How Long Should Your Business Video Be?Emma Rose 09.23.2020
The ideal length for a video is two minutes, according to conventional wisdom. But, this advice comes with conditions. Different platforms, messages, and audiences require different video lengths. You’ll see the best results if, instead of sticking to a rigid guideline, you make targeted videos that are as long as they need to be, and no longer. Read on for a deep-dive into ideal video lengths for various platforms and situations. We even have a handy infographic that explores video lengths.
In this article:
Where did the two-minute rule come from?
Back in 2016, a study by Wistia found that audience engagement drops off considerably after about 2 minutes. In this case, about five percentage points from minute 2 to minute 3. After that, engagement continues to drop at a similar rate until you hit the six and a half minute mark, where it levels off just above 50%. Videos up to about 13 minutes stay just above 50% when the engagement begins to drop again.
There are a couple of important takeaways here. First, any video length up to two minutes maintains the same level of engagement. Whether your video is 15 seconds long or 110, you’ll see the same level of engagement.
Second, people don’t automatically walk away at the two-minute mark. Yes, some people will start to leave at that point, but you still have the bulk of your audience. If your video absolutely needs to be at least six minutes, audiences who have stuck with you this long will likely hang on a little longer. So don’t cut your content short for fear of losing them. They’ll probably stick around for at least another few minutes.
There are a few limitations to the Wistia data that should be pointed out. Wistia is a video software and hosting company that works mostly with businesses. Their guidelines for video likely apply to self-hosted videos, but may not be relevant to social media platforms. Their data also includes about 560,000 videos that have not been segmented based on audience, goals, or industry. That means we’re dealing with averages here. In short, your results may vary.
How long should your business video be?
If two minutes is just a broad guideline, how do you decide how long your video should be?
This is going to sound like a cheeky answer, but it’s true. Your video should be exactly as long as it needs to be and no longer. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re aiming for a specific number of minutes or seconds. Instead, you should focus on your message and how to make clear, concise, and engaging. These best practices will help get you started.
1. Start with a single, focused message.
Too many messages lead to longer more complex videos that are unlikely to hold viewer attention for long. If a topic truly is complex, you might be best served by creating a series of videos. Either way, stay focused. Videos that take too long to get to the point lose viewer interest, even if the information is valuable.
2. Create for a specific audience.
Videos for your established audience can be much longer than those that act as a first touch. For example, a video tutorial on how to use your project might need to be less than a minute long if it’s going to be shared on social media. One that will be emailed to customers after they’ve purchased a product can be longer.
3. Plan for your platform.
From social media to self-hosting, the platform will determine how long your video can and should be. Know from the start where you intend to share your video. We examine ideal video lengths for each platform in detail below.
Ideal Video lengths by platform
Every platform has its own length guidelines based on what the platform is capable of hosting and what it thinks its audience wants to see. When selecting an ideal video length, keep your intended distribution channel in mind. Here are some of the more common platforms and guidelines for each.
Length: 15 seconds
For Facebook feed video ads, Facebook lets you share videos as long as 240 minutes. Minutes, not seconds. So theoretically, you could have a Facebook ad that runs for 4 hours! We don’t recommend doing so, and neither does Facebook. Facebook says that more people will watch to the end of video ads that are 15 seconds or less.
In-stream video ads (that is, ads played while someone is watching another video) can be no more than 120 seconds and should be much shorter to avoid annoying your audience. Remember, you’re serving this ad to someone who is actively watching something else. Minimizing the disruption is a smart strategy. For videos shared on your Facebook page, keep the two-minute rule in mind.
Length: 15 seconds
Videos on Instagram can be no longer than 60 seconds. Facebook, who owns Instagram, loves to stress that videos from Facebook can easily be repurposed as Instagram ads. The 15-second guideline is probably accurate here. Videos in an Instagram feed loop continuously, so take that into account when planning your video.
Outside of the feed, IGTV videos can be up to ten minutes but should probably be a lot shorter if you’re trying to build a new audience. The new Instagram Reels offering allows videos that are up to 15 seconds. It’s probably not a coincidence that this matches the Facebook recommendations for ideal video length. Instagram stories can also be up to 15 seconds long.
Length: 16 seconds
TikTok lets you create videos up to 60 seconds long. However, one marketer examined TikTok’s best 100 videos of 2019 and found that their average length was about 16 seconds.
Length: 6-15 seconds
Videos on Twitter can be up to 140 seconds long. For ads, Twitter recommends videos that run between 6 and 15 seconds. Keep in mind that Twitter is all about quick content consumption, so shorter is almost certainly better whether sharing to followers or serving an ad.
The Social Media Exception
Live video: as long as reasonable
The exception here is live videos. With live videos, your goal is not to deliver a quick, focused message. Instead, you want to engage your audience in a more personal way. Longer videos give more opportunity for your followers to see that you’re live, join the stream, and maybe even interact with you directly.
When the live is over, you might take 20 to 60 seconds of it and repurpose that into a video for wider sharing. Only do this if you have a section of the video that includes a clear, concise message. Slicing out any random section of your live won’t achieve much. You’re better off shooting a scripted video that gets your message across for those who didn’t join the live. But, if you have an effective clip, by all means, use it.
Length: 2 minute
The average YouTube user can upload videos that are up to 15 minutes long. Verified accounts can go much longer. The platform hosts such a wide range of videos that it’s hard to make sweeping statements about video length. Many of the top most viewed videos of all time are music videos featuring celebrities. It would be a mistake to assume that what works for them will work for you. The best guideline here is probably the two-minute rule.
Length: 2-15 minutes
The two-minute rule also applies to self-hosted videos. If you’re embedding a video on your website or directing them to your Wistea, YouTube, or other hosting page, assume that most of the audience will stick around for 2 minutes and about 50 percent will be gone by the time you get to 7 minutes.
Tackling short attention spans
If all of these different guidelines have left your head spinning, don’t worry. We can simplify this even further.
You may have seen the oft-repeated statistic that the modern human’s attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish. That’s a compelling endorsement for a short, snappy video. There’s just one problem: It’s not true. If it were, we would never make any videos. Do you have any idea how long it takes to animate even 15 seconds of quality video?
The truth is that the average person won’t spend more than eight seconds watching something that doesn’t capture their interest. Your goal is not to somehow condense your message into eight seconds or less. Instead, give audiences a reason to keep watching past the first glimpse of your video.
There is a ton of content out there. If yours is not immediately engaging. If someone can’t instantly see the value in this video, there’s plenty of other content to watch. A perfectly sized video is useless if audiences can’t tell what it’s about, don’t know why it matters, and aren’t informed or entertained.
Instead of focusing on length, focus on quality. Concise, engaging, focused videos outperform the competition every time.
The secret to optimal video length: Test and see
The secret of finding the perfect video length is that there is no perfect length that applies to all industries and all situations. You set your video up for success when you test several different video lengths and track your results.
Video views are not the best indicator of success (unless your goal is awareness). Choose a video metric that directly correlates to your goal for the video. Did the person click the link at the end? That shows engagement. Did they actually purchase something or at least sign up for a consultation call? If so, that video is effective, whatever length it is.
So view length not as a hard and fast rule, but as a starting point. If your video is longer than ideal for that platform, is it that length for a reason? Have you padded it out with unnecessary information or gone off on tangents that might perform better as individual videos? If so, cut it down. If not, put it up and see how it performs.
The key takeaway: The right length is the one that meets your goals
So remember that the guidelines for video length are just that, guidelines. Different audiences, industries, or goals demand different video lengths. Fortunately, the video creation experts at IdeaRocket have helped businesses in all kinds of industries to create the ideal video for their audience and goals. Contact them today to start creating videos that are exactly as long as they need to be.