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I (Don’t) Want My IGTV

Despite massive popularity, unrivaled cultural relevance and a billion daily active users, Instagram can’t seem to figure out long-form video. Specifically, its “IGTV” platform, which originally launched as a standalone app in June (remember that?) is largely being ignored by users, at least if multiple media reports (New York Magazine, Fast Company) are to be believed. 

Small sample-size? Sure. But the numbers aren’t encouraging when so few show have shown any interest in IGTV.

We don’t have much else to go on. Despite scouring the internet, I couldn’t find a credible reporting of IGTV’s monthly active users (MAUs). Presumably, that would indicate that the number is underwhelming, and as such, it hasn’t been released. I found a random tweet that pegged it around 65 million, but that number is unsubstantiated and seems unlikely. 

Quick, informal polls on my Twitter and Instagram feeds suggested the same conclusion. 

In my own Instagram story and Twitter feed last week, I asked followers, most of whom work in the digital marketing space, if they actually use IGTV. Of 40 responses to my Instagram story poll, only one person acknowledged actually watching the IGTV platform. 

At 2.5% percent, that’s about as effective as a PPC ad. That’s not what we industry types call a great conversion rate.

On Twitter, most replies were “Nope.” Others suggested that they’d only landed on IGTV accidentally.

Instagram launched IGTV to much fanfare midway through 2018, with analysts proclaiming it to be a potential YouTube competitor. That didn’t pan out. Almost a year later, the platform feels like, at best, an afterthought, and at worst, a miscalculation. When the initial standalone app failed to take off, IGTV was more deeply integrated into into the main Instagram experience.

However, IGTV doesn’t seem to be resonating with rank-and-file Instagram users. 

Early on, Instagram was preaching patience. â€œIt’s a new format. It’s different. We have to wait for people to adopt it and that takes time,” former Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom told TechCrunch in August of 2018. “Think of it this way: we just invested in a startup called IGTV, but it’s small, and it’s like Instagram was (in the) ‘early days.’”

A month later, Systrom, along with Instagram Co-founder Mike Krieger, left Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

So, is IGTV the new Google+? It’s likely too early to tell, but it’s looking that way.

Instagram’s main feed and Stories products have become symbiotic with the influencer community, and IGTV seems tailor-made for brands and influencers to offer longer-form content; videos can be up to an hour long. However, the people who should have the most interest in the new platform, creators themselves, are mostly just repurposing (read: cropping vertically) their YouTube content

Without a clear monetization path, they’re unlikely to continue to put any real effort into the platform. Top talent on YouTube can make six figures or more a month.

IGTV isn’t the first time that Facebook has swung and missed on long-form content. Facebook Watch, which was also positioned as a YouTube competitor, initially was paying content providers, with an estimated budget of $90 million. But as that money started drying up, outside of truly unique content like Tom Brady’s “Tom vs. Time,” “Ball in the Family” or WWE’s “Mixed Match Challenge”, there wasn’t much to see on Watch.

IGTV is not paying content creators, and it still lacks an advertising or revenue-sharing model. (UPDATE: On April 2, AdAge reported that Instagram has started to reach out to advertisers about buying spots on IGTV.)

Far more problematic beyond a revenue model is the main issue for influencers: If nobody’s watching, who’s being influenced?  Is there really a long-form content appetite to be fed on Instagram via the smartphone?

Depending on which gurus you believe, millennials either want “snackable” short-form content, or they actually want long-form content. Go ahead: Google “longform video making a comeback.” You’ll find articles from 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 in the first page of results.

Gary Vaynerchuk has embraced the platform, but many creators have already given up on IGTV.

But here’s the thing: Long-form content never went anywhere. With apologies to L.L. Cool J, don’t call it a comeback. Long form content has been here for years. It’s called YouTube. And why is YouTube so successful?

One word: search. YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world, trailing only its parent company, Google.

IGTV, in an effort to differentiate itself from YouTube, launched without proper search functionality. In fact, when you activate IGTV, it opens with static fuzz, like what you would see when you turned on a TV with a cable box back in 1983 and flipped through channels, not knowing what you’re going to get next.

“Because we don’t have full text search and you can’t just search any random thing, it’s about the creators” Systrom explained at the time of the launch. “I think that at its base level that it’s personality-driven and creator driven means that you’re going to get really unique content that you won’t find anywhere else and that’s the goal.”

Search has since been added to IGTV (and it quickly auto-suggests feeds that create IGTV content), but when I opened IGTV over the weekend, I was served up content from ESPN, WWE, Gary Vaynerchuk and The Daily Show. 

This is all content I can find everywhere else, on Twitter, television, Linkedin, etc.

Discoverability is one of the main issues that’s continued to plague Snapchat, and seems to be hurting IGTV as well. With all of the choices we have today, am I going to invest five minutes into a random piece of longform content that an algorithm thinks I want to watch? Possibly.

The likelihood increases dramatically, however, if it’s something I’ve searched out.

With all of the data these major platforms have at their disposal, why do they continue to make such large errors in assessing what their users actually want? Why do they fail in targeting new spaces like Google did with social, or Instagram seems to be doing with long-form video?

In reading about the Google+ failure, one anonymous former Googler said the company was “late to market” and motivated from “a competitive standpoint” as they looked to take on Facebook.

If you’ve never read this infamous tweetstorm from another former Google+ engineer, it describes office politics, siloed teams and a lack of clear vision as major factors in the demise of Google’s failed social network. Here’s the start of that thread:

Given the recent Instagram drama surrounding the founders’ departure from Facebook, it’s likely that similar forces were at play with IGTV.

Whatever the reason, IGTV hasn’t lived up to the hype of last year’s launch, and it may never take off at all. Instagram itself doesn’t seem to be losing steam. But they badly misread the market and their users’ appetite (or lack thereof) for long form content. 

The lesson might be this: You don’t have to be all things to all people.

Or, as Facebook Watch’s LaVar Ball says, “Stay in yo’ lane!”

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Speaking on Instagram Influencers at Digital Summit Phoenix this week

I’m looking forward to speaking Tuesday morning at Digital Summit Phoenix, where I’ll present on Instagram Influencers. I’ll share research and insights from Instagram Influencers about how they like to work with brands, and teach you how to spot fake followings.

For more details, check out the session description below.

Need a speaker at your next digital marketing conference? Let’s chat.


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Burger King’s unique Location-Based #WhopperDetour promotion gives customers a reason to download app

Burger King made news this week by offering up its iconic Whopper sandwich for just one cent on their mobile app. It’s an incredible deal. 

The catch is, you can only get this deal once, and you can only get it at… McDonalds???

In a clever technology/PR stunt, Burger King’s #WhopperDetour promotion geofenced about 14,000 McDonalds locations in the U.S. inside its mobile app. When users get to within 600 feet of a McDonalds, they can activate the one-cent promotion in the Burger King app, then head to the nearest BK to get the deal.

I’m not a big fast food guy myself, but I am fascinated by mobile marketing, and it was a unique promotion that leveraged technology. So I downloaded the Burger King app and tried it out this week to see how seamless the experience would be. And hey, can you argue with a $0.01 Whopper? 

I did a little research in Google Maps to find a Burger King that was near a McDonalds in Las Vegas, and found one about 5 minutes away from me. So I made the drive to Micky Ds.

As I pulled up next door, I re-opened the app and clicked on the promotion. It immediately confirmed that I’d unlocked my #WhopperDetour deal, and then provided me with a link to navigate to a nearby Burger King. 

So far, so good! It then asked whether I wanted Drive-Thru, Dine-In or Take Out. After that, I started to make my order, and grabbed my $0.01 Whopper, and added some chicken tenders and a drink. Total cost: $2.49. Not too shabby.

Except the kicker was coming, and I assumed it would be around the corner: Burger King wanted my data. This was not entirely surprising, but as a new user of the app who downloaded it just a few minutes ago, I will say, it almost caused me to abandon ship. 

After all, why not just have a Big Mac here instead? I’m already 600 feet from McDonalds…

Quite frankly, this is where the promotion may backfire for Burger King. Some people just aren’t willing to give away their data in exchange for a “free” Whopper. The marketer in me was willing to do it to evaluate the promotion, but otherwise, I would have likely just hit the road, or enjoyed a full-price Big Mac and called it a day.

So I started the sign-up process, and hey, there’s a Facebook Connect option. One click. Let’s try that.

Not so fast!

Facebook wouldn’t log me in. So I had to sign up, with a name, email, zip code, password and my credit card info on the next screen. 

(Apparently you can’t just drop a penny on the counter for your Whopper. I had one ready to go.)

Finally, I was able to complete my order. 

Time to drive to Burger King! 

The restaurant I’d picked was about 5 minutes away. The app gives you a direct link to Apple Maps to get you turn-by-turn directions to the store. Nice and easy. Well done, BK.

The app also gives you an hour to go complete the mission, and there’s a countdown clock in the bottom of the screen to let you know how much time you’ve got left to cash in on the deal.

When you get to Burger King, you check in with the red button, which charges your card and lets the store know you’re actually going to pick up your meal.

As I walked in the store, I hit the button, and seconds later, a receipt automatically printed at the counter. 

My app confirmed on screen that Order 86 was being prepared. “We’re preparing your order now. Please give your name to a BK Staff member and let them know you placed a mobile order.”

I told them I had ordered on the app, and the cashier told me it would be a few minutes.

Finally, mission accomplished.

Overall, it’s a clever promotion, and it certainly generated plenty of media attention. It got me to download the app out of curiosity, and spend $2.49 for a quick meal. The location aspect of the promotion worked seamlessly, but the logistics of setting up an account in the app slowed the process down quite a bit, and as I said earlier, almost made me abandon the whole thing, and even made me consider eating at their competitor’s store.

While I appreciate their desire for data collection, in this case, it may have been more effective to just allow customers to claim the deal, and pay however they wanted to when they get to Burger King.

The promotion ends on December 12, and apparently, you can only cash in on it once. According to CNN, 50,000 people have already redeemed the promotion. 

While it’s a little wonky from an execution standpoint, it got people talking about Burger King this week, and it gave customers a reason to download their app, which is not easy to do. Mobile apps have to solve problems and complete tasks to earn a spot on consumer’s home screen.

At least for one day, Burger King got their app on my phone. That’s half the battle.

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Media Masters #9 – Alex Restrepo – New Orleans Saints and Snapchat

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sold on Snapchat as a marketing channel for sports, or anyone else, for that matter. But after talking to Alex Restrepo, Social Media Manager for the New Orleans Saints, he may have changed my mind.

If nothing else, it’s probably worth giving a try. We had a long conversation about how the Saints use Snapchat to share content with their fans.

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Media Masters on iTunes | Media Masters on SoundCloud

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Media Masters #3 – Jeopardy! Champ Brad Rutter

In Episode #3, Brad Rutter, the all-time leading money winner in the history of Jeopardy!, talks to Media Masters about his success on the show, what makes him such an adept player, and going head-to-head against Ken Jennings and IBM’s Watson.

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Media Masters on iTunes | Media Masters on SoundCloud