Instagram is a social platform that has proved its potential time and time again. It has adapted to its environment, and rolled with the punches. It’s slowly overtaken numerous social media applications by adopting their features and beating them at their own game. When Instagram first launched “Stories,” no-one could have guessed the effect it would have on Snapchat. Now, Instagram Stories has amassed over 250 million daily active users, beating out Snapchat by almost 50%.
The app’s next target? YouTube. You may have noticed an exciting new function at the top of your Instagram app. This is no ordinary colourful TV icon, it’s Instagram’s latest venture: IGTV. Launched in June 2018, this new feature allows users to upload content up to an hour in length. It’s designed to be a mobile-first vertical experience that allows users to follow their favourite creators as well as create content themselves. Whilst only brands and verified accounts can upload a full hour of content, regular users have an extended range and are able to upload content that’s between 15 seconds and 10 minutes long. Instagram really went all out on their new endeavour, also investing in a stand-alone app for their users to solely access IGTV. As the head of Ogilvy Social, Instagram’s latest development intrigued me. Not only because of the great content I’d be able to consume, but because of the vast potential for our clients. So, what exactly does IGTV mean for brands, and why should they care?
There’s no denying the visibility and exposure that Instagram’s massive user base provides. The platform recently reached a record-breaking 1 billion monthly active users in June 2018. That’s a growth rate of almost 5% compared to last quarter. To put it into perspective, Snapchat reported growth of only 2.13% and Facebook 3.14%. Some might even say that Instagram’s growth hampered Snapchat’s potential. In fact, after Instagram launched Stories in August 2016, Snapchat’s growth reportedly slowed by 82%.
Instagram has already successfully positioned itself as a comprehensive platform for brands to test content and build their presence. However, up until IGTV, this content was short form and ephemeral. With IGTV, Instagram is clearly building a comprehensive content platform that provides both short social-esque videos and long-form high production value content.
IGTV’s biggest potential could arguably be its opportunity for influencers. Even before Instagram launched IGTV, the platform was a top choice for creators around the world. A 2018 study covering 300 influencers revealed that 87.1% identified Instagram as their No.1 platform for influencer work, citing opportunities to connect with brands as the driving force. As for YouTube? Well, only 8.5% of respondents identified it as their platform of choice. This is unsurprising given YouTube’s continuous shift in its advertising guidelines. In an effort to crack down on offensive videos by automatically preventing them from earning revenue, the platform inadvertently demonetised innocent content creators. It’s issues like this that has led to a rise in creator complaints. Hence, a new platform with a well-established audience is likely to be welcomed by the influencer community.
However, I should caveat that IGTV does not currently offer influencers the opportunity to make money like YouTube does, a business model that Instagram is likely to change in the near future. An Instagram product manager has been quoted as saying, “we are committed to making sure that creators can make a living here, because for a lot of them, this is a full-time job.” So, while it’s not a possibility yet, creators should be on the lookout for the opportunity to monetise soon. However, YouTube does have a fully faceted compensatory model that allows influencers to earn in a myriad of ways. From advertising revenue to subscription fees to endorsements, the opportunities are endless. Hence, Instagram will have to evolve their business model quickly to keep up with the mass video brand in this aspect.
One of the key aspects that differentiates IGTV from Instagram’s beloved Stories is its ability to provide a medium for long-form content. It represents a new opportunity to break into this type of content for users, brands and influencers alike.
Whilst many brands have just been repurposing old YouTube videos to showcase on IGTV, a few early adopters have created original content that they built specifically for the new platform. Probably the most well-known example? Netflix. The media giant made headlines when they took advantage of IGTV’s 60-minute content limit to broadcast Cole Sprouse (star of Netflix’s hit show Riverdale) eating a burger for a full hour. It also presents an interesting opportunity for traditional television and movie studios to tease and launch their upcoming shows and films in a new format. For example, National Geographic used IGTV for promotion, broadcasting 45 minutes of one of their shows “One Strange Rock.” However, before streaming it on IGTV, the nature network edited it so that it could be viewed vertically - an important aspect that many users consider attractive for consuming content on their smartphones.
However. it’s also worth mentioning that YouTube offers a more attractive search function. Currently IGTV only allows users to search for the creators/channels and not the content itself. Part of YouTube’s allure is its ability to quickly and effectively find relevant content. So, IGTV’s lack of comprehensive search capabilities may become cumbersome to some.
To wrap up, I think it’s clear Instagram has proven itself to be a dynamic platform. It has been fast to adapt based on user behavior and developments in the social and mobile space and, as a result, been able to cultivate a huge user base.
IGTV itself represents a unique opportunity for brands and creators to not only capture but maintain the attention of existing and potential customers. With all the merger and acquisition activity currently taking place across the world of content, spurred on by the rapid growth of Netflix, it will be interesting to see the role IGTV will play. Will it focus on taking over YouTube’s dominance in the world of social video content or does it have it sights on content providers such as Netflix? Well, it’s too soon to say, but I’m sure YouTube and those alike will be paying full attention to how IGTV evolves in coming months.
Jason Fashade (left) is managing director, social, at Ogilvy Hong Kong. Taryn Pillay (right), associate strategist at Ogilvy Hong Kong, also contributed to this piece.