Why B2B Brands Need to Create Long-Form Content

Image of a Selectric typewriter

Brands must learn to master the art of short-form storytelling.

Technology enables it; and consumer attention spans demand it.

Whether it be a 6 to 15 second video, a single photo, or 140 characters of usefulness, there’s no doubt that companies must learn how to tell their brand story quickly and efficiently.

But with all the hype about short-form storytelling, too many brands often forget about the longer brand narrative, and they are making a big mistake by doing so.

Here are two reasons why your brand must not abandon long-form content.

1. The continuing power of search

Even with the rise in social media, an incredible percentage of real people still use the good old-fashioned search engines. Google is the home page for millions globally.

When is the last time you saw a tweet or Vine video in the search results? I would guess never, unless of course you are searching for a specific account or person.

And I guarantee that you’ll never see a Facebook status update or Instagram photo in the search results … for obvious reasons.

We use search daily, and when we do, we’re on a mission.

It’s not like Twitter or Facebook where we scroll through our feeds causally and check our @replies, messages, and follower count. And then mosey on over to LinkedIn to see who’s been stalking our profile.

When we use search, it’s because we want something and want it now. It could be movie tickets, information about a vacation destination, or research in the latest data center technology.

The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not your content is actually surfacing in the results. If your focus and financial investment is purely on short-form storytelling, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to reach new people, sell additional products and demonstrate thought leadership.

2. Demonstrating your expertise

One advantage of using social media in the B2B space is to demonstrate thought leadership.

Hopefully, you have some really smart engineers, scientists and product managers that work for your company. And they most likely have a very specific point of view about technology, which can be used to start conversations and influence people.

Data from the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that — when it comes to trust and credibility — “people like yourself,” “subject matter experts,” and “employees of a company” always rank highly when people are seeking information about a company.

But is it even possible to demonstrate thought leadership in a tweet?

Of course you can … by using a series of tweets or videos, yes. But this is assuming that you have an audience and that they are actually paying attention to you.

But what about the CIO of a company that’s interested in investing in new data center technology? Yeah, they may go to Twitter and browse their feed, that’s a given.

But I guarantee you this …

They are going to a search engine because they know, just like you know, that Google knows best. They want information and they want it now.

Striking a balance

There’s a content surplus online today.

And with that, there’s also an attention deficit in the minds of consumers. This makes it extremely difficult for you to reach them with your brand message.

Short-form storytelling is important. It’s your attempt at reaching those busy consumers and breaking the clutter with compelling creative and visual content.

So I ask you this: Why not try to make their lives easier by allowing them to reach you?

You can do just that by spending a little more of your time and resources telling a complete story that’s more than just 140 characters long.

Flickr Creative Commons image by Steve Lodefink

About the Author: Michael Brito is a SVP at Edelman Digital and the author of, Your Brand: The Next Media Company, which is now available for preorder on Amazon. Get more from Michael on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. I like your point about “thought leadership.” Thought leadership may lend itself to longer messages, but it also takes time. In order to become a thought leader we have to become and authority, an expert. That doesn’t happen overnight.

    • Dan – completely agree. Change management is a necessary pillar in this evolution.

    • hey Dan,

      I completely agree with you, while authority building it doesn’t happen overnight, you could actually borrow authority by associating yourself with those who already have the authority within their space…

      You just need to carve your own niche before hand, and it’s a proven, yet often overlooked method to grow your own authority… which may speed up the standard process (going up the hill, all by yourself)

      Best!

  2. “When we use search, it’s because we want something and want it now.”

    That’s the biggest difference between search and social. With social networking you don’t usually set out to find something in particular, you just see what comes down the pipeline. With search you have some goal in mind, some end point you are trying to reach.

    • You are spot on. When we search we are actively looking for information but with social its more of “falls on our laps.”

  3. Hi Michael, I agree with your point here: ”Short-form storytelling is important. It’s your attempt at reaching those busy consumers and breaking the clutter with compelling creative and visual content. ” Infact, I printed it out here.

    I guess it’s what I need to convert new visitors into prospective clients.

    Thanks for the tip brother

    Daniel the ”web content writer”

  4. I like to think of all of this like a lead funnel. The short form stuff can be a very effective tease or attention getter which directs to something longer form or even medium form which then funnels to long form via a series of calls to action or just plain compelling content. In other words, long form is the cornerstone but social and other short form stuff are the actions that feed the core. I like the above point that short form may not actually lead to long form through a SERP. Great point that I was not considering and it reminds me that I need to take off my B2C hat and put on a B2B one when I switch between jobs. Thanks!

  5. “Long copy sells.” – David Ogilvy

    • As a copywriter I respect the distilled wisdom of Sir David, but to be fair that was a quip from the pre-SEO era and spoke to a demo whose attention span was far less impaired.

  6. This is a really useful blog post for those operating online. Thank you! :)

  7. Long-form content is still relevant. I see it every day online and in my inbox.

    “But is it even possible to demonstrate thought leadership in a tweet?” I agree that it would take a series of tweets to demonstrate your thought leadership. Why not write something that’s 1,000 or more words instead of 140 characters?

    Perhaps you can take your short-form content and create long-form content from it. Take the information that you have and give your audience options. You’d be surprised by the number of people who prefer long-form over short-form.

  8. Archan Mehta :

    Thanks for an excellent post: it resonated with me and I enjoyed reading it.

    You can get recognised as a “thought leader” by demonstrating your expert status.

    Writing for blogs, attending conferences and seminars, owning your own blog and keeping it updated and contributing to newsletters has worked for a lot of people.

    Public speaking is another way to demonstrate your expert status, even if you only address small audiences in your niche.

    Once your credibility is established, you place yourself in a position where you can attract potential clients. This is the way the marketing game is played out in the real world. I appreciate the timely reminder. Cheers.

  9. The Vine format is great for novelty witticisms, but a 2+ minute video (not long by any stretch) is still a great way to convey quality content in a compact fashion (and appear in searches).

  10. Hi Michael,

    A consistent and engaging narrative: I think there’s no better way to create a relationship with your customer these days. A useful, engaging storyline creates a bond, puts you top of mind, and earns you the right to sell. There’s nothing like the long-form, spread out over time to do this, me thinks ;) This is also the tone you establish that will help with the short form content. So, I guess I’m saying I’m on board with telling a complete story. I think these folks at Copyblogger have that licked.

    • yup, a comprehensive content strategy will deliver on:

      1. the content narrative (how you tell the story, tone)
      2. platform strategy (Where you want to tell the story)
      3. converged media (consistent story across all media types)

  11. Sheetal Sharma :

    Thought leadership is very effective, expert opinion on domain specific subject is always welcomed by readers and bloggers.

  12. Hi Michael,

    A consistent and engaging narrative: I think there’s no better way to create a relationship with your customer these days. A useful, engaging storyline creates a bond, puts you top of mind, and earns you the right to sell. There’s nothing like the long-form, spread out over time to do this, me thinks ;) This is also the tone you establish that will help with the short form content. So, I guess I’m saying I’m on board with telling a complete story. I think these folks at Copyblogger have that licked.

  13. “They are going to go to a search engine because they know, just like you know, that Google knows best.”

    So true! I believe the “Wholistic” approach to social marketing is the most effective – covering multiple platforms with great content focused on each, and not putting all your eggs in one social media basket.

  14. This is a really interesting post. In the world of social media, I believe people still want to read full and interesting stories. With the emphasis on interesting!

  15. Amen. Another reason long-form copy is so important in B2B is that we often have complex, multi-stage stories to tell.

    Yes, we want things short and simple – but no shorter and no simpler than the story deserves and demands.

  16. Nice post, Michael. There is no substitute for long copy that provides good solid information on a topic. It is much more likely to be referenced and shared.

  17. Jamey Austin :

    Love the concept of this post. Fyi: there are two typos in the first paragraph. Don’t let typos take away from your good writing!

    #1 Whether “it” be a 6 to 15 second video…

    #2 But with all “the” hype about short-form storytelling…

    Hope that helps, from one writer to another.

  18. We originally focused our efforts on “short-form” narratives using social media. It drove traffic to the site but there wasn’t much engagement once at the site. We just had a landing page.

    We started blogging and creating long-form narratives and the engagement has increased. In fact our blogs with our social marketing efforts have in 3 months given us 3000 signups versus the trickle when just using “140 characters” method.

  19. I can vouch for this.

    This article made me curious.

    We have one 2 year old article that ranks well and sells $350k a year for us based on the relationships we get and where they originated. In Q2, this blog post yielded $126k. (it’s record based on one multi-video order).

    It only got 290 visitors from April-June So what, $433/visitor?

    Damn, I guess I need to hire a copywriter.

  20. Hi Michael! Nice post. One topic that attracted my attention in particular: “Storytelling is your attempt at reaching those busy consumers and breaking the clutter with compelling creative and visual content”. Storytelling lets companies form a personal and inspirational connection with brands, and thus drive revenue. I’ve seen many marketers forgetting the importance of transforming feelings into unforgettable moments when planning killer stories or on-line videos. It’s something to reflect upon.

    Kindest regards,

    Max