The drumbeat has been getting louder: marketing content is getting shorter and shorter. Since the advent of social media, we’ve been hearing that we need to make content as short as possible to hold onto users’ endlessly divided attention.
It’s a trend for good reason: attention spans are shortening–according to CNN, people can now only pay attention to one screen for an average of 47 seconds–and the arrival of TikTok and its many copycats has led to a push for even briefer content.
Marketers have responded to this movement by prioritizing increasingly quick hits across channels. Any marketing professional worth their salt can pull out a laundry list of stats on how shorter email copy performs better or the optimal length of a TikTok is as low as 7 seconds.
But what if less isn’t always more? Sometimes, longer-form content like a lengthy blog post or a 15-minute YouTube video can make an impact on an audience in a way short-form pieces can’t.
Longer content gives you an opportunity to engage with your customers more deeply, share valuable information, and showcase your brand’s identity and values.
Short content may be able to easily keep the viewers’ attention for the whole video or Instagram caption, but that doesn’t mean it will stay with your audience once they’ve moved on. Too often, short content sticks in our brains no longer than the length of a 20-second TikTok–and, done right, long content can give you a chance to do more.
We’re not here to tell you that longer is always better, but if you want to stand out in a crowded field and create content that has staying power, it’s worth adding long-form content to your overall creative strategy.
How long is an attention span in 2023?
We’ve all seen think pieces bemoaning this generation’s fractured attention span and the internet’s tendency to break everything down into bite-sized content. And it’s true that shorter, punchier materials have become the norm, in both marketing and content creation more generally.
But there are signs of demand for long content, too–sometimes even extremely long content. With viewers spending more than 3 hours a day with digital video on average according to eMarketer, there’s an opportunity to take up a bigger chunk of that time with heftier content from your brand.
Look no further than the popularity of ultra-long YouTube videos, which many viewers love to use as “comfort videos.” Some influencers have made popular lists of 45-minute to three-hour videos they love to watch, and users often rack up hours of view time on the same videos.
Long content has even entered the conversation around TikTok, to the surprise of many “experts” on the platform. While other social platforms have pivoted to short-form videos to keep up with TikTok’s immense popularity, TikTok itself has been leaping to long-form, rolling out more generous video times for creators and even introducing a paywalled option for 20-minute videos.
Just kidding there’s way more than seven but these are the classics #videoessays
What social platforms and marketers are learning is that audiences still have a thirst for long-form content, if it’s engaging enough to hold their interest. In 2023, many marketers are making moves toward more experimental social media content, including long-form video. Movies are longer than ever, although they can be a challenge to sit through unless they’re really good. And Ad Age has found that longer podcast ads are more effective than shorter ones because they take the time to customize the content to fit the individual podcast.
The long and short of it (pun intended) is: if your content is good, your audience might just stick around for the whole thing. And if you can keep your customers’ attention a little longer, you’ll have the opportunity to share more of your message than you ever could in just a few seconds.
Improving audience engagement with longer content
Whether it’s a 2,000-word blog or a lengthy informative YouTube video, long-form content can do a lot for your brand’s marketing. It gives your team more space to engage your customers and share what’s important to your brand.
One big benefit: long pieces give you the opportunity to deliver content that is meaningfully informative and makes a deeper impression. You can give your audience helpful details about your service, share how a product is made, or show what your brand is all about.
Long-form content, if it’s powerful enough to hold onto your audience’s eyes, also gives you more time to engage with them. Longer ads, by definition, give you more opportunities to share the benefits of your product or service and give your audience more time to get to know your brand’s personality and values or even make a purchase.
If successful, long videos accrue more watch time and can potentially generate more engagements like comments and likes. With a long-form blog, you can keep readers on your website for a while and give them more time to get interested in your brand or direct them to additional resources. Long blogs often rank better in search, too, because they provide more comprehensive information.
A long piece of content can also serve as a larger part of your marketing campaigns. Since you’ve already shot so much footage for that YouTube video or done so much research for that 30-page whitepaper, there’s loads of great content to pull from, potentially for weeks or even months to come. You can clip a lengthy video down to smaller “snackable” assets and tease out interesting stats and quotes from written pieces.
How to make long-form content that packs a punch: the story of the Hilton 10-minute TikTok
So, how can you harness some of that long-form power for your brand?
This is where the going gets tough. It’s hard enough to make regular-sized creative content, but you need to be even more thoughtful and strategic when you’re tackling the long stuff.
Lengthier pieces tend to require significantly more time and money invested than short pieces, so it’s essential to get it right.
One brand that has had huge success with long-form is Hilton, which got attention for a viral TikTok advertisement earlier this year. Hilton’s team took advantage of TikTok’s new 10-minute video feature to make the longest possible ad on the platform.
A 10-minute ad is always a hard sell, but it’s especially contrarian on TikTok, the final boss of short-form video. The team decided to experiment with the new longer timeframe to see if it could make an impact.
Unexpected & amazing things can happen when you stay, and we want you to stay with us for 10 minutes. Yup, we made a 10-minute TikTok AND we’re giving away 10M Hilton Honors Points + more. #HiltonStayFor10 #HiltonForTheStay
They also wove the ad’s runtime into the substance of the ad itself by asking viewers to “stay” through the whole video, feeding into Hilton’s overall campaign emphasizing the benefits of “the stay” at a Hilton property.
They leveraged TikTok’s classic punchy, authentic style to fill the video with quick transitions and attention-grabbing humor that made 10 minutes feel shorter than it was.
And it paid off. The video received more than four million views in just 48 hours, and the comment section was full of praise for the team’s brilliant marketing.
The key to Hilton’s success was its thoughtful approach. They didn’t jump into creating a longer ad just for shock value; instead, they considered what more time could accomplish, how it would fit into their overall strategy, and how to make it engaging enough to convince viewers to stick around.
If you’re considering wading into the long-form pool, you should make sure you know exactly why you want to do it, both to justify the budget you’ll need and to make sure it fits into a larger plan for your brand.
If long-form content does fit into your budget and goals, you should then consider how to keep your audience’s attention throughout the whole piece, whether it’s a blog or a video ad. The best way to do that will depend on the format, your audience, where you plan to publish it, and how it will be distributed or promoted.
Across the board, it’s a good idea to break up the content regularly to keep your audience engaged. Providing quick switches and transitions within the content–like pictures, graphics, videos, and subheadings in blogs or twists and text in videos–can help keep your audience’s attention engaged. Dry long-form content is particularly painful, so try to include humor where possible and make sure you’re constantly including valuable or interesting information.
Follow up with short-form content to pull viewers in. These shorter cuts can be pulled from or related to the longer piece itself and should be catchy enough to encourage your audience to check out the full version.
Is your brand ready to make the investment in trying out longer content? It’s a risky move, but, done right, it has the potential to build your relationship with your audience, articulate your brand voice, and create genuinely interesting and useful material for future campaigns.