Why Long-Form Videos Won't Work for Social Media Anymore

Our attention spans won’t allow it

Key Takeaways

  • TikTok announced it would increase its video length to allow 3-minute videos. 
  • The average attention span is only eight seconds, and most viewers stop watching a video after two minutes, so three minutes may be too long for a video. 
  • Experts say that short-form videos are better for a social media setting.
A couple watching videos on a smartphone.

Luis Alvarez

TikTok will go beyond 15- to 60-second videos to allow videos up to three minutes long, but experts say long-form videos won’t work for social media anymore. 

Short-form videos have been the trend over the past few years, but TikTok is making a major leap in its platform by increasing its video length to creators. While there’s a place for both long-form and short-form videos on the internet, social media platforms like TikTok were made for shorter clips that capture our attention. 

"TikTok’s entire unique selling point is based upon short videos that allow users to create content on the go to share to their followers," Ryan Stewart, a managing partner for WEBRIS Agency, wrote to Lifewire in an email. 

"TikTok has made a very bold move by allowing the longer video format, and I don’t believe it is going to work out for the company in the end."

Short-Form Videos and Social Media 

There is a massive trend towards short-form content on social media. From the explosion of TikTok to Instagram introducing Reels and Reddit’s recent purchase of Dubsmash, social platforms are getting in on the short-form video content trend.

"TikTok has made a very bold move by allowing the longer video format, and I don’t believe it is going to work out for the company in the end."

Even before these popular apps, Vine was a platform that allowed users to make a mere six-second video and upload it to their page. Vine had 200 million active users at its peak, before ultimately shutting down in 2016 because of competitors like TikTok, and "Vine stars" gained success from their super-creative videos in such a short time frame. 

It’s no secret why short-form videos have become more successful on social media than their long-form counterparts. According to Hubspot, 5% of viewers will stop watching a video after one minute, and 60% will stop watching after two minutes. TikTok’s one-minute video cutoff seems to be the sweet spot of retaining viewers, so why are they changing it?

Why Short-Form?

TikTok said its reasoning behind adding more long-form videos to its platform is to allow creators to "have the canvas to create new or expanded types of content on TikTok, with the flexibility of a bit more space." 

However, unlike platforms like YouTube or Vimeo that were built on any video length, TikTok's algorithm was created based on shorter videos, and moving away from those could be a deterrent for many users.

"Users stay on the platform not because of one specific creator or video, rather they stay on to get that same dopamine effect from playing the slot machines as to what type of content will show up on their 'for you page' next, with each video playing being another quick win or hit," wrote Kimberly Maryanopolis, account executive at EVINS, to Lifewire in an email. 

Closeup of a smartphone showing social media icons.

Chesnot / Getty Images

"Think about it: if you were playing a slot machine and it took up to three minutes for the result, would you remain interested?"

The average person's attention span is only eight seconds, meaning we get bored quickly. Our attention span is shrinking because of the constant stream of information bombarded to us, and the act of quickly scrolling through our social feeds only adds to that, so a three-minute video isn't going to do the trick to slow us down. 

"If a video doesn’t capture their interest within the first five to 10 seconds, it is promptly shut down or fast-forwarded," Stewart added. "In either case, the end-user satisfaction takes a hit." 

Still, for some creators like musicians, foodies, DIY enthusiasts, and others, long-form content may benefit their TikTok strategy. However, Justina Cerra Lucas, the founder and director of 218 Creative, said that TikTok videos typically lack a storyline and thoughtful production because they're simply not needed to entertain and gain followers in 15-30 second bites.

"Unless creators shift to a strategic long-form video strategy (and only then if it makes sense for their content and audience), then I don't believe that the majority of users on TikTok will be able to successfully capture their audience’s attention spans," Lucas said.

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