How Long Should a Video Be?

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9-10-2013 | By: Ben Cecil

In a recent post, I discussed some steps to help you build a video strategy, instead of just looking to do some video.

One important component in any video content strategy is video length. There's a lot of stats, blogs, etc. out there that present a one-size-fits-all guide to this.  But hold on. When discussing video length, what we're really asking ourselves is:  Will viewers(prospects) watch enough of the video to drive them to the next desired action?

Many, if not most viewers(prospects) will not watch your video all the way to the end.  Not going to happen.  Sorry.  Just the nature of the thing.  Facebook, Tumblr, email, phone calls, kids, bosses, etc. are always just the blink of an eye away.  Not to worry.  "Video abandonment" isn't necessarily a bad thing.  If a prospect has seen enough and is ready to move on to more content or to fill out a contact form, that's good, right?

Anyways.  There is a lot of  hard data out there about video length.  It will tell you that at about :30 seconds your audience will be eroding at the rate of 30% every 15 seconds and that if they're still hanging around by about the 1 minute 15 second mark, you've got a good shot at keeping them until 2 minutes. So, after reading those stats, many of us will think that really short is best.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Those stats represent an "average video."  Unless you're planning on producing an amalgam of every online video out there, you're going to need to interpret those stats carefully.  You need to consider the process by which your targets finds your video.You need to consider the process by which your targets finds your video, the context in which they watch it and their state of mind when they click play.  Here's some Q's & A's to help you break down your opportunity:

1. How did they(prospects) get to your online video?  The more interest they've shown(clicks, opt-ins), the more invested they'll be because your content will be more relevant to them.  This might mean you have more latitude when it comes to video length.  Also, the deeper in your website the video is, the more latitude you might have, but this is a very very rough guideline.

2. How specific or niche is your video content?  The more narrow the appeal of the topic, the more relevant it will be to those who seek out the video.  Definitely gives you more video length latitude.

3. Is your message or brand in the pleasure category?  Pleasure brands include companies like the local bike shop, car clubs or even funny videos on YouTube.  People love watching them... from start to finish.  Trouble is, most of us aren't marketing "pleasure brands."

4. How important is the content to your viewer?  Be honest about this. I know of a fertility clinic in California that uses a lot of online video.  Each video is about 17 minutes long and each video is viewed almost in its entirety.  I'm pretty sure you can guess why.  Important topics to those needing that kind of service.

5. Is your video a narrative or real content?  I know this is more about messaging, but you should consider it when thinking about length.

Is your video a "how to?"  Is it a demo?  Does it tell a story? If your video's ending is key to the overall message, then viewers may stay longer but don't take this for granted.  Keep it relevant and concise.  Never hold viewers hostage. (for more on messaging, see our article on Telling a Story with Video) The bottom line:  video length guidelines should be set based on viewing context and not solely by business category or content objective.

If you find yourself unsure, just put yourself in the viewer's shoes and be honest.

Don't be afraid to fail.  Above, I warned you that many viewers will not view your videos in their entirety.  That sounds like a warning about failure.  Not necessarily.  I think most of us would agree that a bad lead can be more costly than no lead at all.  If the prospect wouldn't hang around to finish a 1 minute video, then they weren't a prospect... yet.


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Ben Cecil

Ben is UPG's Strategy Director and has been crafting video campaigns for more than 10 years. Before UPG, Ben spent 7 years in local television, helping cultivate, deploy and measure branding efforts on broadcast and new media platforms. Ben hates boring video and loves chasing around his 2 year old son.

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