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We Ignore TikTok at Our Peril. The Short Video Format is the Key to Showcasing our Industry.

angry gorilla with small crown on head

If video is “king” in digital marketing, short videos are King Kong. And like the gigantic primate, they make a lot of noise. We see them everywhere nowadays. Our kids watch them. Our parents watch them. Even our pets watch them. Short video clips are the bread-and-butter of social media content, and their popularity continues to grow. The dramatic spike in TikTok consumption during the pandemic (up 75%) prompted Instagram and YouTube to launch their own spinoffs Instagram Reels and YouTube #shorts. The format’s ubiquity on social media puts these fun-size vids in front of almost every demographic world-wide. Consider these TikTok stats:

  • More than 1 billion videos are viewed each day on TikTok.
  • The platform boasts 689 million monthly active users.
  • Advertisers can reach 885 million users aged 18+.
  • The U.S. has over 150 million TikTok users alone.

Such numbers suggest we’re seeing a significant shift in social media consumption. It’s a shift that’s impacting every industry including ours. And, so far, it doesn’t look like many of us are taking advantage. I fear if we don’t adapt to popular content forms like short videos, we risk losing out on the advantages for our industry, which I believe are many.  

Despite the legitimate security concerns around specific apps like TikTok, we can’t ignore the power of the short video format to expand our individual brands and awareness of our industry in general. Besides, there are other video hosting platforms to choose from. It’s the form we need to adopt, not a platform.  

If you’re already onboard, read my 12 Short Video Categories for Creating Engaging Content, which tackles the hardest part of making short videos: coming up with effective ideas.

What’s a Short Video?

Definitions vary, but most marketing experts define a “short video” as anything under 60 seconds (I’ve also heard between 15 seconds to 10 minutes). The abbreviated length makes the content easy to digest so viewers can pick through quickly as if scanning an hors d’oeuvre platter. But “shorts” are much more than simply condensed videos. We must understand this to fully grasp their value.

Trend Factories

TikTok videos, #shorts, and Reels aren’t simply short videos; they’re trend factories. They offer collective experiences through viewer participation, which can include using specific songs, hashtags, challenges, or subculture references in their videos. Trends offer exclusivity. When consumers feel like they’re “in on” the reference, they will like and share more. In fact, it’s the sharing that validates this exclusive status. This is why it’s important for brands to be creators or participators of trends.

“Shorts are much more than simply condensed videos.”

At the same time, trends paradoxically offer connection. Despite appearances, short video audiences aren’t zombies passively scrolling. They’re active, selective, engaged, and connected with creators and brands. Any video trend is powerful because it provides connection with others who participate. Within these communities, brands can find plenty of potential or future consumers looking to connect with those who offer education, insights, laughs, authenticity, and participation.  

What We Get Out of Short Videos

Here are some of the benefits I see short videos bringing to our industry.

Easier, Cheaper Content

Shorts are cheap and easy to make. The “democratization” of video has lowered the cost and quality, but it’s also made it possible to create whenever and wherever. When YouTube began, anyone could publish, but you still needed equipment, software, and knowledge of how to use them. Today, everyone’s smartphone is a small video production unit. The platforms deliver filters, songs, and fonts for creators to make their videos standout or fit in as the case maybe. Brands are freer to experiment with different subjects and approaches, to iterate faster.           

Access to Younger Audiences

Most short video consumers and creators are young people. Almost 70% are between 10 and 39 years old. “But why would I want to sell a BMS to 15-year-old?” You wouldn’t of course, but that’s missing the point. Today’s young people are tomorrow’s consumers, and effective brands target younger consumers because it gives them more time to build a relationship. Appealing to younger demographics also helps our industry access young professionals for recruitment, something that affects us all.

Mass Appeal

As marketers and business owners we often get stuck in the myopic mode of defining buyer personas or “microtargeting” groups. However, we must remember the value of mass appeal. Brand affinity is slow and cumulative. It takes years and millions of interactions to gain the type of widespread brand recognition we desire. And every interaction has value, from a sales call to a passing glance at our logo. These “impressions” accumulate in the collective consumer consciousness to form our brands, how the public sees us, not how we see ourselves. Right now, short form video is the vehicle for mass brand exposure. 

“When it comes to social media, people don’t have to like your brand, they just have to like your video.”

Improving Our Image

It’s often lamented that “most people don’t know what we do.” Building management and controls are often pinned with the stereotypical label of “maintenance guy”. Moving onto newer social media platforms is an opportunity to educate the masses and refresh our collective brand. Too often, we believe the fallacy that it’s a waste of time courting the attention of a consumer who can’t or won’t buy from us. I say poppycock! When it comes to social media, people don’t have to like your brand, they just have to like your video. The positive connotations transfer regardless, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re 15 or 50.

Final Thoughts

Many of you may be thinking, “Short videos just don’t fit our industry. We have nothing to say.” Granted, the buildings industry doesn’t lend itself to short form video with the same ease as, say, Nike or McDonalds. We don’t have trendy products associated with reality stars or sports figures. We have networks, controllers, VAVs, chillers and boilers (Oh, I’m getting chills). However, what we do have is so much more effective and important. We have incredible people, big projects, interesting ideas, innovative companies, huge impacts, and a fascinating history. We deal with cutting edge tech. We push the boundaries of system integration. We impact people’s lives and create experiences. These are the perfect “products” for short videos. We have the ingredients to make good content, we just need the right form to communicate it.