Social media has stirred a great change in how we consume information. Short-form video is how many people—especially younger consumers—seek entertainment and stay informed. But what started as an emerging trend has now become a permanent fixture in how people engage with the world.
In 2020, the short-form video platform TikTok quickly rose to become one of the biggest players in the social media space, with its U.S. users alone soaring to over 91 million months into the pandemic. Many other giant social media platforms have followed suit to accommodate the demand for interactive short videos by adding their own copycat TikTok features.
Learn about each platform’s short-form video feature and tips for using this trend to grow your brand.
The value of short-form videos
Short-form video pushes traditional media boundaries and provides people with a quick and easy way to consume information. The format lends itself to a more creative way of communicating that’s meant to excite and inspire people.
Campaigns like those we’ve seen in the form of TikTok challenges also bring about a sense of community, where people are trying new things together, sharing insights and participating in global trends and competitions. Part of the big draw with these types of short-form videos is that they are immersive, creating the feeling of a one-to-one connection.
When well-executed, branded efforts on short-form video platforms provide a new medium to reach audiences in ways that were not possible before. There is a world of possibility as far as how brands can participate to become part of where today’s culture-shaping trends and conversations are taking place.
Short-form video statistics
- People share videos at twice the rate of any other form of content (Wyzowl)
- 84% of people were convinced to buy a product or service based on the brands’ video (Wyzowl)
- 71% of Gen Z spends more than 3 hours every day watching online videos (Think with Google)
- 68% of people will happily watch a business video if it’s under a minute (Vidyard)
- 72% of consumers prefer videos to text marketing (Retail Dive)
- 66% of video ads are less than 30 seconds (Extreme Reach)
- 93% of marketers have landed a customer via social media video (Animoto)
- 56% of consumers say UGC photos and videos are the content they most want to see from brands (Stackla)
- 63% of marketers say video content gets the best return on investment on social media (Animoto)
A brief overview of the top short-form video platforms
TikTok is the leading platform of today’s short-form video movement—its videos most commonly associated with trending music and dance challenges. The average TikTok user spends 26 minutes on the platform per day, and 62 percent of TikTok users in the U.S. are between the ages of 10-28. So there is ample opportunity here for brands to capture younger audiences. According to AdWeek, TikTok generated the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter.
TikTok emerged as a sort of combination between Vine, the discontinued 6-second video platform that often featured short-bit comedy and Musica.ly, a teen karaoke app that was absorbed by Chinese company ByteDance into TikTok. TikTok provided a place for both of those Internet trends to continue with more robust functionality.
Instead of following specific accounts, TikTok users watch a continued sequence of videos on the “For You” page which is personalized by the TikTok algorithm. To be on this page as a brand, you have to participate in the trends and social challenges.
One example of a brand using TikTok well is Crocs. In a challenge called #ThousandDollarCrocs, they partnered with singer Post Malone and poked fun at their own brand by prompting people to “class up” their crocs. This worked well for them because the challenge generated 2.9 billion videos and over 3 billion views.
@brittany_broskiy’all can stay mad. Me n Posty stay dressin 😎 #ThousandDollarCrocs @crocs #sponsored♬ original sound – Brittany
Youtube recently announced its “Shorts” feature for users of the Youtube app. Shorts are 15-seconds long and allow users to compile multiple video clips together, adjust video speeds, and record alongside music hands-free.
Shorts is still in beta-testing though. Some have noted its lack of collaboration features as well as the inability to let users curate their own feeds as it is currently purely algorithm-driven. However, both of these capabilities are what largely give TikTok its high virality factor, so Shorts may yet prove to be a large contender in the short-form video race.
While this feature is still new and has faced some criticism, given that it is managed under the giant of Google it’s safe to assume the feature will become more refined and garner better engagement over time. Now could be the perfect opportunity for brands to be one of the first to use it and experiment with the feature ahead of the competition.
Snapchat has been having a moment. The platform recently announced that its revenue surged 66 percent from the previous year and its daily average users increased to 280 million.
Snapchat’s “Spotlight”—a feature showing short videos in a continuous loop—was created to compete with TikTok and added as a new tab in the platform. To get its users generating content for this feature, Snapchat offers daily monetary incentives for the best videos (decided based on the number of views), which seems to be paying off. Over 125 million Snapchat users watched Spotlight videos in February 2021.
However, as of now, Spotlight is only open to creators with brands currently barred. Given that TikTok and Instagram offer plenty of advertising opportunities, it’s likely Snapchat will eventually offer brands the opportunity to use this feature, so it’s definitely one worth paying attention to!
Like TikTok, Snapchat is also geared toward a younger user base, with 65 percent of its U.S. consumer base falling between the ages of 18-29. The Spotlight feed algorithm works similar to that of TikTok—ranking videos shown in order of the ones getting the most engagement.
Instagram Reels is very similar to TikTok in that it allows users to create 15- to 30-second video clips set to music. Instagram made this feature central to its app—placing it in the middle of the bottom tab bar. Reels also integrates well with other parts of Instagram, allowing users to share Reels to their Stories and filtering them into the Instagram ‘Explore’ feed. This is all in an effort to get the Instagram audience actively using and sharing Reels.
Just like TikTok and Snapchat’s Spotlight, Reels auto-plays one video after another to create an immersive experience for viewers. Its algorithm is based on what Instagram users have expressed interest in from accounts they already follow.
When Instagram launched its Stories feature in 2016 to compete with Snapchat, the feature was incredibly successful for the platform, so it’s safe to say Reels could bring for Instagram another surge of user activity.
Ideas to try for short-form video
Short-form videos are meant to be fast, fun and provide creative content that is largely user-led. As a brand, using this medium has the potential to strengthen your online community, help you attract new types of people and see deeper engagement levels. Here are some tips for your short-form video strategy:
User-generated content (UGC)
As most of the content published to short-form video platforms is user-generated, it makes sense to give your own brand content as authentic a feel as possible. Capturing content from your followers and brand fans and featuring it in your own short videos lets your customers and audience have a voice and speak on behalf of your brand.
Chipotle is a brand that has been actively using TikTok by showcasing customer UGC from its feed. Here they take advantage of the creativity of their customers and let those people speak for them in their TikTok account
@chipotleOut of this world delivery ha @cheekyboyos ##chipotle ##burrito ##space ##fyp♬ original sound Chipotle
Since consumers are 2.4x more likely to say user-generated content is authentic compared to brand-created content, it’s definitely worth collecting UGC as this is the type of content people watching short-form videos love to see. You can also collect endless amounts of it and it is more cost-effective than having a single team generating all of that content! You can find inspiration for UGC marketing campaigns here.
A look behind-the-scenes
More and more, consumers are seeking personalization and authenticity from brands. About 90 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support. Part of what has made short-form videos so compelling to people is that authenticity is baked into their fabric.
Whether your brand is on TikTok, Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight, or using another platform, short-form videos are an ideal place to give people a look past the logo and get the inside scoop of what goes on behind the scenes.
This could be a day in the life of your brand’s CEO, a Q&A with employees or even a video showing how your brand’s products are made. This type of content is highly engaging to people and audiences like getting to see what’s behind the curtain.
So don’t be afraid to show the more raw, human side of your brand. This is the content users love and want to see the most of. It will also help you build better relationships and strengthen the feeling of community around your brand.
Balmain, a luxury fashion brand, does a great job of this. Even though their branded content across social is pretty consistent as far as look and styling, they choose to display a more informal side of the brand on Reels.
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In the video above, they published a Reel showing how they creatively celebrated one of their employees’ birthdays at their headquarters.
Educational and informational pieces
If you’re lost on where to start with short-form videos, educational content is a great place to make your foray into the medium.
Show people different ways to style a garment, do a makeup tutorial, give away top travel tips for a specific destination—anything that your brand is a thought leader or expert in that will make people curious about your products and services.
Being helpful to audiences in their daily lives and can move people along in their decision-making of what product to buy. If someone is undecided on a product, which brand do you think they will choose? The brand that just has a simple product page or the brand that has a fun explainer video?
Educational content also builds trust and brand loyalty because you’re offering solutions to people who may not even be customers yet.
Sephora France does a great job of leveraging its Reels to display user-generated videos that educate and inspire people on how to use the products they sell, from skincare to makeup.
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Another way to boost your brand credibility is by creating a snappy FAQ video—whether it’s about common questions posed to your company specifically or general industry questions that people regularly seek answers to.
This is a good place to take advantage of the text that can be added to short-form videos while promoting your brand’s products and services. This will also help you position your brand as an industry authority.
Smile Direct Club is a DTC consumer brand for at-home dental care. One of their key products is their whitening trays, and they answer the frequently asked question of how to use them in a lighthearted Reel on self-care.
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Tease new products
Did you know that Instagram Reels are now shoppable? Similarly, TikTok has added shoppable video ads into its feed.
As shoppable content continues to grow in the social media space, this presents a big opportunity for brands to drive more traffic and sales from these platforms.
Louis Vuitton has had a lot of success promoting its new products via creative Instagram Reels, with many of its videos having been viewed over 6 million times.
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The brand definitely follows a predetermined set of branding guidelines for their Reels videos, which they use as a base from which to generate their creative content.
Alternatively, your brand could also try stringing together a series of user-generated clips into one video along to music. It could feature people using a set of products or showing people use a brand new product you’ll be launching soon. This provides excitement via an engaging video and provides added social proof you need to get people to trust your brand.
Start a challenge
Short-form videos are made for fun viral challenges, especially on TikTok, so you might as well try starting one yourself!
Just like in the Crocs example mentioned earlier, video challenges are a fun and engaging way to turn your brand over to your fans and even reach new groups of people by inviting them to participate in the challenge.
Another example is Samsung, a brand that sought to promote its Galaxy A32 by launching the #powerAwesome challenge. People were invited to upload TikTok videos showing how they creatively use their Samsung phone’s features. Those who participated in the first 48 hours stood the chance to win a new Galaxy A32 phone from Samsung.
@samsungStep 1: Wave your hands Step 2: Move Step 3: Move FASTER! That’s how you ##powerAwesome with ##GalaxyA♬ Charged! – Warren Hue
What’s even better, is doing this generates a lot of UGC that your brand can then repurpose to use on its own channels. For example, you could create a mash-up of the best videos and publish them as a longer video or re-post them to your brand’s account.
Taking advantage of short-form videos for your content marketing strategy can help widen your audience and help you engage better with those who are already following your brand on social media. Plus, it’s incredibly fun to make them as the creative opportunities are endless!
Relevant, well-crafted videos will grab users’ attention, and by knowing each platform and using some of the techniques above, you can interact with your audience on a more personal (and fun) level—ending in more impressions, higher engagement and, hopefully, more customers.