Consumers have access to more platforms and devices than ever before. Media consumption has changed dramatically, and the way brands connect with consumers is changing just as dramatically. What marketing tactics should companies adopt to address these changes? Which formats are winning audiences over the most? How to capture users’ attention for the time it takes to create a connection? One answer to all of these questions comes from “snackables,” short or very short content that is built to be consumed “in one bite” and to leave the memory of an unmistakable taste.
In this post, we will explain what lies behind the irresistible rise of short form content, and present an overview of the many benefits it can offer companies.
Content fruition is changing: a look at media consumption
The success of snackables cannot be fully understood unless we reconstruct the evolution of the demand for content and the response of those who produce that content. So let’s take a look at how global media consumption has changed in recent years.
According to research by PQ Media, the world’s leading provider of media metrics, the use of digital and traditional media channels has grown by 2.7% to close to 56 hours per week in 2022 (55.81 to be exact). The increase follows the sudden surge in 2020 (up 3.3%) and is framed within a largely pandemic-driven change of pace.
In essence, media enjoyment grew so rapidly in 2022 because it was fueled by the distribution of original content, the broadcasting of a number of major international sporting events (the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Winter Olympics in China, the World Hockey Championships in Finland), and media coverage of elections held in many of the top 20 markets (including US elections).
In the face of this undeniable growth, we must keep in mind that the social distancing measures imposed to counter the pandemic have actually disrupted an opposite trend that had characterized the global media economy until 2020: the reduced growth in online and offline content consumption in key segments. Among the main statistical evidence emerging from the survey by PQ Media, one area of particular interest is the one that predicts a return to a pre-pandemic situation and that we will reach a saturation point in the near future in terms of the use of traditional and digital devices.
The enjoyment of some media has already shown a slowdown in the second half of 2022, due to the macroeconomic challenges that individual countries are facing, including high inflation, continuing supply chain issues, obstacles to energy supply, rising interest rates, and fears of an impending recession. For some segments (especially those of middle- and lower-income), concerns about the future have resulted in cutting unnecessary consumption, and in particular reducing spending on media and entertainment, from books to streaming media, from digital devices to related content.
The new context of content fruition: some numbers
In the 2023-2027 Global Consumer Media Usage Forecast by PQ Media, some of the findings give us a sense of the context in which companies are expected to build their media presence, especially a digital presence and how complex and susceptible to change that context is.
- In 2022, consumers used media for nearly 8 hours a day (in 2017, this was just over 7 hours; in some markets, such as Japan, daily media use exceeded 12 hours a day).
- Over the past five years, digital media increased by 2% in total usage, with consumers now spending 35.3% of their time on digital channels (in 2017, the time was 25.5%; in four markets, including South Korea, digital usage exceeded 50% by 2022).
- Millennials use digital media for more than 23 hours per week, in the case of Gen Z digital use exceeds 50% (but in most mature markets this percentage holds true even in the case of Millennials).
- Mobile video recorded the highest gain among the 22 digital channels monitored by PQ Media, with an 18.6% increase in 2022, while OTT video is the most used digital channel with 7.27 hours per week (but only six digital media channels exceeded 10 percent growth during the year).
- Television, including streaming and over-the-top (OTT) digital video, remains the most used of the 11 media platforms monitored by PQ Media, with 27.78 hours per week consumed in 2022. Over-the-top (OTT) refers to internet transmission of content that users can enjoy without having to subscribe to a traditional or satellite service (i.e., they can watch content directly on their devices: tablet, phone, laptop, desktop, television, and so on). Included in the OTT category are streaming platforms such as Disney+ and Netflix, which experienced significant declines in 2022. As a result of lower-than-expected financial results, the platforms cut production expenses and, in order to monetize their more experimental activities, introduced other advertising-supported subscription tiers.
- Time spent by consumers on ad-supported media (“advertising-supported media”) reduced in 2022, settling at 53.7%, down nearly 5 percentage points (58.5%) from 2017.
- Traditional media usage remained stable in 2022 but is set to decline and no growth is expected to date.
This data clearly describes a picture where, net of the great opportunities offered, the competition for media and companies to gain the attention of their audiences becomes even hotter. The saturation point in device usage mentioned at the beginning of this post is getting closer, and the “gold rush” to capitalize on the shift to streaming in its many forms has proven to be a nonrecurring, short-term cyclical event, and if the opportunities for contact are multiplying, the average attention span of the audience continues to shrink.
Brands then find themselves having to do everything possible to keep engagement high and maximize loyalty. One of the most effective actions to achieve this goal is to reduce the time it takes to intercept an interest and establish a connection by developing a strategy that prioritizes content that is capable of being interesting at first glance and immediately understandable, that can be viewed on different platforms, and can be easily shared across multiple channels. As we will see, it’s not simply a matter of creating short form content as much as it is about providing users with messages that are able to stand out among others, be remembered, and be easily reused within their personal social agendas.
What is snackable content?
Snackable content is specifically designed for quick and efficient consumption, especially on mobile devices. Because of its special aptitude for reducing long, rich content into smaller, better “digestible” units, it can be used in a variety of formats. Today it constitutes one of the most promising elements of a content strategy, for use within websites, social media and apps. Snackable content can also be consumed on the go by users who are busy doing something else. Let’s look in detail at all the benefits of snackable content.
- They attract attention, keep users engaged, and encourage them to browse a website, explore an app, inquire independently about another brand channel, and click on calls to action to proceed down the funnel.
- They are easily shared on social media and other platforms. In this way, they amplify the reach of the brand message and help gain visibility and engagement.
- They are optimized for mobile devices. Therefore, they are perfect for contemporary users who are constantly on the move and have little time to spend on enjoying content.
- They help increase engagement. By providing clear and understandable information, snackable content encourages interaction and can play a decisive role in growing engagement (more likes, comments, shares, and click-throughs), enhancing the brand’s online presence, and ultimately getting more conversions.
- Ideal for audiences engaged in multiple activities at once. Long-form content is often incompatible with the hectic pace of contemporary life. Snackables, on the other hand, provide a practical alternative to the need for information, education, and entertainment for people who must continually contend with a chronic lack of time.
- They are adaptable to multiple platforms. Snackable content is versatile and therefore highly effective in a multichannel perspective. They can be adapted with respect to different platforms and different formats (as we will see: images, videos, social media posts, in-app stories, infographics). Because of this adaptability they are able to reach and differentiate multiple audience segments.
What are the formats of snackable content?
There are different types of snackable content that can be used to reach the target audience depending on the objective of your communication, the stage of the journey in which to place them, and the channels available
The main types of snackable content are in-app stories, GIFs, memes, and infographics.
- In-app stories. Short, engaging, and interactive messages used to illustrate an app’s features and personalized for each user. For example: a quick succession of screenshots with short, concise messages detailing the steps is perfect for onboarding new users, while personalized stories showing the user’s progress can help grow engagement with existing customers. In-app stories can also consist of interactive videos that enable purchase via direct click on a call to action.
- GIF. A GIF file is highly consumable. Because of its instantaneous and totally visual nature, it can go viral much more easily than other types of content. GIFs can include business-related information, instructions, or product or service previews. They are also useful for teaching users how to use an app or where to find a particular offer.
- Memes. Beloved content because it is capable of expressing lightning-fast humor, memes always pose a risk because they can be used with communicative intentions other than those intended by the brand and should therefore be handled with care.
- Infographics. They are widely used by marketers when there is a need to show multiple layers of information and large amounts of data. In fact, they can increase a company’s credibility by providing solid statistical evidence. At the same time, the most successful infographics are interesting to look at, enjoyable, entertaining, and even offer the possibility of building a real story through the data.
One item that is missing from this list is short form content, which is by far the most effective: it’s video, which deserves a dedicated section.
Short form video: the best format for snackables
Short-form videos (those that last no longer than 60 seconds) not only create compelling narratives, but are also perceived as more accessible because they allow anyone with a smartphone to become a creator. Companies that succeed in harnessing the potential of short-format video will gain the ability to greatly expand their communication and make it more centered at the same time.
According to HubSpot’s Social Media Marketing Report 2023:
- 33% of the more than 1,000 marketers surveyed plan to invest in short form video.
- Short-form video ensures the highest ROI and is set to grow again in 2023.
- 83% of marketers consider snackables their most effective format.
Short videos can tell many different kinds of stories. From the “behind the scenes” of a team at work on a project, to educational courses and tutorials, from interviews with company leaders to contributions from influencers talking about brands or products—snackables can make reviews, testimonials, and demos more informative and engaging.
Snackable videos can be made with different expressive techniques. In filming, they create a reality effect that lends credibility to the content shown and gives it authority; in animated graphics they are a great way to take very complex topics and convey technical information that might otherwise be boring or ambiguous in a way that is more immediate and understandable.
We have already talked about the minimum attention span that is getting shorter, especially for the younger generation. It’s not just a matter of poor ability to concentrate, but rather a quality that has been refined with the advance of digitization: the inclination to juggle several screens at once.
Millennials tend to bounce between three screens (smartphone, TV, laptop); Generation Z between five screens (smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and tablet). And in addition to bouncing between screens, new generations also bounce from one platform to another. Short-form content, especially if it is quick and “snackable,” can reach them anywhere, easily adapting to a smooth and frictionless type of communication.
Snackables, in conclusion, help target audiences become aware of a brand, product, or service. They are a strategic resource that companies must learn to use to establish and maintain valuable relationships over time with audiences that are becoming more aware and elusive by the day.