A warning: it is impossible to look away as a geyser of molten lava erupts from the surface of the sun, even if you’re watching on a 6-inch phone. The screen seems to pulsate with heat. Beautiful framing of vertical action shots hold the attention, as brief interstitials—simple text on a flat background—explain the technology used to capture the video.
“Views of the Sun,” posted by NASA to coincide with its launch of the Parker Solar Probe, is a standout example of video content designed specifically for IGTV, Instagram’s new long-form video feature. “Views of the Sun” did not appear on the NASA YouTube channel, nor on any other social page besides IGTV.
In its first 3 days on IGTV, “Views of the Sun” received more than 500,000 views.
The What & Why of IGTV
IGTV is brand-new, and much remains unknown about the platform, which can be accessed from within Instagram or as a standalone IGTV app. Notably, there are no ads to be found on the IGTV home screen or within any of the current videos. This differentiates IGTV from its most obvious competition, YouTube, and raises questions around how much time influencers will dedicate to the new platform in the long-term, if they can’t make money from it.
But, that’s jumping several months into the future. (Instagram spokespeople have indicated that plans for advertising and monetization of influencer content are coming.)
For now, it’s worth spending some time analyzing IGTV as the latest and arguably the most promising entrant into the Online Video Race. With the behemoth YouTube leading the pack, the cutthroat competition for attention is not for the faint of heart: Snapchat, Twitch, and Facebook Watch are among the platforms riding the trend of increased appetite for mobile, online video content.
Instagram, however, enters the race with a number of advantages. It has proven itself aggressive when it comes to new features—and has successfully created among its users a comfort with both creating and consuming vertical videos. Remember when Stories were only on Snapchat? The visual-first platform is also trending upwards in both popularity and use; it recently surpassed 1 billion users, of whom 500 million use the app daily. And because a follow on Instagram is an automatic follow on IGTV, the new platform has plugged directly into a massive, already-engaged community.
The How of IGTV as an Influencer Marketing Tool
IGTV has massive potential for influencer marketing campaigns. While its monetization structure is yet to be announced, the new feature looks to be a natural fit into a campaign platform mix for a few reasons.
First, the high-impact vertical format creates a “lean-back” experience for viewers that’s more akin to watching TV—with its accompanying commercials—than it is to scrolling right by ads in Facebook or Twitter’s feeds. IGTV is essentially an extension of the Instagram Stories feature, which is already popular among influencers and their followers.
Indeed, the massive opportunity to cross-promote between Instagram posts, Instagram Stories, and IGTV is the second big reason to believe in IGTV as a tool for influencer marketing campaigns.
The ability to add an IGTV highlight, directing any users who visit a profile page to start consuming video on IGTV, is one among a number of ways that influencers can drive views of long-form content. Think short clips from the IGTV video in their Stories, copy on images or in captions that tease the IGTV content, and beyond.
Finally, IGTV represents a major step forward in making it easier for influencers to broadcast high-quality content to their Instagram audiences. This, in turn, is likely to drive greater investment by brands in the type of vertical video content that these creators are so adept at putting out. No more trimming into 10-second clips. No more breaks in the storytelling. Instead, brands and influencers can, for the first time, collaborate on features that are as slickly produced for Instagram as they would be for YouTube.
The Dos and Don'ts of IGTV
Notable influencers have begun to embrace IGTV, each in their own way. And while no two IGTV influencer feeds look exactly alike, the savvy creators behind them are starting to establish best practices and strategies for taking full advantage of the new channel.
The first rule of IGTV is an obvious one: no horizontal video.
For influencers and brands used to producing widescreen content for YouTube, the inability to simply re-post great videos to IGTV will undoubtedly be frustrating—but the rule stands. That said, there are creative ways to repurpose horizontal YouTube content into IGTV vertical video. What’s Gaby Cooking, Tastemade, and the Golden State Warriors have all used strategic cropping to make their widescreen videos work within IGTV’s frame.
Adding visual elements like text blocks is another way to use existing horizontal or square videos on IGTV. Gary Vaynerchuck, who is known for turning one piece of content into a dozen, has been using this technique to fill his IGTV channel with videos that originally lived elsewhere.
Repurposing existing videos is an efficient way to get an IGTV presence up and running, but as is always the case, the best content tends to be created specifically for one channel. And some Instagram influencers are doing just that, committing fully to IGTV by launching content series that are exclusive to the new platform. Lilly Singh promoted a show called Spice News as “Only On IGTV,” and Hannah Stocking’s “The Science of Beauty” appears to be IGTV-exclusive.
As endlessly creative social influencers continue to play around with IGTV and as the platform matures, there will surely be many more best practices to test and share.
For now, take some time to enjoy the Wild West of IGTV, where selfie-style confessionals from your friends with 150 followers appear right next to high-definition NBA highlights. Tap into a few to see how they work. And start to dream about how this exciting new platform could work for your brand’s next multi-platform influencer marketing campaign.