A beginner’s guide to IGTV

Instagram launched IGTV last week. But what is it – and is it for you?

What is it?

IGTV is Instagram’s new video platform. It’s available via a separate app that connects to your Instagram profile, similar to the way Messenger links with Facebook.

The basics

IGTV is a vertical (portrait) video format, as opposed to horizontal (landscape). It defaults to a 9:16 aspect ratio, the same as Instagram Stories. Think of it like turning a YouTube video on its side.

Videos must be at least 15 seconds in length and can be up to 10 minutes long. Larger or verified accounts can upload up to 60-minute videos, although this has to be done from a computer rather than a phone.

How do I get started?

To set yourself up on IGTV, you need to create your own channel:

  1. Download the IGTV app to your phone.
  2. Open the app and sign in with your Instagram account – this will link your new channel to your existing profile.
  3. Click on ‘Settings’ (the gear icon) and click ‘Create Channel’.

Having set up your channel, the next step is to upload content. (You cannot create ‘live’ video in the same way as Instagram Stories or Facebook Live.)

From the home page of the IGTV app:

  1. Click on your avatar to the right of the screen (next to Settings).
  2. Click on the + icon to bring up your camera roll.
  3. Select a video and add a title, description and cover image. (You can select a thumbnail from your video or upload a custom image.)
  4. Click ‘Post’ to publish.

Should I use it?

It depends! Either way, it’s entirely up to you.

No one yet knows how successful IGTV will be. It may be adopted only by niche audiences or it could become mainstream in the way Stories has, with its 300 million daily users.

Here are six reasons to use IGTV:

  1. Instagram has just passed the magic number of one billion active users, so the audience potential is huge – and slanted more towards younger users than either Facebook or YouTube.
  2. If you have a large following already – and especially if you actively use Stories – you can expect your followers to be interested in your IGTV content.
  3. Greater scope to produce longer content. Videos in Stories are restricted to 15 seconds, forcing content creators to split across multiple Story entries. Videos in the main feed are limited to 60 seconds.
  4. IGTV offers more detailed insights, which can help you understand more about how effective your videos are.
  5. Videos are visible on your page permanently and do not disappear after 24 hours, unlike Stories.
  6. It’s easy to share posts to your other social platforms. (Click on your avatar to open your home page, then select a video to start playing it, click on the ‘More’ icon (three horizontal dots) and select ‘Copy Link’.)

Having said all this, if you have a well established YouTube channel, it may be preferable to focus on that rather than diverting your attention to this new platform. It’s up to you.

I have a sneaky suspicion that the kind of person IGTV appeals to is someone like me. I don’t have the time, talent or technical know-how to produce beautiful YouTube videos. To be honest, YouTube terrifies me. But a format that potentially encourages content that is produced relatively quickly that doesn’t necessarily require hours of editing? I can go for that.

Check your Insights

It’s worth investigating IGTV Insights to understand how these can help you understand the effectiveness of your content. To access these, select one of your own videos, click the ‘More’ icon and then ‘View Insights’. You will see a screen like this:

The ‘Engagement’ section gives you basic stats such as views, likes and comments. Note that a ‘view’ indicates only that someone has watched at least three seconds of your video. It does not tell you whether they have watched all of it.

The ‘Audience retention’ section is where IGTV Insights comes into its own. Firstly, it shows you the average percentage watched. In the example above, the average viewer has watched 69% of my 31-second video – equivalent to 21 seconds. That’s pretty good.

Even more useful is the audience retention graph underneath it. This shows how viewers drop off as the video progresses. This chart shows that around 75% of viewers made it to the mid-point of my video, while just under half watched the whole of it. This can be a really useful tool to help you understand if there is a particular point where people tend to drop off, indicated by a sharp dip in the graph. And if only a small percentage of people watch to the end of your video, you may want to shorten future videos.

Now what?

Obviously, we’re at a very early stage in the adoption cycle. As with any new platform, there is an advantage to being an early mover but also a risk that it may ultimately be a wasted effort. Given the success of Instagram Stories, there’s a good chance that IGTV will take off. It addresses an interesting gap in the market, and its vertical format gives it a clear point of difference that lends itself to use by influencers and anyone who wants to create ‘talking head’ style content.

As of now, there are no rules as to what does and doesn’t work for IGTV audiences in terms of content, topics, style, length or what the accepted standard is for editing and presentation (one-take videos in the style of Stories or heavily edited YouTube style?).

It’s early days. But I would bear two key things in mind.

Firstly, IGTV is not just ‘longer Stories’ or ‘upright YouTube’. It is a distinct format in its own right. The people who will make it work best are those who create their content specifically for IGTV rather than simply repurposing content and applying the ‘rules’ of other platforms.

Secondly, just because you can upload long videos doesn’t mean you should. It’s one thing to watch a couple of 15-second video Stories but it’s unlikely that anyone – even a dedicated fan – will watch ten minutes of someone rambling on about an ordinary day in the life. As established YouTubers will know, long-form video demands you have to give a viewer something valuable to make them commit to spending several minutes out of their day. People will be selective about what they watch, so aim for quality rather than quantity of content. The stats available in Insights don’t lie.

Above all, if you’re giving IGTV a try, enjoy it. Social media is meant to be fun, right?

Have you tried IGTV yet? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below.


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