Instagram’s new service has YouTube in its sights
It’s been less than a month since IGTV, Instagram’s latest innovation that allows videos up to an hour long, went public.
Cynics had marked IGTV for the same fate that befell Facebook Watch, Facebook’s video platform that has suffered from low viewership numbers since arriving in April 2017.
But so far, the signs for IGTV are encouraging.
High-profile publishers such as BuzzFeed, the BBC and The Economist have jumped on board and viewing figures are high.
This early success reflects the increasing popularity among younger demographics for content that is hyper personalised and mobile. As well as that, IGTV has further been bolstered by uptake from key influencers.
Selena Gomez – 138 million Instagram followers at time of writing – has already used IGTV to preview her new horror short film called A Love Story. Earlier this week Jaden Smith released his new five-track album Electric on IGTV. Meanwhile everyone from Kim Kardashian to Chipotle have set up a channel.
Creators and influencers
But IGTV needs more than star power to establish itself. Whether it can compete with other original video programming platforms such as YouTube will likely rest on its ability to attract and support homegrown creators.
Creators and social media influencers are increasingly crucial currency for new platforms to succeed.
Earlier this year Snapchat held its first Creators Summit, demonstrating that platforms are looking to curry favour with creators in the belief that they are the best way to increase engagement – especially with younger audiences.
Creators themselves have been looking for an alternative to the YouTube monopoly for years. For most YouTube creators making money has always been an uncertain game. Ad revenue is determined by the whims of the fickle YouTube algorithm, leaving creators in the dark as to how they should tailor their content to boost income.
This uncertainty reached breaking point in early 2017 when reports surfaced that YouTube was supplying advertising to content created by terrorist organisations. The backlash led YouTube to offer corporations greater control over what content their ads would appear alongside. What followed was the mass demonetisation of some of YouTube’s most popular videos and accounts that were deemed to be producing unsuitable content.
The fear and uncertainty surrounding demonetisation has not gone away.
YouTube creators have a long list of grievances – but until now had very little recourse to change their fate.
Some creators have suggested moving, or at least threatening to move, to Twitch. But in general no platform has been able to offer a viable alternative to YouTube, leaving creators with very little leverage.
Could IGTV be an answer to these prayers?
Choosing a platform for marketers
If IGTV continues to rise in popularity it is possible that YouTube and Instagram will be in direct competition for creators.
IGTV offers an alternative to YouTube with the benefit of a large pre-existing audience of 800 million users. Given that Instagram is most popular among younger demographics, it is likely to be particularly attractive to younger creators who will probably already have a large number of followers and therefore instant subscribers on IGTV.
Content marketers should take note of the oncoming struggle for creators and influencers between different platforms.
All marketers know that platforms need to be accessible and appealing to users. But the most successful and sustainable platforms, be that YouTube, print magazines, podcasts or online hubs, are those that attract talented content creators as well as users.
It is important to treat influencers and content creators as an asset, but also to build platforms that appeal to them in the first place.
Competition or coexistence?
IGTV and YouTube are unlikely to be in direct competition for quite some time. And it is unlikelier still that IGTV spells the end for YouTube.
For a start, the type of content YouTube creators are used to producing is not best suited to IGTV. Traditional YouTube videos are filmed in landscape from a desktop computer and then edited before uploading – very different from the way Instagram envisages users creating videos for their IGTV channels.
More importantly, Instagram has yet to include adverts in its videos. In other words, at the moment, it provides no revenue for creators.
The more likely scenario is that creators and users will use YouTube and IGTV in conjunction in the same way that many creators currently create different content for Snapchat and YouTube.
Ipsos Mori’s recent report Beyond Binary explores the changing habits of Generation Z.
It highlights that Gen Z is increasingly likely to use multiple, integrated media platforms – again reminding marketers that good marketing is not just about the content, it’s equally about where that content goes.
Different platforms draw different demographics and spark different kinds of content as a result of their unique limitations and capacities. In the most extreme cases the content becomes synonymous with where it lives, such as Vine – a content format created, and now made obsolete, by its ill-fated platform.
Young media users are happy to shop around when it comes consuming content. As a result, coexistence between platforms is ever-more possible.
But platforms need to be distinct, hyper-personalised and targeted to facilitate their unique content type. The future belongs to those who develop platforms creatively, not those who take them for granted.
When to switch on
So should you add IGTV to your content output? For those brands with large Instagram followings already, jumping on board the momentum of the fresh, new service is a worthwhile gamble at this stage.
For those without large followings, there’s a decision to be made about what exactly is the cut off for new content avenues. How many pools can you dip your toes into before you drown?
As ever, it comes down to audience. If you’re reaching out to a younger, tech-savvy audience then the rewards are there. And if that’s the case, get the younger tech-savvy people in your organisation to do it for you. Your business is full of creators, so use them. Social media marketing lives and dies on authenticity – and never is that more the case than when it comes to grappling with new content platforms.
As for the service itself, IGTV’s success or failure will reveal a lot about the power of platforms versus creators.
So far, it remains to be seen whether YouTube will be able to hold on to its traditional creator base or if its online video hegemony is finally drawing to a close.
After all, its latest venture is YouTube Music – a streaming service to rival Spotify and Apple Music. Maybe YouTube is feeling the heat after all.