I’ve had my fill of “experts” spouting their lists of hard and fast rules for social media, which they probably took from some generic marketing blog that, in turn, stole it from Hubspot, citing a “study” that their intern threw together with the scientific rigor of a Trump rally speech.

What I’m sick of the most is hearing about society’s chronically dwindling attention spans and the content length ceilings you don’t dare exceed—ceilings that seem to shrink every year.

Last I checked, we’re down to 20 seconds.

It’s not that I don’t believe that shorter videos are more likely to be watched all the way through. That’s so obvious it’s a bit silly to even call it an insight. It’s that we are using the correlation data on the macro level (shorter videos = more views) and thinking it translates to a meaningful result on the content level (does my video accomplish what I want it to do?).

We shouldn’t care about vanity metrics; we should care about results. And results come through reaching the right people with the right stories that resonate and create deep connection.

Attention is often called a currency. Through that lens, every view is an investment of a person’s precious time into your content, an investment they want a return on.

If your approach is to use a book of “best practices” to try and game the most people possible into relinquishing their attention to you, all you do is betray this value exchange and gain nothing but a number on a screen.

The real takeaway here is that telling an authentic and resonant story to 50 people is far better than hooking 500 hollow views with clickbait.

And while good stories can certainly be told in 5 or 15 seconds, there’s many instances when they can’t. Sometimes it takes 2 minutes. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s a 10-hour, 10-part mini-series.

Whatever shape it takes, get there organically. Don’t let best practices constrain you. And more important, don’t think knowing the best practices is what makes you a great marketer or social media strategist. Having the vision, creativity, empathy, and experience to rapidly make content that’s relevant and compelling to your audience, rules be damned, is what will make you great.

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