long-form video trends

When you think about video marketing, chances are you think of videos that are 10 seconds to two minutes long. After all, we’ve all been told that nobody has the attention span for anything much longer than that. The accepted wisdom is that we must keep our videos short in order to get any views.

What if we were to tell you that there are some very good arguments for incorporating long-form videos into your 2018 video marketing strategy? What if we were to tell you that some of the best corporate videos out there are 10, 20, and 30+ minutes long? And, what if we told you that these types of video could lead to more engagement?

Below, we share five reasons that long-form video is a growing trend. Learn when to use long-form video (with examples), how to best measure the efficacy of your long-form video, and how to get the most mileage from it.

Long-Form Video: A Growing Trend

Before we dive in, what exactly do we mean by long-form video?

Long-form video is a video with a longer duration than is typical for its distribution channel. Some standards place the cut-off at eight minutes, but there is no universal rule for exactly how long a video has to be before it earns the designation of long-form.

For instance, a 100 second TV ad feels a heck of a lot longer than a 30 second spot. However, a two minute educational video might feel rushed, depending on the subject matter. As TED Talks have proven, up to 20 minutes might be optimal for complex topics.

Consumers Are Device-Agnostic.

In a world of ubiquitous wifi, unlimited data plans, and a premium on free time, the preferred device for watching video is generally the closest at hand. As consumers are becoming more and more device-agnostic, the expectation is that the same high quality content will be available no matter where the user decides to watch it.

In fact, you’d be hard-pressed not to find someone watching video on any rush-hour metro commute or sitting in the reception room as they wait for an appointment. It has become the norm to access media wherever we go.

Improved video processing technology, and improved video delivery methods, mean that longer videos are no longer a problem on mobile devices.

Long-Form Video Is Everywhere.

For better or for worse, it’s safe to say that what becomes the norm on Facebook eventually becomes the norm everywhere online. Since early 2017, the social media powerhouse has been making the push for long-form video.

Facebook’s main interest is the ad dollars that can be generated from long-form video. But, they are also shaping online behavior in doing so. Facebook is now investing substantial amounts of money into long-form content series.

Beyond social media, long-form video is cropping up in unexpected places. Arguably, a 100+ second TV commercial from Toyota could be considered long-form. Longer videos are also proving more popular for B2B videos, as in-depth educational content becomes central to many marketing plans.

The Differentiator for Buyers Is the Connection.

Long-form video provides more opportunity for relationship and community-building. The strength of this connection to viewers might be the only differentiator between competing brands in the buyer’s eyes. Because consumers have the ability to easily compare prices and reviews of an item or service online, connecting with them emotionally is imperative to making the sale.

Especially for B2Bs, this is an important point because they must reach all of the people on the team who are part of the decision-making process. Long-form video grants the flexibility and the scope that is necessary to address complicated business challenges from a lot of different perspectives in a way that no other medium can.

It Can Be an SEO-Godsend.

Longer videos present specific advantages for video SEO. An in-depth video is likely to cover a topic very comprehensively, meaning it’s appropriate to include more long-tail search keywords in the video’s metadata.

Further, you’ll be keeping visitors on the page for longer periods of time. This sends positive engagement signals back to search engines, indicating your page is relevant for targeted search terms.

Finally, although this is far from a guarantee, a substantive, detailed resource is likely to earn more backlinks than a lightweight take. Not only are those potentially good sources of traffic in their own right, backlinks from authoritative websites can help boost your SEO standings.

It Can Be a Great Lead Qualifier for You.

Someone interested in a 10+ minute long video is less likely to be “kicking the tires,” so to speak. They’re much more likely to be a “hot” lead ready to make a purchase soon.

Using engagement analytics will tell you who who these leads are, where they are, and what parts of the video they’re most engaged with. You can use this information in your follow-up emails and phone calls to help focus the conversation on their specific interests.

Depending on how you are using video, it could make sense to automate much of the lead capture and follow up process. SproutVideo’s email capture feature, and customizable post-play screens make it possible to pass interested leads straight to the marketing platform of your choice.

Long-Form Video: Best Uses

United In a Dream: Documentary-Style

Everyone loves a good story. Long-form video presents unique opportunities to build a compelling story arch. You don’t have to rush the details. You can spend time getting to know characters. In this example, REI knocks it out of the park with the tale of Paul’s Boots.

This almost 40-minute long video is genius. It not only tells Paul’s story, but also those of everyone who helps to fulfill Paul’s dream. It’s entertaining all the way through.

As each enthusiastic hiker attaches Paul’s boots to their pack and hits the trail, you connect with the brand’s community through the challenges and life lessons each hiker shares. By weaving together so many different stories via a pair of boots and the long Appalachian Trail, the sense of camaraderie really shines through.

Although no REI product, except Paul’s boots, is specifically mentioned, it can be inferred that in addition to a tight-knit and active community, the brand also offers quality goods that can withstand nature and the elements.

Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk: Culture Videos

People love to buy into a brand’s ethos, and video is the most effective way of communicating it. Additionally, people like to feel part of a community. It’s simply the way we’re programmed.

Hands-down, the best example of a company authentically doing this is Patagonia in their almost 28-minute video, “Worn Wear”.

They introduce us to Patagonia founder/rock-climber/environmentalist, Yvon Chouillard, and briefly share how the brand was started. The rest of the video features several of their customers who are living vastly different yet equally aspirational lives. Each customer tells us about their day-to-day existence through stories of a well-worn and clearly-loved piece of Patagonia clothing they own.

Between the music, stunning outdoor scenes, down-to-earth and passionate Patagonians’ stories, and environmentally-focused messaging sprinkled throughout this video, you understand that Patagonia is much more than a clothing brand. They’re a diehard community who value our earth.

It’s worth noting that Patagonia’s video collection features several long-form videos just like this one, all of which have thousands upon thousands of views.

It’s Easier To See Than To Explain: Educational Videos

Although slightly shorter than 10 minutes, GE’s “How GE Uses Wind To Help Power Nearly One Million German Homes” is just one video in their “Into the Wild” series of educational videos. The series helps to show all that the power company does.

At one point in this video, a GE employee says, “It’s easier to see than to explain,” which really sums up video marketing nicely! While it would be difficult (not to mention extremely dry) to explain what they do merely in words, sharing via long-form video allows GE to provide an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at some of the work they do.

Along the way, they explain difficult concepts using animated graphics, and answer questions from the video hosts. By using everyday people as hosts, the video helps humanize their brand. These educational videos may not tug at your heartstrings like Patagonia’s videos. However, they are certainly enlightening and more engaging than a simple blog post.

Long-Form Video: What Gets Measured Gets Done

You’ve seen a few examples of long-form video and are likely considering making your own. You may be wondering how to evaluate whether or not your video will be a success.

As always, it’s going to depend on the goal of your video. Here are some of the goals long-form video is especially suited for, and the corresponding metrics we think will be most useful to you.

If your goal is to increase brand familiarity, you want to get your video seen by as many people as possible. Use total video impressions and video plays to gauge your reach. To increase your reach, be sure to share your video with appropriate influencers, email lists, and on social media channels.

If your goal is to increase engagement, metrics like average video engagement are going to be your best friend. Why? Because the heatmap will show you exactly where viewers drop off and what they re-watch. This can inform your offerings and future video marketing efforts.

Another metric to keep an eye on regarding engagement is where and when your video is being shared. Is it being shared via social media, and if so, which platform? What blogs or discussion forums? Are people forwarding it on via email? Are you receiving questions from viewers via comments or email?

All of this counts as engagement. Any trends you can extrapolate should be factored into your video marketing strategy going forward.

Long Term Success with Long-Form Video

A lot of time, effort, and money goes into long-form video. So, we want to share a few ways for you to get as much mileage out of it as possible.

  • Turn your first long-form video into a series. Use the same characters to build upon a story, topic, or theme.
  • Speaking of characters, move those in your long-form videos across different channels to familiarize your online audience with them. People connect with people, so if you can feature a familiar face, you’ll likely see success.
  • Atomize your long-form video content. Can you create shorter video snippets to share as teasers on social media or in a blog post?

Remember, the key to creating an engaging long-form video is storytelling. Each of the brands featured above found interesting angles and protagonists to work with. Replicating their success requires similar efforts to find the right hook, and the right people to deliver it.


Ready to make your first long-form video? Have questions? We’re always listening and would love to check out any you create. Drop us a line in the comments below or tweet at us @sproutvideo!

Written by Laci Texter

SproutVideo blog contributor. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Posted January 9, 2018

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