TikTok Long-Form Content | What This Means For The Future Of Video  

April 13, 2023

TikTok’s status as the world’s leading source of short-form content could be about to change. Not because of any shortage of desire for young people to obsess over the platform, of course. Instead, TikTok is branching into long-form content, allowing users to post videos up to ten minutes long. While this isn’t the only TikTok change to be unveiled recently, this pivot could have significant implications for the future of video, and of marketing as a whole.

Long-Form Video on TikTok

It almost seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? TikTok — the home of short videos and even shorter attention spans — now lets users post videos that are ten minutes long, and even beyond in some cases (more on that later). The move seems to fly in the face of TikTok’s origins, in which videos had to be 15 seconds or less.

The bite-sized nature of TikTok’s earliest videos is what made the platform appealing to so many. For viewers, it was fun to scroll through these short videos, and even if the occasional dud came on their For You page, a new video was just 15 seconds away. For content creators, the challenge of creating something fun and unique in a short period of time gave TikTok something different than its competitors.

That’s all changed now, and much like the company as a whole, TikTok has expanded. A limit of 15 seconds became 60 seconds, then three minutes, and now ten minutes. What gives?

Increased Competition

TikTok boasts a user base of 1.4 billion monthly users — massive numbers, indeed. But it pales in comparison to YouTube’s 2.5 billion monthly users. While TikTok is great for what it is, it’s never been a home for longer videos. As a result, people go to YouTube to seek out longer blogs, shows, and videos.

The recent change in video length by TikTok is a direct reaction to people going elsewhere for long-form content. If content creators can produce longer videos on TikTok, the theory goes, the viewers of that content won’t need to go to YouTube anymore. That allows TikTok to keep those people in their app for longer — and of course, it allows them to display more ads and collect more data. It was this exact line of thinking that led Instagram to launch Reels and YouTube to launch Shorts; it’s only fair that TikTok has their chance at stealing the thunder of their competitors.

There are rumors of TikTok issuing an IPO, and if that happens, TikTok needs to be more popular than ever before. The shift to long-form video is a step in that direction.

Long-Form Ramifications

The decision to include long-form video on TikTok will affect not only TikTok users, but the industry as a whole. Here are some potential impacts that may result from this change.

TikTok Users

For years now, TikTok has grown, and it’s because of its endless collection of short-but-sweet content. Will that change in light of TikTok’s longer video length?

It’s hard to see the tide turning in a large-scale way that sends viewers running to other platforms. While there may be some annoyance with slightly longer videos, most teens will be happy to see that most of the content they view won’t change much, if at all. However, what users may find is that they no longer have to jump to YouTube to see the full version of a shortened video, or a Web series that they enjoy watching. In this way, the added length might prove to be beneficial.

TikTok Content Creators

Most people who produce short videos won’t drastically expand the length of their videos just because they can. They know their audiences, and they won’t want to rock the boat. However, content producers who regularly scraped against the three-minute mark will surely be glad to no longer have to worry about this threshold. That said, there is the chance that producers will now make longer, less-focused videos that alienate audiences who are used to getting what they want immediately, and those individuals may look to different accounts to satisfy their needs.

Brands on TikTok and Beyond

TikTok has always posed two significant barriers for brands on TikTok. The first is the need — self-imposed or otherwise — to cater to the younger audience on TikTok by trying too hard to convey youth energy, or to look cool, or to generally go against what the company stands for just to get noticed on the platform. The other issue is that the short-form nature of TikTok made it hard for brands to tell their story the way they’d like.

That second issue has now been rectified. And with the additional time added to their videos, the need to pander to teenagers and young adults is lessened. Brands can now tell their stories in their desired manner, knowing that if they do their part, the cream will rise to the top, regardless of where their videos are posted.

This mentality can then be applied to videos on other platforms, such as YouTube or Instagram. Brands who already produce longer videos on YouTube can feel free to dive into that type of video production, without having to worry about making a short version for TikTok, or a version that appeals to a certain demographic. They can instead focus on showing the world who they are and what they care about. This approach yields a more authentic presentation that can be posted on every platform, and that will be more successful at reaching target markets.

We’ve already seen one success story in the ten-minute era — Hilton’s recent TikTok used the entire ten-minute time limit, and went viral in the process by creating an ad balanced out its length by conveying humor and authenticity. Will every company receive the same benefits from going long-form? Of course not. But Hilton showed that you don’t need to have a super-serious video with high production values to keep a viewer’s attention for ten minutes. Brands that are self-aware and know what their audiences want can do the same.

Going Even Longer with Series

If ten minutes wasn’t long enough, TikTok also announced Series, which bundles 20-minute long videos with the ability to put content behind a paywall. Again, this is a move in response to the success of other sites.

Patreon is a site that allows content creators to paywall their creations and exchange access to videos and images for a monthly subscription fee. If we’re being honest, though, Series seems like TikTok’s response to OnlyFans and sites of its nature. This is a feature that Instagram already offers, so TikTok is playing catch-up. The combination of a paywall and the ability to post longer content may lead creators to post their material on TikTok instead of other sites.

The potential for this paywalled content to be illicit in nature, of course, could lead to potential issues and bad PR for TikTok, especially if their IPO desires come to fruition. However, in the race to stay ahead of the competition, it’s a calculated risk TikTok feels it has to make.

As TikTok embraces long form video content, it’s a sign that brands don’t have to cater to the needs of inpatient viewers. At the same time, it could lead to more businesses embracing longer video content, which inhibits the ability of some brands to stand out. If you’re not sure where your content stands in this changing world, contact us today, and we’ll help you find your niche in video production and social media.