Choosing the Optimal Video Length
As a video production agency, we have clients ask us all the time how long their video should be. In the last few years, with the rise of social media and the fall in our attention span, there’s certainly been a move towards shorter content. While we wouldn’t disagree with the effectiveness of shorter videos, it’s all relative. The length of a video very much depends on the content, the audience, where it will be viewed and why, among other factors.
If this blog is on the lengthy side for you (ironically) the key takeaway should be that shorter is often better but that your content should be the leading factor. Trim the message down as much as possible while still delivering a coherent and concise message. Your video’s objective comes before everything and will hugely impact decisions on length, distribution and many style elements. Stick with us if you want to discover the optimal video lengths for a variety of social platforms, specific marketing objectives and video types.
Video Length Guide - Free Download
Video Types & Objectives
Your Marketing Funnel
At the very beginning of discussions around video content you should start considering what platforms you want to share the video on as this can hugely alter the length of your content.
All platforms will have limits on video length which might make the decision for you! Save yourself the hassle of searching far and wide for each platforms video length limits, we’ve got them all right here in our Social Media Video Length Guide. A lot of the maximum video lengths will probably surprise you. Be honest, did you expect Facebook ads to allow videos up to 240 minutes? There’s a reason why these figures are surprising and it’s that you’ve probably never seen a 240-minute long video ad on Facebook, let alone sat and watched one all the way through.
So what video length would you sit and watch?
With social media video lengths there are two main things to consider; how long a viewer on that platform is likely to commit to watching a video (or how long they’ll give your video a chance to entice them to keep watching) and the mysterious algorithms that the platform use to decide what content gets time to shine. The latter is more complex to navigate as these algorithms change all the time and are often not made public knowledge. These algorithms would warrant their own extensive guide, so for this article we’re going to focus on the former.
Optimal video length: 15 seconds - 3 minutes
We appreciate that there’s a big difference between the time scales above, bear with us here. Where your video falls within this spectrum relies very much on the purpose of the video.
Facebook themselves have stated that it’s a misunderstanding that only short videos work well on their platform. Instead of pulling your hair out trying to make your company explainer video 15 seconds, it’s all about the length making sense for your content and ensuring that viewers are engaged and left wanting to hear more from you.
As a general guide, keep your Facebook marketing video under the one minute mark if you’re looking for quick conversions (and the message can be effectively delivered in that time). Brand awareness videos can also be effective while short, working to quickly reinforce your brand in your audience’s mind with powerful visuals.
For videos with a more substantial story to tell you can start to see video length creeping up to, or even over, the 3-minute mark. Facebook actually recommends this, as long as the video content is right. These longer videos tend to be informative - think product demo or case studies - and used within highly targeted campaigns.
Optimal video lengths:
IG story: 1-7 15 second cards
Grid video: up to 60 seconds
IGTV: 2-5 minutes
IG story will divide your video into 15-second cards, so it’s important to consider this when you’re planning an IG story video. Each card should have one clear message, while the entire story should include a clear call to action (CTA). Buffer analysed 15,00 Instagram stories and found that 1-7 cards is the optimal posting length (when looking at completion rates). However, quite astonishingly they found that top accounts that post 20 or more cards still achieve a 55% or greater completion rate, demonstrating how engaging those enticing Instagram stories can be.
For grid videos, you’re limited to quite a strict 60 seconds which will probably make the decision easier for you when considering how long your video should be. The important thing here is how you package your video. Select an enticing thumbnail which will stand out in your grid and the explore page. Most users will have their feed on mute so utilise text or captions to ensure your content is accessible and your video’s key messages aren’t lost.
The introduction of IGTV in 2018 opened the door to much longer video content on Instagram, allowing users to post videos that are up to 10 minutes long*. However, businesses should use this additional time wisely as Instagram users aren’t the most patient and will be looking for the instant gratification that we get from this type of platform, not long boring descriptions or content that takes a long time to get to the point.
*If your account is verified, Instagram will allow you to upload long-form video content up to 60 minutes, however, this does have to be uploaded from a computer.
Optimal video length: 30 seconds
If you’re looking to reach professionals while they’re in a working mindset, LinkedIn is the unrivalled social platform for you. Following an internal study, LinkedIn recommends keeping brand awareness and consideration videos below 30 seconds and to test longer-form content to tell a more meaningful story, establish an emotional connection or impart knowledge.
LinkedIn have put together a useful resource with video ad tips, from choosing your video campaign objective to testing an optimising your videos.
Video Types & Objectives
The list of video types and objectives could be endless, so we’ve narrowed it down to the most common marketing videos we see day in and day out.
If you’re not familiar with explainer videos you may be expecting a longwinded, highly descriptive video which painstakingly explains a company or product.
Well, think again.
Explainer videos work best when they’re short and sweet. We’re talking 60 - 90 seconds generally. They should aim to summarise your business pitch in a fun, witty and memorable way which leaves viewers wanting to continue engaging with you. Getting the mix right between educational and entertaining is important. Explain what your company offers, what problem it solves for your customers and why your solution is the best in the market. Animation tends to be the video style of choice for explainer videos, allowing you to represent all manners of concepts with icons, characters or abstract visuals.
Interviews (also known as talking heads in the industry) are one of the video types that tend to fall into the longer end of the spectrum. Given their nature, they’re often given by an influential person within your company to dispense their expertise, communicate an important message or share their experiences on specific subjects. Because this information is usually in-depth it will often require more time to do it justice and avoid feeling rushed.
The video length will entirely depend on the message being given and the content delivered by your speaker, however, don’t worry if it ends up as long as 6-9 minutes, or more. This does tend to restrict which platforms this type of video is best suited to, however, any good production agency will be able to edit a video to repurpose it for social platforms that demand short content.
Your audience are probably quite invested by the time they sit down to watch a testimonial video, and it might be all they need to convince them to click ‘Buy’. At this point all of the important USPs have been covered and viewers are just looking for that final bit of reassurance that you’re trustworthy, and they’re looking for confirmation from previous customers. Therefore, testimonial videos can assume prior knowledge of the product and remain quite short, generally under 60 seconds.
If your product or service is more complex, you may opt for a case study over a short testimonial video in order to fully demonstrate the capabilities and benefits of your solution from someone with significant experience of using it. Case studies, therefore, tend to be longer-form video content in the region of 5 minutes or more.
You’ll remember us saying in the Facebook section that brand awareness videos work well when kept short and powerful. Create a video that is visually impactful and compliments your established brand so that it is instantly recognisable and reinforces your brand's distinctive identity. You’ll likely not need much more than 60 seconds, meaning it can easily be shared across lots of platforms.
For crowdfunding videos, you’ll have lots of essential information to fit into what is essentially a pitch. You need time to introduce, lay the foundations, run through features and really sell the value of your solution. Therefore you won’t be hitting the super short video lengths of the likes of Instagram ads or YouTube bumper ads. Generally you’ll want to aim for around 5 minutes, however, the thing to remember is to keep your video as short as your message allows. There’s no point cutting out essential information for the sake of shaving off 10 seconds if the video then doesn’t flow and tell your story.
Check out our blog ‘Crowdfunding Videos that get Investment’ for the industry secrets to producing powerful crowdfunding videos that drive action.
The length of your training video is very much going to come down to the content of the training. Obvious right? There aren’t really any rules with this one as you have the benefit of a captive audience (as in, they have to complete the training, not that they’re literally being held captive…we hope). Ensuring all essential information is included is much more important than length here so take time in pre-production and scriptwriting to make sure all of the bases are covered and that information is presented in an order that makes sense.
Of course, it can be beneficial to break down training content into bite-size pieces to make the information more digestible for viewers. This works particularly well for interactive staff training which pauses to quiz employees about what’s been covered at the end of each section.
Your Marketing Funnel
Another factor to consider is where the video fits within your super-optimised and refined marketing funnel (check out our free guide ‘Enhance your Marketing Funnel with Video’ which explores video’s role within your marketing funnel in more detail).
When developing video content it can be helpful to consider the time prospective customers are willing to invest in your content at each stage of the marketing funnel. At the start, they’ll have very little time. We hate to say it but at this point you’re one of possibly thousands of voices all shouting for their attention. As they get to know you they’ll be happy to devote more time to investigate what it is you’re offering and build trust. Once this trust has been established and they move further down the funnel, the time they spend on your content will start to shorten again as they finalise their decision.
This will impact the type of content you want to use at each stage. While it’s tempting to throw every little detail at prospective clients right away, this isn’t what they want. Instead of featuring long case studies on your landing page, consider featuring key product features in an easy to digest format (what’s that you say, like a video?) If they’re interested they’ll move on through to the next stage where loads more content will be waiting for them.
Let your script guide your video length. However, your script should go through a few rounds of amends, ideally by at least a couple of different people so that you can get a fresh perspective. Even better, share your script with someone who knows nothing about the contents of your video. They’ll be able to feedback on whether the messages you want to convey are actually delivered clearly and succinctly.
As a general rule of thumb, 150 words will equal 1 minute of video. This will vary slightly for different reading speeds.
See what works best for you
Monitor your videos analytics to assess what works best for you and your target audience.
How you monitor success will depend on your video’s marketing goals. Sales, leads, signups, etc. are all clear indications of the success of a video campaign and a great way to track ROI.
If your objective is more along the lines of brand awareness, you’ll be more interested in reach and engagement. Video engagement will give you a nice idea of how many people meaningfully engaged with your video, instead of just scrolling past. Video engagement is typically represented by the percentage watched of the video (e.g. 90% = on average, viewers watched 90% of your video), giving you a good idea of how long people have stuck around to watch your video.
Check out our blog ‘Measuring the Success of your Video Campaign’ to discover how to effectively measure how well your video is performing.
We’ve touched on this before but it’s worth noting again that you do have the possibility to cut up long-form videos into bite-sized content for platforms that suite shorter content.
It’s a great way to get more mileage out of the original video and is always a cost-efficient way to generate more content and reach a bigger audience. This extends beyond video length, a good production company will be able to edit your video to fit other platform specifications such as aspect ratio, resolutions, file type, etc.
Now you’ve got an idea of how long your video should be, let’s get creating it! Our in-house team of producers, directors, animators and motion designers are on-hand to work as an extension of your marketing team to handcraft the perfect video for your message and audience. Get in touch with us today.