Over the years we’ve written extensively on video length, and usually suggest keeping video content as short as possible, even suggesting 60 seconds as the ideal duration for a web video. And we’re not alone. Our friends over at Wistia have done on-going studies related to video length and consistently find that short videos perform better.
However, while we still believe that basic mantra holds true (the shorter the better), we also believe there is no “ideal length” for a video. Because as with most things, it depends. In order to help you determine the perfect length for your video, we’ve simplified the formula into 4 C’s.
Who is your customer? What do they care about? How much time do they have to spare? Are you selling to tech-savvy teens with hours to kill online, or time-crunched doctors? Is this a customer looking to make a buying decision, an employee watching a required training video, or a hobbyist interested in learning a new skill? If you’re not sure, do some research and find out. Understanding your customer, or intended viewer, is paramount to determining the ideal length for your video.
How much context do your viewers have? Are they coming into the video “blind” with little to no knowledge about the product or industry? If you’re trying to sell health insurance, a typically confusing product in a convoluted industry, it probably makes sense to spend some time educating your audience. However, if it’s already an established industry (e.g. web design or auto parts) you should be able to jump straight to the point and skip the background detail. Context is supremely important when considering what to say and what to leave out, so make sure you have a solid understanding of where your viewers are coming from and how much they already know (or don’t know).
How much content do you need to convey? And how much of that content is truly necessary to include in the video versus someplace else, like a web page, sell sheet, or email? In the explainer video world, we often think of content like a hook. It should be just enough to get the viewer engaged (hooked) and interested in taking the next step (e.g. requesting a quote, calling in, reading more). But at other times, the content may require a much longer video, like an internal training video that is required viewing for all employees. Something like that may run up to 5, 10, even 15 minutes, which is okay because of the intended use.
Branded content (also known as branded entertainment or advertainment), like this video for Red Bull, can often run long too. By telling a story and entertaining the viewer, you can keep viewers engaged for longer than you could if you were simply promoting or explaining a business, product or service. Branded video content is also a great route to take if you’re looking to create shareable videos.
Where is your video going? Your website, YouTube, an email, a presentation? The channel you use to promote your video is one more way you can start to determine just how long your video content should be. If most people are finding your videos on YouTube, they may have a little more time to kill, and you should be able to test some longer form content. However, if it’s going on your website or in an email, the people you’re targeting probably have limited time and need you to get to the point as quickly as possible. Fortunately with trade shows and presentations you usually have a captive audience, so while you certainly don’t want to bore anyone, you do have some flexibility to go longer if needed.
Unfortunately, knowing your customer, context, content, and channel will not give you an exact formula for determining your ideal video length, but it will give you a starting point and something to shoot for. As I mentioned earlier, no matter what you come up with for your 4 C’s, shorter is always better assuming you cover the necessary content and provide proper context.
Last but not least, determining a target video length on the front-end is just half of the equation. You also need to do some analysis once the video is live to figure out if you need to make any adjustments. Thankfully, most video hosting services (like Wistia) now offer video analytics, allowing you to see just how engaged viewers are and where during the video they’re dropping off. Use this data to edit your video, trim the fat, and optimize engagement.
Have any insights to share about your own videos and how they’ve performed? Maybe some surprising facts or figures? Do let us know in the comments!
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