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A Critical Look at Short Duration Multimedia Content on Social Media


Social media is ablaze with multimedia content. They are so popular that I see almost everyone in my friends or followers list sharing them. Videos are the most popular, followed by animated GIFs.

It’s not surprising to me as I’ve already explained how social media is paving the roads for a visual web. Multimedia content is the subset of visual content. Right?

Right, but there’s another trend that I have been noticing lately. Short-duration multimedia content is getting popular. I can think of a reason; people nowadays don’t have the patience to sit through a 30-minutes long video.

What are the other reasons? Are short video clips the future? Can it mark rich media’s entry into the organic realm? Let’s find out the answers here in this article.

User-generated content

One of the hottest trends in the industry right now is user-generated content or UGC. Here’s a list of all the formats in which UGC is available. You can see audio, video and pop-ups are in this list and these are all multimedia content. Users can generate such content themselves and make them go viral.

User-generated multimedia content (UGMC) has little to do with branding. UGC is sparse in the brand promotion landscape. The little density it has over there is because of consumer review sites. But the content there uniformly lacks multimedia elements.

As the acceptability of UGC will increase, so will the demand for multimedia content. A lot of equations will change then. Brands will want UGMC to sing their praise, and they will get more and more into it.

I think if UGMC is videos and 100% organic, their duration will be long, but if these are sponsored streaming videos or applets to be downloaded, the duration will be short. That’s because when users rate brands, they tend to add details, but when brands promote themselves, they only fixate on their USP, similar to ads.

Social media

Every time we see animation and looping video footage receiving thousands of likes and shares, we are reminded of social media’s indispensability for multimedia content. A close analysis reveals the dependency is not one-sided; just as social media is responsible for the upswing in multimedia content, the latter has also been helping the former to eclipse the online vertical.

The top social networks are the forcing houses for multimedia content, especially videos. More than 30 billion content are shared on Facebook each month, making it a billion shares a day. In November 2015, there were 8 billion views on videos shared on Facebook, the majority of which are only 2-3 minutes long.

See the infographic below that shows how videos fare on Facebook:


Barring YouTube, all other channels espouse short duration videos. See a list of these channels below:

  1. Instagram
  2. Vine
  3. Pinterest
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Google+

Instagram has Instavids. Just as the name suggests, they are instant videos and last only for 15 seconds. Vine, as we know, has an even shorter duration for clips – only 6 seconds. LinkedIn’s case is a bit different; the videos there are for portfolio buildup and short-duration.

There are three reasons short videos are preferred on social media.

Reason 1: On social media, users are bombarded with status updates, images, likes, pins, upvotes and downvotes. They don’t have enough time to watch an hour-long video in its entirety. Therefore, they prefer short videos.

Reason 2: It’s easy to share short videos because these videos don’t consume too much bandwidth. That’s the reason 2-5 minutes videos on Facebook often become viral. Videos on Vine and Instagram are less than a minute long and sharing them is not hasslesome even if the network connection is slow.

Reason 3: We discussed UGC in the preceding paragraph. Social media is the hotbed of UGC, especially videos and GIFs. Unlike long videos, short duration and looping videos are easy to create.

Besides ads, social media is the only place where we see rich media content. More on this will be discussed later.

The mobile experience

It won’t be a hyperbole if someone says the mobile experience is 90% dominated by multimedia content. As one moves to the mobile web from the desktop web, he’s welcomed by apps. Smartphone apps can be utility-driven, productivity-based or just to kill time.

All apps are multimedia content and powered by HTML5. And they are often accompanied by short duration videos.

Below are links to two such videos:



Notice both videos are less than 2 minutes in duration. The first one describes the functioning of an iPad app that artists use. The second video offers a detailed description of how to download the LinkedIn mobile app for iPhone and Android devices. None of these two apps is for killing spare time, both are for serious purposes and hence, utility-driven.

In the third category, we have videos and animated GIFs besides gaming apps and social networking apps. The source of fun videos are mostly Whatsapp and other messaging services, some are from mainstream social networks. These are popular because:

  1. The majority use handheld devices on the go. They neither have the time nor the willingness to watch a long video. Hence, they prefer short videos.
  2. If a Smartphone users want to download a long video then he either needs to delete many important files or use a microSD card. Users prefer avoiding such hassles and stick to short videos.
  3. We have already mentioned that Vine and Instagram are the breeding grounds for UGMC, especially videos. Both Instavids and Vines are taken from handheld devices.

What we can retrieve from this discussion is the mobile world is dedicated to short videos, GIFs and 2D and 3D animation. By content, most mobile users understand multimedia content and the shorter the duration of such content, the more they like it, partly because they don’t have tolerance for long videos and partly because their devices are not optimized for such videos.

Experimental multimedia

The term multimedia content has conventionally referred to videos alone. Then came animated GIFs. It’s the second quarter of 2016 and for the last few years, multimedia content has been subject to relentless experiments.

The results?

New content formats have emerged that are revolutionary, to say the least. I have already mentioned animated GIFs. Among others are cinemagraphs, 3D animation, ultra-realistic images, 360° rotating product photographs, multimedia PDF etc.

Cinemagraphs are a mix between looping videos and still images. They appear with extra luminosity and one or more moving areas to them. The looping videos, used to render cinemagraphs are only few seconds long. Long videos cannot be used. This again shows the importance of short videos.

Multimedia PDF may be new but it does something that’s least expected from it – It spices up an otherwise boring PDF document. Here’s a multimedia PDF with video elements added to it. The video embedded in the post is of short duration, yet the PDF file size is 34MB.

3D animation videos mark a new era in the entertainment industry. Such videos are uniformly short length, largely due to the huge production cost. Unless qualitatively enhanced, a 3D video will be rebuffed by the audiences, and creating high-quality 3D videos requires money.

Simply put, short duration videos benefit coming-of-age multimedia formats. Such content is mostly found on social media and handheld users feel at ease when accessing them. This again points at the nexus between short duration multimedia content, mobile and social media.

Rich media

By rich media most understand averts. True, rich media has predominantly been used for advertising, but it has an identity of its own and that identity is interactive multimedia content. Digital marketers praise rich media because it’s the most optimized format for running ad campaigns.

Rich media elements, especially videos cannot be long duration. That’s because the optimal place for those videos to occur is at the start of a regular video, just like YouTube advertising. Streaming videos used for banner ads (extremely rare) are also short duration.

Rich media adds a boost to the CTR. See the image below:


Now as I said, rich media is not confined in advertising, which means it can be used to render organic content that interacts.

Now let’s have a look at the possible video formats with rich media elements:

  1. Voice-over in the background and animated images, hand-drawn sketches, slides or presentation on the screen.
  2. Stop motion animation characters on the screen
  3. A virtual walkthrough or fly-through offering a 360° view of the interior. Augmented reality or holographic display owing to state-of-the-art 3D tools.
  4. A How-To video with moving images or stock or actual photographs.

If rich media removes the “Banner Ad” tag from it and content marketers tinker with the said formats, informative and captivating short videos would be the results.


At the end, I have to add only one thing; new platforms will spring up, maybe a year down the line or maybe tomorrow, allowing customers to rate and review brands using multimedia content.

Brands will also come out of the outdated idea of advertising-based promotion (users have started using AdBlocker already) and embrace visual branding for its obvious benefits.

Short videos and other appealing multimedia content that deliver new information and most importantly, don’t bore viewers will be the game changer then.

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