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  • Writer's pictureFred Veinfurt

time out: video length -- does it matter?

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

Did you know: The average recommendation for a standard business video is two minutes or less. There, that answers your Google question. Or does it? Have you thought about the end destination for the video and what works for each platform? Who is your target audience? And overall, does it feel long and drawn out or short and snappy?

After years in the television news industry, I learned a few things (OK, a lot of things). One of those things is that 90 seconds for a story is the goal for every journalist turning stories across the country. It’s a standard that every producer counts on as they build their shows.

With video living everywhere these days, the rules have blurred and the lines have broken. If you go onto the YouTube 'trending now list' today, December 1st 2021, the No.1 video is a “Minecraft Speedrunner” video that is 35 minutes long. Two videos down, there’s a joke video about a “Hipster at a Country Restaurant” that is only 31 seconds long. Duration widely varies and shows that there isn’t an exact formula. Like with everything, what might work for one set of people will turn off others.

The one constant, however, is you have to keep it compelling for your target audience. Do that, and they will stick around.

Most platforms have analytics so that you can pay attention to “drop off rate” data to find the ideal time for the type of content that you create. Remember that “drop off” is when someone decided they have had enough of your video and move on to the next thing.

Bare in mind, you are also fighting for attention against the dreaded scroll. People make snap judgments on every bit of content that flies past their face on their phones and computers. So it isn’t just about length, it’s also about effectiveness in the first few seconds.

So, you must ask the questions: 'What are we doing to hook people from the start?' and 'Where is the final product going to live?'

Each platform for your video will have their own algorithms and recommendations with different delivery devices with different purposes. Knowing what is successful on each platform will change the total length which in turn could change the whole strategy for the video. Any advertisement, 15 to 30 seconds. Snapchat, 10 seconds. Natural Instagram videos, max 1 minute but should stick to 30 seconds. And just because the maximum length for a Facebook video is four hours doesn’t mean you should max it out. Stick to 30-90 seconds.

To address the third question I proposed in the first paragraph, how does the video feel? Sometimes you run across length police. They demand over and over that it sticks to a certain length with no exceptions. If it is a Facebook ad then, yes, it needs to be sub-30 seconds for it to be effective and for the algorithm to play nice. But if it is a documentary style story that has amazing characters and real-life tension that builds to a satisfying conclusion, then maybe two minutes isn’t enough. Leaving things on the cutting room floor is always heartbreaking, but if it just adds weight and doesn’t move the story along, forget it, chop away. Once the final product is finished, watch it and really think about the viewer on the other side of the screen. They don’t have a clue about all the hard work you put into the video, but they are willing to move on very quickly to the next thing.

I hope some of this insight is helpful. Happy creating.

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