An investigation into IGTV’s strategy

Is IGTV going to work? It's the question on everyone's lips, and Smarty Talks' Diego Monteiro might very well have the answer.

Instagram recently announced IGTV, a vertical video section that allows the sharing of videos up to one hour in length. In order to find out whether IGTV will succeed, and how it will impact marketers, let’s first take a look at the existing players.


Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has not been successful with its “video first” strategy, announced almost two years ago by Mark Zuckerberg.

The main bet, Facebook Watch, has not thrived, even with its US$1 billion budget. At the same time, the network has seen its use time decrease. Although Facebook users keep coming back, people are spending less and less time out there, and have instead been migrating to Instagram, which has already surpassed 1 billion users.


YouTube, which earns billions of dollars in advertising, cannot keep brands satisfied due to the lack of discretion and moderation of its videos. Controversies surrounding the platform have become routine and many companies have even said they will no longer advertise there.

The other key stakeholder for this business – creators – who generate content and attract advertisers, are also generally displeased with YouTube’s latest decisions.

Enter Instagram

Against this backdrop of dissatisfaction and disinterest, Instagram’s decision to create a new space for long-form videos seems sensible. But the question is: how it has been implemented?

Vertical videos already had their hype years ago, when, for instance, Facebook itself came to privilege this type of format. There’s even a film festival featuring the format, which has existed since 2014. 

However, reality has shown that the application of vertical videos is good only for those casually made and consumed.

Nowadays, the ideal format for watching videos on mobile is short clips in a square format, because they do not occupy the entire screen and allow room for engagement buttons.

On the other hand, the vertical format works if users are invited to browse/interact on the video, skipping to the next part or channel, or responding to a poll, as is the cast with Stories.

IGTV is the opposite of Facebook Watch, where only Facebook partners can gain access. Instead of harnessing its army of creators scattered around the world, Facebook chose to create something totally centralised.

With IGTV, Instagram went to the opposite extreme. That is, the first one was too “stuck” and this one too “loose”.

The IGTV strategy seems to be a business decision and not based on users’ experience. It’s something that looks cool in a strategic plan to reach a big market in a short space of time, but in practice, networks work differently.

There are two possible scenarios:

Negative scenario: giant and duplicate content

Badly edited or duplicate content is the most likely situation right away. Users will most likely generate duplicate YouTube content which will look awful as it hasn’t been produced for vertical format, either by cutting the image on the sides or other forms of improvisation. Another issue is that videos which are the perfect fit for YouTube may simply be too long to be watched on the cell phone statically, with no interaction available.

Positive scenario: the new YouTube

With creators’ good will and the growing consumption of videos on mobile phones, the community itself could uncover the best uses for IGTV. Social networking platforms have currently been very agile and Instagram can adapt its policies and resources to fit.

The focus should not be on the platform, but on the user’s experience

As we’ve seen, in a short time, a social network either releases new features or faces becoming irrelevant. Marketing teams must always keep abreast of these market movements, as well as their target’s behaviour and also think beyond the platform to their user’s experience.

The most relevant question, perhaps, is not whether consumers use either YouTube or Instagram more often, but how they consume the videos, and what kind of content will attract them in the future.

Diego Monteiro is the director of production agency Smarty Talks.


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