Creators and marketers may love Instagram, but they’ve been hesitant to build on Instagram’s 2-month-old longer-form streaming feature, IGTV. However, there’s been early experimentation and a growing marketing tech stack as each side tries to understand what actually works on Instagram’s vertical video platform.
IGTV’s growth has been slow, but that seems to be part of Instagram’s strategy. When Instagram released IGTV on June 20, just days before the annual online video conference VidCon, it opened the platform to any Instagram user. That’s a stark contrast to Snapchat’s curated list of partners for Discover and even Facebook’s launch of Watch. That strategy has led to a strange array of content from horizontal videos originally on YouTube and plenty of comedy sketches, but it’s yet to produce any big hits.
Viner-turned-YouTuber Nash Grier has been experimenting on IGTV and has shared some of the select few impressive originals. He started producing for IGTV on June 22, two days after its launch, and now posts a new IGTV video almost every Sunday. While he has 9.9 million followers on Instagram, an IGTV video he posted on Aug. 26 has only brought in about 15,000 views over a day. Yet that isn’t deterring him.
“I had already been drawn to the vertical look and feel from using my phone every day. I love that this platform glorifies that. Aside from everything being catered towards 16:9 everything I post on IGTV is very visual moreso than my YouTube and the videos themselves are much shorter. YouTube and IGTV are still very different worlds in terms of audience, content and opportunity,” Grier emailed from Dubai, where he’s currently filming.
Grier hasn’t done any sponsored videos on IGTV yet, but he continues to do some influencer marketing as traditional Instagram posts.
Some brands are beginning to promote within IGTV. Postmates, for example, had singer Nick Jonas make surprise deliveries and shared it as a two-minute IGTV video on Aug. 24. That post got about 164,000 views over the past three days compared to Jonas’s 16.6 million followers on Instagram.
Other brands have been less willing to devote that much time to IGTV. For one, the platform doesn’t have an ad share model, unlike YouTube. Despite being featured on Instagram’s video monitors showcasing IGTV at VidCon and appearing IRL at Instagram’s VidCon booth, celebrity pomeranian JiffPom launched a new show on YouTube last week and has done very little on IGTV.
“Right now, our focus has been and will continue for a little while rolling programming out on YouTube. Each platform has specific needs and requirements for the audience. We want to be sure that with new programming we have one really right,” said Kevin Grosch, CEO of Made In Network who works with JiffPom.
Even with the lack of quality IGTV content, Activate, an influencer marketing company formerly called Bloglovin’, released support for IGTV within its platform this week. Now, creators and brands can see views, likes, comments and the average percentage of viewers for each video. That matches the in-app insights Instagram already provides, aside from the audience-retention graph, but as a larger platform, Activate analyzes IGTV alongside statistics for Instagram Stories, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
“We’re in a bit of a testing stage for IGTV. For brands, there’s a lot of questions of what is the return? What’s the platform activation strategy? But given the conversations I’ve had there’s definite interest and willingness to create on IGTV so they can build up the case study if it’s effective for them,” said Lauren McGrath, Activate’s vp of studio and strategy.
Kamiu Lee, CEO of Activate, and McGrath said YouTube is still king of online video because it’s been around for much longer, but that influencers they work with say they see Instagram as a king in regards to different content formats.
“IGTV is a content format that can extend and amplify and add further engagement from an existing campaign. Longer-form video is still based around YouTube, and IGTV is becoming a more important spoke to that wheel,” McGrath said.
Still, Grosch said before he invests in the platform for accounts like JiffPom he wants to see more of a community built around IGTV.
“Outside of comedy sketches, which work all the time, everywhere, you’re having people still trying different things and then learning and replication of formats. I’m excited to see what gets the first hit. It’s in the hands of the creators,” Grosch said.
Of course, that introduces a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Grier said he wants more of his peers to create vertical videos, whether it’s for Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or Musical.ly (now TikTok).
“The fate of IGTV relies on the attention, awareness of Instagram and its creators. A few more additions here and there could really elevate it as a platform,” Grier said.