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Thought you had 3 seconds to tell a story? Forget it. You have way less.

Jan 24, 2023

There are many myths surrounding how to make effective content on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

But one of the greatest myths of all is the idea that you have time to tell a story, explains Rasmus Høgdall, former Creative Strategist at Meta.

Before being laid off in Meta's biggest-ever round of job cuts, Høgdall worked with companies, media agencies and ad agencies to help them make creative content that would perform better on Facebook and Instagram.

“Most people have heard that they have three seconds or six seconds to tell a story when in reality, in-feed you have around 1.4 seconds and in stories, you have 0.4 seconds. So we’re talking about speeds that are much greater than people believe which also means you have to completely change your approach to how you do creative work on the platform,” Høgdall says. 

Make thumb-stopping content

The very short amount of time has consequences for the creatives that brands need to produce. But Høgdall says that it might not be as bad as it sounds.

“It means that you need to create something that makes you stop and take notice. We call it thumb stopping. The idea being that you stop scrolling with your thumb. What is thumb-stopping content? Anything that makes me take notice and stay on it and then be delivered your message. That is the big thing that people need to change,” he explains.

According to Høgdall, what qualifies as a really good piece of thumb-stopping creative will vary greatly from brand to brand.

“Let’s take an example. You have a guy doing pull-ups in a gym and then you have 1.4 seconds. That ad could be Nike or Adidas. It could be Gymshark or Fitness World. But it could also be Jabra, which produce sport earphones. So if you don’t show the brand in the beginning and why it’s there, then people won't take notice of it. They’ll just continue down to something that interests them,« says Høgdall.

So you have to put your brand first to stop the thumb?

“At least if you want your brand noticed. Another way of doing it is using comedy or recognisable human expressions,” he says. “One example I often use is somebody about to sneeze with just a logo at the bottom. Because we know what happens when somebody sneezes, we understand the storyline quite easily, and that means we keep on watching because we want to know what happens when that sneeze comes.”

“The point is that there can be different hooks, you just need to find the one that works for your brand,” Høgdall adds.

Three different modes on Facebook and Instagram

But how do the high speeds with which audiences consume content affect the ability to build a brand over time?

“There are a couple of different ways to build a brand over time on the platforms. The first thing is to have the fundamentals in order, meaning understanding how people actually behave on the platforms,” he says.

According to Høgdall, people normally behave in three different modes on Facebook and Instagram:

1. On the go which is most of the time and are super short check-ins, where people scroll on their phone and put it back in their pocket. They’re not really checking but just noticing.

2. Lean forward which is when people are waiting for a cab or the bus, standing in line. They have a bit more time to dwell on things that they find interesting.

3. Lean back which is when people are at home second screening and maybe actually spending too much time on social media.

“You need to create content that fits all these modes. You can’t segment by them but you can make sure it’s on the platform when people are actually there,” he explains. “So it’s basically about creating both short-form and long-form content and then something interactive in the middle.”

Is it possible to generate sales?

One might then wonder if it’s actually possible to generate sales from these short ads. According to Høgdall, that very much depends. Not all brands need to generate sales from ads on Facebook or Instagram.

“If you’re selling sodas it might not be sales you need to generate because do people actually order sodas through Facebook? You might just need awareness. If you sell shoes then actually just showing the shoes and getting people to go to the shop is probably just what you need. A lot of lower-funnel stuff is like that. So there isn’t one conclusive way of doing it,” Høgdall says.

So, what should brands focus on when creating content for Meta’s platforms?

“If you don’t have to sell, then just make sure that you have awareness content that people actually want to dwell on. Remember to understand why they want to dwell on it and then understand that there is not just one reason why people buy a brand. People buy a brand for multiple reasons. So try to have an array of messages that people will buy into because there is not one message that fits all.”

Alexander Højfeldt Lund er Head of Writing hos det prisvindende content marketing-bureau Brand Movers. Han har været involveret i flere prisvindende content marketing-projekter, hvor han har haft det overordnede ansvar for tekstproduktionen. I Brand Movers leder han tekstafdelingen, der hver dag producerer indhold til store nationale og internationale kunder. Primært er hans ansvar at sikre høj kvalitet i alle tekster, der forlader bureauet og samtidig være katalysator for kreative løsninger og ideer til indholdsproduktionen. Alexander Højfeldt Lund er uddannet journalist og har arbejdet som journalist på Fyens Stiftstidende, redaktør på Jyllands-Posten og redaktionschef i det journalistiske produktionsselskab Media Movers. Den journalistiske baggrund præger Alexander Højfeldt Lunds tilgang til content marketing. Han er vild med de historier, som brands kan fortælle, men han går også meget op i troværdighed, og han insisterer på at udfordre de brands, han arbejder med. På den måde laver man det bedste indhold, mener han.

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