Briefly capturing the attention of users watching video content is a feat that advertisers around the globe try to accomplish every minute of every day. But keeping that attention throughout an entire, lengthy video is a whole different beast. As social media platforms battle it out to find the most relevant types of videos for the current generation, many changes and tests will be performed as companies look to one-up each other.
TikTok took advantage of a golden opportunity when it first came up in the industry. Someone needed to fill the short-form video hole that was left by Vine, and TikTok was that solution. Now that the platform has made a lasting impression on the world of social media, it is looking for ways to keep up with, or even create, the next trend in video consumption by testing longer forms of video content. Back in July 2021, TikTok announced that it increased the maximum video length on the platform from one to three minutes. Since then, it announced tests for five and even 10-minute videos.
These tests raise obvious questions:
• Is TikTok seeing a trend of creators needing to submit longer videos to get their stories across?
• Are TikTok users’ attention spans too short for these long-form videos?
• Is TikTok trying to grab market share from the seemingly indestructible YouTube?
Let’s first look at why testing these longer-form videos may have negative results. Based on the more than 700 million users currently on the platform, it’s safe to say that consumers know what they want in terms of content. That may not matter to TikTok, though. Wired summed it up nicely: “TikTok is betting that users don’t know best,” which is an incredibly bold statement. TikTok’s userbase is accustomed to quickly going onto their phone, watching an engaging short video, and moving on with their day. Moving too far away from that model could cause a large portion of users to gravitate toward another media source, and TikTok may even see some public backlash. We all remember the three million users who left Snapchat after its redesign. TikTok will need to tread carefully and make sure it doesn’t see a similar result.
On the other hand, there are a few opportunities that open up as TikTok looks to focus on more long-form content. Users are on the app for an average of 89 minutes per day, which is plenty of time investment for longer-form content to work. Furthermore, in reference to YouTube specifically, TikTok is already the fifth most searched YouTube query. This means that people are in fact watching a lot of TikTok content in one sitting via compilations, “best of” lists, and more. If they can bring those YouTube hours onto the TikTok platform itself by lengthening time restrictions, they have an opportunity to gain a lot of market share.
Over the years, as these social media giants have evolved, creators have started to trend more into video to tell their stories and connect with their audience. Creators are well aware of the algorithms platforms use and how they can maximize their value. When the algorithms change, creators follow the trends. Creators have proved they will generate longer-form content if a platform develops that way. TikTok knows that, and it’s most likely playing into their decision to allow creators to take those same steps as the platform expands its offerings. It’s not so much that creators need longer-form content to get their stories across, it’s that they are adapting to what works best to connect with their audience on specific platforms.
It’s important to keep in mind what this all means for advertisers. The influencer marketing industry is expected to grow to approximately $16.4 billion in 2022, and knowing how to spend dollars in this space is paramount to both growing and established brands. TikTok is distancing itself from other tools like Reels and Spotlight, which may cause advertisers that see short-form video success to spend money elsewhere. On the other hand, longer video options leave the door open for advertisers to make midroll placements and longer-form sponsorships. For advertisers, A/B testing to see how changes on these platforms affect important metrics like sales data will be a necessity for success.
It will be interesting to see if TikTok can really make a dent in YouTube’s stranglehold of the long-form video content market. YouTube released YouTube Shorts in March 2021, so there is no doubt these platforms are encroaching on each other’s space. If either side can gain significant momentum, we may not only see a change in how users consume video content, but also a revolution in the way companies and agencies choose to advertise on social media.
President of influencer marketing platform gen.video. Shining a light on the convergence of social media, advertising, and commerce.