Instagram’s CEO prepares IGTV to go toe-to-toe with YouTube

"It’s time for video to move forward and evolve,” said Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom at the launch event in San Francisco yesterday.
21 June 2018

Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder & CEO, Instagram & MG Siegler, General Partner, CrunchFund. Source: Flickr

Instagram was initially conceptualized to help users tell a story with a picture, because a picture, of course, is worth a thousand words.

Today, it’s introducing long-format (up to one hour) videos as a way for creators to capture and share immersive experiences with their audiences.

“We’re announcing our most exciting feature to date: IGTV, a new app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favorite Instagram creators, like LaurDIY posting her newest project or King Bach sharing his latest comedy skit,” said Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO, Instagram.

The popular ‘click-edit-post’ social media platform’s move puts it directly in competition with Google’s YouTube. Their audience is ultimately the same, with the same amount of time and attention to offer.

Going down memory lane

Instagram started out in 2010 with its CEO Systrom posting the first ever picture on the platform (now 96 months [eight years] ago).

Two years later, the platform was acquired by Facebook, the social media giant, for a cool US$1 billion.

A post shared by Kevin Systrom (@kevin) on

Soon after, in 2013, the platform expanded capabilities to help users share 15-second videos with their followers.

“Today, we’re thrilled to introduce video on Instagram and bring you another way to share your stories. Tap on the movie camera icon to enter video mode, where you can take up to fifteen seconds of video through the Instagram camera,” said the co-founder and CEO five years ago.

YouTube, on the other hand, was founded in 2005 – and Instagram’s 15-second video feature wasn’t intended to make it a competitor.

Both platforms carried on to gain their own users, and creators on each platform went on to build their own fan-followings.

Given that each platform had its own niche, creators often used both platforms to promote their content and raise their influence.

Instagrammers, for example, often upload videos on YouTube for fans who’d like to know more about how things were done. YouTubers, on the other hand, often upload photos and video snippets to Instagram to drive more traffic to their videos.

In many ways, so far, it was a “balanced ecosystem” of sorts. However, the launch of IGTV might disrupt that balance.

Understanding Instagram’s IGTV

Instagram, which now has one billion users, has launched a stand-alone IGTV app that will allow users to watch interesting videos from popular creators across the world.

These videos will also be available from within the Instagram app.

Systrom has a vision for IGTV. “First, IGTV was built for how you actually use your phone, so videos are full screen and vertical. Also, unlike on Instagram, videos aren’t limited to one minute,” said the 34-year old CEO.

“We’ve made it simple, too. Just like turning on the TV, IGTV starts 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,” he added.

You can swipe up to discover more — switch between “For You,” “Following,” “Popular,” and “Continue Watching.” You can also like, comment and send videos to friends in Direct.

What’s in it for marketers?

Although the announcement seems to mostly be of interest to creators, there’s an important shift that marketers need to be aware of – and a new opportunity they need to watch out for.

The shift is in platform and content. So far, deals with influencers are about promoting a product on a certain platform and reaching a certain number of people.

However, it’s critical to realize that the audience for YouTube and IGTV is more likely to be the same. Which means tracking reach is going to be a little more difficult and hence, maybe click-through-rate will be a better indicator of success.

The opportunity on the other hand, is for marketers to build brand-channels online, on different platforms.

There’s a stronger incentive for brands to do more with video in their own name now with video gaining so much more attention these days.

Great content, after all, is an investment – and investing in your own channels on various platforms like YouTube and Instagram could yield significant rewards in the future.