IGTV vs. YouTube: When Should You Use Each?

By Rhonda Bradley / 1 November 2018

Find out how IGTV compares to YouTube, and discover which channel is more appropriate for your objectives.

When IGTV was launched earlier this year, it was met with much media speculation about whether the new video platform would be able to compete with YouTube.

As time passes, IGTV has emerged as a channel that does a good job of complimenting its parent platform, Instagram, but is in no way a serious competitor to video publishing giant YouTube.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the differences between IGTV and YouTube, so you can find out how to use both platforms to your advantage.

Find out which platform is better for:

  • Search engine visibility
  • User experience
  • Analytics and insights

For Search Engine Use and Visibility, Choose YouTube

IGTV currently has built-in issues that may prevent its success in search engines. Also, its onsite search platform has a long way to go.

IGTV Search Engine and Organic Search Results

Because IGTV was launched a few months ago, in June 2018, it’s too early to know how well it will do in the search engines, or if its videos have a chance of ranking at all.

Regardless of how quick the platform grows, it would be surprising to see its videos ever rank high in SERPs because it’s a dedicated mobile app that primarily serves its parent community, Instagram.

However, if we’ve learned anything about Instagram in 2018, it’s that the platform should never be overlooked or dismissed. Its ability to meet consumer demand with updates and new features that cater to its audience is extraordinary.

If the platform decides to make SEO a priority down the line, it could be worthy of attention.

For now, IGTV is limited to specific target audiences. Not only is its content missing from organic search engine results, but its on-platform search engine can be frustrating due to lack of available content.

For example, If you search for “antique car restoration” or “antique cars” on IGTV, you’ll find zero results.

This might seem like an early-platform problem, but the issue is more complex.

While IGTV’s commercial-free format may be an attractive feature for its viewers, it also drives away potential solopreneurs such as antique car experts who can’t directly monetize their video efforts.

YouTube Search Engine and Organic SERPs

The Google-owned YouTube video platform has been cranking out videos and building organic search engine reputation since it began in February of 2005. Its 30 million daily users watch nearly 5 billion videos daily.

While it may seem unfair to compare a brand-new video platform to one as large and powerful as YouTube, businesses must make the comparison to choose what will best-serve their audience and profit margins.

Thanks to YouTube’s robust on-platform search engine and its ability to rank consistently high in Google’s SERPs, the platform is a better choice for businesses wanting to publish video content that competes for organic search results.

When we ran the same “antique car restoration” search within YouTube, it produced pages of results, plus the ability to filter them by type, duration, date, and features.

YouTube antique car search


YouTube videos also rank consistently high in Google SERPs, often appearing in the top 3 organic search spots and in featured video snippets.

Google antique car restoration

If your brand’s objectives include ranking in the search engines or getting discovered within a platform, YouTube is the safer bet. Or, compliment your IGTV videos with similar content on YouTube.

For User Experience, IGTV and YouTube Each Have Advantages

IGTV and YouTube offer distinct user experiences that are appropriate for different situations and audiences.

IGTV For Stunning Visuals Set in a Fast-Paced, Non-Vocal Format

IGTV videos, when done well, can offer stunning visual experiences. The vertical format shines in high-quality, fast-paced, and closeup-style videos.

For example, GoPro’s first-person action videos and The Food Network recipe tutorials do well on IGTV, especially when filmed in bite-sized sections with angle or setting changes every couple seconds.

One example of successful IGTV content is a tutorial-style format that includes no speaking. Videos that follow a rule of “show, don’t tell” are popular across the platform.

Banana Tutorial
Source: Tastemade Travel on IGTV

On occasion, words on the screen display important details.

Flour Tutorial
Source: Tastemade

Rather than explain how to do things, this style of video focuses on informational content that can be communicated through close-up shots broken into short portions.

Is What Captivates on IGTV the Same Thing That Pushes Your Customers Away?

Businesses new to Instagram and IGTV should be aware that it’s easy to become overshadowed by a person doing nothing more than squeezing sponges in front of a camera. For example, a channel called “Soapy Sponges” films water being squeezed from sponges.

Soapy Sponges
Source: Soap Sponges, IGTV

Its 1,665 views outperformed Tastemade Travel’s luxury resort video by over 500 views.

Tastemade Travel's Luxury Resort

A second challenge is posed by IGTV’s captivating browsing feature. Its unique vertical format, combined with swipe and auto play functions, encourages users to browse through content quickly.

The browsing experience is so visually stimulating that it can even make the high-quality content seem boring when compared to the intense visual attraction of simple channel-surfing.

The result is a platform in which browsing can easily become the main form of entertainment - with viewers quickly swiping away from content that doesn’t “wow” immediately. Brands publishing to IGTV are not only competing with other brands but also with the browsing function itself.

When you combine the temptation to browse with an algorithm that prioritizes videos based on what percent of each video users watch, it could spell trouble for brands publishing content on IGTV.

IGTV’s Gaping Problem: A Lack of Ability to Censor One’s Own Experience

IGTV offers browsing tabs such as “Popular,” Following,” and “For You.” One major drawback of browsing the “Popular” tab stems from its autoplay function.

If one of the day’s most popular videos include images of an abused animal, then viewing the disturbing image becomes part of the experience.

You can quickly swipe away from it, but not before upsetting images are broadcast.

Combine this blip with videos that include partial nudity and harsh language, and you’ve got a channel that’s off-limits to many people during work hours. Additionally, if the issue isn’t addressed soon, it may drive certain audiences away from the platform altogether.

Before investing in IGTV, consider whether it’s a good representation of your brand voice and if your audience will tolerate some of the other content they may be exposed to.

Choose YouTube For In-depth Content and Committed Viewers

YouTube is the better choice for brands wanting to publish quality content to audiences who are conditioned to watch for longer periods (2+ minutes) of time.

Clear titles, voting, and user comments steer viewers toward high-quality content on YouTube.

The need to press “play” before a video begins ensures viewers the ability to control the content they see. This may translate to a wider audience that can actively watch videos during work hours.

YouTube’s average video length is 4:20 and includes a wide variety of topics. The chart below shows a sample week of YouTube’s most popular videos.

Statista: YouTube's Average Video Length

YouTube’s lack of breathtaking videos creates an advantage for viewers and brands.

YouTubers are conditioned to “hang in there” a bit longer before navigating away. They’re accustomed to exercising patience in exchange for content that offers value, even if it doesn’t “wow” them with stunning visual effects.

YouTubers are often seeking valuable content over intense visual stimulation. This means it holds higher potential for many brand-related videos than IGTV.

For Marketers who Love Analytics, YouTube Offers Clearer Reporting

YouTube’s advanced analytics helps marketers determine what’s working - or not working - for their target audiences.

IGTV, however, requires some thought to interpret. Since Instagram followers are automatically subscribed to IGTV channels, the analytics can be misleading in certain circumstances.

For example, National Geographic is listed as one of IGTV’s most popular channels. Dig deeper, and you’ll find out that the “most popular” ranking is derived from the number of followers - which comes from Instagram, not IGTV.

National Geographic has a total of 2 videos on IGTV, yet it makes the #1 spot in the top 25 channels.

Top 25 IGTV Channels

Use IGTV and YouTube for Different Purposes

IGTV is best-used as a tool to increase engagement with your current followers on Instagram.

The platform is young and has a lot of growing to do. Although it’s limited in its abilities, don’t be too quick to underestimate IGTV. Instagram has a history of flexing to the needs of its users.

Businesses who publish on IGTV need to be thoughtful about the content they’re publishing. IGTV videos need to be fast-paced, incorporate unique visual angles, or include multiple framework changes in order to hold viewers’ attention.

If you’re a small business without a pre-existing Instagram audience, you should stick with YouTube.  

IGTV v. YouTube for Marketing

If your goal is to increase engagement with your current Instagram followers, IGTV is an excellent tool to consider.

If your objectives are to increase engagement on any other platform, grow your audience, educate consumers, or build a following - YouTube is the best choice for your brand.

For small-to-medium sized businesses, YouTube may be a wiser investment of time and resources. As IGTV grows, the dynamics may change. Until that time, YouTube will remain the primary platform for brands wanting to grow a following, increase engagement, and boost conversions.

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