Video length best practices

October 16, 2019 · 8 min read

You’ve likely heard the notion that the viewer’s attention span is shrinking, and perhaps that video length best practices are changing accordingly. The fear is that if your video is too long, nobody will stick around long enough to absorb your message.

There is no doubt, however, that videos used for business are trending shorter. In 2018, the average video used commercially was 4.07 minutes long, 33% shorter than the 2017 mark of 6.07 minutes (Vidyard). From the same report, we can also see that 73% of all videos were under two minutes. Only 2% of all business videos were longer than 10 minutes. 

Video length by year

Okay, so you should aim to create shorter videos, but how short exactly?

Optimal video length is determined by context—who is watching, why they’re watching, the situation they’re in during consumption, etc. 

In this post, we’re going to break down the most common scenarios for marketing videos and provide video length recommendations for each. We’ll cover how to cater to your target audience, the best lengths for different types of video content (such as promo and explainer videos), and best practices for the most popular social media networks. We even threw in a few ideas on how to creatively trim video length

How long should your video be?

The majority of online videos should be between 30 seconds and 4 minutes, depending on your content, your audience, and your channel. The longer your video, the more chance your viewers will drop off, so keep in as short as possible. In 2018, 73% of business videos were under two minutes. 

The golden rule of video length

Video length is a tool for getting more user engagement out of your placements. There are a lot of factors to help you determine the best length for your videos, so let’s break them down one at a time. 

Target audience

As with all marketing, everything starts with your target audience. If you don’t give them what they want, your video production (and promotion) was for naught. The easiest way to better understand the best video length from your viewer’s perspective is to ask yourself what stage of the marketing funnel they’re in.

When broadcasting to large audiences who are new to your brand, keep it short. When sending videos to your existing subscribers and fans, longer is acceptable. 

For example, if you’re using Facebook or YouTube ads to push out videos to new audiences who’ve never heard of you, you need to grab their attention first. Generally speaking, people who’ve never heard of your brand aren’t going to invest more than a minute of their time with you, let alone longer. 

Brand awareness should be short, from 15-seconds (or shorter if you’re good) to 1 minute. Keep in mind: If you don’t have a great hook in the first three seconds, most audiences won’t even stick around that long! 

On the other hand, people who have engaged with your brand—your email list, following you on social media, visiting your website, or subscribing to your YouTube channel—are ripe for longer, more detailed content such as product reviews, testimonials, and explainer videos

Don’t worry, we’ll provide length recommendations for each of those video types below. 

Context

With your target audience in mind, now it’s time to account for the situation they’ll be in while consuming your video content

For example, if you’re pushing out consumer brand awareness videos with Facebook and Instagram ads, you should know that upwards of 80% of your viewers will be watching on their mobile devices. If your ads are running during the day while people are out and about, they’ll likely be using their wireless data to stream the video. Videos in this situation need to be under a minute, or shorter if you can. 

On the flip side, if you’re producing and promoting B2B video content, your audience is likely consuming that while at work on their desktop or laptop. 87% of business-related video content is still being watched via desktop, according to the 2019 Video in Business Report from Vidyard. In these situations, you have more time to get your message across.

To summarize: 

  • High chance of mobile viewership, such as social media = 60 seconds
  • High chance of desktop viewership, like at work = 2+ minutes

Type of content

Beyond your target audience and the situation they’re in, the type of content you’re delivering has a huge impact on the optimal length

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular video types and assign a recommended length to each. 

Best length for video ads

While there is a wide variety of digital ad platforms available for you to promote your video content (see below), there are very few situations in which you’ll want a video to run longer than one minute.

Ask yourself: Do you really need more than a minute to achieve brand awareness or drive traffic? Most likely not, as you’ll have other tools like landing pages, e-commerce stores, and retargeting to help you achieve your ultimate goal—there’s no need to pack more than absolutely necessary into your video. 

Recommended video length: 6 – 60 seconds

Best length for promotional videos

If your promo video is used as an ad, use the recommendation above for the ideal video ad length. If you’re hosting it on a website, using it for outreach, or publishing via organic social media, you have a bit more time. But again, don’t take more time than you absolutely need. Engagement with your video will continue to drop the longer it is, so be judicious with your video length

Recommended video length: 15 – 90 seconds

No matter what type of video content you’re creating, one thing you need to keep in mind is that the longer your video, the higher the percentage of drop-off you’ll experience. While this can be worth it in some cases in order to get your full message across, video marketers who can be brief will be rewarded with higher video engagement rates. 

Video Engagement Over TimeBest length for explainer videos

By the time your viewer gets to the point where they want to watch an explainer video to see how your product or service works, you have an actively engaged viewer. You should be as thorough as you need to be based on their position in the marketing funnel. 

For example, if your explainer video resides on your home page, you’ll have perhaps two minutes to explain the concepts at a high level and provide a benefits statement. Note that after an explainer video exceeds two minutes in length, the average viewership declines from 77% to 57% (breadnbeyond). 

Recommended video length: 2 minutes or less

Best length for testimonial videos

For prospective buyers who are on the fence, customer testimonials as social proof can be incredibly persuasive. 

What people are looking for in a testimonial is third-party proof that your solution worked for somebody who had a similar problem to what they’re experiencing. The easiest way to do this is with a before-and-after story. These are easily accomplished, at least at a high-level, within two minutes. For more complex stories that function as a mini-case study, you might consider a slightly longer video

Recommended video length: 1-4 minutes

Video length by content type

Channel 

So far we’ve been through recommendations about ideal video length based on the target audience, situation, and content type, but there’s just one more consideration—channel. 

While digital and social media channels have similar distribution patterns, there are differences within each that you should account for in your video planning. That said, let’s discuss these four channels—YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

Note: Each social media platform has its own specifications not only for length but also for things like aspect ratio, file format, etc. While we’ll cover length specs in this section, you can find a ton more detail on the technical nuances of each platform in our post The complete list of social media video sizes for 2019

Best video length for YouTube

You can plan for your longest videos on YouTube because your audience is there specifically to watch videos—that’s the whole point of the platform. YouTube is a great spot to host your explainer, testimonial, and product videos at whatever length you need to cover your message in its entirety. 

Best video length for YouTube ads

The answer to this question largely depends on which ad format you use, so we’ll break it down by the most popular. 

Pre-roll and mid-roll ads: Between 15-30 seconds. Note that ads as short as five seconds can work if they’re designed properly, and videos as long as one minute can also function if they hold attention.

TrueView ads: 30 seconds. You only pay for TrueView ads if the audience watches for 30 seconds or longer (or clicks on your ad) so it makes sense to use up your time. Plus, you can experiment with different lengths without breaking the bank. 

Bumper ads: 6 seconds. These are non-skippable, so you’ll want to keep them very short to avoid annoying your audience. 

Generally speaking, if you’re looking to drive traffic or conversions on your website, you’ll likely want to stick around the three-minute mark. As mentioned above, this is the point when your engagement will start to drop off. 

Here at some technical specs for YouTube video length

  • Maximum length: 12 hours
  • Ideal length: 3-4 minutes

Best video length for Facebook

While people consume a ton of video on Facebook, it’s not the primary reason they’re on the platform. They want to engage, be entertained, and keep tabs on their world, so you video length should reflect that scattered attention span

Videos around 60 seconds are the perfect blend of content and engagement. Anything much longer than that and you risk asking for too much of a time investment from your audience, especially while they’re on mobile. BuzzSumo analyzed more than 100 million Facebook videos and found that the highest engagement was on videos between 60-90 seconds. 

Here at some technical specs for Facebook video length

  • Maximum length: 120 minutes
  • Ideal length: 60-90 seconds

Best video length for Twitter

The microblogging platform Twitter has always been about brevity, even when they extended their allowable character count from 140 to 280 characters in 2017. Knowing that, you should match your video length to the bite-sized content that Twitter’s users are accustomed to. 

HubSpot did an analysis of Twitter’s #VideoOfTheDay hashtag and found that the average length was 43 seconds. Since the limit is only just over 2 minutes, you’ll likely want to stay close to this average. 

Here at some technical specs for Twitter video length

  • Maximum length: 2 minutes and 20 seconds
  • Ideal length: 45 seconds

Best video length for Instagram

The photo (and video!) sharing app has become a great channel for product discovery among consumers. Because Instagram has limited text among its visual presentation, people tend to scroll faster through this platform than any other social network. To keep up, keep your video around 30 seconds. 

The Instagram videos that receive the most comments are 26 seconds long on average, according to HubSpot

Here at some technical specs for Instagram video length

  • Maximum length: 60 seconds
  • Ideal length: 30 seconds

BONUS: How to edit video length

Need to trim down your videos a bit to hit some of the recommended lengths above? No problem! Try a few of these quick tips to cut your videos down to the perfect length. 

  • Remove excessive backstory. Unless your company history is essential to your message, save it for your about page or longer branding video elsewhere.
  • Use on-screen text to supplement your main points so that you don’t have to spell out all the details. For instance, your voiceover could announce “benefits” while your on-screen text displays a bulleted list of the actual benefits.
  • Remove “ums” and pauses in your audio and use stills to cover up the edits in video. It not only does this save time but also helps your videos look and sound more professional. 

If you’re looking for more inspiration to help you get started with video creation, we encourage you to take a look through the Promo.com template directory. You can sort by your industry, topics your interested in, or just type in a keyword. 

Head to Promo.com to make videos for your business today!

Author


Head of Content at Promo.com. * * * Storyteller by day. Content consumer by night. Habitually inspired.

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