GREAT LENGTHS: OPTIMAL RUNNING TIMES FOR ONLINE VIDEOS

online video corporate communications marketing

The explosive growth of online video has become a permanent game-changer for marketers worldwide. In 2015, digital video consumption became the most popular online activity, even overtaking social media, with the average user spending almost two hours a day watching videos online. Video is becoming increasingly important for marketing purposes, particularly among millennials, 80% of whom now use video to research a purchase decision, with 74% following specific brands on YouTube.

However, attention spans are getting shorter as people are bombarded with more and more online content. With 22% of consumers now simultaneously watching videos online at the same time as watching something else on TV, the challenge for online marketers is how to create the optimal audience engagement. Can there be a one-size-fits-all solution to the problems of video marketing, or does it depend on what you’re hoping to achieve?

Length Matters

Worldwide, 50% of all video consumption is now believed to be via mobile devices. The ability to instantly access a wide variety of content, no matter where a consumer is, has had an effect on attention spans. 58% of users now watch videos that last 5 minutes or less on mobile devices, compared to just 36% watching videos of over 5 minutes on-the-go. Keeping it short would seem to be the key to creating audience engagement.

Online video differs from other content in that it’s the viewer’s choice whether or not they watch it. According to a study by Wistia, videos with a running time of less than one minute have an 80% chance of being played. If your video is two to three minutes in length, this chance drops to below 65%. However, just because a consumer has hit the Play button doesn’t mean they will keep watching a video until the end. Audiences decide very quickly whether or not to stick with a video. For videos of four minutes or longer, the drop-off is extremely steep. A video of less than a minute has around a 60% chance of being watched to the end. Even at one to two minutes, this chance drops to below 50%.

What You Do With It Counts...

However, different lengths work for different types of videos. Audiences have different expectations based on the content of your video, and what it’s trying to achieve. If it’s an entertaining or creative commercial, such as the kind seen on TV, the optimal length is 45 seconds or less. For more tutorial-style content, such as explaining what something is and how it works, you can go up to 90 seconds. Any longer than this, and many consumers are likely to dismiss it as too time-consuming and complicated.

Crowdfunding videos have to be even longer as they require a greater level of explanation of, and audience engagement with, the product. If people are going to invest in something, they’ll want to see the inventor and learn about the design and manufacture process before seeing the product in action. Two to three minutes is optimal here.

...As Does Where You Put It

Different lengths also have better success rates on different platforms. For social media, try to keep it as short as possible due to the sheer amount of content users are faced with here. For example, Twitter only allows videos of 2 minutes 20 seconds or less. This is an important market to tap into, with 70% of users discovering new content on this platform regularly rather than searching for specific video content.

For YouTube, however, as its viewers are specifically there to watch videos, they tend to be open to longer content. One option here for longer videos is to break them up into small, easily-digestable sections. Then, make a playlist of the whole thing by taking advantage of the Auto-Play function. However, if it’s something like a keynote speech, then posting it as a whole is favourable, even if it runs to an hour.

Use It or Lose It

It’s worth remembering that you only have 10 seconds to engage your audience before they start scrolling away. After the first 30 seconds, you will have lost 33% of your viewers, and 45% after a minute. No matter what the length of your video, and what platform you choose to show it on, it’s a good idea to put all your most important information, including any call to action, in the first 10 seconds. This is the way to get the vital parts of your message across to the largest possible audience.

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