Is long-form content dead?
When I started my career as a writer, social media was in its infancy. Facebook was just starting to make a bit of noise, but brands mainly used print media to communicate with their customers. It was a time when people still used the trusty ‘pen and paper’ combination. A time when people wrote birthday cards (instead of sending a Whatsapp). And brands used traditional PR and advertorials to get their message heard, eagerly reviewing circulation figures to calculate their ROI.
As a journalist I was writing a variety of content (mostly long feature articles that were printed in magazines and newspapers). But a few years into my career, things started to change. More social platforms were popping up, more websites were being launched, more apps were being designed and more smartphones were being sold. Suddenly, people were less interested in buying magazines and newspapers and more interested in scrolling through their Facebook and Twitter feeds for the latest news. It was around this time that I made the transition from a traditional journalist to a copywriter and digital content creator for a creative communications agency in London. And now the landscape has changed dramatically. Although print media is still around, we’re now living in a world where people are consumed by digital communications and obsessed fascinated with social media and smartphones. And this reliance on tech and digital applications is going to keep growing.
According to Sprout Social, advertising spend on social media is set to outgrow TV advertising for the first time ever and the average consumer has around seven active social media accounts. Obviously the rise of social has changed the way we all communicate with each other; we all expect instant communication and that’s made brands reassess their marketing strategies. The rise of the smartphone has also impacted the way brands try to reach audiences. A recent survey revealed that 91% of 16-75 year olds had used their smartphone in the last day and (for most people) checking their phone is among the first and last thing they do with their day. This reliance on smartphones means that most of us interact with content on the go, whether it’s catching up on the news on the commute home or listening to a podcast while out running. And obviously brands have had to move with the times, creating content experiences that can be engaged with across multiple platforms and devices. So what does this mean for long-form content? I know that scrolling through lots of text on a small screen isn’t ideal and stats suggest that the most popular form of content accessed on a mobile is video, but I think brands that ignore long-form content are missing out on opportunities to attract more customers and create more meaningful connections with their audience. Here’s why..
Firstly, I just want to highlight that I think video content and short and snappy mobile content are must-haves for brands today. We regularly work with clients to create rich digital experiences that work across multiple devices and platforms. But we also work with brands to create content-rich websites, in-depth blogs and articles and comprehensive offline content, including brochures, magazines and print advertising. I think this complements a brand’s overall marketing activity. If you’re still wondering whether you should invest in long-form content then here are a few things to consider:
In a world where we’re bombarded with content and advertising messages (over 3.2 billion images are shared every day!), it is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to create content that cuts through the noise. This is where long-form content, especially owned content, can really help. According to the entrepreneur Neil Patel, content-rich websites rank better in Google. If you create regular content on your website and your articles are, on average, over 2,000 words long, then Google will thank you for it! Your content will rank higher up the page so it will be easier for people to find you.
Despite what you might think, long-form content actually gets more shares on social media. Research by Moz and Buzzsumo revealed that long-copy social posts (that linked to content that was over 1,000 words) was shared more amongst online communities. Being recognised on social media platforms is crucial for brands that are trying to build an audience and a following as all of this counts towards your inbound traffic and the more people that link to your site, the more visible you will become.
When people land on your website looking for content about a certain subject, they’re more likely to think of you as a thought leader if your content is in-depth and a valuable read. Creating long content can demonstrate your knowledge and, as mentioned earlier, longer content can lead to more social shares.
More and more brands are realising that traditional advertising (on its own) doesn’t work. To really engage with customers you need to tell great stories that resonate. Instead of just pushing out sales messages, many brands are now beginning to act like publishers, creating content hubs filled with content that their audience will genuinely connect and engage with. While video plays a pivotal role in this, brands need to provide a variety of content to maximise engagement and long-form copy definitely has its place.
Interested in creating longer content to increase brand awareness and engagement with your followers? Here are a few tips:
Try to aim for 1,000 - 2,500 words per blog post.
Break up your content and keep it interesting with imagery.
Complement your written content with video content - there’s no reason why you can’t include this in the body of the content to give the reader options on how to interact with your content.
Think about what your audience wants. While it might be tempting to simply write about your product or service, it’s crucial that you find interesting content that will resonate with your audience and build a connection. If you need some inspiration, Red Bull is a great example of a brand that uses content marketing to build relationships.
Don’t quit. It takes a long time to see results from content and it’s a commitment. So be prepared to keep putting in the work and be patient.
If you’re in any doubt that long-form content is in demand, then just look at some of the changes social giants like Instagram and Twitter have made. Twitter obviously sees the value in storytelling - in 2017 the platform doubled its character count so people could ‘say more about what’s happening’. In 2016, Instagram also launched ‘stories’ and in 2018 they launched IGTV, which enables users to upload one-hour long videos as opposed to their original limit of one-minute.
As a creative digital agency in London, we specialise in storytelling and creating a range of content for our clients including long-form content. If you’d like to find out more about what we do and how we can help your brand, get in touch with the team.