The prevalence of shorter content is sometimes framed as a negative thing - for example, as being related to people’s dwindling attention spans. It's viewed by many as being the whimsical, dopey cousin of longer-form content.
As content marketers though, we should not dismiss short-form content as just being light filler between the longer-form pieces in our content strategies. Indeed, short content can be something that long-form content just isn’t: quick to understand, convenient, and straight to the point — without necessarily lacking substance.
Here are some things to think about when trying to make short content that goes a long way:
When trying to pack a lot of information into a smaller scale, visuals are your best friend. Through images, information can be emphasised without just being repeated, and your content can appeal to a wider set of people with different learning styles.
This is why infographics have become so popular as a means of presenting complex and otherwise dry statistics, in a way that is aesthetically appealing, memorable, and immediate.
That the format succeeds in accomplishing this can be seen in a survey of over 500 online marketers conducted by Venngage, in which 40% of its respondents said that infographics were the type of visual content that garnered the highest engagement.
One of the best things about a piece of content that’s quick and easy to watch or read is that it can be received, engaged with, and re-shared in almost the same instant.
How, though, can you ensure that people will want to share your content? It’s important to know why people share content with one another:
With the rise of social media, the internet has become less a space of digital anonymity and more an opportunity to express our personalities and beliefs to the world. People often, therefore, share content that they feel an affinity with - and the quicker turnaround of short-form content puts content creators in more of a position to reflect and respond to the trends and social issues that people find most important to them.
Of course, people also share things that they simply find entertaining. Short-form content challenges content creators to grab audiences quickly - perhaps with distinctive visual flair, or (most effectively) something funny with a surprising twist. A good example is this Instagram video from IKEA - which, in only a few seconds, uses and quickly subverts the looping video format to concisely promote their “anti-slip mats”.
There’s no reason why you can’t use shorter content to augment your longer content, either. Whether you’re re-editing a shorter version of a longer piece, or perhaps serialising it into more easily-digestible chunks, there are a multitude of ways to make long and short content work together.
For a good example of this, take a look at how brands use YouTube’s six-second unskippable “bumper” ads. Communicating everything you want to in just six seconds may seem like a daunting prospect, but these ads can be a really effective component within a larger campaign.
Six seconds is actually a pretty perfect amount of time for piquing a viewer’s curiosity. Take Heineken’s ‘Worlds Apart’ campaign, for example: the six second video asks a simple question — can two strangers divided by their beliefs unite? — and encourages the viewer to search out the longer video themselves.
The real beauty of this is that those six seconds allow for the longer video to be more ambitious and expansive: having already got the audience’s interest, it can experiment a bit more and take more time in how it communicates.
When produced thoughtfully and used wisely, 20 words or six seconds of video can be useful, impactful and valuable. Content is about mixing things up - nobody watches only one-hour documentaries, and nobody only reads tweets, but making sure you produce a range of well written content, with variation in length and subject, will set you apart and help you build a following.