Welcome To IGTV & Vertical Video


I don't think anyone saw IGTV coming. In this article I'll cover some critical things you need to know about the new Instagram platform, plus I've got a great guide for creators.


Let's talk Instagram like I do so often on my blog and when I speak. First of all, the platform just surpassed 1 billion users since launching in 2010, which is just wild. If I was a betting man, I'd bet on Instagram passing Facebook's 2 billion users in the next 5-10 years, particularly because of their innovations on the mobile front with things like IGTV, which I'm going to cover in this post.


There's something about the way Instagram does things that really draws people in. It is quickly becoming the go-to network for so many people. And IGTV now, which is a really exciting shift. Personally, I've been enjoying the content so far. There are all sorts of creators on there already, but if you haven't seen it yet, or aren't sure what Instagram's play is here, essentially, IGTV is a new app for watching long-form content and its vertical video from your favorite Instagram creators.


I saw a tweet the other day that was joking about how every social media platform in 2018 is calling for "creators." So YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, you name it. Individual influencers are a huge focus for these networks. But I digress here, one of the cool things about IGTV is that there's both a stand-alone app that you can download to get all IGTV all the time. Or you can simply watch from within the Instagram app itself.


I got really excited when it launched so I downloaded both. I'm not sure I need them both. And IGTV is different from other platforms which are mainly YouTube and Facebook videos in a few key ways. First and most notably it is built for how we truly use our phones. So, videos are full screen and vertical. Unlike on the Instagram feed, videos aren't limited to one minute, instead each video can be up to an hour long. How we naturally use our phones part is really huge because studies show that we hold our phones vertically 94% of the time. So Instagram is really helping to make consuming video content even easier and really, they're adapting to the way people are already using their phones.


Creators, as these platforms are calling them, are literally filming, editing, and posting in vertical format. It presents a bit of a challenge for brands and marketers because it requires that you either film in landscape mode and then edit the video in vertical format so that you can post it to multiple platforms, or you film in vertical mode to make it easy to post to IGTV and then crop down the vertical video into square format, which is also proven to be effective from our studies. Either way, lots of editing work required with both options.


That is a lot of extra work, but I want to encourage brands that are going to use IGTV not to shy away from that work. I have noticed a couple brands just re-posting horizontal video to IGTV and it looks really bad. The new platform is going to require a lot of work, but it's worth it if you're going to do it right. All of this has me thinking, especially the vertical versus horizontal phones, what if in the future, people look back and they wonder why I even turned our phones horizontal.


So to sum up how IGTV works, it's just like real TV. Videos start playing as soon as you open the app, you don't have to search to start watching content from people you already follow on Instagram and others you might like based on your interests. And also like TV, IGTV has channels. But in IGTV, the creators are the channels, so when you follow a creator on Instagram, their IGTV channel will show up for you to watch. And the cool part is, that anyone can be a creator, you can be a creator, I can be a creator. You can upload your own IGTV videos in the app or on the web to start your own channel.


It's nice that they didn't restrict this to anybody in Instagram. Literally anyone can be a creator. All you have to do is just go into your profile and click Create Channel, it automatically uses your profile data and you can start posting IGTV videos right way.


Before I get into the creator's guide to IGTV, I think it's important to talk about the implications of this new platform, and what will surely follow from other social platforms in the near future. From Facebook Watch, to Twitter's live video broadcasts, and most recently the launch of IGTV it's clear that social platforms are vying to be, and likely will become the next big broadcast channels.


It might not be for everyone though. With IGTV, Instagram's focusing on a younger audience and content that specifically appeals to digital native users. In other words, those who were never brought up on a TV to begin with. And it's been explained by the Instagram team that they are learning that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals, which is an interesting stat. However, this doesn't surprise me as I have spent the last five years shunning "professional creators" while seeking everyday people (amateur creators?) to curate user generated content with several brands I manage. And it's pretty wild that I'm talking about kids who never were brought up on TV now.


It should be noted that IGTV isn't meant to compete with Netflix or HBO quality content yet, instead they'll be the kind of things you might see on YouTube rather than the short off the cuff social media clips, Instagram has hosted up until this point. So I can see Instagram really ramping up their search functionality within the app in the coming months which will offer users even more ways to discover great content. And it will provide brands and creators the opportunity to optimize their videos for IGTV success.


But the question remains, how do vertical videos actually perform? I have some data related to that for you. Facebook recently revealed that its users were more likely to watch vertical videos for longer than they would the traditional 16 x 9 landscape videos. And at IGTV's launch event, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom was quoted as saying, "The tools I watch video on are old and out of date. Think about it, I still watch videos formatted for TV on a vertical screen."


This may seem obvious now, but I want to find out for myself and that's why I am seeking out other video studies related to this and why I might partner with an as of yet unnamed organization at some point this year to source our own survey. Last year I studied square video versus landscape video. Now we need to test landscape versus square versus vertical to see which ones perform best both organically and when using the advertising. So keep an eye out for that one later this year.


Top Tips for Instagram Video 


Instagram recently released a creator's guide to help you create some awesome content for IGTV. So I sorted through the 50-page guide and pulled out what I think are the most important video tips and tricks that you need to know. Here they are in no particular order. 


First off, Instagram highly recommends that you shoot in 4K video. So even if you don't intend to share your final video in 4K, it's worth capturing in 4K for the most flexibility when you edit. For example, if you're cropping it. And then export your final video in 1080P. So many smartphones and DSLR cameras automatically come with 4K video recording these days, and it just makes for such a better experience for users because it's really super crisp and clear. 


The next tip Instagram shared was remember the light. A good general rule of thumb for video is the higher the frame rate the more light you'll need. So if you're trying to capture 60 or 120 frames per second or in slow-mo it's best that you do that in good lighting conditions. But if you think about it, all video requires good lighting conditions.


Let's quickly cover how to actually get your videos into a 9 x 16 format, which is the opposite of the 16 x 9 landscape ratio. So the chances are that you already have a work flow and tools for editing video, so first check to see if your video editor has the option to export to a 9 x 16 format. And if your software doesn't support that or it adds strange black pillar boxes to the edges, all you have to do is rotate your vertical video to horizontal, create your edits, and then export the video in horizontal. And then once it's exported, this is a fun trick, you can use QuickTime to rotate that video back to vertical by opening the file in QuickTime, click Edit and then click Rotate, it's super simple.


Anther neat thing: you probably have some existing videos in landscape format that you'd like to use on Instagram. As a matter of fact, all your videos are probably in landscape previous to IGTV releasing. Well, guess what? There's an app for that. Apps like Wave, which is for desktop and apps like InShot can do this. They're actually super easy to use, and pretty fun too.


Accessory wise, if you're filming on your phone you're going to need a few things to make your video look professional. I would definitely recommend getting some sort of lens to enhance the frame of view or quality of the shot. My favorite mobile lens company is called Moment, and they are a little bit of an investment for these lenses, but ultimately they're really high quality. Moment lenses come with a case for your phone and then you just clip on the lens to the camera part and it makes the video look and feel really awesome. 


Of course, you'll want to stabilize your video. You can do this with a mini tripod or a monopod like I've talked about before, or even one of those hand-held tripods that swivel around. I think you've seen those, those are super useful as well, but that should be really all you need to create some awesome IGTV videos.