You may have heard that short-form video content platforms such as TikTok are all the rage right now! If you haven’t heard of TikTok, it’s safe to say you just haven’t been paying attention. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this, our ultimate guide to all things short-form video content.
Whilst this trend has really exploded over the past 12 months, this type of content is nothing new. The Twitter-owned platform, Vine, was pioneering short-form video content back in 2013. Vine only allowed users to make and share 6-second video clips as a way to help people capture casual moments in their lives and share them with friends. This format proved to be very popular. Users, particularly younger ones, really took to the app, enjoying it for the creativity and experimentation embraced by its creators.
However, the app was unable to find a way to monetise its success and was shut down just four years after it launched. But its legacy lived on. All the major social media platforms have contributed to the increasing popularity. Facebook and Twitter encouraged the sharing of short-form videos and Snapchat, and Instagram innovated new ways for users to share this type of content through the introduction of stories.
But it’s only over the past couple of years that dedicated platforms have re-emerged as a genuinely viable marketing tool. Before we take a more in-depth look at the platforms currently on the market, let’s first define exactly what we mean by short-form video content.
In the age of information and with unlimited resources at our fingertips, it’s easy for modern-day internet users to lose attention in something they’re watching in favour of something new. Short-form video content is the solution to the internet user whose attention is always drifting. It is defined as any video that is short enough to keep a user’s attention for enough time to convey a point in an engaging way. How long the length of that is will vary, depending on who you talk to. But for the purpose of this article, we’ll be defining short-form as anything less than about 20 seconds.
Who are the leading players?
The Record-Breaker: TikTok
So, unless you really have been living under a rock, you’re almost sure to have heard of TikTok! Essentially TikTok is a social media platform where users share short, self-made music videos. Between 1-60 seconds. As of July 2020, there were an estimated 800 million users on TikTok, with each user spending an average of nearly 1 hour each day on the platform! And it’s not just for kids either, over the last few months there has been a much broader adoption of the app, amongst different generations.
As a relatively new platform, it’s fair to say that brands don’t yet see it as essential to be on, like they do with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. But the brands that have worked out how to use it effectively have been rewarded with vast levels of brand awareness. It’s a great way of reaching a potential new audience, demographically or geographically due to the worldwide appeal of the app. TikTok is a great way to develop your brand values and culture, by jumping on trends and creating innovative content (easier said than done, of course!).
Over the past few months, TikTok has started rolling out a link in bio feature, similar to that on Instagram. This means you can now direct users to your webpage directly through the bio of your page. This means that TikTok could now be a viable way of directing traffic to your website as well as just generating brand awareness. Keep in mind this feature is not yet available to all users.
Learning where Vine failed, TikTok has launched TikTok Ads as a way to monetise the app. TikTok ads work in very much the same way as advertising does on other platforms. However, this feature is a relatively new one, meaning they can be extremely cost-effective due to lack of competition. On TikTok, brands have a unique opportunity to generate a much higher reach and engagement rate than on traditional social media website.
The benefits: Huge audience, Highly engaged audience, Growing at a tremendous speed, TikTok Ads could be a cost-effective alternative to traditional platforms, New link in bio feature.
The Alternative: Byte
Byte is the new kid on the block, only launching in January 2020. However, it is seen as the true successor to Vine, after being launched by one of the co-founders of the original short-form video sharing app. The biggest similarity to Vine and the biggest difference from TikTok is that on Byte users are limited to just 6 seconds. Byte is a much more streamlined version of TikTok. It doesn’t have several features that users of TikTok have become accustomed to. Including text and video effects, qualities that have been very important in the increasing popularity of TikTok. However, as the app is still in its infancy and updates are frequent, this could change in the near future.
Byte has some way to go to catch up with the popularity of TikTok however. Byte has just a few million active users currently. However, with countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom threatening to ban TikTok, we could see the popularity of Byte explode overnight. It is undoubtedly an app you should be monitoring.
How Byte can be used by marketers is still a little unknown at the moment. Of course, as with TikTok, using this app to show off your brand personality and generate brand awareness. All be it with a much smaller potential audience than TikTok. But in terms of advertising, Byte differs a little from TikTok and traditional social media sites by not featuring pre-roll ads or ads within a user’s feed. They also don’t do retargeting ads, which may be a deal-breaker for many brands. Instead, they have opted for something called the partner programme. Brands can apply for the partner programme, but participation is limited as not to over saturate the app. This programme will allow brands to run campaigns that will be featured in the explore tab of the app. According to Byte, campaigns should ‘celebrate creativity and community’. Many brands may seem reluctant to invest money in Byte at this early stage but get it right, and the results could be advantageous.
The benefits: Growing audience, Great for creative brands to demonstrate their personality, Potentially rewarding partnership programme, Could explode overnight if restrictions are placed on TikTok.
The New Kid on the Block: Instagram Reels
It certainly seems somewhat odd to refer to anything Instagram related as new, seeing as the photo-sharing app has been around since the early 2010s. But Reels, released in August 2020, is Instagram’s attempt at rivalling TikTok. A feature that allows its users to share short 15 second clips accompanied by music (sound familiar?).
It may seem like a blatant rip-off of what made TikTok so popular. And to be honest, you may be right! But, with more than 1 billion monthly active users, the audience is already there. Just, like when they introduced ‘stories’ (a feature previously native only to snapchat) the audience that TikTok has amassed may emigrate over to Instagram for their fun, 15-second music clips. If nothing else just for the convenience of having all of their social media fixes available in only one app. Instagram has proved in the month or so since its launch, that they are going to push Reels STRONG! You can’t go on the Instagram explore page at the moment without being bombarded with this format of content.
The number one benefit of using Instagram Reels over the competitors though; your brand is probably already on Instagram and has some kind of following. So, if you want to start jumping on the short-form content trend Reels could be the perfect introduction.
The benefits: Huge established audience, Familiar to most marketers, Your brand probably already has an established following, It’s Instagram!
If you’re interested in creating short-form video content for your brand, our advice is to download some of the apps and play around on them for an hour or two. You’ll quickly get why they are so popular and so addictive! Start experimenting with content, you may be surprised how many engaged eyes view your short videos. All of the apps have in-built tools to help you prepare and edit your self-shot videos. Posting original videos may seem daunting if you and your brand have never done it before, but users aren’t expecting The Godfather Part II. This content is supposed to look a little amateur, that’s half of the charm!
If you can’t think of any content to post, there are plenty of hashtag challenges, some of which may be more relevant to your brand than others. But in general, there are no rules. Be creative, take inspiration from others, or take some of our content suggestions below. Most importantly, though, have fun! That’s kind of the point!
Behind the scenes videos
Educational product tutorials
An extension to the content posted on other platforms
And so much more! Have fun!