The best length for an explainer video is two minutes or less. But, this advice comes with conditions. Different platforms, messages, and audiences require different video lengths. If you are aiming for distribution to broadcast, cable or OTT, you will need to fit your video to your outlet’s specifications – most commonly 15-second, 30-second and 60-second blocks. Digital distribution offers more flexibility, and it is trending towards shorter micro-content, even on platforms that allow longer-form videos.
You’ll see the best results if, instead of sticking to a rigid guideline, you make targeted videos that are only as long as they need to be to guide your viewer to the next step in the purchasing process (or education process, if that is your goal.) That means you deliver one message in an entertaining way without tangents or fluff.
Read on for a deep dive into ideal video lengths for various social media platforms and hosting situations. We’ve even organized the most important points into a handy infographic that explores the best length for a business video.
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. That’s when it levels off just above 50%. Video engagement stays at that level until about the 13-minute mark, when engagement begins to drop again.
There are a couple of important takeaways here. First, any video length up to two minutes is likely to maintain engagement. Whether your video is 15 seconds long or 110, you’ll probably see a similar 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. If you’re offering something useful or entertaining, they’ll probably stay with you for 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 as 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 to Choose the Best Length for a Business Video
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
If you try to convey too many messages viewers are unlikely to hear any of them. Multiple messages require longer, more complex videos. The attention of your viewers may wander. If your topic is complex, drill down to a single question and just answer that. If necessary, you can create a series of videos to cover other related questions.
For example, this video for MakerDao is part of a four video series that explains how their cryptocurrency works. Each video is super focused. It answers just one question. That lets them keep the videos around a minute long.
The key takeaway is: stay focused. Videos that take too long to get to the point lose viewer interest.
2. Know where your video fits in the marketing funnel
If someone has never heard of your business or product, they don’t know what to expect. It might be too much to ask them to commit to a long video. On the other hand, videos for your established audience can be much longer. For example, a video tutorial on how to use your product 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 a little longer. In the first case, your goal is to help new customers decide whether your product is easy to use. In the second case, you go into more detail because users are relying on you to help them understand what they’ve purchased.
3. 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 a new flavor of popcorn.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Best Length for a Business Video 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, you can share ads 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, and neither does the platform. 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
Video ads on Instagram can be no longer than 60 seconds. Facebook, which owns Instagram, loves to stress that videos from Facebook can easily be repurposed as Instagram ads. But that only works if your Facebook ads are short. That’s one reason it’s a good idea to apply Facebook’s 15-second guideline on Instagram too. Videos in an Instagram feed loop continuously, so take that into account when planning your video.
The rebranding of IGTV means that organic videos on Instagram can now be up to an hour long (as of Oct 2021). Instagram Reels also updated their video length limits in 2021. You can now share videos up to 60 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. The exception might be if you’re making a News Feed App Series Video Ad. In that case, you might want to aim for closer to 60 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
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 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. 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.
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 Wistia, Vimeo, or another 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.
Business Video Length by Location in Funnel
As we mentioned above, viewers who already know and trust you are more likely to watch longer videos.
Top of funnel: Awareness
As short as possible/30 seconds or less
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 to your message.
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
As long as it needs to be
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.
Attention Spans Probably Aren’t As Short as You Think
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 might convince you that the best length for a business video is always as short as possible. There’s just one problem: It’s not true. If it were, we would never finish a video project. 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.
There is a ton of content out there. If yours is not immediately engaging or if someone can’t instantly see the value in this video, there’s plenty of other content to watch. 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. 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. 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.
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 actually purchase something or at least sign up for a consultation call? If so, that video is effective, whatever length it is.
The best length for a business video is not a hard and fast rule, it’s a starting point. Your video can be longer than the ideal, as long as it’s that length for a reason. If you’ve padded it out with extra information or gone off on tangents, cut it down.
The best video length for a business video meets your goals
So remember that the guidelines for video length are just that, guidelines. Different audiences, different messages, industries, and 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. 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.
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash