On 28th June, we brought together a panel of industry experts at our London HQ to discuss how brands can break the three second rule when it comes to developing content for social, and how marketers can effectively create long-form video that engages audiences online.

Our communications manager, Ryan Dubras shares a round-up of the key insights and trends.

It’s a long held truth that a picture is worth a thousands words. So when Forrester built on this in 2014 to declare that one minute of video was in fact worth 1.8 million words, it’s no surprise that video quickly became the go to medium.

At our most recent event, as part of our Masterclass series, we brought together a panel of industry leaders to debate the value of long-form versus short-form content for social, and how brands can benefit from being brave enough to break the three-second rule.

Our panel was moderated by our head of strategy, Harvey Cossell and comprised of Harriet Beaumont, lead creative at Seenit; Alistair Allan, head of digital at TOPSHOP TOPMAN; and Alistair Campbell, executive creative director at We Are Social.

The session kicked off with Cossell taking a look back at the exponential growth of video content in recent years, which has been driven mainly by increased demand from mobile.

Cossell then went on to discuss how this ever increasingly competitive landscape has created a race to the bottom for brands to create shorter and shorter video content; as news feeds have become ever more cluttered, and our attention span has continued to drop.

But realistically, what can we achieve in three seconds?

This became the first talking point for the evening’s panel session, as we welcomed to the stage representatives from Seenit, TOPSHOP TOPMAN and our own executive creative director.

While each panelist held slightly different views on how a story could be told in such a limited time frame, one recurring theme was mutually agreed upon: whatever the message, and however long the content, brands need to give people an opportunity to get something out of a story they are telling.

Seenit’s Beaumont in particular commented: “There’s definitely an opportunity (for brands to use shorter content) as long there’s some emotion and interest; but it's hard to tell a well-formed story in such period of time”.

The conversation then turned to the arc of storytelling and how this differs for social compared with other mediums. Allan made the point that on social it’s less about how you tell the story and more about how you capture the audience. “The challenge in social is that the first second counts to get them to watch” he said, and if you struggle to grab them in that split second - it’s hard to get your message across.

Our executive creative director, Campbell, agreed. He made the point that brands “need to produce relevant and exciting content audiences love to watch” if they truly hope to cut through the noise.

He then added that brands need to take content that goes “back to basics”. They need to focus on “content that’s useful and stimulating in a good way”. A sentiment Allan mirrored, stating that “we (as marketers) need to do something valuable for people, for their lives instead of something quick”.

Cossell pointed out that brands also need to look at creating content that is culturally relevant by looking at the trends, what really matters to people on the day to day, and using that to create something that “people are craving anyway”.

As the panel drew to a close, each of the panelists reflected on the barriers to entry for brands when it comes to developing good quality content. All were in agreement that the investment required to deliver high production video is still one of the biggest obstacles. Not all brands have budget for a 12-part video series shot around the world, or the resource to have producers, designers and creatives working around the clock to deliver something on short notice.

But to those brands, big or small, looking to utilise video content for social to connect with their audiences, they did each leave one parting piece of advice.

First, “talk to people about what matters to them” (Campbell); then, “take a proactive approach to understand audience insights and platform behaviour” (Beaumont). And finally, “remember the first second counts the most, figure out what’s going to make them find your stuff interesting” (Allan).

If you couldn’t make it along to our Masterclass on ‘Breaking the three second rule’, the full video of the panel discussion can be viewed on our Facebook page.