IGTV just celebrated its first birthday. When Instagram’s video hub launched in 2018, brands were slower to adopt its long-form vertical format. New updates (in-feed teasers, horizontal support) are prompting marketers to revisit IGTV, and those that already are have reported record high views.
As experimentation grows, a key question still remains: What type of videos work there?
Instead of reinventing the wheel, we recommend taking a page from one of today’s top content creators: Netflix. While there are overarching takeaways IGTV explorers can learn from the streaming service, the most interesting come from individual shows.
Below, I’ve highlighted five lessons from leading Netflix original series and called out brands already tapping into these tactics. Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers.
Stranger Things: Offer dual perspectives
Arguably one of Netflix’s most popular shows, this series follows young kids as they fight supernatural forces in a nostalgia-driven, monster-ridden coming-of-age tale. Even if you haven’t caught up on Season 3, you’re probably familiar with the Upside Down.
That dual-world view translates to IGTV, with brands stacking videos and playing off the perspectives suit the recommended vertical style and attract viewers. Leverage if you have strong horizontal assets. Pottery Barn uses this approach on its IGTV, and the tactic is effective for its education series as the brand presents a question and shows interview footage below with the answer. This approach earned its most recent episode 10 times the average views the brand sees on IGTV.
Big Mouth: Refresh education
This is a crude but hilarious animated series that follows two pre-pubescent boys and their friends in all their awkward glory. Essentially, it’s modern sex-ed voiced over by two of your favorite comedians and inspired by some of their more cringe-worthy adolescent moments.
Brands interested in episodic IGTV can plug into the idea of a fresh take on education as how-to’s and explanations offer an endless source of material. A good example is REI’s Why on Earth series. The brand explores different natural phenomena and provides simple answers to FAQs about nature. Doing so proves REI’s commitment to the outdoors and its intro to the video series with a search bar offering up the question each episode tackles is simple and smart.
Abstract: Unveil a subculture
Netflix’s docu-style eight-episode series follows designers whose skills range from athletic shoes to cartoon strips. It lets you peek behind the creative curtain, and by covering different artistic expressions, provides multiple avenues into the creator subculture.
Brands with niche target audiences are able to plug into this tactic as they’ll have the most authenticity and authority on the topic. Apple’s IGTV series seeks to do that with its Abstract-like episodes. The brand partners with photographers/directors to tell personal stories from across the globe, using footage shot on an iPhone. By presenting a compelling narrative, the brand is able to attract viewers and subtly showcase product benefits. This is an especially interesting move for the brand if IGTV ever evolves to include shopping on video.
Russian Doll: Repeat, repeat, repeat
This series borrows from Groundhog Day as a young woman relives the day she dies on a loop, each new beginning offering the chance to do things differently and avoid her fate. These episodes earned notoriety as viewers found Nadia’s pursuit of answers enthralling and rooted for her to find them.
This strategy of building repetition is one brands can tap into on IGTV in order to drive recall, especially as IGTV previews are available in-feed. This tactic works for brands with lower production budgets as well as episodes that can reuse animations, be shot in one location and even require fewer scripts. Casper’s Sleeper Series adopts this in its 19 episodes as it offers up 13–17 minutes of meditative, soothing animations designed to help people fall asleep. This series is unique as it’s so ownable to the brand and follows a format built for constant repetition.
Black Mirror: Expose user behavior
Once a BBC-run series, this Netflix show only offers a few episodes per season. Each one presents a different view of the future, revealing overreliance on technology and the possible implications of the codependent relationship. Despite a low episode count per season, this show is a top performer simply because it really makes viewers think.
This type of content works well when done right as it spotlights a human truth, in the same way KFC’s fake influencer pokes fun at today’s behavior—but in a relatable way. Chubbies’ three-part video diary of a pair of cargo shorts taps into this as the brand creates a fictional character and shows it in real-world situations. Titled “Tru Lyfe: I’m a Pair of Cargo Shorts,” the episodes follow a personified piece of clothing as it online dates, takes up vaping and hits the gym. Tapping into levity and humor, tactics not a lot of brands are embracing on IGTV, Chubbies shows you can be funny on this feature and use it to strengthen your brand identity.
IGTV presents an interesting challenge for marketers because it’s been drilled into us that best practices for social video include creating for sound-off and keeping it under six seconds. Top-performing IGTV content rejects those rules and offers a new type of medium to test. While change can seem daunting, turning to different inspiration sources (e.g., entertainment) offers brands a place to start as they start to create for this unique feature.