November 11, 2015
The answer is always: “it depends.”
It depends on several things. Some of the most important questions we ask are:
- What channels will this video be used for? Online, YouTube, broadcast, pre-roll? The channel matters. For example, a viewer often
reaches a YouTube video by doing a search. By showing up in the search results this makes the video more relevant to the user.
- Who is the intended audience? This is always important because different audiences have different ways they prefer to consume content.
Also, is the video for B2B or B2C?
- What environment will they be viewing the video? On their phones, at their work computer, at home in the evening or on weekends?
- What is their level of interest? Taking the viewers interest level into account is often overlooked but may be the most important
factor. The higher level of interest in the material, the more engaged they’ll be. The more engaged, the more receptive they’ll be to a longer
- What are your goals for the video? Advertising, content marketing, lead generation, explaining, training? Different objectives require
The answer? Your online video should be short enough to create viewer engagement, but long enough to effectively communicate. This means eliminating filler and only including relevant content that adds to the message or story. It should be like a great action movie - grab the viewer's attention from the start and never let go.
Online viewers are not “captive” and can skip, fast forward, or switch channels anytime they want to. Thinly disguised commercials or corporate self-promotion probably won’t get watched. After all, who wants to watch someone else's home movies?
Statistically, viewership drops off the longer an online video is. Surprisingly, this may actually be a good thing if your video is designed for lead generation or segmentation. The people who do watch your entire video are often more engaged, and are more likely to become qualified prospects. Another important “clue” is to pay careful attention to where people stop watching - just as you would with website exits - you can learn a lot about your viewer and your video.
Finally, you can also do what we at Applied Art & Technology do increasingly more often - test.
Create a couple of different versions and test them. The cost of creating alternate versions of a video is usually not that great, and the results can be significant. Learn from your videos and don’t be afraid to make changes. People don’t think twice about testing email subject lines and changing content if needed. Why would you not test a significantly more expensive element like online video?
So, how long should your video be? It depends. But If you understand your audience, create an interesting opening that hooks them, work hard to deliver only relevant engaging content (minus filler), and test different versions, your online video will be the perfect length.