The latest update has now extended video length to 10 minutes. To quote writer Hunter Harris, “10 minutes is a damn tedtok.”
The move has been pitched as an opportunity for users to explore longform content and expand creativity while muscling in on the territory occupied by YouTube. For a platform known for shortform content, this seems like an uphill digital battle where TikTok will have to overcome user behavior and incentivize its creator community.
So how exactly does TikTok plan to get this right? Well, I asked, and a spokesperson didn’t quite have an answer for me (they simply directed me to the original announcement). So I did the next best thing and asked creators for their insights and thoughts.
“I just don’t know if that’s going to catch on because the incentive just isn’t quite there,” said G. L. DiVittorio, the creator of The Pocket Report, a satirical news show on TikTok. “The big difference between TikTok and YouTube is there’s a lot more financial opportunity on YouTube, and it’s much easier to monetize because the ads don’t have to be a direct part of your content.”
The Instagram feature struggled to replicate YouTube numbers. It didn’t launch with a clear monetization strategy; some users said it got in the way of mindless scrolling. Instagram later quietly folded IGTV into Instagram Video, and the stand-alone IGTV app is being shut down this month. Instagram then unveiled Reels, allowing users to upload videos of up to 60 seconds, and bolstered the feature with the “Reels Play Bonus,” a financial rewards program that pays out cash for views.
Creating longer content isn’t foreign to Austen Tosone, who has been on YouTube since 2017. As a fashion and beauty content creator who teaches other influencers how to optimize their platforms and make them profitable, she sees this as a chance to really put herself out there on TikTok.
“I think that it’s going to be a lot more seamless for TikTok to integrate up to 10-minute video content than it has been for YouTube to introduce Shorts just because of the nature of how the apps are set up,” Tosone told BuzzFeed News. “I’m excited about the possibility with longer content on TikTok because I have an audience on there and I just want them to get to know me better.”
But the 27-year-old from New York also feels that there have to be additional features to make it all worthwhile.
“My question for TikTok I guess, then, is if I’m creating a 10-minute video and I wanted to ultimately sell something at the end or pitch my consulting services, I can’t directly link within TikTok unless I say ‘link in bio,’” she said. “It’s not clickable, or even just [having] little call to actions like having a ‘subscribe’ button to pop up.”
She believes that if TikTok wants creators to offer up longer content, then the ability to produce such content has to be easier.
“Please give me desktop editing access. Otherwise, me trying to do that on my phone feels like such a big ask to actually make it engaging enough with all of the things that I would normally do in longform content,” Tosone said.
Samantha Boures, who manages media and influencer marketing at Book of the Month, told us that she’s taking a hands-off approach to the longer option, letting the influencers she works with guide her strategy instead.
“We really like to allow our partners to be as creative as they’d like in their integrations,” Boures explained via email. “So it is up to our partners if they would like to take advantage of the 10-minute update.”
Zaria Parvez, social media manager for language-learning app Duolingo, isn’t pressing the gas too hard on long TikToks just yet either, saying she’s also looking to influencers for inspo. “Personally, I see this feature being adopted by influencers and vloggers, but that’s not to say brands won’t follow suit,” she told us over email.
While Parvez told us that Duolingo doesn’t have plans to post long-form content in the immediate future, she said she’ll monitor how longer videos perform on the platform and keep an open mind, noting that the brand has always taken a “test and learn” approach to TikTok.
Natalie Held, a freelance social media manager, also told us she’s interested in how influencers lead the way on this update. “For influencers, I think this will challenge some of them into thinking outside the box and figure out how their niche can make the best use of this new time limit,” Held wrote over email.
Overall, the managers we spoke with think the extended length is a good move for TikTok from a business standpoint. According to Held, longer videos position TikTok as more of a direct YouTube competitor. (YouTube rolled out Shorts, its TikTok competitor, in 2020.)
“We’ve seen TikTok become a real leader in video content, especially after Instagram and Facebook created Reels,” she continued. Held said she’s interested in seeing Instagram’s reaction this time around.
“Overall, I think 10-minute TikToks are a good move for the long-term success of the platform,” Parvez shared, telling us the format option is “definitely a huge indicator that TikTok is trying to overtake YouTube” and become a “one-stop shop for all video content.”
But they’re curious to see how long videos affect content on the platform as a whole. “I’m interested to see how the dynamic of content creation changes on TikTok,” Held said, suggesting that the next era of TikTok could include more documentary, vlog-style, or long-form, storytelling.
“Right now, the first couple seconds of TikToks are crucial to captivating the viewer, so as a SMM, I’m interested in how watch time analytics will play out,” Held added.
Parvez told us she thinks long ‘Tok’s success will depend on how the videos are served. “This could be done through a separate content column in the UI where people can expect long-form content. It’s no secret that attention span has decreased and short form is king on the platform,” she said.
Held was arguably the most skeptical of the social media managers we polled about the future of longer TikToks. “While I’m interested and curious about all this, I’m also a bit fearful about platforming misinformation further, especially with what is going on with Russia and Ukraine right now,” she told us.
But Parvez pointed out that people were wary of TikTok’s three-minute video option when it came out, too. “People were initially skeptical of three-minute videos, but now I see myself and other users engaging well with the slightly longer content. People gravitate toward good content, regardless of its length,” she said.