Over the last few years, social video – or at least Facebook video – has come to mean snackable, short content. Branded content is advised to be quick to watch and metrics are measured at 3 second view times. Fifteen seconds seems excessive. And for all this, Facebook has never quite cracked longform video.
Until, that is, today. Since launching two weeks ago, Instagram TV – or IGTV for short – has been hailed as the app that finally allows Facebook, Instagram’s owner, to take on YouTube and perhaps even traditional TV. And whenever the social network makes an update this significant, marketers will inevitably fall over themselves to be first on the platform or at least ask “should I be investing in this?”
Before attempting to answer that question, it’s worth taking a step back and look at what Facebook is trying to achieve. It’s not that long ago that Facebook launched Watch, a place for longform video within the social network.
Thousands of dollars were spent convincing publishers and TV networks to create standalone shows for the platform. Results, so far, appear to be underwhelming. Watch was meant to be Facebook’s answer to YouTube. IGTV may well be.
As with any new hyped app, it takes time for creators and audiences to work out how exactly to use the platform. In the case of IGTV, its main point of difference is the mobile-optimised vertical format and the fact it now allows videos to last up to an hour. That’s a world away from the ephemeral Stories format and the short-but-polished photos and videos that populate Instagram’s news feed.
It’s not surprising that publishers have been the first to experiment with IGTV. Many of them are already producing video content, so it’s relatively easy to repurpose existing videos, providing the aspect ratio isn’t too wonky.
Since downloading IGTV, I’ve spent five minutes watching a Mashable report on Iranian women in sports stadiums, a six minute explainer from Copa 90 on the Icelandic football team’s recent success, and a nine minute film from The Economist on how tourism is damaging oceans.
It’s not all been publishers though. Qantas posted a rather lovely three minute film on the pilot whose son had become his co-pilot, while Adidas have been posting five minute films on the background of football stars like Dele Alli and Gabriel Jesus.
Interestingly, I’ve found myself skipping over the shorter videos that last less than a minute. Generally, these videos don’t seem to say much and aren’t really long enough to hold your attention. It speaks volumes that I can’t remember a single 30 second video I’ve watched on the platform.
So, this is where IGTV differs significantly from existing social channels. It encourages longer content. Try and post the same content on Stories, your news feed and IGTV and it would just look and feel weird. It already feels as if minutes watched and completion rate are far more important metrics for videos than that three second Facebook newsfeed view.
IGTV is also clever in that it takes a bite out of multiple competitors. It provides a genuine alternative to Snapchat Discover – part of the app that no network had really replicated. It could put a dent in LinkedIn’s video ambitions. And it has YouTube squarely in its sights.
Whether it will be enough to encourage content creators or brands to make the move to IGTV is another question entirely. For content creators, IGTV is yet another channel to post their work to. For YouTubers with a high, loyal audience, it’s a lot of effort for a platform that isn’t yet monetised. For people with a significant Instagram following, it may just be worth the effort.
And for brands? Put it this way, it’s definitely different and gives storytelling a proper opportunity to breathe, in a way that Facebook definitely doesn’t allow and YouTube can be hit and miss with. Some of those branded videos that only have a handful of views on YouTube may well perform a lot better on IGTV – although IGTV won’t be any use if your video is crap in the first place.
But if good video isn’t cheap to produce then well executed longform branded content is pretty expensive, even if it’s shot solely for mobile. And there’s also a wider question of what exactly a brand stands to get out of posting five minute videos when you’re back to relying on views and comments as your main metrics.
For companies like Qantas or Adidas who already have strong in-house content teams, it makes sense to test out IGTV and compare the base level metrics to elsewhere. For certain brands that already have a strong Instagram strategy, like Gucci or Louis Vutton, for example, it’s a relatively logical extension of existing content, such as behind the scenes videos from fashion shoots.
But if you’re not already producing video content for other channels or don’t have a clear and obvious application, then the best approach is, rather predictably, take time to work out where it fits into your strategy, if at all, and what it will achieve for your brand. If you’ve got existing videos that could work on the platform, there’s no harm in testing them, as long as you’re not just pumping out the same video across multiple channels.
The up-front strategic work might not be as exciting as planning one hour episodic content for a new platform, but it will save you a hell of a lot of money. There’s plenty of great videographers in Australia, but I’d rather give them money to shoot well thought out content that your audience actually want to watch and delivers the desired result.
If you’re looking at IGTV and wondering where your brand fits in, MercerBell would be happy to help with your content strategy. We’ve undertaken major strategies for the likes of Purina and Toyota and have social, content and influencer specialists within the agency.