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How long should my video be?

How long should a video be?

How long should my video be? That’s kind of like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” The answer depends on what you’re using the string—or the video—for. While I can’t tell you exactly how long a video should be… there are guiding principals’.

Typically online short is best… one great question to ask first is, “How valuable is this content to my audience?”

If the audience is extremely motivated to view the content, then the video can be longer…but if the video interrupts the viewers or they’re less motivated to watch, then it should be very short.

A commercial, for example, is typically 30 seconds long and the online versions are often even shorter at 15-seconds. Why?  People don’t go online to watch commercials; ads interrupt the viewer’s other objectives, so in order to succeed, they must be exceptionally engaging and short.

Are you teaching or selling?
When thinking in terms of marketing videos, start with this: are you selling or teaching? If you’re teaching, how valuable is the knowledge you’re offering? If the audience really wants to know about your subject, and if this knowledge isn’t readily accessible elsewhere, then your video can be longer. Educational videos can be anywhere from two to 10 minutes, with the sweet spot being three to five minutes. If it’s any longer or if you try to cover too much material, viewers will forget…so if you have a large topic, consider breaking it down into manageable chunks (say, three videos instead of one). On the other hand, don’t condense too much, or it won’t be worth watching and viewers will be irritated rather than engaged.

Position in the customer life cycle
If the video is selling something, then the length depends on where viewers are in the customer life cycle. If the video is for a top-of-funnel place—like a commercial—then short is the answer, because you’re interrupting the viewer simply to tell them that you exist. A vial video can be longer because the content itself is so engaging as to be sharable. The issue here, though, is that people don’t share to promote the brand, so your brand message might get subsumed under clever content.

Once you get a little further down the sales funnel—the landing page or homepage video for example— then you’re answering a question your audience is already asking—usually, “How can you help me?” At this point, you can take more time, usually 60 to 90 seconds (any longer and you’ll see a drop in viewing rates). The homepage video provides a shortcut to answering the prospect’s questions, saving them from reading reams of text—whew! The objective here is to answer questions in a precise and easy-to-digest manner.  Establish your purpose in the first ten seconds; viewers will keep watching and you can take them through your value proposition. The video should end with a call to action, leading prospects further down the sales funnel.

Product demonstration videos, case study videos, company branding videos, or about us videos can all be longer because people have typically already watched the more engaging, higher-funnel-level videos and now want to learn more. Two to five minutes is ideal, with the sweet spot somewhere from three to four minutes.

As long as it takes to make your point
To understand exactly how long your video should be, the next guiding principal is: The video should be as long as it takes to make the point. There’s no room for fluff. State your objective, provide proofs, and wrap with a call to action. If you have more than one point, make more than one video. The homepage video, for example, makes the point: “Choose our company because ______.” You’ll have time for three proofs and a testimonial comment; any longer and it becomes tedious.

Production values
Another factor that impacts length is, “How engaging is the content?” If you’re hiring a professional ad agency and you have high production values—flying cameras, animation, music—you can sustain attention longer than just a person talking into the camera. The earlier in the customer life cycle, the more you’ll want to spend for production value. Commercials are at the high end, cost-wise, of the video food chain, because they must be so incredibly engaging in order to grab the attention of disengaged audience.

Regardless of length Humor and authenticity are the most effective qualities for engaging and holding attention so you can take the time you need to deliver the message.

So there you have it: A simple guide to video length. Now go out there and grab your audience!

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