How Long Should a Video Be? 5 Things to Consider

Jeff Pelletier

Jeff Pelletier

Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of Basetwo Media, a video production agency in Vancouver that helps businesses get results with video.

how long should a video be

How long should a video be, and is there an ideal length? This is something we get asked quite often but, unfortunately, the answer isn't as simple as one would hope.

It's tempting to simply say that "shorter is always better", especially for videos of a promotional nature, but can a video be too short to be effective? How long is too long, anyway?

Forget about a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are 5 things to consider instead.

1. What is the purpose of the video?

A commercial is obviously quite different than a training video and should generally be kept much shorter. But increasingly, educational videos are being used in online content marketing with the goal of generating leads and ultimately increasing sales.

Educational videos tend to perform well on YouTube and many marketers use video to educate customers about their company's products and services. It may take a little longer to explain something in sufficient detail for the video to be useful which is okay, provided the viewer was prepared for a lengthy tutorial.

Some studies have shown that average viewer retention rates tend to be roughly the same for online videos around 3-4 minutes in length as 5-10 minutes, but that viewers decide within the first 30 seconds whether they will continue to watch the rest of the video - a clear indication that expectations matter.

2. What action do you hope the viewer will take?

If having your video be shared is your goal, then shorter still isn't always better. In fact, according to ReelSeo.com "many of the new statistics point to videos that are longer than 2-3 minutes are shared more often, possibly because there is more time for your audience to have a more emotional connection resulting in them forwarding the link to other people." The Kony 2012 documentary is a good example of this.

Having said that, if your call-to-action requires that the viewer actually makes it to the end of the video, then you may want to keep it shorter and with a fairly abrupt ending. If you drag it out, they'll get the indication it's over and may stop watching prematurely.

Read more: 3 Indications Your YouTube Video Is Too Long

3. How captive is your audience?

A good staff training video can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours in length. Provided that the video is sufficiently engaging and that your staff is getting paid to watch, then they of course will.

Now compare this with a scenario where someone stumbled upon your video on YouTube. With the distractions of email, Facebook, and other suggested videos on YouTube itself, your video would have to be fairly concise and very engaging.

Consider how your viewers will come to watch your video and shape its structure and length accordingly. If you have a captive audience who is expecting to see an in-depth presentation, you can afford to go into much more detail and perhaps at a slower pace. Otherwise, keep it brief.

Read More: Should You Host on YouTube? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions First

4. Is all of the content necessary?

As powerful as it can be, there are many times when video might not be the best solution. If you find yourself trying to ‘convert’ existing content (such as a Power Point presentation) into a video, as opposed to developing it naturally, it’s a strong indication that you might be headed in the wrong direction.

Video tends to work best when an idea would be better communicated using a visual and audio element or perhaps animation to be interesting or understood, instead of trying to summarize an entire document or webpage in a single video.

Take a hard look at your script and think about what information might be better conveyed in a separate document or webpage for those who may be interested in learning more. If it doesn't directly support the key message and call-to-action, then cut it!

Read more: When (Not) to Produce a Video

5. Would this be better as a series?

Scripts can often start out brief and engaging until other well-intended stakeholders provide their own input. A brief company overview video can quickly become a detailed description of every product or service the company offers, as well as a recruitment campaign for new staff and an on-boarding video for employees - a 2-3 minute video becomes a 15 minute epic.

Then what? With some of the above considerations in mind, producing a series of shorter, more targeted videos might be a solution.

Producing a series of videos needn't be much more expensive than a single presentation. Economies of scale may be introduced by re-purposing footage and motion graphics, and with video being very 'modular' by nature, these alternate versions may be created at any time.

To learn more about strategies for your own video marketing, contact us for a consultation.

Contact us for a free consultation.
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