short-form creators have more fun
The unbundling of TikTok and YouTube is a boon for new communities.
Shorty wanna ride with me, ride with me. - Young Buck
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely experienced the magic of short-form video in the last few years. Whether you were an OG Vine user or have become inundated with Reels, Shorts, or TikToks, there’s no escaping the fact that consumers are preferring shorter, punchier videos over long-form content (maybe with the exception of Quibi 🤣). With a firehose of content coming at you from every possible channel and device (including your smart fridge), it makes perfect sense that we gravitate towards bite-sized, engaging content. We simply don’t have the time or the patience to digest anything over 2 minutes anymore.
This is especially true when it comes to community-created content. If I want to binge reality TV, I’m willing to sit through hours of Too Hot To Handle on Netflix. The second I am trying to buy something online from an influencer though, my attention span drops immediately to about 30 seconds.
If I’m trying to make a decision about how I should invest my life savings, I might spend days reading the tome that is Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor. But I almost immediately make a judgement call about the trustworthiness of a financial guru in the first few minutes of a YouTube video.
Our tendency to come to quick conclusions based on very short experiences (and short videos) is called thin-slicing and was popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Thin-slicing comes into play in a big way when it comes to the creator economy, driving the content length down and the fun level up. Creators are well aware that their viewers will come to a conclusion within a few seconds and therefore need to pack as much exciting content into the least amount of time as possible. This has made for some of the most engaging and addicting content ever created and has spurned more innovation and investment in the creator economy than ever before.
makeup tutorials and secondhand fashion
As short-form, fun, community-driven content continues to grow in popularity across the major players (TikTok, YouTube, Instagram), creators have realized the opportunity to convert the benefits of thin-slicing into revenue opportunities. To accommodate influencers looking to sell product instantly alongside content, TikTok launched in-app shopping that allows for earning potential outside of platform view monetization. The interesting thing about releases like TikTok Shopping (and similar products by Instagram and others), is that it is actually leading to the popularity of other platforms specifically focused on niche communities.
Supergreat, a “community of real beauty fans sharing routines, reviewing products, and shopping daily drops”, is a great example of how a team can take a popular craze (i.e. makeup tutorials) and turn it into a successful company on its own. By creating fun, enticing content specifically tailored to those interested in beauty products, Supergreat is able to capitalize on a loyal and captive audience and allow creators to monetize through things like affiliate marketing more than they could before. It’s a bit counterintuitive since products like Supergreat don’t have the viewership numbers TikTok does, but concentrating the target user base into a niche group can actually make creators more money than trying to fight for views against a viral meme on a larger platform.
The niche focus is also a better experience for the purpose-driven user (mainly looking to buy something). While they don’t necessarily focus on short-form video, other niche players in the social commerce space like Popshop Live (live-streaming shopping shows) and Depop (photo-based secondhand shopping) are solidifying this desire from consumers to go to focused communities for their shopping needs. Instead of filtering through the algorithm on TikTok, users now get the opportunity to easily find the sellers they want to watch and buy from.
bogleheads and bitboycrypto
E-commerce isn’t the only place where the unbundling of these larger content aggregators is happening. Finance influencers are flocking to new platforms that are attempting to be the MarketWatch or Bogleheads for the next generation. Especially when it comes to financial advice, Gen Z and Millennials are increasingly less confident in the existing ecosystem and are searching for something new. Stale advice from some old, rich white guy is quickly being thrown out for fresh, fun, and authentic discussions from people who look like them (even if it’s /r/wallstreetbets). Even though there are plenty of other companies focused on social finance in other formats (as mentioned in my last article), short-form video is the part of this space I’m most excited about.
Companies like Parthean are leading the charge on this trend by creating an all-in-one platform for financial literacy through short-form videos lessons led by influencers (many of which grew to popularity on the behemoth platforms). If financial literacy is boring, long-form video or text-based financial literacy content is even worse. Changing the status quo to a fun, short-form format that meets younger, inexperienced viewers where they are is a powerful way to build a loyal community around a product.
The key here is both short-form and fun. Short-form video alone is not inherently fun and can still be extremely soul-sucking (cough cough Investopedia). Adding in genuinely fun and engaging content, specifically from an authentic presenter instead of a disembodied voice, is where habit-forming behavior starts to form for the viewer. Combine that with a curriculum of topics that we actually want to learn about (like including crypto into the discussion) and you’ve got a recipe for greatness.
If you want two great examples of this in action from individual influencers, check out Ben Armstrong (bitboycrypto) and Berna Anat (@heyberna). Ben is a very outspoken and entertaining crypto influencer that actually has informative content alongside goofy memes (and some shilling obvi). It’s easy to get people excited about crypto right now, but his style is a great example of “fun native”. Berna creates financial literacy content that leverages short-form video, hilariously clever writing, and an awesome energy to become your personal “Financial Hype Woman”. She’s a perfect example of where this industry is going: making a lame topic vibey.
As with Popshop Live and others in the commerce space, livestreaming is growing in popularity for the financial world as well. Trading.TV is aiming to be the Twitch for traders, giving financial influencers and experienced traders the ability to connect with an audience on their own trading-focused platform. While they could just do this on Twitch itself, having a separate location for a niche segment of the market once again allows both creators and viewers a more optimized and enjoyable experience. While I’m not as bullish on livestreaming as I am on short-form video due to the unnecessary requirement of continuous focus time and the inability to speed up the presenter in real-time (I like watching things at least on 1.5x), I think the unbundling aspect of both is extremely powerful and something we will continue to see succeed in the future.
irl experiences and virtual fitness
With shopping and finance covered, there are two other big businesses on content platforms today: food and fitness. It just wouldn’t be a worthy unbundling article without mentioning brunch pics and butt workouts.
On the food side, there’s a disconnect between how we as consumers view food on social media and how we pick where we eventually go to eat out. Online, we see a delicious looking Green Goddess bowl and think to ourselves “oh, that looks good! Guess I should just go to Sweetgreen or something since I’m not in the same city as that person”. Or we might look at Yelp to see if there are any restaurants with a Green Goddess bowl (good luck searching by menu item). With Ombi, a new startup that shows video previews of restaurants in your area (currently available only in San Francisco), this flow changes to one that makes way more sense. Instead of relying on an aggregator like Instagram, Ombi gives diners in a certain city the ability to discover places to eat that are immediately accessible to them. The acute focus on hyperlocal, community-created ambiance and cuisine videos lets users flow directly from the browsing experience to booking a table in seconds. And the best part is that browsing is still just as fun and exciting as it is on Instagram!
For the gym crowd, many fitness influencers have now launched their own apps leveraging short-form video to scale themselves past their current social presence. Sweat, Kayla Itsines app that was acquired by iFIT for $400m, uses instructional workout video snippets and strings them together into custom routines. As a successful Instagram influencer posting workout videos often, this was a great way for Kayla to increase her reach and “train” thousands (millions?) of people. Future is doing something similar, with the added bonus of face-to-face conversations with a personal trainer. While I’m not sure these have really cracked the fun aspect of short-form fitness videos, the niche focus is super valuable and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing game-like experiences!
thin-slicing + vibes
Short-form video is here to stay. We all unconsciously make snap judgements on what shoes we think are cool, what financial advice we want to take, where we should eat, and what trainer we listen to. Thin-slicing will continue to be a key driver for pushing content creators to pack more into a smaller package, getting more bang for their buck. Creating niche content with authentically fun and unique vibes will ultimately convert viewers into paying customers. Sure, we will still have YouTubers publishing ad-optimized, lame 13 minute ramblings to get that sweet monetization revenue. But the most successful creators will produce vibey snippets and we’ll all be better off because of it.
As always, if you’re a founder working on a fun product or know of any awesome companies that fit into this category, send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to meet and include them in a future post!