When we’re approached to create a video for our clients, one of the first questions we always tackle is “How long should it be?”
Video length is important for so many reasons—how many viewers actually click on the video in the first place, how many watch it all the way through, the impact of your message, whether or not they take action, and more.
Determining the approximate length of a video at the beginning of a project helps first and foremost with cost estimating. If it’s an animated video or a video with any motion graphics, knowing how long it will be determines how much effort will go into it and, therefore, the cost. If it’s live action, it determines how many shoot days are needed to capture all of the content necessary to fill that time.
Here are some of the factors to consider when determining the ideal length of a video:
What is the purpose of this video? Is it part of a media buy with a predetermined length? Will you be promoting it on social media? In e-mail? On your site? Is it meant to be entertaining or informative?
In general, shorter is better. If you’re aiming to entertain, there’s a reason that most advertising is 30 or 60 seconds in length. You can tell a great story in under a minute and you statistically have the biggest audience before they start to drop off.
Wistia research shows that for a video that’s less than a minute, 80% of your viewers are still watching halfway through and 60% make it to the end. For a three- to four-minute video, less than 60% make it halfway and less than 40% of them watch the entire thing.
That is not to say that there isn’t a place for longer content. TED Talks can be up to 18 minutes long. If you’re creating documentary-style content or presenting more lecture-style information, a longer length may be in order. Just remember that, statistically, the longer your video, the fewer people will watch until the end.
It’s a good idea to front-load your content.
Based on those facts, it’s a good idea to do what journalists do and put the most important information up front. Not only do you get your point across to more viewers, but you have a better chance of hooking them to keep watching.
According to AdAge, if you haven’t engaged your audience after the first 30 seconds, you’re likely to lose 33% of viewers. After one minute, 45% of viewers have stopped watching. So make the most important points right up front.
And consider this: Once you have the good stuff in the first 30 seconds, is the rest of the video really necessary? Consider creating a hierarchy of the content to help you determine what should stay and what can be cut.
How much content do you have?
If you’re creating a video from existing assets, how much do you have? If it’s a sizzle reel, for example, how much engaging motion content do you have? (PowerPoint slides from existing decks don’t count!) People can only look at still photos for so long before it feels like a slideshow.
If the video is more informational, how much information is there? This seems like an obvious question, but sometimes it helps to write out an outline or even a first draft of a script to really see how much you have. We often write rough scripts for clients before their video is even estimated to help with the estimation process.
What do you want the viewer to do?
Do you want them to take action after watching this video—sign up for a mailing list, visit a website, make a purchase, etc.? If so, the sooner you can initiate your call to action, the better.
Finally, use analytics to monitor how your content is doing. How many people take action? Which videos are people watching and which are they skipping over? At what point are viewers dropping off? The more you learn from the content you create, the more you can optimize well into the future.