IGTV – How to Use Instagram’s IGTV Platform Without Being Awful

IGTV is here! But what the heck is it, and how can you learn how to use IGTV so that your videos aren't going to be universally hated, spat at and reviled by the world at large?  Or if not, at least just make OK stuff that you're happy with.

First thing's first though – follow me on IGTV here.

My IGTV

What's IGTV and Why Should You Care?

OK so you love instagram, right? Me too (except for foodgrams – I've never really got that.  Tried it, but never got it..).

Well one of the most annoying parts about Instagram is the 60 second limit on videos. I know this, because the number of times I've tried to record a short IG video only to be cut off mid-sentence towards the end of it is disturbingly high.

I'm happy to say that the 60 second limit is dead. By which I mean… it's completely alive and well inside Instagram, but with the IGTV platform you can now start to pump those creative juices into a slightly more detailed video.

But how are you going to get into IGTV without just piling up a bunch of complete drivel that gets rejected by your community of raving fans?

This guide is my attempt to walk you through the process.

IGTV Requires Portrait Video

You're going to have to get comfortable with portrait videos. To some extent I'm guessing you already are if you've done live video or any kind of instagram video previously. But if you're a YouTuber and are used to creating beautiful landscape shots and following the rule of thirds and all sorts of other video wizardry then you're going to be… upset. Or possibly excited about a new creative opportunity.

Here's the lazy solution that some people are suggesting for creating a “portrait” video – take your normal landscape video and rotate it 90 degrees in one direction.  Voila!  Portrait.

While it's attractive for repurposing all of my landscape videos, it's completely unattractive from a user perspective. Are your videos really good enough that you expect people will bother having to turn their phones on the side to watch them every time?

Instead, how about actually coming up with, and creating, a proper portrait video?

If you're just recording on your phone and doing no editing at all, then for most people this simply means recording holding your phone upright.

If you're editing though, then you just want to swap around the dimensions of your sequence/project.  That is – instead of it being 16:9 it's going to be [9:16] (or 1080 x 1920).

Warning – you're going to have trouble finding a video editing app on your phone that will create a 9:16 aspect ratio.  On Android the only one I've found is PowerDirector. On IOS I'm told that Videorama can do it (courtesy of Mitch Jackson).

Does IGTV Need to be From your Phone?

No.

This is where Instagram is clearly trying to capture some of the YouTube creator audience.

You do NOT need to record, edit, create or upload IGTV videos from your phone.

This opens up the floodgates in terms of what kind of awesome stuff people are going to come up with – because the equipment and the software isn't limited to phone devices.

That means:

  • those freaks with RED cameras (or just generally fancy gear) out there can make stuff
  • Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects are going to get a look in
  • awesome creative people are going to do fancy things.

I, for one, particularly look forward to what people are going to do now that these restrictions aren't in place.  It's going to be eye-opening to say the least.

IGTV Video Requirements

Unless you're considered a “creator” then you're limited to 10 minutes – which is still plenty.

Otherwise:

  • mp4 video format
  • less than 650Mb
  • portrait aspect (yes – IGTV can tell!).

None of these are too hard to meet. Making a 10 minute video go over 650Mb would involve crazy high settings, in which case you're probably not reading this article…

The Importance of Good Audio on IGTV

With your bog standard Instagram post you probably haven't had to care much about audio, right?

But if you're going to create a 2, 5 or 10 minute video then you've got to think about the ears of your poor listeners.

Audio blowouts, huge amounts of background noise, and the sound that winds makes on your native phone mics are all going to hugely distract from the video.

If you're recording mostly on your phone and can't (or don't want to) upgrade your audio to a decent external microphone of some kind, then at least follow some simple audio principles:

  • try avoid recording in windy situations;
  • closer to the microphone is better;
  • be conscious of how much background noise is coming through;
  • extremely loud or extremely soft will sound bad.

Don't Share Drivel What to Share on IGTV

I understand, I really do. You're used to using Instagram for sharing everything from your morning coffee to your smashed avo on toast to anything else that happens through the day when you're holding your phone.

But I can't see that the kind of free-for-all sharing that happens on the native Instagram platform is going to cut it on IGTV.

Why?

Because it's really boring.

Think of IGTV more like YouTube.  In the tiny confines of my brain, that means you have to try and be:

  • informative
  • entertaining
  • funny
  • self-effacing

or any combination of these kinds of things.

As with any video, the important part is story – have a point, have something to share, have something for people to engage with.

If you post a video of you buttering your toast, I won't be tuning in. Sorry.

Here's a mediocre example of something I tried to bang together recently for the platform.

How to Create your IGTV Channel

Easy peasy.

Either:

  • update your Instagram app and click the IGTV icon; or
  • download the IGTV app.

Each will then be pretty intuitive to create your channel, or you can follow the instructions here.

How Often to Post on IGTV

I haven't figured this out yet, to be honest.

Here are my general thoughts:

  • over the long term, more than once daily might be too much – especially for long form content
  • less than once weekly and you're unlikely to make an impact
  • somewhere in between those is a sweet spot
  • if you're able to do a daily show – that's likely to be well received.

Repurposing for IGTV

Like I mentioned earlier, it's going to be a bit tricky to elegantly transform landscape video into portrait video.

However, if you're feeling a bit creative and aren't bad with your video editing software, you might be able to get a bit of your earlier/old content onto the platform with a small amount of effort. If you're not massively into video editing, then one way to do this would be to use this resizing tool from Kapwing.

For example, if you have instagram square videos you can put some text over the top of them (I see this is what Gary Vaynerchuk's team have done a bit already).

Or with a bit of editing an interview video might be able to flick between speakers (note – don't do this so much to make people dizzy).

But generally, talking head stuff might translate OK since you're normally stationary and can pinpoint the crop fairly well. However, just be aware that being ultra boring isn't likely to be a good long term play here.

Personally I think that native IGTV material is going to perform the best – although that's a pretty good proposition for most platforms…

Will IGTV Replace YouTube?

Probably not.

While I admire their “portrait video” policy, the truth is that portrait video is a bit sucky for long term content.

Our eyes prefer landscape.

So while I'm sure that many people will create some awesome stuff for IGTV, YouTube isn't going away any time soon and you should be using both platforms to their strengths.

What Isn't Working about IGTV At the Moment?

Right now (early days – July 2018), there are a few things I'm not liking about IGTV which I think are ultimately going to harm it.

First and foremost – the content. Right now, nobody has figured out what “works” on IGTV and what doesn't. This means that there is a lot of completely sub-par content going up.  One of the “popular” posts I saw (with hundreds of thousands of views) in the early days was literally some girl eating a chocolate or something.  What the?!? That would be fine if it was easy to avoid, but it isn't.  Which leads to…

Notifications – the way IG is trying to push you to the IGTV platform is by notifying you when new content is up from those people you follow, with a bar at the top of your IG feed. This would be fine, except that because the content itself is often very poor, the notification bar is going to get progressively more ignored by everybody.

Hashtags – as far as I know, these don't work inside IGTV. This means that nobody has any real clue at the moment how IGTV is sorting its stuff, determining how search is working.  It would go a long way to allow transcripts and a more detailed and robust search facility to be added, so that people could find content that mattered to them more easily.

For now, we're all still figuring it out. There are certainly some folks out there giving it a red hot crack, but I would love for a few excellent videographers and cinematographers to get onto the platform and raise the stakes of what's really possible with portrait video inside IGTV.

How Will You Use IGTV?

Over to you. I look forward to seeing how you're going to use it.

In the meantime, follow me on IG and check out what I'm doing with the platform.

Happy Lawyering!

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