IGTV: What You Need to Know About the Instagram Video Sharing App
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.
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.
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© 2018 Heidi Thorne