You may have noticed a new little icon at the top of your Instagram. At first, it might look like a news alert or maybe some kind of broadcast. It’s actually Instagram’s new long-form video feature, that finally lets you post videos that are longer than just 60 seconds.

Instagram is already everyone’s favorite image app. Now, thanks to the launch of IGTV, it might just become our favorite video app too. We’re taking a look at Instagram’s new video platform, how it works, what it means for its key competitors—and how you can get started with IGTV for your brand.

Instagram takes a seat among long form video platforms like Youtube. Who’s here to stay?

IG—what?

Instagram launched IGTV at an event in San Francisco—just one day before the start of VidCon, a conference for online video creators—as they also announced that Instagram has grown into a community of one billion signed-up users. Although these kinds of announcements of changes and new features can often be unpopular with a platform’s existing users, this one has been met as a welcome improvement.

With IGTV, creators can now go beyond the limited ‘stories’ videos that were capped at one minute to upload anything from ten minutes to a full hour-long piece of content. There are no ads on the platform at the moment and Instagram has also said that they won’t be paying influencers to create videos for IGTV.

Getting competitive

IGTV interface
The IGTV interface—controversially vertical. Via Instagram.

This move by Facebook-owned Instagram brings the platform into direct competition with YouTube—the #1 platform for online video content—and Snapchat—the network that first brought us disappearing stories and vertical video. The platforms are really converging, with YouTube’s version of Instagram stories (in turn copied from Snapchat) and its version of Facebook Premieres both in the works; Facebook focusing on video and in particular live video, favoring it in the news feed algorithm; and Snapchat also looking into commissioned programming.

youtube interface
The Youtube video experience as we know and love it. Via Youtube.

YouTube really is the go-to platform for video content but there are some differences. YouTube acts as a search engine—that’s why ‘how-to’ videos like make-up tutorials and instructional videos are so prolific, as this is what people are searching for. To do well there, you need to research what people are looking for, create focused and unique content and then optimize your titles, descriptions and tags, as well as designing thumbnails.

In contrast with YouTube, where people are searching for something specific, Instagram is a channel where you are there effectively to ‘waste time’—in the US, almost an hour a day, which is only likely to increase now with the introduction of longer videos. You’re on the app browsing while waiting at the bus stop, looking for inspiration and open to discovering new content. IGTV makes this easy with the autoplay feature along with discovery sections ‘For You’, ‘Following’ and ‘Popular’. You can also send videos to your friends via DM. Content tends to be a bit more of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ type, less formal and more lifestyle focused than necessarily informational.

Snapchat interface
Snapchat’s video interface, complete with some fun emoji options. Via Snapchat.

Although there are some things to keep in mind with marketing yourself on Instagram vs. Facebook, it’s unlikely that Instagram will pose a direct threat to Facebook, given that Instagram is owned by the mammoth social network. Snapchat, however, is a different story. Popular with a younger demographic, Snapchat just doesn’t have the same scale as Instagram; Instagram’s ads are cheaper and its analytics tools are more developed; and discoverability is much better on Instagram and now on IGTV, compared to Snapchat, where a user has to have added you in order to see your content.

The choice to focus IGTV on vertical video challenges Snapchat while also distinguishing itself from other video channels. Vertical is what a lot of newbies do anyway, despite pros always having recommended landscape format. More than that, it truly makes this video format ‘mobile first’.

How to get started with IGTV

Instagram has always been about posting pics of your meals so now with IGTV it’s all about posting videos of you eating your food, right? Err… not quite!

1. Download the IGTV app

IGTV launch presentation
This is what the new IGTV app icon looks like, presented by Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. Via Instagram.

IGTV comes both as a standalone app and as an integration into Instagram. To start using IGTV, you don’t need to create a separate account, but you do need to download the new IGTV app. As long as you’re signed into the main app (and you’ve downloaded the latest version), you’ll be able to simply hit ‘continue’ with your existing account. The app will take you right to recommended videos, where you can then click on your profile pic in the corner to create your IGTV channel. You may want to optimize your Instagram bio (and possibly even your name) as only the first two lines are visible on the new app.

2. Get inspired

IGTV is so fresh that there aren’t a lot of articles online on best practices right now, but you can still have a look at what others are doing before you start creating your own videos. In the IGTV app, you can browse videos selected For You, videos from the accounts that you’re Following, as well as Popular videos. Make a note of what you think works, what you like and don’t like. This will give you ideas for what to include and what to avoid when you make your own videos.

3. Plan your content

city graphics
Consider how IGTV is going to fit into your existing marketing ecosystem. Design by LittleFox.

If you have a lot of followers, you may already have access to the full 60-minute format; for the rest of us, we’ll have to make do with 10 minutes. Have a think about what role this new platform can play in your brand ecosystem. Consider:
How will you differentiate this content from the videos that you’re already sharing on other platforms?
What do you want people to do after watching a video—what call to action can you include?
Consistency is key here to build trust and engagement—how often are you going to post videos and on which day of the week?

4. Post your first video

There’s always going to be a bit of a hurdle when it comes to using a new platform like this and the best thing to do is to step right out of that comfort zone and get something up as soon as possible. To post a video, you’ll need to:

Hit record—To create your first video, all you need is your phone. Make sure you hold it in the vertical position; look for good lighting, for example, you might face a window; and avoid background noise.

Up your game—If you want a more professional look, you can use a stand or a gimbal for more stability; get a small lapel mic and a proper lighting set-up; and use a camera shutter remote control to avoid having to edit out your flabby arm turning on and off the recording.

Upload your video—You’ll be uploading your creation in the IGTV app (or on the web), although people can watch directly from the main mobile app. You’ll be able to add a title and a description, including a link, as well as a compelling cover photo for the video.

5. Engage—and learn

Spoke podcast cover design
IGTV gives you an even better opportunity to engage with your audience in an authentic way than just by posting pics with long captions. Podcast cover design by designRays.

Just as you would do on a Facebook Live, you want to make sure that you’re engaging with your audience. People viewing your content can like and comment on your videos, as well as potentially clicking on the link in the description. Make sure that you involve the audience, ask questions and include that explicit call to action in the video. Since it’s all so new, you’ll also want to see what resonates and what your audience really wants. Check the analytics to see what people are watching and to help you optimize your content and make it even better.

Make sure that you also check out our article with 9 Instagram growth hacks for your small business as these all still apply!

What does the future of online video look like?

Game background illustration of a man using a jetpack
Who’s going to come out on top in the future of online video? Design by LittleFox.

Although there are definitely similarities in the moves that the leading platforms are making in the video space, there could well be a world in which there’s space for more than one player. It’s possible and even likely that YouTube will continue to be the main platform where people host their content and focus on more polished work, while Instagram might own the more personal, spontaneous and ‘behind-the-scenes’ type of content.

It’s always best practice to build a ‘platform-agnostic’ brand if you want to be protected from the ups and downs of any one platform, so for now at least it’s best to not put all your eggs in one basket.

So what do you think? What’s your first IGTV video going to be? Have you already been posting videos? And what do you think is the future for these video platforms? Leave a comment below!