Content marketers are faced with a challenge on how to proceed in 2019.
We’ve been told that modern consumers’ attention span shrinks year after year. It’s no secret that short-form content is increasingly prevalent and popular.
As the graph shows, daily usage of Instagram and Snapchat – platforms focused almost exclusively on short-form content – has almost doubled since last year.
Data collected by Vidyard also shows an increase in the amount of short-form content – as well as growth in the engagement rate:
- 75% of branded videos published in 2017 were less than two minutes long (compared to 56% in 2016)
- Videos under 90 seconds have a completion rate of 59% (53% in 2016)
- Only 46% of all videos are watched to completion
It appears that social media is conditioning consumers to favor short-form content over longform, but that’s not the entire story. Creating longform content is necessary for SEO purposes :
Google’s algorithms work under the assumption that blog posts worth reading must contain at least 2,000 words. Additionally, Pew found that longform written content earns a relatively similar number of engagements – but holds viewer’s attention for much longer.
To answer the question of whether social media is destroying our ability to create and consume valuable content, we first need to back up and establish the meaning of valuable. What qualifies as “valuable content” is, of course, subjective. Nonetheless, there are several quantifiable facets that contribute to whether or not an individual considers a piece of content valuable.
For a piece of content to qualify as valuable, it must be relevant. For consumers, relevancy means the content relates to a specific problem, issue, or need. Can consumers get value out of both short- and longform content? Absolutely – it all depends on what they’re looking for at a specific moment in time.
Another aspect of valuable content is its ability to engage audiences on an emotional level.
Effective social media content (short-form) typically smacks its viewers over the head with hard-hitting messages that encourage them to dig deeper. Longform content tends to spread the message out, allowing the reader to become more and more emotionally invested over time.
If a consumer can’t trust that a piece of content will help them in some way, they aren’t going to see it as valuable. Trust isn’t something that can be immediately forged; it must be built over time. This can be done by:
- Being consistent
- Backing up claims with data, as well as quotes from industry experts
- Remaining laser-focused on the audience’s success
Whether creating short- or longform content, you need to ensure you maintain credibility and the sense that you’ll help readers accomplish their goals.
Content that isn’t useful isn’t valuable. In the same way that the usefulness of a spoon depends on whether you’re eating cereal or digging a ditch, content’s usefulness depends on what digesting it will help one accomplish.
The modern consumer places a huge amount of importance on a piece’s authenticity. Overall, content that has personality is usually seen as much more authentic than content that comes off as robotic or scripted; such “mechanical” content lacks the emotional appeal we spoke about earlier, the essential material which keeps audiences engaged with the brand.
So, to answer our question:
“Is social media destroying our ability to create and consume valuable content?”
Content marketers don’t determine what’s considered “valuable content,” audience members do.
Creating and Presenting Valuable Content Through Social Media
Most popular social media platforms feature quick-hitting, short-form content:
- Tweets are limited to 280 characters maximum
- Instagram Stories currently max out at 15 seconds, video posts at 60 seconds
- Snapchat Stories are capped at 60 seconds
Even when capacities are much higher, shorter is better when it comes to social media. For example, while Facebook posts can contain up 63,206 characters, posts are most effective when they hover around a mere 40. Also, videos on Facebook can be up to two hours long, while the ideal length of such content is two minutes. While it doesn’t pay to write more on social media, you can still use these platforms to draw attention to longer pieces.
Let’s take a look at how successful brands have used social media to promote both their short- and longform content in the past.
Social Media as a Haven for Short-Form Content
Above all else, short-form content is “snackable,” easily consumed and digested.
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This 30-second video, created by Aerie as part of its “Real You” campaign, showcases one of the brand’s models explaining what “Real You” means to her. It’s brief and to the point – and incredibly powerful.
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In seventeen short words, this text-based image from Supremacy Marketing provides a motivational message that will likely stay with its viewers for some time. As a rule, short-form content should quickly elicit an emotional response from the consumer. The pieces of content mentioned above promote confidence and integrity, respectively. The following takes a different route:
Silly? Yes. Engaging? Take a closer look at the number of likes this content generated since it was posted. As we said earlier, if your audience wants short-form content, it’s your duty to give it to them.
Social Media as a Gateway to Longform Content
The short-form content presented in the section above can stand alone completely. But this isn’t always the case; nor should it be. Marketers can use social media platforms as a gateway to more in-depth content. As the graph below shows, social media posts that link to longform content actually tend to generate more engagement and shares.
Freelance writing coach Jorden Makelle uses Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to share her blog posts. But she doesn’t just post simple links to her content; she creates images and short-form videos to supplement her longer, more in-depth content:
You can also use social media to give quick-hitting answers to burning questions, while linking to long-form content. In the example below, HubSpot provides a stat regarding the effectiveness of influencer marketing, then links to a guide on how to do it right:
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Another tactic you might consider is including a portion of the longform content within a social media post. That way, the post acts as a sort of “sneak peek,” generating interest among your target audience and ideally motivating a visit to your website or blog.
Adidas has created a number of short-living Instagram Stories revolving around a new line of sneakers – and uses these Stories to link to additional photo and video content on the new products.
Use short-form content as a pathway to more in-depth material for those who want to dig a bit deeper into your brand.
What’s the Verdict?
Throughout this article, we’ve worked under the assumption that content marketers view longer, more in-depth content pieces as more valuable than the “snackable,” snippet-like content built for social media platforms. From that perspective, it’s easy to see why one might think social media is killing valuable content.
But this isn’t the case.
Snackable, social media-tailored content can be highly valuable – as long as the focus remains on what it provides customers. Social media platforms can also connect more engaged audience members with more in-depth content.
Finally – and most importantly – the definition of “valuable content” isn’t static; it all depends on what our audience expects at a given moment. It’s up to marketing pros to know what our customers see as valuable – and work tirelessly to give it to them.