Sahail Ashraf posted on 3 February 2021
TikTok is known for short, snackable video content, but it’s thinking of changing things. It’s testing shorter form videos. Is this a good idea?
TikTok is the darling of social media and has managed to still be a popular favourite even as it endured controversy after controversy. It has a few competitors, but they are still struggling to get anywhere near the level of success that TikTok has enjoyed. And recently, it has announced that it is trying to further cement that success with a new initiative that should see it offering even more value to users.
The best thing about TikTok, according to its user base, is the short length of the videos you create. You can create videos that are up to a minute in length, which means it has become a versatile platform for creators to work on. It offers video content that is shorter than the average YouTube video and longer than the recently deceased Vine. That was a bonus for the platform, and contributed to its popularity massively. It was, seemingly, the perfect length for the users.
Why is one minute just right? Well, one theory is that having just a minute means that you are forced to create high quality content within 60 seconds. This makes an editor out of the user, and makes for very entertaining content. TikTok has played host to all sorts of content, from funny videos to dance crazes literally starting on the platform and then taking over the world. All of the best content manages to squeeze value and fun into 60 seconds. It’s quite a discipline, and it also means that videos don’t ever become annoying or boring. And that means huge engagement, because the audience doesn’t want to be bored.
Since December, TikTok has reportedly been trialling 3 minute limits with certain users. This makes it feel, initially we imagine, like YouTube. What’s interesting here is that this means that longer content can be uploaded, and that could eventually mean commercial content. You could easily create a long ad (similar to what we see on TV) and then run it smoothly when you have a three minute limit.
For mere mortals, TikTok had that one minute limit, and it is often the case that creators will ask users to ‘like’ a video to see part two, or three. This is due to time constraints of course, but it has meant that there is some annoyance there for people who just want to see a few videos.
And it is a big deal for some people, who actually enjoy being able to flick through very short videos for a while and then getting on with their day. That is a huge part of the appeal of TikTok, that brevity.
Instagram Reels is probably the closest thing that TikTok has to a rival. It recently increased its length limit to 30 seconds from 15. Then we have YouTube Shorts, which allows for a 15 second video to be uploaded. So TikTok looks to be going bigger while everyone else is either going for shorter videos or has short videos that are pretty much staying that way.
This brings questions about TikTok’s motive. Why would they do something that seems to go against industry wisdom? The easy answer (and not necessarily the right one|) is that TikTok is preparing to make brands and advertisers feel more comfortable on the platform. Longer windows of time mean that brands can literally create ads that have room to breathe and gain engagement.
There is just one problem with that. If that is what is happening, then TikTok will have to convince its current user base to get comfortable with a longer format. And when you think about it, people use TikTok because it is built for short attention spans. TikTok is messing with the core of what makes the platform so popular.
It’s being trialled anyway, so no real stress yet, but we are intrigued to see just how the new length will play out. It’s similar to the Twitter situation years ago, when the character limit on Tweets was expanded. Everyone expressed outrage back then, but now it’s just the norm.
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