If you have spent time on just about any major social or content platform over the last year, you’ll know that the dominant format-de-jour is short-form video.
From a business perspective, if you are an entrepreneur, executive or marketer–you intuitively know that reaching your target customers in a meaningful way on social platforms is going to mean really “getting” reels–either by creating your own or working with influencers. The potential for reach and virality is too great not to spend some time thinking about how you could reach your customers with this popular format.
Before we cover how short-form video can be used in your content strategy, let’s do some tik-talking about short form and its origins…
What is a Short Form Video?
The definition of short-form video varies. Google (aka Youtube) defines short-form video as any video under 10 minutes. Still, most references to short-form video currently refer to the “ultra” short form, vertical videos and reels formats found on Tiktok, Instagram reels, and other social and content platforms. There is no hard and fast rule on duration, but these videos tend to be between 15 seconds and 3 minutes long. TikTok users strongly prefer videos under 60 seconds, as nearly 50% of users reported that videos over 60 seconds made them anxious.
Ultra short-form videos lend themselves to “lean back” consumption, usually passively consumed in a feed on a social or content platform vs sought after or navigated to directly. Content is often informed by trends on the platform itself (memes and audio), has low creative barriers to entry (anyone can create viral content) and can also include clips from popular movies or TV shows used in a transformative way.
Why is Short Form Video so Popular?
If you want the long answer, pull up a chair–we can walk down internet memory lane and talk about animated Gifs and the once hugely popular platform Vine.
But the short answer is Tiktok and “fast following” of other social platforms. We’ve written before about social platform copycats and how quickly copying competitive features is an implicit, if not explicit, part of a social platform’s product strategy.
Tiktok’s exponential growth (it was the most downloaded app in 2022) based on quirky meme-driven short-form videos scared incumbents like Meta. It compelled them to not only add short-form video features but to push this format through algorithms and incentives for creators.
This, along with the inherent shareability of short-form video has led to an explosion of time spent on social media, where the average user in 2023 spends 2 hours and 31 minutes daily. Much of this time is spent consuming videos–as globally; people watch over 84 minutes of videos daily–much of this is short-form.
What Social Apps use Short-form video?
As a result of the mad scramble to copy TikTok, Short-form video exists on all major social media and content platforms. It is a core feature of Tiktok’s offering, and both Instagram and Facebook feature Reels within their platforms, with both having dedicated Reels sections in their apps as well as promotional modules where users who click very quickly find themselves lost in the Reels ecosystem. Youtube has a dedicated Youtube Shorts section that features a stream of shorter-length videos, and Snapchat has a “Spotlight” feature as its home for short-form videos. Even Twitter and Reddit are moving to vertical short-form video (or at least testing its integration within their apps).
With Short-form video being the dominant format across platforms, it isn’t unusual for creators to post the same or similar content across all platforms where they have a presence.
Is Short-form Video Useful for Business?
The simple answer is yes, but this is a function of both the format and the platforms on which the format appears.
First the format: According to research by Wyzowl, 73% of consumers prefer to watch a short-form video to learn about a product or service. According to Hubspot’s social media trends report, short-form video ranks #1 for lead generation and engagement amongst other content formats.
Next the platform: as social platforms become popular, they can become the starting point for activity online. An impressive 40% of product searches conducted by Gen Z use TikTok for search instead of Google.
In tandem, this means that younger consumers in particular are searching and learning and buying through the consumption of short-form videos on social platforms.
Can Short-form Video be Used for B2B Content Marketing?
B2B companies frequently use short-form videos for product demos and to provide other informational content to existing and potential customers–but it’s rare to see B2B businesses focusing on short-form on social platforms and even rarer to see these videos achieve virality. It’s not to say it can’t be done (your company might be the one to crack the code!).
The secret will likely come from a controversial shift in approach: appealing to emotion vs rationality.
Most B2B marketers are focused on helping potential customers make a logic-based decision to buy their product by providing helpful tools and information.
This intuitively makes sense, as decision-makers are paid to make the right choices for their companies. Emotional appeals in this context may seem out of place. Or do they?
According to Linkedin, B2B strategies that appeal to emotion are seven times more effective for revenue generation than rational messaging. It turns out that the people who make decisions at companies are, in the end, people. Cracking the code may require thinking outside the current B2B marketing toolbox.
Short-form Video and Your Business
If your customers are on social platforms where short-form is the key format, then it makes sense for you to integrate short-form video into your content and distribution plans.
It is still an evolving format, and there are lots of opportunities to experiment, but there are also a few tried and tested tactics that businesses have used successfully:
Working with Influencers
Although collaborations with influencers have been around for a while, there is a growing trend among brands to use short-form video content to develop captivating influencer campaigns online. This trend is expected to gain even more momentum in 2023.
Short-form videos add an extra dimension to influencer campaigns. These concise ads can have a greater impact while still providing the genuine and relatable qualities that make influencer ads effective.
Sephora is a brand that frequently works with influencers to showcase its products being used in the wild:
Teaching and helping your clients solve problems is an important part of any B2C or B2B content strategy. This tactic merely takes this tried and true content style and boils lessons down to short-form video format.
These videos are particularly effective on Youtube in sub-10-minute videos but have also had success being condensed into videos of one minute or less on other platforms.
Hubspot does a great job publishing helpful and educational content and Youtube and other social platforms, often linking to additional resources or templates created by and hosted on Hubspot:
Personifying your Product
Personification of products opens up a variety of opportunities for short-form video, including connecting content to viral trends and platform memes. If your product gets a personality, then it effectively can act as a person would on social platforms and better connect with trends.
Oreo does a great job of making their cookie the star of reels:
Short-form video is a great format to use for product launches, unboxing videos and product sneak-peaks.
A study by Salesforce found that 80% of customers now consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services. This explains why unboxing and product teaser videos are so popular. Anticipation for the product is part of the product itself.
Video game companies generally do a great job teasing upcoming releases or new features of existing games through reels:
Community Testimonials/Consumers Using The Product
Posting short-form videos of customers happily using a product in novel, fun, unexpected and useful ways helps other potential customers imagine themselves using a product similarly.
Beyond this, these videos can impart a sub-culture around and product and even create a sense of community amongst product owners and evangelists.
Spikeball does a great job featuring people using their product in fun and interesting ways, often in exotic (and not very practical) locations.
Behind the Scenes Content
Consumers buy experiences, not just products; they purchase products more often because of people and purpose. They want to believe in the people behind the products and support the company’s broader goal.
According to the Zeno Strength of Purpose Survey, Consumers are four times more likely to purchase products from companies with a clear purpose.
In this context, and particularly since social media is personality-driven, it makes sense for companies to let customers in on the inner workings of their company and the motivations behind what they do. Often this can mean the company founders themselves in front of the cameras.
Chocolate bar-making upstart Mid-Day Squares does a great job of letting customers in on the inner workings of their company, including not only the business challenges but the documenting the mental stresses of scaling a growing company competing against large incumbent snack companies:
Tips for Success Using Short-form Video
Before creating short-form videos to promote your business, you should first be clear on whether you should at all.
Assuming you have built your customer personas, mapped your customer journey and arrived at the point where you can clearly say that your customers are reachable on platforms that feature short-form video, there are a few things to consider to get off on the right foot:
Be Clear on Your Objectives
Identifying the purpose behind creating any short-form video content is essential before diving into it.
Whether your goal is to enhance brand recognition, introduce a new product, or establish your authority on a specific topic, having a clear understanding of your intention can enable you to stay focused.
With a well-defined objective in mind, you can create precise, easy-to-understand videos and achieve your goals while also delivering valuable content for your viewers.
Engage Viewers Quickly
The patience for videos that don’t clearly communicate the payoff to viewers within the first few seconds is 0, so the reason for viewing must be established in the viewer’s mind in the initial thumbnail or frame. All videos need a strong hook.
For instance, if you’re creating a tutorial or micro-teaching video, begin with a question or a problem that requires a solution. On the other hand, if you’re developing a branded challenge or a comedic video, start with an unexpected statement or a sneak peek of the funniest scene. Doing this lets you capture your viewers’ attention quicker by giving them a reason to continue watching.
Test Different Styles and Adjust
Ultimately, you aren’t just trying to determine whether short-form video “works” but rather themes and tactics that resonate most with your audience.
To get at this information sooner, consider methodically testing more short-form video types faster and adjusting to the results.
Resist the tendency to test incrementally. The cost of posting a few videos a day vs one a week might be higher, but the learning and potential algorithmic tailwind will be worth the larger upfront investment.
Know The Platforms
Content and distribution are joined together at the hip.
To be successful, It’s important to know the platforms, including their business objectives, product changes and trending memes. For example, TikTok may be algorithmically favouring longer short-form videos or videos from individual creators vs faceless companies.
This information could influence the tactics you choose and the content you create, so stay on top of information about platforms as well as what your own performance data is telling you.
In 2023, short-form video content will continue to reign supreme as the highly favoured social media trend. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels, among others, will continue to dominate our screens with bite-sized content.
This presents an excellent opportunity for creators and brands to invest in short-form video content to engage with their audience and improve brand recognition. You can increase your online visibility, attract new followers, and build your brand by creating entertaining and informative content using this format that reaches millions of people daily.