Is IGTV Worth Your Small Business's Time?

You may have noticed that Instagram recently released a new product known as IGTV — short for “Instagram TV.”

If you’re a small business owner, your first thought was likely something along the lines of, “Crap, another social media site we have to join?” 

Not quite. Let’s take a look at what exactly this new platform is trying to accomplish and see if you should work it into your marketing plans or hold off for now. 

What is it?

Announcing IGTV’s launch, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom described IGTV as a long-form, vertical video streaming service. Essentially, this is Instagram’s answer to YouTube, with a few big differences.

There is an underlying tension in the world of streaming video. Generally, we all prefer horizontal video. It’s how we watch our movies. It’s how we build our TVs. Even YouTube prefers the horizontal format.

Our phones, however, lend themselves more to vertical video. Snapchat is exclusively vertical, and while you can easily shift your phone to a horizontal position to watch YouTube or other streaming videos, recording video yourself in a horizontal position just isn’t as comfortable.

Our phones are built to be held vertically, but no platform other than Snapchat readily accepts this format — until IGTV.

IGTV is attempting to make long-form (up to 1 hour) streaming videos shot from your cell phone more prevalent. The underlying goal here is to minimize the amount of time users spend outside of the Instagram ecosystem.

“Don’t flip from your Instagram account to YouTube,” Instagram seems to be arguing, “Just tap the IGTV button instead.” Of course, there are some benefits for creators as well.

Rather than posting a short promo on your Instagram profile for a longer video you’re hosting on YouTube, for example, you can instead send your audience to IGTV. If you’re considering this in terms of lead generation, this cuts down on the number of places you’re bouncing potential leads around and makes it easier to funnel them to ultimately contacting your organization directly.

In theory, at least.

How it Works

Conveniently, IGTV doesn’t require you to set up a new profile if you already have an Instagram account. When logging in, either by downloading the standalone app or tapping on the IGTV button at the top of your Instagram feed, you’ll notice a few viewing options, including:

  • For You
  • Following
  • Popular
  • Continue Watching

These are the main “channels” you can flip through to view content. 

To upload your own videos, you just tap on your profile picture and select “Upload Video.” Since Instagram and IGTV are tied together, your followers will receive a notification at the top of their Instagram profiles whenever you’ve uploaded a new IGTV video, which they can then tap on to view your video. The link to your IGTV will also be stored next to any saved Instagram stories you have on your profile page.

So, the barrier to using IGTV isn’t as steep as adopting a whole new social media platform has traditionally been.

Is it Worth Your Time?

Now, if your first thought reading this is, “Why is another company trying to compete with YouTube?” then you’re not alone. And with IGTV being a pretty new platform, evaluating its effectiveness at this point calls for a fair amount of projection.

Currently, a casual flip over to my personal IGTV account shows kind of B-grade YouTube material — red carpet interviews, oddly cropped ESPN videos and news from publications that have gone all-in on the platform. In short, right now there is nothing pulling me to the platform, personally. 

That’s not to say that your users may not be there, however. From my perspective, the main reasons you should or shouldn’t work IGTV into your marketing strategy comes down to if your audience is actually using the platform and if you can allocate the needed resources to get the most out of the platform.

Does it look like any of your Instagram followers are actively using IGTV and posting their own videos? If you tap on the “following” option and see only a couple of videos or none at all, then that’s a pretty good sign that your audience isn’t there yet — though this may not exactly be an impediment to having them view your videos, since they will automatically be notified of them in Instagram. 

And as previously mentioned, IGTV is vertical video only. If you’re thinking you can take your existing videos and just crop them to meet IGTV’s formats, well that likely won’t work, especially if you used a professional video crew.

If your videos were shot horizontally — cropping them will likely unintentionally cut out key information or imagery, leading a very confusing viewing experience. That’s something you definitely don’t want. 

On the other hand, if you plan on investing in professionally shot videos for IGTV, you’d have to pay for them to be shot in a vertical aspect ratio or in two ratios at once — a cost most small businesses will not be willing to pay.

To really take advantage of IGTV, you should plan on shooting video yourself off your mobile device, which likely won’t work for every organization.

IGTV would be ideal for businesses that can actually show their products at work or give a visual demonstration of some kind. Otherwise, if it’s just someone talking to the camera and you’re NOT a heavily followed influencer of some kind, then there likely won’t be much incentive to watch your video. 

A Waiting Game

At this point, the answer to whether or not your organization should invest time in IGTV is, “maybe.” 

If Instagram is a big part of your marketing efforts, then it can’t hurt to see if your audience responds to the new platform, but I would encourage you to lightly test the waters before diving in. Work on one or two videos — product demos are a good place to start — and see what reaction you get.

Right now, IGTV lacks any kind of advertising model while the company focuses on building engagement. Ultimately, for the long-term health and viability of IGTV, some form of monetization will have to be incorporated into the model, otherwise YouTube will remain the platform of choice for video creators. 

So, while you likely won’t be able to reach outside your existing followers on IGTV, this does provide you with a new option to create an easily controllable form of content. 

If it sounds like this might resonate with you audience, give it a shot, and for everyone else, we’ll just have to wait and see what future advertising options are incorporated into the platform.