IGTV: What is it & why it’s cemented Instagram as the #1 app

Roughly a 9 minute read by Georgia Davies

02 2

Instagram has just unveiled its shiny new feature - IGTV. The popular app’s latest tool will add to its existing features - Instagram Stories and Instagram Live - but also offer itself as a standalone app.

With the continuing growth in popularity of video on mobile, it’s easy to see why Instagram have branched out even further into this area of the digital sphere. 

Over the past 5 years, the amount of time teens spend watching TV has decreased by 40% due to the almighty rise of YouTube and other mobile video platforms. 

Looking ahead, the shift in popularity from traditional video channels to mobile isn’t due to stop anytime soon. By 2021, mobile video is predicted to account for a whopping 78% of total mobile data traffic - a trend that forward-thinking powerhouse Instagram wants in on!

So what’s new?

Short for Instagram TV (of course), this feature is basically an amalgamation of the platform’s existing Stories and Instagram Live tools. 

Instagram Stories allows users to share pictures and short videos on their profile which are accessible for 24 hours, whilst Instagram Live lets users share a live feed for a longer duration of time, that people can tune into and engage with in real-time.

Initially, Stories only allowed images and videos to be uploaded that were taken right there and then (not from your camera roll) and after 24 hours the story would expire. However, later updates allowed users to start uploading images and videos from their camera roll to their story, following an update from rival app Snapchat which introduced the same feature. Another update saw Instagram introduce ‘Highlights’, where people can pin their favourite stories to their profile for people to continue accessing even after the 24 hour time limit has expired.

On the other hand, Instagram Live is a tool where people can share a live feed with their followers, which can have a longer duration than Stories permits. This often results in longer and more in depth content, which is much more raw and unedited than Stories content; whilst Stories can now be uploaded after editing, Instagram Live doesn’t allow for this.  

IGTV is the love child of these two core features; people can enjoy longer content than Instagram Stories typically allows, but with the option to upload pre-made content that has a more professional feel than Instagram Live allows.

Tell me more…

IGTV will show video content that’s optimised for mobile, in a vertical, full screen format. Unlike YouTube and other platforms which show videos embedded as a post in a newsfeed or with a sidebar/comments section, this full screen format is likely to be significantly more engaging for the user.

In terms of user experience, the videos playing in the native screen orientation makes it easier and more effortless than having to expand smaller clips or rotate the phone. Since the popularity of Snapchat and Instagram stories, people have adjusted to watching videos in a vertical format, so this shouldn’t feel like a big change despite the fact it’s not an option currently offered by existing mobile video platforms like YouTube. 

For those that would prefer to watch the videos landscape, there is still the option for people to rotate their device and make the video play full size and horizontally instead.

Another aspect of this new tool allows users to add multiple links in the video captions, which is especially useful for influencers and brands, which rely on links to external sites. 

The feature also enhances the cross-channel user experience with parent brand Facebook, as users can share their IGTV content to Facebook with the click of a button.

But who can use it?

Anyone with an Instagram account can create content for their IGTV channel, although users with a bigger following do get a longer time allowance than general users. Instagram has suggested that eventually there will be no time limit difference, but for now there’s a maximum video duration of 1 hour for larger influencers, and 10 minutes for smaller accounts

You can upload existing videos (that have already been filmed and edited) via the app or the website. This option to upload previously created content is likely to be a huge incentive for professional influencers and creators who are expected to produce a higher standard of content for their audience, as well as for brands who want to maintain a consistent image across all platforms.

How do I watch other people’s content?

When it comes to viewing content from other users, there’s 3 different categories for you to explore: 

  1. The Following category is solely people you have followed through your main Instagram account, so the people who typically appear in your feed and Stories sections. 
  2. The For You category features videos Instagram thinks you will like, based on a selection of people you already follow, as well as other suggestions generated by Instagram’s algorithm. 
  3. The Popular section shows all of the trending videos at the moment, so expect to see some familiar faces on there as the top social media stars are likely to feature.

The nitty gritty…

Instagram knows what people want to see - they want the nitty gritty figures of how their content is performing

These stats are especially important for content creators, for their own records as well as to share with brands when pitching for collaborations and to evaluate the success of campaigns. 

Within IGTV, the Insights section covers views (a 3 second video watch is classed as a view), likes and comments, to assess engagement. It also shows your audience retention rate across the span of your video, showing the percentage of viewers watching at each time interval.

Why though?

This new feature was the logical next step for the popular app to take; Instagram is based on celebrity and influencer culture - arguably more than any other mainstream social media platform. 

People go to Instagram to follow their favourite celebrities and get an insight into all aspects of their lives. They’ll engage with their posts, check out what they’re doing on their Stories and tune in to their Instagram Live to see a more ‘raw’ and ‘real’ side to the influencer. 

IGTV has been created to dive even deeper into the world of these influencers, and give their audience more of what they want to see.

The content itself won’t be significantly different to what these influencers are already putting out there - if any difference at all - but through IGTV these influencers can upload longer and more detailed content, more like episodes rather than the quick snippets which the existing Stories feature allows. 

Using IGTV to host this content is more worthwhile for them, as they can leverage their existing audience and consolidate it into one place (rather than splitting their focus between Instagram and YouTube), and IGTV videos are more substantial pieces of content which will stay on their profile for people to enjoy all the time, making them accessible to fans, new and old, at any time.

By allowing links in the description, it’s easier than ever for these influencers to collaborate with brands, and even more worthwhile for brands to work on collaborations as they can track direct traffic.


Nailing the launch

To promote their newly launched feature, Instagram knew they had to get their biggest influencers on board from the start. This included everyone from Lele Pons to Kim Kardashian West to the famous Pomeranian dog Jiff Pom - my personal favourite

By letting these creators who have a talent for this style of content and huge followings have first access to the feature, Instagram introduced IGTV to the world in the easiest and most effortless way possible

After seeing it in action and being used by the most popular influencers, people wanted to know what IGTV was all about, rather than Instagram trying to persuade them to use it.

The rise of Instagram

Over the past few years, Instagram has cleverly been cherry picking all of the best features from their main competitors. Following Snapchat’s footsteps, they introduced their own Instagram Stories in August 2016, which also consisted of images and videos with a time limit of 24 hours before the content expired. 

When Snapchat rolled out updates such as uploading from your camera roll and customising your content using face filters, text and graphics, Instagram was right behind them following suit. 

The creation of Instagram Live was likely inspired by Twitter’s Periscope, a popular live streaming platform where users can live broadcast real-time videos to friends, family and followers. 

And finally, the roaring success of YouTube has lead us to Instagram’s latest venture: IGTV

By amalgamating the core features of other popular mainstream apps, Instagram is asserting itself as the number one place to go. The place where users can access all of these features, streamlined in one convenient app. 

This makes life significantly easier for the individual; you can follow the people you choose and see a broader range of their content all in one place, instead of alternating between several apps.

The future of Instagram

At this early stage, it’s clear Instagram’s key priority is to get IGTV as an accepted and popular feature before they start to monetise it - but it won’t stay that way

CEO Kevin Systrom mentioned how although ‘right now we’re focused on building engagement, but that’s obviously a very reasonable place to end up. There will be a way for creators to make a living’. 

The absence of ads makes IGTV appealing to the user over other video platforms such as YouTube, but creators aren’t likely to make the complete switch until they have a means of income through advertising on IGTV.  

We expect that as IGTV’s popularity grows, creators will see the need to be active on this platform to stay on trend, but won’t leave YouTube just yet while there’s no monetisation options. 

However, once IGTV is secure enough to introduce paid advertising without hindering its success, I’m sure we can expect to see creators shift their their time, energy and resources solely into the one platform that offers it all.

What are your thoughts on the new IGTV?