Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
This article retrospectively looks at the development of short-form video platforms. It considers how ISV, VARs, and MSPs might leverage the opportunity.
Online Video has got a hold on Us
Research shows that as of 2015, the average attention span for adults watching videos online is only 8.25 seconds long. 2015 was almost ten years ago, so the span may have decreased as Gen-Z—for whom bit-sized content has been readily available since their early youth—have grown up consuming videos online. This stat compares unfavorably with the attention span of the average goldfish (who has a measured attention span of 9 seconds). Either we’ve devolved as a species, or the bar for human attention has risen dramatically in response to the time we spend online coupled with the fierce competition for eyeballs.
Studies claim that video traffic is estimated to account for 69 percent of all mobile data usage (Ericsson Mobility Report) and that social content that includes video has an engagement rate of nearly 10x the posts that do not. Said another way, we’re here for video.
A retrospective on short-form video platforms
Many consider Vine—a Twitter-owned app—a short-form social video movement pioneer. Vine made the 6-second video clip famous. It also brought notoriety to hundreds of creators who excelled at entertaining their audiences on the platform. Vine peaked in 2013/14 before a mass exodus of top creators began, at least partially spurred on by the explosion of Snapchat and the introduction of Instagram video.
Snapchat launched in 2011, built upon the desire for quick-hit content but added undeniably fun and valuable features such as facial filters, geo-filters, and disappearing messages. In 2013, feeling the pressure from Snapchat, Instagram debuted video on what was previously a photo-only platform to combat the loss of their large and engaged Xennial/Gen-X-dominated user base.
The flurry of competition in the space led to the eventual sunsetting of the Vine in 2016. The influence of Vine remains strong today through enduring memes, notable creators, and the large-scale adoption of short-form video content that originated on the platform.
A more recent (and solid) player in the short-form social space is TikTok. Owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, who, in 2016, launched an app called Douyin in their home market. In 2017, ByteDance acquired Musical.ly, a platform that encourages users to lip-sync along to trending songs and sounds, eventually merging it into TikTok—a Douyin doppelganger built and customized for a Western audience.
Although ByteDance doesn’t make TikTok user data public, estimates are that the app has over one billion+ monthly active users who spend an average of 1.5 hours using the application daily. TikTok has seen staggering growth despite the controversy about its Chinese ownership. So much so, the legacy video goliath YouTube, boasting over 2.6 billion+ monthly active users, has made a splash into TikTok style short-form by adding YouTube Shorts in September 2020, incentivizing the use of the new feature by providing its creators with an impressive potential reach that makes the average reach of their long-form video seems minuscule by comparison.
Don’t Miss the Wave
Should your businesses utilize short-form content videos as part of your go-to-market strategy? The data suggest a significant increase in projected ROI for those who do.
On the organic (non-paid) content side, nearly 47% of marketers surveyed believe short-form videos are more likely to go viral. On the other side of the equation, influencer campaigns have paid off for brands that align themselves with influential voices well-positioned to reach the brand’s target consumer.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a “big brand only” play—the beauty in short-form video platforms is that creativity trumps high production value. This isn’t to say that finding success on YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok is easy—quite the contrary—but it is achievable.
Yes—your customers are there, too.
I know what you’re thinking—”I get it, the kids love TikTok and YouTube,” but it’s not just the kids. About 47 percent of YouTube’s active users are between the age of 35+, and about 38 percent of Tiktok’s US-based users are 30+. You may think that because you don’t use a particular app, no one your age does, but the numbers seem to tell a different story.
Brands seeing success on TikTok
Some believe you can study virality to isolate the elements contributing to a video “popping off.” Mega creators like Mr. Beast dedicated themselves to years of analyzing things like thumbnails, titles, captions, music, and more to determine what would give him the best chance of reaching the most people.
Still, sometimes even the most astute analyst can’t understand why specific videos resonate in modern internet culture. Countless examples of high concept/big budget ideas are flourishing, but now more than ever, quick-and-dirty videos that key on the absurd, humorous, or inane find their way into our feeds.
Below are some examples of short-form content that is helping brands capture the attention of audiences worldwide:
Duo Lingo – @duolingo – 5.9 million followers / 118.6 million likes
Duolingo is a user-friendly language-learning app founded in 2012 but saw a significant uptick in activity during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The app’s mascot, Duo (a green owl), aims to transform language learning into an enjoyable practice. Duolingo’s social team has taken a decidedly silly and nonsensical approach to the platform, and people are eating it up.
“When You use Google Translate instead of Actually Learning a Language” (30 million views) https://www.tiktok.com/@duolingo/video/7030838886578359558?lang=en
“When all you can say in French is ‘bonjour'” (18.6 million views) https://www.tiktok.com/@duolingo/video/7025995677025127726?lang=en
“Doing my stupid job to carry this stupid app with stupid content that doesn’t even make sense” (15.6 million views) https://www.tiktok.com/@duolingo/video/7051977130510404910?lang=en
The Washington Post – @washingtonpost – 1.5 million followers / 71.6. million likes
The Washington Post has been on TikTok for quite some time, but they hit their stride during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Washington Post did its best to add humor during an otherwise painful period in the form of 60-second videos.
“COVID-19 variant information” (905.7K views) https://www.tiktok.com/@washingtonpost/video/7119892903832603950?lang=en
“European Union and Universal Chargers” (2 million views) https://www.tiktok.com/@washingtonpost/video/7106986004061490478?lang=en
“U.S. State Department Changing Fonts from Times New Roman to Calibri on a random Tuesday” (247.9K views) https://www.tiktok.com/@washingtonpost/video/7191919936611142954?lang=en
Scrub Daddy – @scrubdaddy – 3 million followers / 60.8 million likes
This household cleaning brand got its start on Shark Tank. This show encourages entrepreneurs to pitch their products to a panel of business leaders and investors in today’s retail world. Lori Greiner picked them up and invested $200,000 into their venture. Years later, they’ve transformed into a 250 million-dollar company (I have a few scrub daddy’s under my sink!)
This direct-to-consumer brand has embraced trends and the use of original sounds made available on TikTok. They utilize their account to boost sales and marketing and provide comedic relief around a household chore that is probably very low on people’s priorities; I can vouch for this claim – I hate doing the dishes.
“Can’t Grease the Poles if we just scrub it off” (74.6K views) https://www.tiktok.com/@scrubdaddy/video/7194495618818149678?lang=en
“When someone tries to say normal sponges are better than Scrub Daddy” (10.5 million views) https://www.tiktok.com/@scrubdaddy/video/7158160589607587118?lang=en
“The Power of a Comma” (22 million views) https://www.tiktok.com/@scrubdaddy/video/7078727331929509163?lang=en
Best Practices for Short-Form Success
Short-form video content has the world’s attention, and savvy companies flock to the places where people spend their time. If you’re considering diving in, or if you’ve been investing some effort in these platforms already, here are some tips to consider:
Social algorithms favor creators and brands who publish frequently and encourage engagement. Consistency is often the most challenging hurdle to clear but is also likely the most critical.
Repurposing and Redistributing
One mistake many companies make is thinking that because they’ve published a video on one channel (let’s say Instagram), it would be overkill to re-edit and republish that same piece on YouTube Shorts or Tiktok. Don’t be that company—ensure you’re squeezing everything out of your good ideas.
Not every trend nor popular meme is going to present an opportunity for you to jump on board, but keep your eyes peeled; you’d be surprised how often you can find a “way in” when you give a few minutes of thought to how your products and services of people may dovetail with a trending idea—the internet loves a good re-meme.
Utilizing Sounds and Music
If you’ve spent any time-consuming content—especially on TikTok—you’ve noticed that certain songs or other sounds from pop culture become trends that creators leverage. Keep your ears to the ground.
Customize for the Platform
You’ll notice that all of the short-form video platforms display videos vertically. With that in mind, it’d be wise to record in that same aspect ratio, so you don’t encounter any annoying burdens in the editing process. Speaking of which, there’s a great free app called CapCut, where you can input transitions, filters, overlay, and various onscreen captions to help improve your video’s impact.
Last but not least, become the King or Queen of copywriting, and master clever captions for your videos. Short, sweet, and to the point will complete the task, but the more eye-snatching and perhaps even humorous will set you apart from your competition. Thinking about search keywords when crafting a caption is always a good idea.
Key Takeaways for Short-Form Content
Every company has to decide where to align its human resources. Like most things, success with short-form videos requires dedication and time investment. The days of reaching people via telephone at the office or via ads in the newspaper have all but passed, and social content has taken its place.
Social media platforms come and go, but the learnings you’ll collect by experimenting and putting yourself and your company out there will remain.
No, it’s not “just the kids” on these platforms, and this isn’t only for the Nike’s and Apple’s of the world. We did some digging to find some companies in our own B2B IT channel that is forging paths in the world of short-form video; we’ve linked to their accounts below:
A report from Wyzowl found that 83% of video marketers say video-based content has helped them in the lead-generation department, increasing their exposure and website visits over time. Given such high praise, there is a benefit to listening to your fellow digital marketers when adopting this digital marketing strategy!