TikTok’s decision to test 10-minute videos: good or bad?

Briefly capturing the attention of users watching video content is a feat that advertisers around the world try to accomplish every minute of every day. But keeping that attention throughout an entire long video is a whole different beast. As social media platforms compete to find the most relevant types of videos for the current generation, many changes and tests will be made as companies seek to outdo each other.

TikTok took advantage of a golden opportunity when it first appeared in the industry. Someone needed to fill the short video hole left by Vine, and TikTok was that solution. Now that the platform has made a lasting impression on the social media world, it is looking for ways to follow, and even create, the next trend in video consumption by testing longer forms of video content. In July 2021, TikTok announced that it had increased the maximum video length on the platform from one minute to three minutes. It has since announced tests for five- and even 10-minute videos.

These tests raise obvious questions:

• Is TikTok seeing a trend of creators submitting longer videos to get their stories across?

• Is the attention span of TikTok users too short for these long videos?

• Is TikTok trying to take market share from the seemingly indestructible YouTube?

Let’s first see why testing these longer videos can have negative results. Based on the over 700 million users currently on the platform, it’s safe to say that consumers know what they want in terms of content. It might not matter for TikTok, though. Wired summed it up nicely: “TikTok bets users don’t know better,” which is an incredibly bold statement. TikTok’s user base is used to quickly accessing their phone, watching an engaging short video, and getting on with their day. Deviating too far from this model could cause a large chunk of users to turn to another media source, and TikTok might even see a public backlash. We all remember the three million users who left Snapchat after its redesign. TikTok will have to tread carefully and make sure it doesn’t see a similar result.

On the other hand, a few opportunities are opening up as TikTok looks to focus on longer content. Users are on the app for an average of 89 minutes per day, which is a lot of time investment to make longer form content work. Moreover, with reference to YouTube specifically, TikTok is already the fifth most searched YouTube query. This means that people are actually watching a lot of TikTok content in one sitting via compilations, “best of” lists, and more. If they can bring those YouTube hours to the TikTok platform itself by extending the time restrictions, they have the opportunity to gain a lot of market share.

Over the years, as these social media giants evolved, creators began to turn more to video to tell their stories and connect with their audience. Creators are well versed in the algorithms used by the platforms and how they can maximize their value. When algorithms change, creators follow trends. Creators have proven that they will generate longer content if a platform grows this way. TikTok knows this, and it most likely plays into their decision to allow creators to follow the same steps as the platform expands its offerings. It’s not so much that creators need longer content to get their stories across, it’s that they adapt to what works best to connect with their audience on specific platforms.

It’s important to keep in mind what all of this means for advertisers. The influencer marketing industry is expected to reach around $16.4 billion in 2022, and knowing how to spend money in this space is paramount for growing and established brands. TikTok is distancing itself from other tools like Reels and Spotlight, which may lead advertisers who see the success of short-form videos to spend money elsewhere. On the other hand, longer video options leave the door open for advertisers to make mid-roll placements and longer sponsorships. For advertisers, A/B testing to see how changes on these platforms affect important metrics like sales data will be a necessity for success.

It will be interesting to see if TikTok can really make a dent in YouTube’s stranglehold on the long-form video content market. YouTube released YouTube Shorts in March 2021, so there’s no doubt that these platforms are encroaching on each other’s space. If either party can gain significant momentum, we could not only see a shift in how users consume video content, but also a revolution in how businesses and agencies choose to do advertising on social networks.

President of the influencer marketing platform gen.video. Highlight the convergence of social media, advertising and commerce.

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