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Instagram Has a New Video Platform. The Key to Success: Don’t Try So Hard.

Fashion companies have a limited window to experiment with Instagram's new long-form video service before it becomes crowded with content. They should embrace the informal, accessible ethos that has proven successful on the platform.
Source: Shutterstock
  • Amy Odell

NEW YORK, United States — Fashion's most important social network just made its pitch for brands not to worry about YouTube and Snapchat.

On Wednesday, Instagram launched IGTV, a long-form vertical video platform that both appears within Instagram and functions as a standalone app. If you update your Instagram app, you can start using IGTV right away. An icon on the top right of the screen will change colour when someone you follow shares a new IGTV video. A banner will also display. Tap either and you’ll enter the full screen IGTV experience. No advertising exists on IGTV yet, but creators have told Instagram they want it. (And of course, Instagram will want to monetise the experience as well.)

Already on IGTV, Lady Gaga shared the trailer for "A Star is Born" and Gucci has posted an archive of Alessandro Michele's runway shows. For beauty brands and influencers, makeup tutorials are an obvious use of IGTV.

The product has a few features that seem tailor-made for fashion and beauty brands that today allocate the bulk of their online video budgets to rival services. It allows users to post videos of up to an hour to their followers, reducing the need to attract fans to a separate YouTube account. Its vertical format is ideal for off-the-cuff production using an iPhone, rather than highly produced, expensive shows; and it aims to hold an audience captive for an experience that's more immersive than swiping through stories or scrolling through the feed.

When you enter IGTV, a video starts playing right away in a full-screen format, so unlike YouTube, you don’t have to search for something to watch. Once you start watching something, you can swipe to find more IGTV “creators” to follow. (And, in case anyone was wondering whether IGTV is meant to be Instagram’s attempt to crush YouTube,  “creators” — think vloggers making talking head YouTube videos in their bedrooms — was the word used again and again during the launch presentation.)

But the most important way into the platform will probably be to jump right in, and not let a desire for movie-quality production values get in the way of your success. You’ll want time to experiment and refine a strategy before fashion week in September, when IGTV will be much more crowded.

Instagram’s fashion partnerships director Eva Chen predicts the same kind of content that gets high engagement for the fashion community elsewhere on Instagram will perform well on IGTV.
“Designers often ask me, why do my selfies perform so well?” said Chen. “It’s because with selfies, there’s the least distance between the follower and the designer.”
People who follow brands and designers can see a runway image anywhere — but they can’t see a live video, for instance, of Prabal Gurung nervously watching models exit his runway during a fashion show, which Chen cites as a great use case for the Instagram live. Balmain’s Instagram livestream of its runway show wouldn’t have felt as special to followers had it not ended with the person filming the video walking through the scrum of people trying to get backstage to talk to Olivier Rousteing. These kinds of videos can now live in IGTV.
Chen thinks IGTV will serve many brands and publishers as an extension of the kinds of things they’re doing in Instagram stories. “This medium, it’s not going to be, OK I need a camera crew of nine people, I need professional lighting, I need multiple camera angles,” she said. “The new generation of fashion consumers — first of all, perfection is not appealing to them.”
Brands already produced shows, however, can simply start shooting them in a vertical format for IGTV and release them on a regular schedule.
Publishers and brands may feel overwhelmed by the existence of this new type of social content. After all, doesn’t everyone have more than enough to worry about with the video and content demands of every major social platform already? But brands and publishers in the fashion space shouldn’t worry about doing everything perfectly everywhere. They should focus on the platforms that enable them to best engage with their target audience — and for those in the fashion space, Instagram, which now counts a billion users, is the most important one.
So, if you were thinking about going into production for a new YouTube or Snapchat series, you might want to shift your focus to IGTV. If IGTV is as successful as Instagram stories, the last thing brands and publishers will want is to be fashionably late adopters.

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