The best length for an explainer video is one minute or less. That’s a general guideline with room for interpretation on different video platforms. In reality, the ideal video is exactly as long as necessary to guide your viewer to the next step.
Different platforms, messages, and audiences need different video lengths. If you are aiming for distribution to broadcast, cable or OTT, you will need to fit the outlet’s specifications. Most expect 15-second, 60-second, or 30-second explainer videos. Digital platforms are more flexible, but trend toward shorter micro-content even if they allow longer-form videos.
This guide will help you find the optimal video length for social media platforms and distribution plans. We’ve even organized the most important points into a handy infographic.
How Long Should a Video Be?
Video attention spans seem to have shrunk over the last few years. Back in 2016, a study by Wistia found that audience engagement drops off considerably after about 2 minutes. The 2023 version of the study found that average engagement dropped around the 60-second mark.
A good portion of your audience will hang around for about five minutes, but will start to drop off steadily after that. However — and this is important — long-form videos of 30 minutes or more delivered the highest-quality leads. That makes sense, because only those who are really interested in your product or service are likely to stick around that long.
All this shows that people don’t automatically walk away at the one-minute mark. Yes, some people will start to leave at that point, but you still have the bulk of your audience. If your video needs to be five minutes long. Make it five minutes long. Plenty of people will stick around.
The most qualified leads will stay with you through a long video. As long as you’re offering something useful and entertaining, your audience will stay engaged. Your goal is to deliver a clear message in an entertaining way without tangents or fluff.
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 data includes about 1.1 million 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 to Choose the Best Length for a Business Video
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 how to make your message clear, concise, and engaging. These best practices will help.
1. Know where your video fits in the marketing funnel
If someone has never heard of your business or product, you may not commit to a long video. On the other hand, videos for your established audience can be much longer as the Wistia data shows.
2. Know your audience
If you are making a healthcare video about your target audience’s life-threatening disease, it stands to reason that they will be more willing to grant you their time than if you are telling them about your new flavor of popcorn. Higher stakes and more invested audiences buy you some extra time.
3. Know the context
If you are making a video for an event or a training session, your audience is at least somewhat captive. You can afford to go a bit longer than in a purely digital application, where clicking away is always a possibility.
4. Plan your video length based on your platform
From social media to self-hosting, the platform will determine how long your video can and should be. Don’t just create a video and blast it out on every channel. Know from the start where you intend to share your video. We examine ideal video lengths for each platform in detail below.
Broadcast and Streaming Television Ads
Ad Requirements: 15, 30, or 60 seconds
We start with Broadcast, cable and OTT platforms because they have the clearest guidelines of all. You will need to fit their preset ad slots with videos that are exactly 15, 30 or 60 seconds in length. You might even create three different versions of your video to make sure you can cover any and all of these ad slots.
Length: 1-30 minutes
If you’re embedding a video on your website or directing viewers to your Wistia, Vimeo, or another hosting page, assume that most of the audience will stick around for 1 minute and your most invested audience members (i.e. best-qualified leads) will stay for 30 minutes or more.
This isn’t a license to ramble, but it should give you the freedom to cover topics in more detail. Just remember, the longer the video, the more valuable it must be to hold audience attention.
Ideal Video Length for Social Media Platforms
Every social media 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 for social media platforms, keep best practices in mind. Here are some of the more common platforms and guidelines for each.
Ideal Length of Facebook Video Ads
Ideal Length: 15 seconds
Facebook feed video ads can be as long as 241 minutes. That’s minutes, not seconds. So theoretically, you could have a Facebook ad that runs for 4 hours! We don’t recommend doing so, since the ideal length of facebook video ads is more like 15 seconds or less according to Facebook.
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. In that case, you’re serving an ad to someone who is actively watching something else. Minimizing the disruption is a smart strategy.
Instagram: How Long Can IG Reels Be?
Optimal Ad Length: 15 seconds
Instagram Reels can be up to 90 seconds long, but we recommend keeping ads much shorter. Mata, which owns Instagram, loves to stress that videos from Facebook can easily be repurposed as Instagram ads, so keep that in mind when planning your video ads across both platforms.
Also consider the fact that videos in an Instagram feed loop continuously. You may be able to get away with faster action and trust that people will keep watching if they don’t quite catch it all the first time.
What About Threads?
Optimal Length: 15 seconds
Threads is the latest offering from Meta. It tends to be more text-based, but you can share videos as long as 5 minutes on the platform. Best practices are still developing for this new social media platform. For now, it’s probably best to aim for the same 15-second guidelines that apply to Facebook and Instagram.
LinkedIn Video Length
Optimal video length: 10 seconds
LinkedIn video ads can range between 3 and 1,800 seconds long. However, buried in the video ad tips section of the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions guide you’ll find the advice that viewer attention tends to drop after the first 10 seconds. Ideally, you’ll pack the most important information into those first 10 seconds even if your video runs slightly longer than that.
Average TikTok Video Length
Ideal Length: 9-15 seconds
There’s some tension at TikTok over how long videos should be. Users seem to want shorter videos, around 30 to 45 seconds. However, the app has been pushing for longer and longer videos, mostly in an attempt to get more ad revenue. If you’re creating ads, aim for 9-15 seconds to make sure audiences get your full message.
Length of Video On Twitter (X)
Best Video Length: 6-15 seconds
The switch from Twitter to X has been a bumpy one, but the ad guidelines seem to be about the same. Videos on X can be up to 140 seconds long. For ads, the platform recommends videos between 6 and 15 seconds long. Keep in mind that the app formerly known as 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
Live videos are the exception to the shorter-is-better rule. 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 livestream won’t achieve much. In that case, you’re better off shooting a scripted video that gets your message across.
Ideal Youtube Video Length
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. The rest are videos aimed at children. It would be a mistake to assume that what works for them will work for you.
Many YouTubers recommend making your video between 10 and 15 minutes, but these are professional YouTubers who want to make money from sponsorships and ad revenue. If your goal is to promote your business, choose your length based on where your viewer is in the funnel.
Business Video Length by Location in Funnel
Viewers who already know and trust you are more likely to watch longer videos. As you plan your videos, consider where in the marketing funnel your viewer should be in order to appreciate this video. Let your goals and audience dictate the video length.
Top of funnel: Awareness
Top-of-funnel audiences have never heard of you or don’t really know what you do. These audiences are least likely to invest time into watching your message. Keep your videos aimed at them as short as possible. Ruthlessly remove anything that isn’t absolutely essential.
This video from Repipe Specialists outlines a problem and how they solve it. They pack all the essentials into a 30-second video so people who have never heard of them will be aware of their service.
Mid Funnel: Interest and Desire
Up to 2 minutes
Audiences who already know you exist are more likely to watch your video. People like the familiar. This gives you a few more seconds of their attention. Most people have an idea of what Alcoholics Anonymous does. That gives this video room to focus on a compelling use case that shows why someone might want to join their organization.
Bottom of Funnel: Action
Up to 30 minutes
At the bottom of the funnel, viewers are almost ready to act. They’re willing to invest more time to make sure they’re making the right decision. Webinars, tutorials, and other long-form content can perform well if they’re aimed at customers who are almost ready to act.
Test For Optimal Video Length
The secret to finding the perfect video length is that there is no perfect length that applies to all industries and situations. You set your video up for success when you test several different video lengths and track your results.
Remember that 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 share it or tag a friend? That shows it informed or entertained them.
- Did they actually purchase something or at least sign up for a consultation call? If so, that video is effective, whatever length it is.
You can streamline this process by partnering with a video creation company with experience in your industry. They’ll know what works and what doesn’t.
So How Long Should a Video Be?
Guidelines for video length are just that, guidelines. Different audiences, messages, industries, and goals demand different video lengths. Your video should be as short as possible and as long as necessary.
Your goal is not to cram your message into eight seconds or less. Instead, focus on giving audiences a reason to keep watching. Your audience must immediately know what your video is about. They must quickly understand why it matters. And they absolutely must be either informed or entertained. Instead of focusing on length, focus on quality. Concise, engaging, focused videos outperform the competition every time.
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. We make videos in 2d, 3d and whiteboard animation, as well as live action. Contact us today to start creating videos that are exactly as long as they need to be.