How Long Should A Video Be?

clockOne question that a lot of you may be asking when it comes to marketing and using online videos for doing this is how long your videos should be to maximise your ROI? (ROI means return on investment, in case you didn’t know.)


Obviously, the most effective video is one that people watch all the way through. Watching to the end means that a viewer is clearly interested in your message and will have taken in everything that you want to say.  Sometimes, you may not get a financial return on your investment for a while if you’re a business but don’t forget that every interested viewer who knows your name and associates you with a positive experience is likely to turn into a buyer at some point.  In the case of a non-governmental organisation or a political party, the “return” is likely to come in the form of voters and supporters – or even people who are more aware of an important issue and who have learned to care about it.


OK, so how long should your videos be so you can (a) get your message across with enough depth and (b) not bore your viewers or waste their time?  Truth be told, things are changing these days and people are a lot more willing to watch longer content than they used to – just look at the rising popularity of Netflix and all those online movie sites/channels.  Yes, we all know that people are in a hurry and are a little more time-poor.  However, we also know that when people do chill out and relax (or fill in time on the bus or commuter train), they often prefer watching things on mobile devices or on their laptops rather than on the good old TV set.  For these people, as long as you’ve got their attention and have the sort of content that they love, it won’t matter how long your video is, as long as it’s compelling and interesting.


However, not everybody wants to watch a huge long video. If you’re a teenager checking out Instagram or SnapChat in between classes at school, or if you’re a mother of toddlers quickly scanning through Facebook or Pinterest while the kiddies are occupied or asleep, you don’t have oodles of time.  Nor do commuters waiting for the bus or those who get their social media fix at work while using the bathroom (disgusting habit).  However, these people are important segments of your audience, so you have to cater to their needs.


According to the statistical folk at Wistia,  viewer engagement (i.e. they keep watching) stays high for videos up to two minutes long.  “High” means 70% – you can’t really expect every viewer to watch every video they click on.  Haven’t we all clicked on YouTube videos accidentally, especially on mobile devices if we have fat thumbs?  However, after the 2-minute mark, things drop off sharply: to 65% engagement at 3 minutes, then to 50% by about 6 minutes.  After that, things tail off a bit more slowly: after 6 minutes, you’ve probably eliminated all the “The video’s how long? I don’t have that sort of time!” folk.


If you take a look at the graphs in the article in the link above, you’ll see two flat lines where viewer engagement remains steady: the first is the 1–2 minute stretch and the other is at 6–12 minutes.  After the 12-minute mark, the trend line between length and engagement trails off – but not completely.


So what can you learn from this when you’re planning your online marketing strategy?

  • *  Don’t fuss around with little 30-second videos. Viewer engagement doesn’t change much between <1 and 2 minutes.
  • *  Have a mix of video lengths: some in the 1–2 minute mark, some in the 6–12 minute mark and a few longer ones if the content is worth it.
  • *  Do plenty of the short (2 minute) videos, especially if you want to catch the attention of busy people and get the shares on social media needed for great exposure.
  • *  Got a longer speech or presentation video? Break it up into chunks so you deliver plenty of content but allow your viewers to come back later and watch the rest (during their next bus ride, perhaps) or to keep going thanks to YouTube’s autoplay function.
  • *  Remember that content is king! Provide something funny, fascinating or amazing, and you’ll be able to get the 12-minute segment… or even the Netflix and TED Talks segment. See us for a bit of help if you need help creating content.
  • *  Don’t just have your calls to action at the end, just in case people don’t watch to the end.