On the hard court, the NCAA March Madness front-runner is clear: Kentucky stands out without a doubt.
In social media, however, March Madness doesn’t seem to have a winner.
Every year, I scour the web looking for the best trends in platform usage, user behaviors and content on social media during the NCAA’s annual college basketball tournament. But this year, there were no major “trends” at all—just one giant glob of short-form content.
This should come as no surprise to fans, with GIFs, Vines and Instagram videos saturating the sports world more and more every day. At the same time, it’s remarkable that this year’s tournament has maintained last year’s level of hype and popularity with good-ol’-fashioned online conversation and short-form content.
Why does short-form content pair so perfectly with sports? It’s simple: Highlight reels featuring fleeting moments in time—both on and off the field—are the coin of the realm in sports coverage.
The most recent famous example of a moment brought to life is March Madness’s Sad Piccolo Girl. Lasting only seconds on live television, this clip soon became a viral sensation on Instagram, Vine, Tumblr and beyond. Short-form content allows us to encapsulate these highlights in a format that we can easily watch and rewatch again and again.
It’s not just young people doing it, either. This year, Snapchat inked a deal with Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA to provide access to user-generated content (aka “snaps”) created throughout the tournament. In return, Snapchat reportedly will allow livestreaming during the Final Four, offering a way for users to tune-in on the go.
While the obvious implication is related to second screen viewing habits, the more interesting story is Snapchat’s attempt to convert its 200+ million monthly active user base (built, notably, on the appeal of short-form content) into long-form media viewers.
Brands are creeping onto new-ish short-form platforms like SnapChat and Vine, but are still trying to perfect the delicate balance between providing value versus staying on-brand. GoPro struck this balance nicely with its Instagram video featuring trick shot king David Kalb, creating entertaining content without over-the-top branding.
We look forward to seeing more understated but effective pieces as we enter the Final Four this weekend.
What was your favorite piece of short-form content from this year’s tournament? Here’s mine.