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As TikTok pivots to long-form content, are consumers ready?

By Silje Tunes Huse, Content writer



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December 13, 2023 | 7 min read

In 2023, TikTok pivoted to longer-form videos, with mixed success. Connective3’s Silje Tunes Huse argues that in 2024, longer videos will finally see growth on the app.

The TikTok logo on a pink background

Will TikTok's pivot to long-form stick its landing in 2024? / Rubaitul Azad via Unsplash

‘TikTok brain’, the phenomenon of short-form content reducing consumers’ attention span, has chipped away at our attentiveness. Even before the app’s release, some researchers declared that social media and mobile content helped decrease our attention span from 12 to 8 seconds.

That is, regrettably, less than that of a goldfish.

TikTok has long been known for rigorously pushing short-form content, presumably chipping away at attention spans even further. But now, it’s pivoting.

Research shows that short-form content releases dopamine in the brain and can help develop a vicious cycle of doomscrolling. Why, then, is TikTok now shifting its focus from short-form to long-form content? Can the app really keep us looking at one-minute-plus videos when, for two decades, our attention spans have been plummeting?

Are consumers ready for this swap, and what can brands do to capture consumers’ attention if formats expand once again?

Why is TikTok focusing on long-form content?

Since its start in 2016, TikTok has rapidly become a place of short-form content and addictive scrolling (“just one more video!”). It was where doomscrolling met dwindling attention spans. Short-form content worked and brands followed suit, leaving long-form content behind.

Now, TikTok’s shift to long-form content allows creators to make videos up to 10 minutes long. Reception to the move was lukewarm, so why did the platform pivot? What does long-form content do that short-form can’t?

In short, long-form content builds connections. It establishes online communities and resonates with consumers. From ‘get ready with me’ (GRWM) videos to discourse and discussion videos, TikTok is ripe with content that drives personal connections.

Short-form content can be great for strategies in which one builds content to gain a following and broader reach. 15-second videos capture your attention and push a CTA. But while short-form is easier to consume, long-form drives higher conversion rates and develops a strong connection between brand and consumer.

A recent article from Forbes revealed that as long as you create quality content, long-form videos have the versatility short-form lacks. People can dive deeper into their niches.

There’s also the pressing issue of social media discourse. According to Brandwatch, if you insert the keywords ‘TikTok’ and ‘attention span’, 57% of the sentiment from October 22-23 is negative, with disgust and anger being the driving emotions.

Just as people speculated whether Taylor Swift appeared at a Jets game to twist the search algorithm in her favor, one can wonder if TikTok is doing the same with long-form content to rebuild people’s perception of the platform.

Is TikTok’s long-form content strategy a success?

Looking at that Brandwatch sentiment more closely, there’s still a way to go still for TikTok. When inputting ‘TikTok’ and ‘short video’, the social listening tool reveals a nearly-even positive-negative split.

But, for ‘TikTok’ and ‘long video’, the sentiments differ. Almost two-thirds (61%) talk negatively about long videos online, while only 39% are positive.

So while brands and industry experts are driving factors behind the shift to long-form content, consumers need to back it, too. All that negativity around long-form content could come from people’s shrinking attention spans.

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The pillars of a long-form video content strategy

While our attention span is at an all-time low, there are ways to train it to be more durable. So, what can brands do with long-form content that will increase positive sentiment and capture consumers’ attention?

First, think of your long-form content introduction as short-form would. You need to grip the consumer’s interest, regardless of the length of your content. With long-form content, don’t spend 15 seconds introducing your story.

Once you’ve built intrigue, establish an emotional connection. Consumers want to resonate. Speak to them like you would a friend. A blend of escapism and human connection goes a long way.

Don’t push brands and advertisements too soon or too much. A long-form video containing several mentions about a product or service can find itself without views, and the brand can watch its followers dwindle. Be subtle. Be relevant.

Finally, understand your niche. Niche content is popular on all social media. But don’t jump on a trend if it’s not your field. It’s all about authenticity. Without it, people won’t stay to the end. At worst, they’ll discredit your work.

Short-form content will always be around, but long-form has become the building block of creating human connections and authenticity. With TikTok allowing longer videos, we’ll be seeing more authentic, niche groups develop on the platform in 2024, all driven by long-form content.

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