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Instagram’s IGTV struggles for acceptance

The industry initially welcomed Instagram’s release of IGTV as a possible alternative to YouTube. Eight months later and the platform seems to be struggling for acceptance.

IGTV fails to engage influencers

Facebook’s Instagram has proven it can innovate and attract large numbers of users. For example, when the site introduced ‘Stories’ in August 2016, it gained 100 million daily active users in its first two months. The launch of IGTV does not appear to have been nearly as successful. Last month, The Hollywood Reporter (THR) stated that ‘digital talent were not discussing the feature at all.’ Though specific viewing numbers are not available, this lack of influencer engagement could be strong indicator IGTV is not doing well at all.

Of the top 10 most followed people on Instagram – including Ariana Grande and Kylie Jenner – only half have posted on IGTV. THR questioned dozens of executives and reps in the creator community, and most mused that “digital talent doesn’t talk about it at all.” One influencer rep said that clients “took meetings early on, but I haven’t really thought about it since.” Even creators that were paid to jumpstart the platform haven’t been posting. In the three months after the launch of IGTV, LaurDIY has only posted two videos to the site, both on the first day. So, although we don’t know for sure that users aren’t using it, we do know that the people they follow aren’t.

Lack of use by top creators isn’t the only indication IGTV seems to be struggling. Instagram’s increasingly desperate attempts to attract viewers tell the same story.

Please watch me!

A month ago, Instagram announced that IGTV previews would begin appearing in a user’s main feed. The previews are a minute long, and a user must tap them to watch the full video in IGTV. Putting IGTV videos in the main feed is an aggressive move to try to get users to open the feature.

Other changes by the social media platform to attract IGTV viewers include putting videos in the Explore tab and occasional user notifications. The moves are a drastic step up from the small icon that appeared in the top right corner months previously.

Speaking about the IGTV notification changes, an Instagram representative told Variety:

“With IGTV previews in feed, we’re making it easier to discover and watch the latest video content from your favorite follows.”

However, the company’s pleas for attention to IGTV appear to be falling on deaf ears.

What IGTV still lacks

A lack of engagement isn’t the reason creators and users are not using IGTV. Most point at its lack of creator tools. Moreover, without these tools, it is difficult to attract creators from YouTube, which was originally the intention.

For example, IGTV lacks a monetization system like YouTube’s, and it is difficult to get money-making partnership deals. The lack of analytics and customizations common on other social video platforms is also a problem.

The vertical video format, though a strong differentiator for IGTV, also makes it impossible to re-post a video on multiple social video sites. Simply put, YouTube videos do not fit on IGTV’s vertical format, and IGTV’s vertical format looks poor on YouTube. Even finding the videos is difficult as Instagram because the site does not have a sophisticated search engine. YouTube’s search has become the main way it keeps users on the platform.

The video experience is also drastically different from what users have come to expect from Instagram. It is difficult to see a video’s ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ as it plays more like a TV show. The approach is vastly different from the bite-size content people have grown accustomed to scrolling or swiping through on the app.

IGTV too important to fail

Many Facebook executives have said they expect revenue growth to slow in the coming years. According to Recode, Instagram will pick up the slack as 70% of Facebook’s revenue growth is forecast to come from the app by 2020.

Mark Zuckerberg appears to believe Instagram is an emerging revenue engine for the company too. After Instagram founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger ‘voluntarily’ left Facebook, late last year the company brought in Adam Mosseri to replace them. Mr. Mosseri pioneered Facebook’s News Feed, probably the most important product developed by the social media giant. You can bet Mr. Mosseri will be giving his full attention to making sure IGTV does not fail.

Why it matters

IGTV has struggled to attract creators since its launch eight months ago.

There are many reasons for the lack of attention.

Instagram is too important to Facebook’s revenue to allow its marquee feature – IGTV – to fail.

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