Long-form video is making a comeback, but not as we know it

Social content is starting to look a little stale, argues Redengine SCC's Clare Moyna. But long-form content may just be the remedy to re-energise platforms like Facebook Watch and IGTV.

Under six seconds? No sound? Vertical only? You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘What’s the point?’ when, realistically, there aren’t many pieces of content that naturally fit these parameters. Over the past couple of years, the Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds have been flooded with video ads that could be categorised as ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. And woeful video viewability rates have even pushed advertisers to abandon video completely in favour of static content.

It’s official: Social content is starting to look a little stale. We’re losing our creativity as we struggle to deliver a message in a three to six-second video. We’ve accepted that long-form video doesn’t really belong on the newsfeed or Instagram Stories. We know bite-size content is undeniably effective. But what if you have more to say?

We’ve been ignoring long-form content and storytelling for too long

Recently, Facebook’s video platform ‘Watch’ announced global partnerships with the NRL, AFL and Cricket Australia. Facebook has also partnered with MTV to stream a whole host of ‘Watch’ exclusive content such as rebooted reality TV show ‘The Real World’, broadcast to a whole new generation.

These partnerships will result in (they hope) more and more people jumping on ‘Watch’ to stream original content without having to leave the Facebook app.

For advertisers, this means non-skippable ads of up to 15 seconds. For Facebook, it means the newsfeed is finally freed up.

This is a big thing for brands that have been calling Facebook out on its viewability and ROI for years. (75% of the audience drops off in the first three seconds of a non-skippable ad). Facebook has also promised 85% of its in-stream impressions will be viewable, in line with the Media Rating Council standard.

Instagram has vowed to make IGTV a major point of focus after a lacklustre launch last year. Making sure that creators are on the platform, making content that people want to watch, is critical if Instagram wants to make any sort of cultural dent. At the moment, IGTV is still looking a lot like YouTube, with most creators repurposing YouTube content.

Once Instagram finds the sweet spot for this offering and drive up engagement, we’ll see ad options being rolled out in this placement too.

The switch to long-form makes sense, but is it what audiences want?

After years of being conditioned to expect short, ‘snackable’ videos on social, are people open to lengthier content or ‘social TV’?

At the moment, the answer seems to be: maybe.

Younger audiences seem to be a tad more open to this shift than older audiences.

According to a Shareablee survey, 47% of social media users in the US aged 18–24 say they would watch their favourite television shows on social media, compared to 38% of 25–54 year olds and just 23% of users aged 55 plus.

But originality and authenticity is key.

In May, Facebook shared that it is updating its video-ranking algorithms to put more weight on original content.

Food delivery service Hello Fresh’s online cooking series – Skewered by Celeste Barber – is a good example of this. By bringing its core idea to life via a long-form hero video, unconstrained by traditional media length (and using cut-down versions for the newsfeed and YouTube), Hello Fresh has effectively inspired its audience to think about dinner in a different way.

Using longer, entertainment-type content not only provides ‘proof’ of your product’s USP, but also delivers more value to your consumer.

So, with Facebook spending its cash investing in Facebook Watch and IGTV – should advertisers be doing the same? This depends on the story your brand has to tell.

Let’s face it, if you’re selling dishwashing tablets, this isn’t the format for you.

But if you can provide inspiration and utility via an influential voice, like Hello Fresh, long-form video may be the way to go to add value through creativity – something that’s been missing over the past 18 months across social.

Clare Moyna is a content and social media strategist at Redengine SCC


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