IGTV & The Battle For Our Attention

Game on YouTube.

Today Instagram rolled out IGTV, which will allow users to upload hour-long vertical videos. IGTV will function as a standalone app and be accessible through a button on the Instagram home screen. Similar to YouTube, users will be able to upload several videos to their channels and add links in the video description that will link elsewhere. 

But this is more than a Facebook power play to assert dominance over other social media platforms (as seen in the addition of Instagram Stories meant to challenge Snapchat). The greater story at play here has to do with the never-ending battle for "eyeballs". While money makes the world go round, another invaluable currency is our time & undivided attention.

 Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Social media platforms compete for attention because this a major factor for user growth. But Facebook & Instagram's rivals are more than the YouTubes, Twitters or Snapchats of the world. Their rivals include Bumble, Spotify, Netflix, podcasts and even books. Every minute that I spend playing volleyball, Googling a new restaurant or plant shopping, is another minute that a social media platform couldn't capitalize on my time, feeding me ads that fund the building of their new campus/nap pod/rock climbing wall.

I don't mean for this to sound dark and sinister. We all know that the internet can be a place of joy, inspiration & connection. But our time & attention are valuable, to us and to brands. Meaningful time spent with someone can lead to a lasting friendship. Similarly, time spent engaging with a brand's content can lead to consideration, conversion and lifetime customer value. 

 Photo courtesy of  Instagram

Photo courtesy of Instagram

What does this mean to the average consumer?

It's becoming easier to passively and mindlessly consume content as it's constantly being fed to us and in more entertaining and addictive forms. The online world has becoming overwhelming to all and anxiety-inducing for some. It's no wonder that the word "digital detox" is being tossed around by people who rely heavily on the online world for work & play. Does this mean we will see a push-back and a real and lasting movement towards scaling back our time spent online? Who knows. But just as society has become more mindful and deliberate in what we put in our bodies or purchase from retailers, I'm hopeful that online consumption may change as well.

What does this mean for brands and people creating content? 

Think bigger than competing with direct industry competitors. If you're a clothing brand trying to grow your Instagram community, you're not competing with Reformation or Urban Outfitters, you're competing with beauty brands, fitness influencers, food bloggers, etc. To truly gain lasting and meaningful attention, don't put out generic content with the purpose of gaming an algorithm. There's always going to be another brand or person that's more photogenic than you. Offer something unique that's true to your values, way of thinking, services, or culture. 

As the popular Pinterest-y inspirational quote goes, "Don't be eye candy, be soul food.