Is Shortform or Longform Video Right for You?

You work for a brand that’s trying to nail down their video strategy and you’ve been tasked with figuring out what type of video will drive the most revenue.

You start by researching – you know all about video metrics and what data you should be on the lookout for, but your mind keeps going back to that 40-minute video you watched released by Patagonia called Treeline.

You watched all of it. You normally scroll quickly through Facebook and Instagram, giggle at short, funny clips of babies and dogs, but for some reason, you stuck through over half an hour of content about trees from a brand you’ve never given much thought to.

What gives?

Realistically, you likely also saw (at some point) a short, 10-second promo video about Patagonia’s latest insulated jacket, or scrolled passed an ad for their thermal fleece, but that was shortform content and it likely didn’t register in your mind – at least not consciously.

This is the magic of shortform and longform video content. They both serve very different purposes, but both are essential as a part of a brand’s overall video marketing strategy.

Balance how you use these together and you’ll have a winning formula for making a truly lasting impression.

Let’s break it down a little further and give you a better idea of what differentiates longform from shortform video and how you can start using them both smartly to elevate the content your brand produces.

First, a couple of definitions…

You can’t start using video effectively until you understand exactly what defines each of these video types.

Shortform video is any video under 10 minutes. That three-minute movie trailer you just watched? That five-minute step-by-step recipe video? That eight-minute music video that had all the stylings of a feature film? These are all shortform video content.

Even shorter videos are commonly referred to as snackable videos or snackable content, and these include Instagram Stories, Vines, and Snapchats – probably a majority of the video content you’re used to seeing on social media. These are short, quickly consumable videos that work across all devices and usually include a fun element, like humor or surprise. They’re meant to be shared and tend to go viral more quickly than longform content thanks to their attention-grabbing nature. They’re usually just seconds long, not minutes.

Finally, there’s longform video. Longform video is any video over 10 minutes. This can include live Q&A sessions, webinars, speaker conference recordings, even your favorite Netflix comedy special. Though branded longform video rarely gets the same level of mass appeal as shortform, longform does a great job engaging fans and growing brand awareness.

When should you use each?

Don’t pick a video type based on length alone – your video marketing goals should play a big role in the length you ultimate land on. Let’s take a look at a few opportunities you have with each type of video.

Always use snackable video content.

Snackable videos should always have a place in your marketing strategy. The beauty of these videos actually lies in their brevity: shorter videos are easier to make. Whether you’ve scheduled a full production shoot where you plan on filming 20 or more short, snackable social videos, or whether you have a social media manager who walks around filming shenanigans in the office, these short bites might not drive the most long-term return, but they will help keep your brand top-of-mind and boost your brand engagement.

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Sometimes the most delicious recipes are the easiest.

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Sometimes use shortform video content.

Shortform video content is great almost anywhere. If you need a brand video for your website, a product video for an email campaign, or just want to spread the word about an amazing initiative your company is taking on, shortform video is the way to go.

And shortform doesn’t have to be eight or nine minutes long – the most effective shortform videos are usually about a minute to a minute and a half. They’re easy to watch, don’t require a huge time commitment, and hopefully add something positive to the viewer’s day.

Plus, just under two minutes is the sweet spot for creating a narrative that draws a viewer in, tells a captivating story, and resolves it without a crazy amount of money or time needed to create.

Here’s a great example from Airbnb, where they tell numerous stories and share a little about their underlying mission, all without pushing a hard sell.

Sometimes use longform video content.

Longform video can be the toughest to launch successfully. Unless you’ve got a timed event you need to film and then share, it’s likely going to take a lot more creative effort to create a great, compelling piece of longform content.

Common go-tos in the video marketing space include interviews, Q&A sessions, how-to’s, webinars, and more. But there are some amazing branded video pieces out there that are over 10 minutes that have killed it when it comes to video watch time, completion rates, and brand interaction. Usually, these are narrative in nature and feel more like brand films than promotional videos.

6 Things to Remember about Your Video’s Length

Still not sure how long your video should be? Longform video can have huge benefits for brands, but shortform and snackable video content can too, and it’s more popular.

To figure out which might be right for you, here are a few facts that’ll hopefully sway you one way or another.

1. Longform videos drive engagement.

Avengers: Endgame is over three hours long. The most recent episodes of Game of Thrones have topped 82 minutes. For all the talk about short, quickly consumable content, people will actually stay and watch your videos if they’re good. And they won’t just sit and watch – they’ll share them, click them, start conversations about them, and more.

Research from video marketing platform TwentyThree shows us just that.

Videos longer than 15 minutes account for 50 percent of all video engagement, but only account for eight percent of all video content produced.

Don’t miss your chance to up your engagement with a longer video.

2. Longform content is great for brands with a strong brand mission and purpose.

The longform examples above do have one important thing in common: they were produced by brands with a strong commitment and dedication to their brand mission.

Besides the fact that they had great and engaging storylines to begin with, these storylines were also deeply rooted in their brand values as a whole. If you don’t have a clear mission or set of guiding principles as a company, an emotional storyline may not resonate with your audience.

On the other hand, if your brand is committed to lowering their carbon footprint, if some portion of your revenue goes toward a particular charity, or if there’s some cause close to your heart that you’ve dedicated marketing dollars toward, then longform video could be the right vehicle to tell your story.

3. Shortform and longform video is the best way to communicate information.

Especially if that information is complex, a longer video can explain it more fully and help your viewers understand more than a snackable video could.

Even a shortform video (remember, shortform is anything less than 10 minutes) can help do this, as well.

One of our favorite video series, Moz’s Whiteboard Friday, does this incredibly well. Most of their videos hover just under or just over that 10-minute mark, but they’re always the perfect length to communicate interesting information in an insightful way.

The goal with these videos – be they speaker series, how-tos, whiteboard videos, you name it – should be to leave your audience with more information than they had before they watched.

4. Shortform and snackable videos are great for users on the go.

Sadly, not everyone has 15 minutes to spend watching an informative video. For your quick, on-the-go users who are more likely to find you while browsing social media or doing a quick mobile search, shortform and snackable videos are the way to go.

A huge contributor to this trend has been the growth of mobile. It’s estimated that over 5 billion people around the world now own smart devices. Apps like Vine, which popularized the six-second video (RIP Vine), mobile-responsive web pages, influencers, and more have all helped make mobile-first development the behemoth it is today.

That means if you want to reach the masses, you’ve got to get in the short video game.

5. Shortform video is better if your goal is clicks.

Longform content drives engagement, but shortform is a better driver of clicks and conversion.

Think about it. How many 11-minute ads have you seen? Most ads have one goal and one goal only: to get the user to click. Though snackable video ads, usually less than 30 seconds, make up a majority of all digital ad content, shortform actually drives more clicks since it’s not as easily skippable or tune-out-able and still communicates a great deal of information in a relatively short amount of time.

Whether it’s a promo video, a product video, or a customer review, shortform video should be the primary video content you create if your goal is to drive sales or click-throughs to your website.

6. You can use shortform content to promote longform content.

Don’t think of these as steadfast rules. One campaign might do better with one type of video, while another might do better with another type. The best strategy? Mix both shortform and longform video into your video strategy to get the most out of it.

This is also crucial if you have one flagship piece of longform content. You might have invested a ton of money, time, or effort into its creation and it can be frustrating to not see it pay off immediately. In these cases, use shortform video, including teasers, trailers, tips, or montages from your longer video to promote your longform campaign.

It’s exactly what movies and TV shows do to drum up excitement for their latest releases. Though that might not be the level you’re working at, the same formula applies. Tease your longer content with something that’ll whet the appetite of your audience and then promote this shorter piece of content on your paid and owned channels for greater reach.

Wrapping Up

Want to attract more eyes with a fun, short, entertaining piece of content? Snackable is for you. Want to encourage a sale, a click, or a conversion? Shortform’s a better option. Want to share a longer, more memorable piece of content that’s meant to tell a story or inform your audience about something in more depth? Go with longform.

Be sure to think about the mindset of the user you’re trying to attract. If your users are casually browsing social media, shorter is better. If your users know who you are and are looking for a deeper narrative, longer video is great.

No matter which you choose, the idea is to leave an impression for long enough to build credibility, trust, and ultimately drive a sale. The right video, along with the right distribution tactics (on paid, owned, and earned channels) can lead you to a winning combination of engagement, conversions, sales, and more.

Laura Cueva

Laura Cueva