When Instagram announced plans for IGTV, a new standalone app for long-form vertical video, the talk of IGTV taking out YouTube began. After Instagram video did away with Vine and Instagram Stories swiped a massive opportunity from Snapchat, Instagram looked poised for a hat-trick.
A year and a half later, YouTube is still going strong. So, what happened?
IGTV was slow to start, but its recent spike in engagement might offer some clues. With the recent feature releases and Instagram algorithm updates, growth in viewership on the platform, and the current appetite brands have for experimenting with new forms of content, how IGTV will reshape Instagram marketing is becoming clear.
Table of Contents
- What is IGTV?
- IGTV video dimensions, specs, and requirements for uploading
- How to Use IGTV
- How to create your IGTV channel
- How to upload videos to IGTV
- Content ideas for brands using IGTV
- Examples of brands using IGTV well
- Getting more views on IGTV
- Tracking your success with IGTV insights
- IGTV FAQ
What is IGTV?
IGTV is both a stand-alone video-sharing app and an extension of the existing features of Instagram. When it first launched, IGTV only allowed vertical videos on the platform. This was partly to differentiate it from YouTube and position it as a mobile-friendly video app, but it was also a move meant to inspire creativity.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom described how the initial limitations were meant to encourage creativity:
One of the things I like most about the new format is that it’s actually fairly difficult to just take videos that exist online and simply repost them. That’s not true in feed. That basically forces everyone to create new stuff.
Perhaps bloggers and tech journalists misunderstood IGTV. Though IGTV later dropped the restriction on landscape videos, the app itself is still designed with vertical video in mind. On top of this, several features unique to IGTV make it fundamentally different from YouTube. Understanding the differences is key to utilizing IGTV’s uniqueness for growth.
IGTV vs. YouTube: What makes IGTV different?
How a platform lets users interact with content determines what content works best. This crucial detail explains why IGTV was able to grow its user base without clashing with YouTube.
Whereas Instagram Stories and Video features were largely similar to Snapchat and Vine, IGTV is fundamentally different from YouTube and other video sharing platforms in a number of significant ways.
IGTV videos autoplay
On IGTV’s stand-alone app, videos in your feed start automatically with a loading screen resembling television static. The experience is designed to emulate the experience of flicking through TV channels.
IGTV is designed for vertical video
IGTV’s biggest selling point when it first launched was its exclusivity for vertical video. While this changed not long after, the app’s functions are still designed with vertical video in mind, meaning vertical videos appear larger and more assertive in their design, making them more eye-catching than horizontal videos.
IGTV has less competing content
More content means it’s harder to be seen and harder to show up in searches. Starting an IGTV channel now puts you in the unique position of being able to corner a content market. Although this might mean fewer users initially, there’s a far higher prospect of long-term growth if you’re able to establish yourself as an early adopter of IGTV. With Instagram pushing users to IGTV, posting consistent content now, means more exposure later.
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IGTV is inseparable from Instagram feeds and stories
The continuity between Instagram and IGTV makes it easier to move users from your Stories to your Instagram profile to your IGTV account, which lets you publish many forms of content to grow a single, larger audience.
IGTV offers a more direct way to drive traffic with clickable links
Say goodbye to “link in bio” and hello to IGTV’s clickable links, which can now be added to your video descriptions. With this feature, IGTV has finally created a seamless flow from stories.
IGTV’s peculiarities may not seem significant on their own, but taken as a whole they provide clues to understanding how brands can utilize the platform.
IGTV dimensions, specs, and video requirements for uploading
If you don’t already have an Instagram account, you’ll need to create one before posting videos to IGTV. Although IGTV has a stand-alone app, your followers and following lists are the same as your Instagram account. Since IGTV works best as a tool for growing your Instagram audience, you’ll want to have an active presence on Instagram-proper as well.
But there are specific IGTV video requirements and specs that you need to follow:
- Length: Minimum of 1 minute, maximum of 15 minutes (on mobile) or 60 minutes (on desktop)
- File Type: Uploaded in MP4 File format
- File Size: Maximum file size is 650MB (for videos under 10 minutes) or 3.6GB (for videos 10-60 minutes)
- Dimensions: Video displays at a 9:16 aspect ratio (for vertical videos) or a 16:9 aspect ratio (for horizontal videos)
- Resolution: Minimum resolution of 720 pixels
- Frame Rate: Minimum frame rate of 30 FPS (frames per second)
- Content Guidelines: Your video is at risk of being reported and removed if it does not adhere to Instagram’s Content Guidelines.
How to use IGTV
IGTV acts as a separate content feed parallel to your existing Instagram account, however, your Followers and Following lists for both platforms are synced. The videos you post will appear on your IGTV channel, which can be accessed from your Instagram profile or directly from your IGTV posts. Anyone following you on Instagram will be able to see your IGTV posts.
Uploading videos can be done from the Instagram app, the IGTV app, or in a browser. Before learning more about how to use IGTV, note that you must have an active Instagram account to be able to use IGTV.
How to create your IGTV channel
- Download and open the IGTV app, or tap the IGTV icon in the top-right corner of the Instagram app.
- Tap the “Settings” icon and then tap “Create Channel”.
- Open a web browser and go to Instagram.com.
- Click the “Profile” icon in the top-right.
- Select the tab labeled “IGTV” under your profile description.
- Click “Get Started” and follow the on-screen instructions.
How to upload videos to IGTV
- Open the IGTV app or tap the IGTV icon in the top-right corner of the Instagram app.
- Tap the “+” icon in the top-right corner, select a video, and tap “Next”.
- Use the slider at the bottom of your screen to select a screen-shot to use as a cover photo or select a file from your camera roll and tap “Next”.
- Add your title, description, make any edits to your cover photo, and select your preferred sharing options.
- Tap “Post”.
- Open a web browser and go to Instagram.com.
- Click the “Profile” icon in the top-right.
- Select the tab labeled “IGTV” under your profile description.
- Click “Upload”.
- Select the “+” icon and select a video from your files or drag and drop a video file
- A cover-photo will be auto-generated when uploading, but you can select “Edit” to add your own image.
- Add your title, description and select your preferred sharing options.
- Click “Post”.
Content ideas for brands using IGTV
IGTV functions best as a growth tool along-side Instagram and Instagram Stories, so there must be a continuity with your Instagram account. And while great content is often versatile, limiting yourself to cross-posting your existing content means missing out on leveraging the platform's most unique features to capture your follower’s attention.
Knowing this, we’ve put together a list of content ideas that can serve as a lifting-off point for your IGTV channel.
Giving an “inside look” at your brand helps build trust with your audience, but if it’s not something your followers are accustomed too, it can make your profile look sloppy—not a quality you want to be associated with your brand. Stories can be a decent spot for behind-the-scenes content, but only IGTV offers the chance to create long-form, evergreen companion content that can exist parallel to your regular content without distracting from it.
Teach your followers something new
Teaching is the most appreciated form of marketing—customers like unlocking more value out of their products. If you’re selling food, teach us your favorite recipes. If you’re in the makeup biz, let us know how to get that perfect smokey eye. Step-by-step tutorials are a fun way to show potential customers how to use your product.
Do a Q&A with your followers
A simple Q&A session helps you answer the most important questions your customers have: Who are you? What is your brand about? Why should I pay attention to you, or buy your products? It’s a truism, but customers find it easier to trust and support your business after they know and like you.
Try having your followers submit interview questions and answer them on video. This type of user-generated content is a great chance to build a relationship with your followers.
Vlog to your audience
Vlogging allows you to build a personal connection with your audience. Like behind-the-scenes content, vlogging on IGTV offers a separate channel for more intimate videos, but vlogging goes a step further by making your success more personal for your fans. When you vlog, you invite your audience to not just watch your brand grow, but become a part of that growth.
Bloopers and deleted scenes
If you’re creating videos where you’ve taken a lot of footage, why let it go to waste? Viewers are often interested in what gets cut from the content they enjoy. It provides an inside look at the process of creating a piece of content and gives the user a more personal connection to your content.
IGTV for Business: Examples of brands using it well
IGTV use has increased steadily over the past year, largely due to its increased popularity among young people. A 2019 report by Deloitte found that people aged 15-24 consume an average of 20% more video content online than people older than 45.
Assuming this trend continues, we’ve only seen the beginning of how IGTV may change the way we consume media. For brands, there’s an opportunity to get a foot in the door now and build a following that is primed for long-term growth.
Brands of all sizes have already made great strides on the platform. Below, we put together a list of a few noteworthy examples.
1. Makeup artist Neetu Josh (@neetujosh_artco)
Neetu Josh is a Northern California-based makeup and hair artist who freelances, teaches, and uses her IGTV to promote her services to potential clients. Quite a few hair and makeup artists have had success on IGTV, but Neetu Josh’s channel stands out.
Using colorful, professionally taken cover photos, Josh is able to make her content distinct among the sea of grainy screen-shots flooding the Popular tab. Rather than recycle old posts from her Instagram account or other social platforms, Josh uses her IGTV channel to craft a space for tutorials and behind-the-scenes features that without IGTV would go unseen.
- Rather than rehash old content, enhance it by creating companion-content that’s new
- Build trust with your audience by bringing them behind-the-scenes and showing a more personal side to your brand
- Use tutorials to promote your own products and direct traffic to your store without content that feels too much like an ad
2. Comedy troupe The Portuguese Kids (@theportuguesekids)
The Portuguese Kids are a comedy troupe that produces original memes and sketches. As their name gives away, TPK’s style of comedy taps into the shared cultural experiences of the international Portuguese diaspora.
On their main Instagram feed, TPK creates relatable, highly shareable memes about growing up Portuguese. On IGTV, TPK writes and performs original sketches. Splitting up two types of content like this can help encourage followers to cross-over between platforms, without being repetitive.
TPK smartly stays on-brand with its content, which always draws on relatable humor. From IGTV, their audience is directed to their online store where they offer Portuguese food products, cookbooks, kitchen supplies, home decor, apparel and a wide variety of small gifts and trinkets that play into the same sense of Portuguese nostalgia as their memes and comedy sketches.
- Create a sense of community among your followers by emphasizing their shared experiences through relatable content
- Keep a strong, consistent brand along every step of the customer marketing funnel to increase the likeliness that your followers will visit and purchase from your store
- Create IGTV content that’s distinct from your Instagram content, but keep both streams on-brand
3. Baker and cake-designer Laurie Shannon (@icingartist)
Laurie Shannon is the baker, cake-maker, and influencer behind the Icing Artist YouTube channel. On her channel, Shannon teaches viewers how she makes the stunning cake designs that appear on her Instagram feed.
While the cakes are dazzlingly colorful in their own right, taking perfect pictures of food is harder than it looks. Shannon’s cover photos could be hastily-saved screengrabs, but they’d never stand-out on IGTV’s Popular tab as well as her vibrant, professionally-edited photos.
But what’s especially notable about The Icing Artist is the content she’s chosen not to put on IGTV. Since Shannon already has a popular YouTube channel, she could have easily posted recycled content, but instead, she publishes unique content tailor-made for the platform's format and features.
- Create vibrant, eye-catching cover photos to help your brand stand-out
- Create original content for IGTV to help differentiate yourself on the platform and give users a reason to follow you
Use your IGTV feed to contextualize your Instagram posts with behind-the-scenes footage
4. Artist and Designer Matt Crump (@mattcrump)
Matt Crump is a Texas and California-based artist, designer, and influencer whose unique aesthetic and off-beat humor earned him a spot on Time magazine's list of most influential Instagrammers.
Crump’s polished, pastel pink aesthetic is likely already unique enough to draw in users, but more is at play here than just bright colors. On his regular feed, Crump posts candy-coated photography, but switch to his IGTV and things take a strange turn. In vlogs, Crump dons a jarringly-detailed unicorn mask adding a layer of intrigue and mystery to his brand.
Crump’s fearless experimentation with the platform positions him to draw in a very niche audience to his online store. Though Crump’s initial success may have been on his standard Instagram feed, his use of IGTV to grow that following should inspire any creator that’s wrestling with how to approach IGTV.
- Try using IGTV to build a persona to accompany already existing content
- Add a layer of mystery to your IGTV profile to draw-in intrigued users
- Be weird—subverting user expectations is a great way to get user’s attention as well as increase the odds of being remembered
5. MTV’s TRL (@trl)
MTV’s Total Request Live was a weekly, hour-long program airing from 1998 to 2007. In April 2019, a re-tooled version of the show began airing Saturday mornings, accompanied by a new IGTV channel used to promote it.
A lot of television shows have social media profiles that fall into the trap of simply posting clips from the longer program. That approach can help with growth at first, but viewers inevitably catch on to the fact that the best bits of your long-form show gets posted to IGTV, which can cause them to lose interest. And if the goal of your IGTV profile is to move users somewhere else, such as your online store, then your IGTV profile needs to encourage that movement, rather than be the end-point of your customer-journey.
MTV recognizes that if the goal of IGTV is to get viewers to move somewhere else, they must see the value in moving there. That’s why MTV opts to create original, short-form segments like 60-Second Draw, a series that this year was lauded with the Shorty Award for IGTV. The campaign was such a success that the TRL IGTV channel saw a 297% increase in viewership with its five episodes accounting for 88% of the channel’s IGTV views.
- Try the IGTV series feature to create a recurring segment that your audience can tune into regularly
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of content you think your audience would enjoy
- Don’t allow your content to “plateau” by just posting repurposed content—give users a reason to follow you
How to get more views on IGTV
So we know that IGTV is a unique platform that makes it much easier to grow your audience from your profile to your website. But there's a separate art to earning those views in the first place. If you want to make sure users are actually watching your videos, here are a few tips:
Cross-promote IGTV videos on Instagram
Since Instagram makes it easy to move users from one content stream to another, it’s important to promote your IGTV videos on Instagram’s other content channels. Keep in mind that there are still a lot of Instagram users who haven’t logged into IGTV. Your audience follows you for a reason—they like what you do. Show them how to find more of it.
Optimize your titles and descriptions
You have a maximum of 75 characters for your IGTV titles, but keep in mind that the title is truncated to about 50 characters when it’s displayed on the Following or Popular feeds. The description can be quite long with a max of 2200 characters, but full-length descriptions are easy to skim or skip altogether. You can also include relevant Instagram hashtags in your description to increase your reach like you would in stories and posts.
As for the link in your description, it’s best to start with it first so that you can drive more people to your website or other properties.
Use an eye-catching thumbnail image
Currently, on IGTV, there’s a high-level of re-purposed videos from other platforms. Much of it doesn’t appear to be designed with the IGTV feed in-mind and as a result, much of it doesn’t stand out. Influencers and brands that seem to be having the most initial success on the platform are ones with colorful eye-catching thumbnails, which stand out amongst the bland coloring of bland, unedited video.
Don’t take your time—get to the point
Instagram offers a maximum video time of one hour, but it’s best to keep it much shorter. Online behavioral studies show that about 25% of viewers are likely to finish a 20-minute video, so it’s wise to keep it shorter than that.
Introduce your hook quickly; you have about 10 seconds before users decide if they want to keep watching.
Create with the mute button in mind
There’s very little information on IGTV viewing habits currently, but given that an estimated 85% of mobile video content on Facebook is viewed with the sound off, it’s safe to say most IGTV videos will be viewed the same. This makes captions an important tool, not just for engagement but for accessibility. If you’re looking for some free and low-cost options for adding captions to your video, we’ve rounded some up:
- Clipomatic ($4.99, iOS only): Add captions to any video on your phone automatically using voice recognition.
- InShot ($2.99 to remove watermarks): A free video editing app that lets you add subtitles. There are also in-app purchases for additional features like stickers and filters.
- Kapwing’s Subtitle Tool (Free up to 500 MB upload): A platform for creating videos, GIFs, and images for free and without watermarks.
- Happy Scribe (€12/hour): A transcription service with a flexible pay-as-you-go structure with auto-transcription in more than 120 languages.
Measuring performance: tracking your success with IGTV insights
IGTV includes a bevy of out-of-the-box insight tools to track the success of your videos. Each insight says something different about the effectiveness of your content and, taken as a whole, help reveal your audience’s relationship with your content and what can be done to improve it.
Let’s review how to evaluate these metrics.
The number of users that viewed your post (note that multiple views by the same user still count as a single view). IGTV counts a “view” as any time spent on the post that’s longer than 3 seconds.
What can it tell you:
- If you have a lot of followers but not a lot of views, it means that users are not making the jump from Instagram to IGTV
- If you have very few followers but a lot of views, it means that your content is showing up in people’s feeds, but they’re not following the account
- If you have a lot of followers and views, you’re growing a highly-valuable audience
An accumulation of likes and comments you receive on a post.
What can it tell you:
- High engagement means that your videos are effectively capturing people’s attention and you should focus more on growing your audience
- Low engagement means your videos are not capturing people’s attention: if your Views are high in comparison, you should focus on improving your content
The percentage of viewers that watch your video in-full.
What can it tell you:
- High audience retention means that your content is engaging and you should focus on increasing the number of Views
- Lower audience retention could mean that your videos are too long, not what users are expecting, or just plain boring
Audience Retention Graph
A visual guide that collects audience retention data and serves as a visual guide to when most users are dropping off in your video.
What can it tell you:
- If more users drop off early, it can be a sign that they found your cover photo misleading
- If most of your users are dropping off before the end of the video, you might want to consider seeing if a shorter video keeps users engaged until the end
- If many users are dropping off at a very specific point in your video, it’s a clue that something in the video turned people off
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can IGTV videos be?IGTV videos can be as long as 60 minutes—just keep in mind that videos longer than 15 minutes must be posted via desktop.
How can I watch IGTV?You can log-in to IGTV by opening the IGTV app or tapping the IGTV icon in the top-right corner of the Instagram app. From here you can select from videos fed algorithmically or tap Following, Popular, or History to view videos from those feeds.
How do you delete your IGTV channel?Your IGTV profile is inseparable from your Instagram account, so you’re not able to remove the feature once it’s been activated without deleting your Instagram account. However, if you delete all of your IGTV videos, the IGTV tab will no longer appear on your Instagram profile when viewed by other users. You’ll still see the tab on your own account and will be able to browse IGTV as a user.
How do you download videos from IGTV?There is no way to download videos directly from IGTV, however, a number of third-party apps have been built to allow you to do this. Just remember that reposting other users’ content is a violation of IGTV’s Terms of Service and can result in a ban from the platform.
How do you share IGTV videos to Facebook?When you post a video to IGTV on mobile or web, you’ll be able to share that post to Facebook by selecting the Make Visible on Facebook option and syncing your Facebook account.
How can you convert videos to vertical orientation for IGTV?
If you select a horizontal video while uploading, it will be cropped automatically for vertical viewing. However, there are no options for adjusting the frame, so it’s always best to shoot in vertical. If you need more control over the way the video is cropped, you’ll need to use a third-party app to crop the video before uploading.
IGTV is just getting started
IGTV is different from other video-sharing platforms, but this shouldn’t scare you off utilizing it. With IGTV picking up in popularity, smaller brands are in a unique position to use the idiosyncrasies of the platform to secure themselves a spot as a top content producer.
Instagram has developed into a powerful growth tool for brands, especially product-based businesses. With IGTV providing a new avenue for creativity, brands that position themselves as pioneers of the app now, stand to gain a lot more in the years ahead.