I’ve been doing this online business thing for more than ten years now, and if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “blogging is dead” I could swim in them like Scrooge McDuck by now.
But it’s never actually been true, and it’s even less true today.
Blogging was hot when I got started in this industry, but it was quickly overtaken by the trend to use shorter and louder content on social media networks to market your business. Business coaches went from shouting, “Your business has to have a blog!” to talking more about the latest tactics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others for getting business.
Yet, while long-form, in-depth content fell out of fashion for a while, it never truly went away. Like so many things in business, when it got harder to game the SEO system to get blog content ranked, people turned to other content types that promised faster, easier results.
But even on social media, longer form, in-depth content still managed to pop up; think about the popularity of Twitter threads, IG carousels, etc.
Jay Acunzo, creator and host of the podcast Unthinkable, says “When it comes to length, bloggers need to resist the rally cry of so many under-informed marketers who claim that the world is trending short-form, so you must too. Audiences don’t have a lower tolerance for long-form. They have a lower tolerance for mediocrity.”
From where I sit, it looks as though the pendulum is swinging back toward longer content, but not just any kind of long content; we’re talking about the type of content that sets you apart from the masses, elevates you above the noise, and motivates your ideal customers to buy from you.
Because of course creating long-form content requires more thought, more strategy, more time, energy, and sometimes money to produce; but it will show a much higher return on those investments over time for your business.
Anyone, at any stage of business can implement a long-form content strategy — especially if you’re growing frustrated with trying to keep up on social media. And if you consider yourself a thought leader (or want to be) you should definitely focus on long-term content.
But let’s back up for half a moment and talk about how we got here.
Short form content used to be the way; but it’s getting harder for businesses to win at it
If you came up in these online business streets in the early teens, you’ll have fond memories of unlimited organic reach on social media networks. Of asking people to follow your business account — and then having them actually be able to see and interact with your posts. Of building up groups of ideal customers thousands strong, and being able to build real community there.
And then, it all changed. But what exactly changed?
It’s all about the algorithm, baby.
OK, here’s the deal:
The OG social networks, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, run on a social graph algorithm. At their base, these apps are networks, in that (in theory at least) you follow someone in order to see their content. They’ve started adding suggested posts from people you don’t follow, but at its most basic, these are networks of people you choose to follow.
But then TikTok came along, and TikTok is different.
Their algorithm is based on the quality of content. (I almost put irony quotes around “quality,” but I resisted.) You can follow people, but the addictive quality of TikTok is the “for you” feed, because it’s gotten really good at showing us quality videos — for some value of the word quality — that each of us individually will enjoy based on how we interact with the app.
Facebook and Instagram are trying to move toward that sort of feed as well, and we’re all big mad about it. Even Twitter has recently added a “For You” feed.
We business owners of a certain age all joined these networks originally to keep up with friends, brands we like, and other business owners — but that’s not what the apps are showing us any more. You have to jump through hoops to actually see the people you chose to follow.
For brands that have monetized the size and reach of their following on social media, a change to recommended content will mean those audience numbers are worth considerably less.
What this means for marketing your business on social:
For the last however many years, the game was about getting people to follow us on social media so that they would see our posts. It was an extension of relationship marketing; the act of following being tacit permission to market to them.
As Tara McMullin points out, these OG social media companies were effectively subsidizing our audience growth in the early years by providing organic reach. As we all know, organic reach on social media has dropped and dropped over the last few years, and it’s gotten harder and harder for even the people who have opted in to follow us to see our content without the business paying to show it to them.
So, many of us have switched up our tactics multiple times: we started groups on Facebook, we moved to using our personal profiles for business stuff just so that somebody (ANYBODY) would see it, we started dancing around and pointing at invisible words to make reels. And every time someone found an effective hack, the algorithm would punish it again.
Why? Because Facebook and Instagram don’t make money off providing us organic reach to communicate with our audiences. It’s a business. They make money by asking us to pay for placement and audience exposure.
Businesses and creators who have managed to build up a big audience on social media are now having to bend over backwards to try to engage that audience — which would in turn, we pray, get the algorithm to feed that content to more people. That’s why we see people doing reels and TikTok dances who definitely shouldn’t be.
“But what about viral content?” I hear someone in the back of the peanut gallery of my mind shouting.
Viral content is great, and it absolutely can help build you an audience — especially if you’re clever enough to catch that lightning in a bottle more than once. But the question is, can you go viral for something related to your business so that the people you attract are actually potential customers?
That, my friends, is the real trick and, unfortunately, it’s wildly improbable. I figured this out recently when my most viral reel on IG was one of me making fun of a Brigerton meme. Did it get me 20,000+ views? Yes! Were literally any of those people potential customers? Probably not.
(I wrote about this a LONG time ago in this post about writing for the second click.)
The best (and maybe only?) way to reliably build and reach an audience on social media in this day and age is to use advertising. Period. Because things don’t work the way they did ten years ago. The people who built huge internet audiences without ever buying an ad could not replicate that success today.
So don’t feel bad if you can’t, either!
The argument for short form content is crumbling…
The argument for creating tons of short form content to promote your business used to be:
- It will help you reach new audiences. Well, not any more unless you’re paying for ads or going viral (and going viral isn’t targeted), because organic reach has plummeted.
- You can build relationships with customers. Maybe; but it’s getting harder and harder to move potential customers off a particular app to take the steps to become a customer, because the apps are incentivized to keep people in their ecosystem.
- It’s fast and easy to create because it’s short! Whew. Not any more; you’re spending just as much time and energy — OR MORE — creating content for social media, especially if you’re doing short video, which can take tons of time to shoot and edit.
- It helps you grow your audience. Maybe you will have success growing your audience on that channel, but you don’t OWN that audience. And algorithm changes (not to mention hackers, and bans by the networks) prove it can be taken away at any time.
It’s actually getting harder to reach people on social media — even the people who want to hear from you — unless you create content that the algorithm deems viral. They’re essentially demanding that you be an artist / model / actor / comedian / musician or other type of entertainer on top of being a small business owner.
In fact, social media-first marketing (like so much of capitalism) hurts and disadvantages plenty of traditionally disadvantaged groups as well as neurodivergent business owners and clients.
And short-form social media content is typically what Regina Anaejionu calls depreciating content; in other words, it starts losing value almost as soon as you post it, instead of growing in value to your business over time.
So, we’ve all been convinced to focus on creating short-form social media content that reaches fewer and fewer people (even people who want to see our content), takes a huge amount of time and energy to produce, and starts losing value the second we post it.
Long-form content is an investment in your business, not a time suck
On the other hand, creating in-depth, long-form content is an investment in the longevity of your business. It’s like the infrastructure of your marketing plan.
Here’s how I like to think about it:
Imagine you’re building a house. For most of us (unless you’re like a structural engineering nerd), things like pouring the foundation, putting in the studs, hanging drywall, and nailing shingles in place are pretty boring. So, instead, maybe we choose to go out and pick out paint colors, order the curtains, sit on dozens of sofas until we find the right ones, etc. We spend tons of time and energy on the things that feel more exciting and important — only to find that we don’t really have a home to put them in, because we neglected building the foundations.
That’s how it feels to me when I see business owners spending all their time creating short-form content on channels where they don’t own their audience and can have it taken away at any moment.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying don’t do any short-form content, or that it’s never useful to your business. What I’m advocating for is that you not neglect building up your own platform of long-form, in-depth thought leadership content.
Why long-form content is vital to your business marketing strategy
Long-form content is effective, but it isn’t easy. Maybe that’s why it isn’t trendy. It’s not sexy, perhaps. And it doesn’t have the immediate dopamine hit of social media’s immediate likes, comments, and so on.
But it is effective. According to a 2022 study, “80% of surveyed bloggers report that their blog delivers ‘some results’ or ‘strong results.’”
Content Hackers did their own study, reviewing 428 pieces of content posted over the course of a year, and their results were clear: long-form content won by a landslide when it came to driving leads and sales for a business.
As the Content Hackers study shows, long form content can mean blog posts, long-form videos, even in-depth podcast episodes; so no matter how you like to communicate with your audience, there’s a style of long-form content for you.
SEO: Better Rankings, More Traffic with Long Form Content
Organic leads are the lifeblood of any stable business — I say stable, because a business that relies on ad traffic might be successful, but if one thing changes with their audience, the cost of their ads, their conversion rate, etc., that success is at risk.
If you have a bricks and mortar business, organic leads are the people who just show up, walk in off the street. For online businesses, the same is true, people are just walking in off the digital streets, as in, they’re finding you through search on one platform or another.
People who are content creators first understand this, because they get paid by the number of eyeballs they attract to their content; think your favorite YouTube or Instagram influencer. But if your business never figured out how to attract organic traffic, you may not believe or understand the impact it can have.
The owner of the Niche Pursuits blog documents how he went “all in” on blogging last year — hiring 20 writers and editors, and producing over 800 blog posts in 12 months — and he saw a nearly 600% increase in traffic, which of course produced a huge increase in his revenue as well.
Seventy-one percent of bloggers surveyed list search engines as the most important traffic source for their blog, and that includes B2B businesses.
Search engine-optimized content tends to be evergreen, because that provides the best opportunity when ranking for keywords; in turn, evergreen content delivers more value over its lifespan than time-sensitive content, which is ephemeral and depreciates in value.
Typically, Google and other search engines are less capricious than social media algorithms. They don’t change the rules as often or as dramatically. If you do SEO well and don’t rely on trendy hacks, you have much more control over your SEO.
Long-Form Content that Hooks and Holds
We also know that potential customers who read, watch, or listen to long-form content are more likely to become a lead and a customer.
An older study by Hubspot showed that businesses with blogs saw 126% more leads than businesses who don’t. And Demand Metrics studies show that 80% of all internet users interact with blogs regularly.
But what really sold me was this internal study done by Content Hackers on whether long or short-form content was more effective at driving business:
Their study showed that not only did long-form content vastly outperform short-form content in driving leads and sales, it also resulted in happier customers.
Even if you’re not into blogging, the benefits of long-form content still vastly outweigh the benefits of short-form content. According to YouTube creator Mr. Beast, the world’s most followed YouTuber, says “if you get a billion views on TikTok, that’s only $1,000. YouTube [long-form] can make you $100,000 for a MILLION views.”
Obviously, his business model is pay-per-view, but it’s not unreasonable to extrapolate those same ratios to other business models — especially with the Content Hacker data to back us up.
Long-Form Content: The Key to Thought Leadership and High Ticket Sales
In just the last few months, the argument for or against blogging and long-form content in general has been dominated by the emergence of AI tools anyone can access.
While it’s true that AI can create vast amounts of content at breakneck speeds, the problem is whether or not any human will want to read or consume that content.
For me, AI might be a good tool to use during the creation phase, but it’s not going to replace original, “human created” content for thought leaders and businesses that have higher ticket offers yet — because it can’t.
Quality long-form content builds trust and expertise, and clients investing in higher ticket offers need a high level of trust to make larger investments. They don’t want to see the same kind of content that anyone else could produce (which is, by definition, what AI turns out).
Just like on social, long-form content is saturated, so it still has to be good, original content that’s somehow unique, interesting, or useful to your ideal client.
But the upsides are that long-form content is generally so much more evergreen and long-lasting than short-form social content, it can appreciate in value over time, bringing more and more leads and sales to your business.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity with Long-Form Content — and Outsource to Make It Even Easier
As you can see, creating quality content has become more important than ever. With so many businesses vying for the attention of consumers online, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. But long-form content automatically helps you stand out.
As Mark Schaefer, author of Marketing Rebellion, notes, “The good news is that great blogging still earns meaningful attention because it’s elite. If you blog, you’re accomplishing something 99.9% of the people in the world will never achieve. So be patient, hone your craft, and don’t give up.”
According to research, the average blog post takes just over four hours to create. And bloggers who spend six or more hours on each post are 50% more likely to see strong results. Additionally, bloggers who write articles that are 3000+ words long are 2.5 times as likely to see strong results.
But you may be thinking… “Who has time for that??”
That’s where outsourcing comes in. Sure, outsourcing requires a monetary investment — but the ROI you get from long-form content, coupled with the time savings you’ll see by letting a professional handle it, makes this a no-brainer investment.
The good news is that you probably already have some content assets that you can use and turn into quality long-form content.
- Podcasts or videos — can become amazing search engine optimized articles that not only drive additional organic traffic, but provide another avenue for people to engage, and an accessibility resource.
- Coaching calls or course materials — can become valuable blog posts that show you as an expert and provide valuable insights into your process for potential customers.
- Social media captions or emails — can be expanded to become engaging blog posts; and a bonus is that we already have a sense of which topics your audience find most engaging.
Creating more long-form content can be an effective strategy for businesses looking to improve their content marketing efforts. While it may require a greater investment of time and energy, the potential rewards can be significant.
The best outcome of creating long-form content is that you could see better results with less overall stress. And if you invest in support to outsource some of your long-form content creation, you may be able to achieve more significant results without having to spend as much time and energy on creating multiple shorter pieces.
On the other hand, the worst outcome would be if you try to implement this strategy without a clear plan or strategy in place. Without a plan, you may end up spending a lot of time and energy on creating long-form content but still not see a return on your investment.
By developing a clear strategy and focusing on quality over quantity, businesses can create long-form content that captures the attention of their target audience and drives real results.
The only thing stopping you is your own imagination. If you’ve decided that long-form content doesn’t work or that you can’t do it, I want you to ask yourself why. And is outsourcing an answer?
If you want to explore how our agency can help you create evergreen content assets for your business that increase in value over time and drive leads and sales, click here to book a call.