Dropping the Filter: How Brands Can Navigate Instagram’s IGTV

Opinion: Those that get on early will enjoy a first-mover advantage

Instagram introduced IGTV in June
Instagram

Instagram made its name by offering photo filters that gave the amateur’s pictures some professional sheen. But lately, its video offerings have been also become a place where brands offer unfiltered images of themselves.

Many brands are likely to continue with that approach for IGTV. Introduced in June, IGTV is notable for two things: It is a separate “sub-application” within Instagram, and videos can run as long as 60 minutes.

Since the app’s search function is limited—you can search by creator, not subject—IGTV appears to be another vehicle where brands can let their hair down. Like Instagram Stories, it’s where brands can get a bit weird and send messages designed for their biggest fans.

Although IGTV has only been out for a short time, none of the features it offers is new. YouTube already lets brands run on videos of any length, and Instagram classic has existed for years.

With this past experience to draw upon, here’s what brands need to do to become IGTV virtuosos:

  • Channel your inner Andy Warhol: Since consumers have to be loyal followers to see your IGTV content, you can craft messages that aren’t designed for a mass audience. Of course, this is where brands can get into trouble. There are countless instances of marketers trying to be edgy or funny in social media, only to have those posts taken out of context and then deemed offensive or insensitive. While edginess is too risky for most brands, weirdness is just fine. No one took offense, for instance, when Netflix ran a 60-minute IGTV video of Riverdale star Cole Sprouse eating a cheeseburger. Such feats of mundanity harken back to the days when Warhol shot a five-hour video of a man sleeping. It’s hard to get offended by something like that, but it’s likely to spark conversation and send fans to your IGTV feed.
  • Announce something new: Some brands have used Instagram Stories, Instagram’s Snapchat-like ephemeral photo and video feed, for flash sales and new product introductions. LG, for example, used Stories to launch its V20, G5 and G6 smartphones. At this writing, no brands have used IGTV for a high-profile product launch, but the medium is well suited for such use.
  • Use it differently than Stories: Now that Stories has been around for two years, brands have figured out the best uses for the platform, which include behind-the-scenes glimpses, reportage and question-and-answer sessions. The key differences between Stories and IGTV are video length (which was formerly capped at 60 seconds) and ephemerality (videos now stick around forever instead of disappearing after 24 hours). The challenge for brands is to figure out which content goes on each. Obviously, flash sales and appointment viewing like one-day feed takeovers aren’t meant to be archived. A better approach might be to consider what might go on the brand’s YouTube page and then reimagine it in vertical format for IGTV.

Given Instagram’s popularity and Snapchat’s sudden fall from grace, brands will be wise to take IGTV seriously. As with past Facebook-backed social media launches, brands that get on early will enjoy a first-mover advantage and reap the benefits of Facebook’s efforts to highlight their content.

That’s why smart brands are getting on IGTV now to figure out how to best use it and offer a more unfiltered vision of their brands.

Patrick Kirby is chief operating officer at video advertising company GlassView.