There’s value in longer content

hero_diageoHere’s something surprising but also true: people don’t just want to read 140 characters or look at pictures of cats all day. They like them, for sure, but maybe, just maybe there’s more to life.

Blogger Marcus Sheridan has found, for example, that 90% of his shared content is over 1,200 words. That’s despite half of his blogs being much shorter. Then there’s Social Media Examiner, the three-year old digital engagement site. This averages over 1,500 words per post and has over 200,000 subscribers at the last count.

So you don’t have to keep YouTube clips to no longer than 50 seconds, and limit your blog length after all. The very sight of a long string of words shining away on our screen is supposed to be an anathema, but perhaps 400 of them aren’t too many.

Think of it this way. How many of you shared a piece of content having only read a small part? You got the sense that there was depth and meat to an article or blog and showed it to your friends, even if you skimmed most of it because deadlines called. I often find things on Sabotage Times, National Geographic or editorial site InPublishing at lunchtime and share them around before catching up in full on the train home.

There’s nothing stopping users returning to the piece, which also gives the author the analytics bonus of ‘return visits’. Plus a blog or article doesn’t have to be consumed in its entirety to be shared or to be seen as ‘a good piece of writing’.

When a longer piece is good, it can be really good. If it’s in the style of a ‘thought piece’, with twists and turns along many side roads and byways, then users love it. Roy Greenslade’s articles in The Guardian are cogent, carefully crafted, and the comments section is full of readers’ responses. The ‘five ways to’ is a well-worn concept, but when done well, an advice article such as developer Greg Kepler’s methods to improve websites on desktops is useful and readable.

Back in the world of content marketing, one of the most popular pieces we made for Diageo’s Reserve Club (pictured) is a 10-minute video. But because it has amazing cocktails crafted by a top bartender, and is set in the Chelsea Physic Garden (i.e. it looks beautiful), views are high.

There’s a strong SEO argument for longer content too. Over the past three years Google has been tweaking its algorithms to recognise editorial content over repeated keywords or spam. The recent introduction of Hummingbird means that the more context you provide, the better.

The ideal way forward has to be a combination of longer content plus tweets and posts. But there’s a challenge in that – persuading clients to see the two as integrated rather than separate entities, which need to be farmed out to different agencies. That’s common practice right now and it’s a crazy situation because the potential from bundling them together is huge. We’re beginning to get a glimpse of just how significant the numbers behind extended content can be – and the ways in which it can be grown together exceptionally well with social.

James Aufenast is an editor at TMW. Follow him on Twitter @James_Aufenast.