Like Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, Instagram and YouTube have long competed for the attention of younger social media audiences. Instagram's debut of IGTV is the latest in these sparring matches, as the platform vies to compete in the long-form video space.
However, critics question whether IGTV will ever compete with the perceived ubiquity of YouTube, or whether it will ever catch on in the first place. To others, its inception was inevitable, and a true competitor to YouTube (move over Vimeo) is good for the industry on the whole.
The real winners, however, are not just social media users, but influencers looking to capitalize on different forms of content. Let's dive in to see why IGTV will be successful — and why it's good for influencers on the whole.
Same same, but different
If YouTube is the king of video, Instagram is the king of content. With over 800 million users, and over $1 billion spent on Influencers last year, Instagram is the fastest growing and most popular social media for ages 18 to 35. YouTube, though boasting a larger userbase by comparison, has a more diversified userbase, but its fastest growing demographics are much older than Instagram. The type of content created is obviously much different between platforms, but the variance in YouTube is greater across the various verticals and topics.
The exponential production costs of creating quality video content rigidly segments creators on YouTube by the various barriers to entry. Top tier YouTube stars have high quality cameras, expensive editing software, high fidelity microphones, and in extreme cases, dedicated production teams, whereas a vlogger who is just starting out may only have their smartphone and a dream. However, because of the nature of popularity on the platform, a certain level of production quality is expected for mass appeal, hence why a vast majority of YouTube content generally has the same cinematographic feeling. (Casey Neistat's tips are more doctrine than suggestions.)
YouTube, though certainly host to a wealth of influencers, is neither thought of as the first place for influencer marketing nor is it home to content that can be easily monetized. On the contrary, the majority of influencer marketing is done on Instagram, both because of the ease of access and the demographics available. Whereas the 35-55 age group is the fastest growing demographic on YouTube, most Instagram users are between 18 and 29 years old.
For the casual user, it is (subjectively) much easier to post and interact with their network on Instagram than YouTube; its features are catered to posting, sharing, and interacting. While it is not difficult to post a video to YouTube, it is easier to gain traction and garner attention on Instagram through hashtags and algorithmically curated explore page. Now that Instagram has introduced IGTV (told you it would take a while), the democratization of long form video content has finally made its way to the masses.
Just because it's there, however, doesn't mean it'll be successful.
Why IGTV is a good bet for success
For starters, IGTV allows for videos up to 10 minutes long, filmed vertically, to be uploaded to 'channels' similarly to YouTube. Like stories, IGTV videos automatically skip ahead to the next video in the queue, and are algorithmically presented based on a user's interests and engagements. The 'For You' and 'Popular' tabs work just like the discovery tab.
Vertical, long form videos enable a greater variety of content to be uploaded than previously accessible. Before, influencers and brands would have to upload snippets as previews of sorts, and link out to a long video in their bio. IGTV offers a greater degree of flexibility for the platform, both in content created and content shared. Marketers and influencers alike are keenly aware that the more loops a consumer has to go through to get their content, the less likely they will follow through. Keeping this content all in one place is ideal to achieving this. In addition, Instagram influencers will now have a greater capacity to take advantage of all the expensive gear and high quality production that pervades YouTube, and can share it in tandem with their iPhone pictures.
As IGTV gains traction, social media users will have more reason to watch IGTV. YouTube already replaces traditional TV time for most millenials and Gen-Zers, and users under 25 spend on average over 32 minutes a day on Instagram. As popular influencer Nash Grier espoused in a recent interview with Digiday, "The fate of IGTV relies on the attention, awareness of Instagram and its creators. A few more additions here and there could really elevate it as a platform."
And traction it will see: high profile brands like The Economist, BBC, and sports teams are already taking advantage of the space to share content, and influencers are taking notice as well. As the platform expands, we can expect to see broader implementation of ads, search capabilities and indexing, and ultimately a greater variety of content. As Instagram grows at a platform, so too will IGTV.
Better for influencers, better for the industry
Competition in the digital space is always welcome. As YouTube grapples with brand safety and content censorship issues, Instagram's pushing of the envelope inspires healthy innovation for all platforms. The incessant competition to capture attention spans that flicker and fade faster than the screens in which they lose themselves spawns innovations on a scale we've never seen before.
Because IGTV will allow influencers greater flexibility in the content they can produce on their self-proclaimed platform of choice, its expansion will not just prolong the longevity of influencers' lifespans, it will challenge them to diversify their content. Pushing the fold even further means influencers — and by proxy influencer marketing — will have an even greater chance of beating out the naysayers who anticipate the premature end of the industry.
Social media has woven its way into the fabrics of our daily lives, and is more than just a way to waste time. IGTV is yet another way for influencers to authentically express themselves beyond a series of pictures or even live videos. Long form content gives them the flexibility to creatively produce content in the spirit of genuineness, with all the glitz and glam of a YouTube video, on the platform that thrives on authentic personalities.