Someone once asked Honest Abe: “Mr. Lincoln, how long do you think a man’s legs should be?”
Lincoln replied: “Long enough to reach the ground.”
In general, that’s how long your content should be: long enough to reach the ground point it’s making. Whether that means a tweet or War and Peace will depend on the circumstances.
Still, a LOT of people wind up biased in favor of long-form content. It can be a professional bias, like an SEO focus (RITE MOAR KEEWURDS plz) or a background in long-form content (got me). It can be a business bias, like the aftertaste of prior successes or C-Suite hunger for subject-matter credibility.
And if it’s not a preference for long-form, it can be a prejudice against short-form… you know, “those dang kids and their Tweetergrams” type of stuff.
Regardless—if it’s a known bias, let’s address it. Two big things to clear up:
First, let’s separate the fact from the fiction in one common confusion. It is true that long-form content can be used at every stage of the sales funnel. However, it is false to over-generalize and claim that any single piece of content can be long-form if you want it to be. Enough said.
Second, let’s remind ourselves what we’re doing here as content marketers. We’re trying to stand out AND we’re trying to provide value—so it naturally follows that content marketers want to provide stand-out value, whether that means the content is exceptionally good or sufficiently unique.
But let’s get more concrete. What should content be DOING?
Remember that content must be the solution to a problem. You should always be thinking about the search intent leading people to your content, even if you know nothing about SEO and even if you’re not making a play for organic traffic. Search intent matters because it isn’t just a Google invention; it’s the motive of a real person looking for a solution which you can provide. (So technically, search intent is the reason Google exists in the first place.)
It’s correct to observe that Google is a gatekeeper standing between brand content and potential readers. But it’s a mistake to try and please Google instead of the readers; in truth, you won’t please Google unless you can please the readers.
So if you’re wondering whether content should be long-form, ask yourself:
1️⃣ What problem am I trying to solve for the audience, exactly?
2️⃣ Is this a simple problem or a complex problem?
3️⃣ What kind of solution does the audience want/need for this problem?
After that, if you’re not certain that long-form is the answer, try something short and save yourself some time. 🤓