Despite the picture to the left, time does NOT grow on trees. It is said to be our most precious resource. So when it comes to online video, I’m a fan of keeping it brief. My motto: Get to the point, and move on. My opinion has been that anything over about 3 minutes is too long. Who has the time? The longer your video, the fewer number of people who will even click to watch it – much less finish watching it.
In fact, I recently came across some interesting research published by Wistia that confirmed my hunch that shorter = better.
According to their findings: “The average 30-second video was viewed 85% of the way through, while the average 2-minute video was viewed on average 50% of the way through.
“The data is quite clear, shorter videos are more engaging than longer videos. For videos 2 minutes and under, you should strive to make your content as short and punchy as possible to guarantee the highest engagement. If your video is 30 seconds or under, it’s very likely that most people will watch it all the way through.”
But, this weekend, I found myself watching a 23 minute tennis video on one of my favorite sites, FuzzyYellowBalls, and it occurred to me: “Why am I willing to watch a 23-minute video on tennis, but would flog anyone who suggested I make a 23 minute video for this blog?”
But WAIT! It depends on the video!
Most people are ultimately making marketing videos – with the goal of selling something, whether it be a company, a product, or a service. (You might think, “Hey, there are lots of other types of videos too! What about those ridiculous honey badger videos!” Well, you’ll notice that even those that seem to be purely entertainment are selling something… in this case, he’s got his own line of honey badger t-shirts. So I would argue that many entertainment videos are marketing videos in disguise. Troll around YouTube, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a video that’s not ultimately marketing something- either a brand or a product or even a link to a site that has advertising or other products). So, for most (i.e. marketing) videos, the optimal length depends on the goal of the video itself, and where the viewer is in the sales process.
In marketing, we describe the sales cycle as AIDA:
- A – Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer.
- I – Interest: raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
- D – Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
- A – Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.
What is the goal of your marketing videos? Where are you in the AIDA cycle?
Why I watched a 23 minute video
The earlier in the buying process your viewer is, the shorter your video should be. Until a viewer decides to trust you, you have very little time to get their attention.
If you’re trying to build awareness or get attention, think about creating a video that emulates a television commercial. Think 30-second video whose whole purpose is to grab a viewer’s attention. Videos using humor, or that are short and punchy, can be very effective. (You’d be surprised at how much you can communicate in 30 seconds or less. Just watch some of the films created on 5secondfilms.com to see effective concise communication of ideas.)
As you move from building awareness to trying to generate interest, your viewer may know you, but needs a little more information to become engaged. Think 1 minute to 2 minute videos that communicate your information with benefits. High level overviews or demos can be effective here. A hidden benefit of creating shorter videos is it forces YOU to be more concise about your product and services. You have to really communicate with intent, which helps keeps you focused on presenting the information more concisely and clearly.
Once you’ve got them interested, your audience will be looking for information that will help them understand what makes you different and you’ll be trying to create a desire to buy. This is where longer videos can provide value: testimonials, product demos, or even a thought leadership video will differentiate you from others in your industry.
One recent trend is to provide valuable content for ‘free’, in exchange for the right to continue to market (paid content, or other products) to that viewer. This was the case of the 23 minute tennis video I watched this weekend. This site requires me to enter my email address in return for a wealth of free tennis instruction videos. But each of these videos also includes links (leading me to take ACTION) to the site’s paid content, and I get marketing emails from this company enticing me to register for paid instruction. The honey badger videos also might fall into this category. This user has gained an interested following to which he can now leverage by selling advertising or other products.
I think 23 minutes is a bit long even for this type of video, but, generally “Desire” videos target viewers who are very strong prospects (have communicated interest and taken some action on that) who are willing to be contacted in return for valuable information. I would recommend keeping your videos under 10 minutes, but as your viewer gets further along in the sales cycle, the more willing they are to invest time in getting to know your company and products or services.
Where do your videos fit in AIDA?
So before you make your next online video, think about its goal and who you’re targeting. Are you trying to get attention and brand awareness? Or are you trying to entice someone to take action and buy? Make sure you plan the length of your video according to where you are in that sales cycle.