Short-Form Content: A Fine Art

Nick Greene    By under Content Strategy.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - we're living in a culture of distraction. The attention span of the modern user is shorter than ever before, clocking in at an average of 8.25 seconds as of 2015. Comprehensive marketing pitches and exhaustive articles are rapidly becoming a thing of the past; it's a rare thing anyone has the patience to make it through something that takes more than a few minutes to digest.

This fast-paced mode of thinking is nowhere more pronounced than it is amongst millennials - my own generation, in case any of you were wondering.

"Millennial minds have adapted to cope with the burden of increased content consumption," writes Marketing Magazine's Max Pepe. "How can one possibly survive in a world where limitless quantities of information are accessible every second of the day? A world where a ceaseless abundance of content is propelled into our palms and shot onto our screens at an unfathomable rate?"

The answer to that is pretty obvious, no? We devote less time to each piece of content we consume. We make judgements on the value of an article or video within the first several seconds of viewing it, then move on if we conclude it isn't worth our time.

That's why short-form content is so intrinsically valuable to us. Instead of burying a kernel of value deep within a work and leading us to it with a trail of digital breadcrumbs, the core of a piece is right there for us to see. We know right away if something is worth our time; we don't need to wait for the core message of a tweet or the entertainment offered by a Vine video.

Brands such as Coca-Cola, Adidas, and General Electric fully understand this reality, according to Ignite's Ross Wilson. They make marketing campaigns that consist of easily-shareable gifs. They establish themselves on Vine, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat. Rather than trying to artificially direct customers their way, they approach their target demographic in a manner and environment familiar to them

"Brands that practice short form content and marketing strategies are likelier to engage users and go viral than their competitors," notes Wilson.

Of course, that isn't to say that there's no place for long-form content in your marketing strategy. Far from it. Short-form content might engage your audience and generate interest, but if your aim is to capture leads, you also need more traditional stuff.

"While short-form content is a great strategy to drive engagement and clicks, your returns will be short lived," says Scripted's Eric Maccoll. "The unfortunate nature of short-form content is that it has such a high turnover rate and its virtual life is limited to such a short period of time that it needs to constantly be produced or risk missing a large percentage of its audience."

"The average lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes," he adds, citing a statistic collected by Moz.

The best content marketing strategy, then, is one that blends short- and long-form. It generates engagement and discussion through stuff that's easily shared and digested, then once it's pulled users in, it offers something a bit meatier; a bit more substantial. It could be an in-depth tutorial, an analysis of current events, insight into the industry, or something else altogether - the important thing is that it offers something more than a quick fix.

The important thing is that it gives your audience something that they want to focus on for more than a few seconds.