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Ask Buffer: What is Short-Form Video, and How Can You Use It?

This article explores the popularity of the short-form video format and some tips for making the most of it for your social media.

May 30, 2023 7 min readFlow
Photo of Tamilore Oladipo
Tamilore Oladipo

Content Writer @ Buffer

Question: Why have short-form videos become so popular in the past few years, and how can I use them for my social media?

Move over software — there’s a new world eater in town. Short-form video snuck up on us, becoming the most consumed online content in a few years.

It’s your best bet if the consensus is anything to go by — 85 percent of marketers say short-form video is the most effective format on social media. This is backed up by attributed to having the highest ROI of top marketing trends

This article explores the rise in popularity of the format and some tips for making the most of short-form videos for your social media.

What is short-form video content?

Short-form video is a content format, usually filmed vertically and no longer 60 seconds (although this is up for debate).

The standard length is a more contentious topic, as no one can agree on how long short-form videos should be. Google defines it as any video over 10 minutes, while HubSpot found that the optimal length is 31 to 60 seconds.

However, going by the allotted times on popular short video platforms, the average length probably falls between 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

These videos can be shared on any social media platform, but there are specific ones that offer a range of creative capabilities (and the accompanying algorithmic boost):

🗒️
Fun fact: You can schedule your short-form videos on three (!) of these platforms on Buffer. Try it out →

Short-form video as a concept isn’t new — Vine saw immense popularity from 2013 to 2016 with its 6-second or less looping videos. In the past few years, however, we’ve seen a sharp rise in interest in the format. This can mostly be attributed to the rise of TikTok around 2019.

Today, TikTok is the most downloaded app in the world and ranks number one for consumer spending,  according to a report by data.ai.

In one word: convenience. They are easy to make and easy to consume, with an average video length of 15-30 seconds. The format allows creators to communicate quickly and users to consume their content without investing hours of time and focusing on one thing – truly an “everybody wins” scenario.

Also, shorter videos tend to perform better; the shorter a video is, the more likely viewers are to watch to the end. Short-form videos are also:

  • Easy to watch and share: A report found that people share videos at twice the rate than any other form of content.
  • Accessible on any computer or mobile device
  • Cheap and easy to produce as long as you have a smartphone
  • Free to access on any social media platform that supports the format, which is all of them
  • Prioritized by the algorithms of the top social networks, making them a high priority for creators
  • Increasingly a preferred format for learning about new things: This report found that 73 percent of consumers prefer to watch short-form videos when learning about a product or service.

With all the benefits it offers consumers (and creators), it’s not hard to see why the format has exploded in popularity in recent years.

Five tips to help make great short-form videos

Short-form videos seem to be here to stay, but there’s a slight learning curve to getting started, especially if you’ve never made or edited videos before. Here are some tips to think about as you film your next Reel, TikTok, or Short:

Start with what you have

The ease of creating short-form videos is one of its main attractions. Globally, creators have seen thousands of followers from content created with their phone and Internet access.

You don’t have to have elaborate scripts, amazing lighting, or the best editing skills, either. Audiences gravitate towards authenticity and transparency – they love connecting or finding points of similarity and shared identity. So don’t worry if you don’t have amazing ideas to start with – the key is to start.

If you’re creating for a brand, lean into the low-fidelity style of short-form videos and showcase the people and processes behind your product/service.

@maisonmarkosian

I keep trying to figure out how to tell the Maison Markosian origin story and idk so far this is as good as it gets

♬ Love You So - The King Khan & BBQ Show

If you’re creating as an individual, talk about what you know and bring viewers along with what’s already going on in your life (as much as you’re willing to share).

@_kates_takes_

Not corporate enough but not creative enough…. Whats our move? #careeradvice #creativecareer #multipassionate

♬ original sound - kate

Short videos are great for embracing trendy content—think dances, songs, challenges, and memes. Sixty-three percent of marketers say trendy videos related to news stories and powerful cultural moments generate the most engagement.

With the way most trends develop (someone creates something → others replicate it), it may seem like you have to be a blank slate and do whatever everyone else is doing. But that’s not very creative or sustainable.

Instead, if you notice something trending online, think about how it does (or doesn’t) fit your brand. If you have an idea that you think your audience will enjoy, film it and hit publish. If not, keep doing what you’ve been doing.

@bufferapp

Mid day Target runs are worth the risk #CapCut #targetrunsarethebest #remotework #remoteworklife #wfh #wfhproblems #workfromhome #targettok #targetrunsbelike #targetruns

♬ original sound - Buffer

However, not every trend is meant for you. Before you rush to film a video to participate in whatever sound or meme is going around, consider how it might come across to your audience. Focus on catering to your niche and staying authentic first. Don't be afraid to do your own thing and stick to making content from scratch.

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This article offers great perspectives and advice on adapting trend content for your personal or business brand.

Educate just as much as you entertain

Short-form video gets a bad reputation as a format that encourages mindless scrolling. However, it’s just a format and will only be as good as whoever’s wielding it. It’s become a great format for getting across information quickly, and its length is good for sparking interest in a topic for audiences.

Thinkific calls this process microlearning: how audiences get information in short bursts through formats like short-form video.

Focus on providing value to your audience, whether you’re sharing insights into the global fashion sourcing industry like Gab Waller.

@gabwallerdotcom

Personal shopper to the stars ✨ thank you @SheerLuxe 🫶🏼 #sourcedbygw #personalshopper #haileybieber #sheerluxe #acnejacket

♬ SheerLuxe x Gab Waller - GAB WALLER

Or show your audience how to use or care for your product after a purchase like Our Place.

@ourplace

fry 🍳 sauté 🔥 steam 💨 boil 🫧 strain 🫗 braise 🥘 bake ❤️‍🔥 roast 🥵 sear 💥 serve 🍽️ the #alwayspan 2.0 does it all ❗❗ #cooking #nonstick #nontoxicpan

♬ original sound - Our Place

Tanner Leatherstein is a great example of blending entertainment and education. The creator is popular for deconstructing designer bags to give his viewers a clearer understanding of their purchase decisions. His videos are also well-made, featuring quick cuts, close-up shots of the products, and a mix of voiceovers with talking to the camera.

Share user-generated content

Short-form videos are so easy that any audience can get in on the action. So get yours to participate, and make short-form videos featuring your products.

Social media advertising can be more effective when it features user-generated content, product reviews, or DIY tutorials. Sproos Home is great at highlighting customer videos showing how they install their DIY showerheads.

User-generated content is an ideal way to generate buzz around your brand. Short-form video content can help you reach a wider audience and foster a closer relationship with your followers or customers. Engage with your users' content, and showcase the best ones on your platform as permitted.

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Better yet, create a strategy that means you always have a calendar filled with user-generated content. Check out this article for some ideas.

Cross-post one video to multiple platforms (just watch out for the watermark)

You may be worried it’ll come off as irritating to your audience, but you’d be surprised just how many people only follow you on one platform.

At the moment, apart from a few differences, video platforms have the same identity:

  • TikTok reflects its young user base with raw, irreverent content
  • Reels are usually elevated and flashy to fit in with the atmosphere of curation on Instagram
  • Shorts is still too new to have a set identity among its creators, so its content is a mix of everything

Ultimately, however, it’s pretty much the same audience for each one, as there’s not much distinction or loyalty among consumers as long as they get the content they’re looking for. This is a blessing; you can make one video for three platforms without repercussions.

Of course, it’s believed that algorithms prioritize video created with in-app editing tools, so that’s something to consider as you film and post. Stay updated with the hacks, and if you use TikTok to film, you can download your videos without the watermark to share on other platforms.

We love cross-posting here at Buffer, as this video posted on all three of our major platforms shows.

If you’re still worried that cross-posting isn’t right for you or your brand, consider leaning into the features and styles made available on each platform. On TikTok, you can get away with slightly longer videos than normal, so use that to tell stories or start a series. For Reels and YouTube Shorts, snappy edits are all the rage, so you can prioritize videos that show off your product or use trendy filters and sounds.

Improve your short-form videos as you gain experience

Although the format is easy to get started with, short-form videos also have a high bar of quality, especially if you want to grab and hold the expensive attention of your audience.

It’s vital to keep up with the best practices, especially when it comes to your audience’s expectations. Here are some rapid-fire best practices as you create your short-form videos:

  • Get to the point quickly
  • Add subtitles to your videos for accessibility and SEO
  • Use quick cuts to keep your videos engaging
  • Include a CTA

You won’t be perfect initially, but improvement is a key part of any creative process and a signal that growth will come with practice.

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