’s camera roll or photos.

But should users repost all their video content they upload to or create on Instagram over on IGTV, too? I’ve seen users repost their regular Instagram video snippets on IGTV, as well as those who create completely new content for it.

I’ve found that my reposted 60-second videos get more play from my standard Instagram feed than on IGTV here in the early going. That may be because my followers have already seen it on Instagram, or they’re not using IGTV yet.

The type of content that will thrive on IGTV is a big question mark right now. So I’m planning to do a mix of both original and Instagram reposted content until more hard data confirms patterns.

What About Promotional Videos?

Users on Instagram often use Stories for their promotional and advertising videos. But those have such a short shelf life. So will this, like YouTube, be a platform ideal for hosting more evergreen content? Or will it have more of a temporary feel, filled with short-lived relevance? Again, this is also a big question mark.

However, I'm more inclined to use standard news feed posts or Stories in Instagram for time-sensitive promotional videos, and use IGTV for more evergreen subjects.

Difficulties with IGTV Video Viewing

Here’s another viewing related issue. You cannot link to an IGTV video in a standard Instagram post. Linking is only available for Stories posts. Though the disappear-after-24-hours Stories is reported to be one of the most popular features on Instagram, my experience suggests that while lots of users create Stories posts, very few actually view or engage with them regularly.

Watching my own behavior, I look at Stories for selected accounts. I just don’t have time to view hours (literally) of Stories that all the people I follow post. I do a lot of swiping left (how Stories scroll) to get through them. Watching my followers’ behavior, I note that very, very few of my most engaged followers actually look at my Stories. They really only engage with my standard news feed posts. What does this mean? Most of them will not be able to conveniently use the swipe up link to jump on over to view my IGTV videos.

Tip: Even though the functionality is there, users may not yet know to swipe up to view any linked IGTV video featured in Stories. Don’t presume! Include an instruction to swipe up to open the video link to view. You might also need to tell them that when they’re done viewing, click the “X” will bring them back to Instagram.

IGTV Links in Instagram Profiles (A Work In Progress)

Apparently, there will be an IGTV icon displayed on users’ profiles. However, that icon is not yet showing on all Instagram profiles. So if you do have videos over on IGTV, no one would know by looking at your profile... at least right now.

The icon is not showing on my Instagram profile yet, even though I have several videos posted on IGTV. I’ve tried reloading the app, signing in and out, etc. with no luck.

But Instagram's blog announcement noted the app will be rolling out globally over the next weeks. So it’s likely that not everyone will have complete access or all features right away. Stay tuned and make sure your IGTV and Instagram apps keep updated with the latest versions.

Sharing Your IGTV Videos

Within the IGTV app itself, “sharing” (the little wings icon) is weirdly limited to sharing with other selected followers on Instagram, at least as of this writing.

But here’s some good news for the interim. You can grab a link to your IGTV video (click the "..." on your video and click "Copy Link") and share it on social media or wherever. It will show up in a browser and can be played on that page without having to go to the app.

At this point, you can also share your IGTV videos to your Facebook Page (business page) during the upload process.

How Does IGTV Compare to YouTube?

Vertical Versus Horizontal App

The most obvious visible difference between IGTV and YouTube is the physical orientation. IGTV is vertical (portrait mode), YouTube is horizontal (landscape mode).

This has always been a problem with YouTube, especially in the YouTube mobile app. In the YouTube app, you’ll see only a mini rendition of the video (with the distraction of other video listings, etc.) while holding the phone vertically, and have to turn it sideways to view it full screen. On IGTV, the video fills the entire vertical screen. A better mobile user experience for sure.

But in terms of delivery of content where a large screen enhances the user experience—movies, television shows, video games, sports, etc.—YouTube wins. YouTube is a replacement for television. IGTV is not.

Searching and Hashtags

YouTube is one of the Internet’s most powerful search engines by itself (aside from its parent, Google). Why? Because after its acquisition by Google, it was melded into the Google search engine universe, with many videos often receiving organic placement on Google search results.

Plus, when you upload a video to YouTube, you have the ability to craft a title and description that contain search-friendly keywords. It allows you to enter keywords that are relevant to your video. On top of that, if you want to boost your video’s search friendliness even more, you can upload a video transcript that the search robots will love.

IGTV could rely heavily on hashtags for search and discovery functions, just as the main Instagram app does. True, you could also enter a keyword in the Instagram or IGTV search function to find relevant videos. However, IGTV and Instagram are more dependent on influencers and personalities as the providers and filters of information, as opposed to search engines.

Getting Followers

Likely due to its tight integration with Instagram, you follow the user through Instagram, not on IGTV direct (at least right now). So your follower numbers on IGTV are the same as your follower numbers on Instagram. On YouTube, anyone with a Gmail/Google account can subscribe to a video channel; being on a particular social network is not required.

Will IGTV Be a Threat to YouTube?

It will remain to be seen whether IGTV will deliver any significant blow to YouTube’s dominance in the video space. I see them as two completely separate products and functions.

Like Instagram, IGTV will be a social network of influencers and followers. I see it as merely an extension of Instagram, and possibly Facebook.

Though it has sometimes been described as a social network, YouTube is more of an information and entertainment platform that has mirrored or replaced broadcast television... especially now with its YouTubeTV program.

My recommendation for content creators would be to use both IGTV and YouTube, but to use them each differently for the purposes for which each was designed.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can a user see who viewed their Instagram TV post?

Answer: In my Instagram notifications, I'll get alerts on "so-and-so liked [or commented on] your IGTV video." But in IGTV itself, the insights don't show exactly who "viewed" the video. It just shows the number of views.

Here's what's interesting. On Instagram Stories, you will see who viewed your story (whether video or photo). It would be nice to have that feature on IGTV videos, but it isn't available from what I can see.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 03, 2018:

Hi Rajan! It is so early in the IGTV game right now! I am watching how this plays itself out over the next months. I see a lot of Insta folks posting on IGTV, but I don't see a lot of them inviting people to view what's on IGTV. Interesting.

Since we're connected on Instagram, we'll both watch this story unfold.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 31, 2018:

This is the first time I have heard of IGTV and from what I understand from this article is that it is in a very nascent stage as compared to Youtube. A comparison between the two is just too early.

All the same, I think the video orientation will play a big role in deciding users preference between the two.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 15, 2018:

Flourish, I'm even sometimes a bit behind my techno peers! ;) I saw some posting about IGTV on Insta after it came out and I thought, "How did I miss this?"

There, indeed, are some differences between it and YouTube. How that will play out is still a huge question. But I'd rather be ahead of the curve than behind it.

Thanks for stopping by and hope you're having a terrific weekend!

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 14, 2018:

You are so cutting edge with marketing and technology. I hadn’t heard of this and here you are explaining the difference between this and YouTube.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 14, 2018:

Linda, thanks for reading even if you're unsure of how you'll use Instagram/IGTV. But I'm glad you're sharing your photos on Insta! Thanks for following me on HP and Instagram... and have a great weekend!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 13, 2018:

Thanks for sharing the information, Heidi. I don't know whether I'll ever create a video on Instagram, but it's certainly interesting to learn about it.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 13, 2018:

Bill, I have to say that, like you, I'm not an Instagram kind of author. But I'm giving it a try for some of my marketing efforts. I'd so rather be just writing text for HP or my books.

Hope it's good weather where you are. Hot as heck here in Chicago (90s). Have a great weekend, too!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 13, 2018:

Mary, with all your amazing photos of the places you visit, Instagram could be a great platform to check out. But, as with all social media, there's learning curve and it requires patience and persistence.

If you do hop on to the Instagram/IGTV bandwagon, follow me over there so we can connect there, too. (I'm @heidithorne.)

Thanks so much for stopping by and have a beautiful weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 13, 2018:

Liz, it's not surprising that you haven't run across it yet. It's so new... like less than 1 month new! But I hope you will check it out, if not to use yourself, but to see some of the content that's over there.

Thanks so much for chiming in! Have a great weekend!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 13, 2018:

I just don't see this happening for me, Heidi. I'm not an Instagram kind of guy, and don't have the time to learn how to operate it...but thanks for the information. I'll put it in your file just in case.

Have a stupendous weekend!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 13, 2018:

This is really interesting to follow how IGTV will perform and how the social media crowd will embrace it. I seldom go to Instagram but I think I will enhance my presence there. Maybe the engagement will change for more interaction.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 13, 2018:

I haven't come across this before. This gives a very honest and useful appraisal.