In February, Twitter announced it had beaten its fourth quarter expectations and its stock soared. In that same quarter, the company finally jettisoned its 140 character limit, taking the first steps to embrace in-depth content and acknowledge what content platforms continue to discover: people are increasingly consuming in-depth content that engages their interests and passions.
The viral nature of listicles and quizzes are dwindling. While these shallow content types may attract attention and clicks, they don't offer sustainable value. Contrary to popular belief that content is shrinking, more digital media brands are actually moving towards meaningful, longer form content, which in turn is getting more views and read time. A 2016 study from Pew Research Center even cited that "readers spend about twice the time with long-form news content on their cellphones as with short-form."
On the flip side, short-form content is becoming less relevant for companies to leverage in their content marketing. While "engagement" has become one of those jargony words at which we roll our eyes, engagement is actually what drives today's core business decisions. Brands get more attention from longer content marketing pieces than simple ads. This shift shows that businesses today should focus more on in-depth content to drive success and profitability.
Long-Form, In-Depth Content Goes Mainstream
The demand for valuable, long-form content has already begun to shape today's digital media industry. Companies that started out with snippet, shorter content have turned towards producing and encouraging longer content on their platforms.
Just look at popular digital media company BuzzFeed, historically known for its viral listicle hits. A few years ago, the company hired a team of investigative journalists to generate in-depth feature stories and move into the realm of high-impact digital journalism. Today, stories from BuzzFeed include an exposé on Russia's targeted assassinations in the West and an investigation into a string of accidents that occurred at BP's oil and gas operations.
While Twitter rode 280 characters to profitability, Instagram encouraged users to expand from one image to up to 10. Instagram continues to introduce features that promote longer story sharing, which people have leveraged to share powerful stories with their audiences.
It's not just on social media platforms where we're witnessing a shift towards meaningful content: Jeffrey Katzenberg's NewTV, which recently announced Meg Whitman as their CEO, is creating 10 minute or less mobile-oriented television programming. While at first it appears that highlights a trend towards short-form content, it's actually serialized, high-quality Hollywood content that will be engaging, episodic, mobile- and advertiser-friendly.
Meaningful Content, More Engagement
Meaningful content can engage customers in ways that traditional ads can't: According to a 2017 infographic from Point Visible, 68 percent of consumers feel more positive about a brand after consuming content from it and 2/3 trust branded content more than traditional advertising. Advertising spend continues to grow as brands offer thoughtful, in-depth ways to learn about their products. It's not surprising, then, that the number of advertisers on Instagram has reached over two million as of a September 2017 announcement.
In the same way platforms we've associated with shallow content, like BuzzFeed, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, have had to evolve the ways their content is created, read, and shared, businesses must evolve their marketing content to better connect and engage with audiences.
It's critical to drive engagement the right way: using meaningful storytelling and long-form content to deliver your message to your audience. In turn, meaningful content can lead to increased monetization, better brand growth opportunities and long-term success.
By creating in-depth, long-form content -- whether it's white papers, e-books, case studies, magazines or catalogs -- companies can deliver a stronger message and position themselves as authorities in their respective industries. Here are a few examples on how to leverage in-depth and long form content to engage with your audiences:
- Newsletters: This format allows you to share details on your product, as well as examples of how other customers have benefitted, inspiring readers to better understand the product and why they need it too.
- Magazines: Magazines, digital and print, offer even more opportunity to share details on a product or service. At Issuu, we documented a year-long website and product revamp with Orange Juice, a magazine that we produced and published ourselves. It includes details on the update, the experience of the designers and engineers, the planning process, etc. This allowed us to connect directly with our customers and make product changes more relatable.
- Internal Communications: A weekly email from the CEO that discusses what is working in the company, current challenges and wins, and also calls out colleagues who have gone above and beyond, can help unify and set the course for everyone.
- Bylines: Articles (just like this one!) allow me to share a perspective with detail beyond a short opinion driven tweet or jargon-filled list.