The world of online video changes daily as does the average viewer’s attention span.
Videos need to be shorter, snappier, and flashier than they were yesterday.
So how long should your video be? One minute? Two, three, ten? The answer is different for every video and is one of the first questions to ask when deciding what kind of video to create and where you plan to publish it. (For example, Instagram videos can only be up to 60 seconds.)
The easy answer is... the shorter, the better.
As a little experiment, go watch some YouTube videos and note the time where you felt the urge to turn it off. You might be surprised.
People get bored easily and when a viewing platform like YouTube shows a viewer that your video is ten minutes long and the other suggested video next to it that covers similar content is only two minutes, which would you choose? That’s not to say you can’t have a ten-minute video; it just has to be better than the two-minute video.
Let’s say you want to make a video for your business and let’s go through a few options and what would be an appropriate length.
- For a commercial format, think short. 60 seconds is forever in the commercial world. Think about all those times you’ve wanted to skip an ad on YouTube but panicked when you couldn’t and saw the ad was 60 seconds long. You want something closer to 30 seconds for a straight-forward “buy my product” or “call me” kind of ad and it should grab the viewer’s attention in the first five seconds. I also recommend you make something funny and have some memorable or brand-able element. I’ll talk more about this in other articles.
You should also keep in mind that for most videos used as ads on YouTube, viewers have the ability to skip that ad after five seconds, which means your content needs to jump right to the good stuff in the first five seconds.
- For something like a “Website Explainer” or any video that will go on your site and give people a better idea about what services you provide, you should still keep it short at a maximum of around three minutes, but there’s some wiggle room. The reason is that people have come to you already interested in your or your service and they want to learn more. They want to get to know you before they pick up the phone to visit your contact page. People don’t want to take chances on unknowns anymore, so vetting you by watching your explainer video is a great way to do that anytime they want. For you, it’s a way to pitch your services while you sleep.
- For an educational format, such as a how-to or “tips and tricks” style video, you get much longer, even up to ten minutes is pretty standard these days. If you plan to educate people on how to maintain their bathroom fixtures or tackle tough mildew problems, etc., people are willing to sit through much longer videos because they have an active need for that information. It also demonstrates your knowledge in the field and establishes trust in you and your business.
The basic idea is whether or not you have a cold or warm audience for your video.
A cold audience has no idea or interest in you, and to get through to them, you need clean, snappy, and short. A warm audience has shown interest in your service by reaching out, visiting your site, or looking for the information you provide. Sometimes, you even have a captive audience at an event such as a fundraiser gala where your professionally made video will play on a large screen. In those cases, you get much more time, but don’t take that for granted.
The last thing you want to do is bore your viewer. That doesn’t mean you need flashing text or bright color explosions to keep their attention; they’re not toddlers. However, you do want to keep them as entertained as they are informed. How you do that is up to you, or if you’re unsure, people like me can help you develop your strategy. Never cultivate your idea in a bubble, or I guarantee it will pop.
As an exercise, try coming up with a few different ideas for videos about yourself or your business at various lengths, such as 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 10 minutes. If you decide you want to produce any of those ideas, jump to my next article: "10 Questions You Need to Answer Before Creating a Video."