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Every Second Counts: Why Video Length Demands Your Attention

Graphic image of a computer showing video length.
Larry Lubin   Tue November 20, 2018

When discussing the ideal length of a video, the majority of marketers will say that “less is more”. On the flip side, others will say that depending on your goals, it’s better to have more than less. Regardless of the approach, more or less will always be a question when filming videos of the right length. 

It’s vital to acknowledge the importance of choosing the right timeframe for a video. Do not leave this to chance. Duration has a significant impact on a video’s performance. In fact, your video’s length can be its greatest strength (or weakness).

But how do you know when it’s time to fade to black?  

What the Experts Say

There are differing schools of thought when it comes to choosing the ideal video length, but there’s a consensus among the pros - the shorter the better (but we’ll counter this later). All social media platforms and video hosting sites have their own best practices regarding optimal length, but in general, they seem to favor shorter uploads (usually for the purpose of browser optimization).

Hubspot’s Findings

  • Instagram (30 seconds) - Hubspot’s best-received Instagram videos clock in at 26 seconds.
  • Twitter (45 seconds) - Hubspot’s best-performing videos on Twitter run for 43 seconds.  
  • Facebook (1 minute) - Hubspot’s most-engaging videos clock in at 1 minute.
  • YouTube (2 minutes) - Hubspot’s top-performing videos on YouTube run for about 2 minutes.

This may seem intimidating at first, especially for those of you who absolutely need to publish longer videos. But we’ll break down why this isn’t something to stress about in a bit.

Video Adages From AdAge

  • Marketers have just 10 seconds to capture and engage an audience before they scroll down or click away
  • If there’s no engagement after 30 seconds, 33% of viewers will likely stop watching
  • If there’s no engagement after 1 minute, 45% of viewers will likely stop watching
  • If there’s no engagement after 2 minutes, then 60% of viewers will likely stop watching

The numbers might certainly seem discouraging. You might feel like your video marketing strategy is a losing one if your videos are longer than 1-2 minutes, especially in this era of short attention spans. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Even though short videos may seem favorable, they’re not the end-all and be-all of video content.

Video Length Isn’t About Time, It’s About Purpose

Before we debunk the “less is more” myth, let’s focus on the one factor which determines video length - purpose. Every video used for marketing must have a specific purpose - it must somehow serve a business or communication objective. And depending on what those goals are, some videos will naturally be shorter or longer.

4 C’s Of Video

  • Customer - Ultimately, your ideal customers will have unique video preferences including the length of a video. Some will only give you a minute of their time, while others will set aside 10 minutes or more to watch your content.
  • Content - This one is important. What you discuss or showcase in your video will correlate with length as well. For example, it’s common sense to expect a story or demo to take much longer to show than a funny gag.
  • Context - This aspect is a bit trickier to nail. When discussing context, we’re referring to your audience’s relationship with your brand and content production. Long story short, your audience will be more receptive to just about anything you upload if they are devoted fans of your product or service.
  • Channel - As mentioned above, on some sites, whether they’re social media or video hosting platforms, videos with certain lengths will perform better than others.

Short vs Long

Now here’s where things get interesting. We all know with attention spans shrinking faster than ever, it’s clear that audiences have a preference for shorter videos. The performance metrics prove it.

However, if you were to graph video performance, the line would like an upside-down “u” curve. Why? The shorter videos, especially those on popular social media sites would perform the best, and the more medium length ones would show the lowest engagement rates.

The longer ones, however, would show an engagement level on par with shorter ones. In fact, one study from Tubular Insights shows that YouTube’s top performing videos run at a length of 15 minutes (or more). Another study from BuzzSumo shows that the engagement of Facebook Live Streams reaches an apex when those videos hit the 15-16 minute mark.

The lesson? Longer videos can still attract and retain a large viewership. What ultimately determines the success of your video content (whether it’s a short or long video) is the strategy behind the video itself, not just its duration.

Using Video Length Effectively

The best way to make use of your videos effectively is to put the right content on the right platform. If you think of these two elements early in the production process, you’ll find it easier to pick an appropriate length. For example, Facebook and YouTube are great examples of how a platform can use varying video lengths.

Facebook Length Limit

  • Facebook Live Streams - Great for video content that’s in the 10-15 minute range. This is especially great for much-anticipated events and performances.
  • In-Feed & Stories - These three types of videos are best reserved for content that’s 20-90 seconds long (Facebook Stories can only be 20 seconds long). This is ideal for quirky and humorous videos that showcase a B2C product or service quickly.
  • Video Covers - Now if you’re really savvy, you can use video covers to your advantage thanks to their power of illusion. Although they have a maximum runtime of 20 seconds, they loop automatically, giving the impression that they’re longer than they are. Use this wisely!

YouTube Length Limit

  • Regular Videos - As we mentioned above, two-minute videos perform the best. Two minutes can work well for quick product demos, company announcements and quick explainers.
  • Live Broadcasts - Just like Facebook, live broadcasts have more leeway when it comes to video length. Longer live videos are better tolerated among audiences, but you’ll have to experiment to see what length works best for a live broadcast.
  • Instruction & Storytelling - Now if you’re filming an in-depth video, perhaps a detailed tutorial or a documentary or branded film, please don’t squeeze such content into five minutes. The nature of these videos naturally lends itself to long run times. After all, no one complains that their favourite Netflix shows or movies are too long! Also, keep in mind that personalized videos can be a bit longer since customers will engage more with content that addresses their specific needs directly.

About the author: Larry Lubin

As original founder, Chairman and CEO of Fitech, now part of CGI, Larry began innovating in sales, software development, and financial services. Many leading applications for Financial Institutions including the Reality Check™ series for Scotia Bank were developed by Larry and his Fitech team. 

His vision of an optimized and fully integrated sales and customer experience that leverages the power of technology is at the heart of every solution today. 

In September of 2003, BlueRush was created with the mission to create the ultimate customer experience. BlueRush currently works with many of North America's leading financial services, healthcare and consumer packaged goods companies.

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