Does Longform Copy Work On Social Media?

November 1, 2016 Marketing

When was the last time you read something online that was over 1,000 words?

What about 5,000 or even 20,000 words?

Longform content has been part of the human existence for a…long time. Sorry.

But in the last couple decades there is a theory that people have gone toward short-form content especially online. And there is some research to kind of help that theory.

One study found that younger generations are more accepting and more persuaded by shorter video ads that were 10-seconds long. Older generations still showed more interest in the traditional 30-second ads.

Then there is evidence that people like short-form content on social media. Twitter famously put a 140 character limit on all tweets. That made Twitter pretty unique in the social media world at the time. Twitter users seemed to like the really short updates and bits of content and the site has continued to be very popular even though they’ve recently relaxed the character limit a bit.

With some of the folks I speak with in the marketing and online marketing worlds I often hear that they feel audiences prefer shorter content. Some folks feel that short blog posts, say about 300 words, are ideal. Some look at even shorter content as being ideal whether it’s a blog post, social media update, video or podcast or whatever.

Is the assumption true that people prefer short-form or only short-form content?

Longform Content Publishing

Even with wide use of smartphones in the US and in other areas of the world longform content still ranks high when it comes to what people want to read.

One study found that people still spend more time with longform articles than with short-term news. That stat seems to be overall time. So if a person spends 10 minutes reading a longform article they spend less time, say seven minutes, reading however many quick news bites or info on social and through other sources.

More studies have found similar results regarding engagement with long vs. short-form content. It seems that longform content gets just as many visits or views as short-form content.

That’s a big one for online marketers. The big push has always been for visitors and views. It makes sense to think that if you break content into short bites that you’ll get more views even if it’s the same number of people viewing more articles and pages or posts or whatever.

Longform & Social Media

Now comes the part that the title of this post discussed and that is longform content on social media.

For the most part it seems that social media has been about short-form content. Maybe that’s a result of Twitter limiting to only 140 characters. Maybe it’s due to it being easier to post a quick update to Facebook vs. uploading a big long story. Maybe it’s due to Internet connection limitations in the past where uploading longer form content has been a challenge.

Whatever the reasons, it seems that people have gravitated toward short-form content on social media, but it seems there is demand for and a place for longform content even on social.

One study has found that users on Facebook are showing increased demand for longform video content. That’s pretty excited. We’re seeing something similar on YouTube as well where the company is releasing a feature-length film, The Thinning, shortly on its YouTube Red premium service.

A full-length film is certainly longform content.

But it’s not just YouTube and Facebook.

Longer videos are popping up on Twitter. And another interesting thing about Twitter is how crafty users have figured out how to post longer form content in spite of the 140 character limit. Video is one way, but users are doing it via other methods like these:

You can see that with images and screenshots that people are posting updates on Twitter that are pretty long. Maybe they’re not thousands of words, but they’re certainly longer than 140 characters.

And people have even circumvented the rules by creating series of tweets like this:

So there are creative ways to get around the rules.

Now the question is, why are people getting around the rules and using longer form content on social media?

The reason is that there is a demand for longform content. People have always liked a mix of content lengths including longform content. People still read books as much as ever. We still sit and read feature articles on news websites.

And we still read, watch and listen to longform content on social media.

Final Thought: Both Have Demand

The final thought and takeaway from this post is that longform and short-form have a place on social media. Chances are that you’ve been using short-form content mostly on social media. The opportunity there is that others have probably been doing the same and that leaves things open for you to mix in longer pieces of content.

What does that mean?

It means that you can share longer videos on social media. You can share longer podcasts and publish longer blog posts. But you can also publish longer updates on Facebook and other social channels that allow it. You can use the image and screenshot trick on Twitter to get longer content on that channel.

People want at least some longform content in their lives. If you provide it on social media you become more valuable to your audience.