Most people have seen many marketing videos online, whether short commercials or longer product demonstrations, so intuitively most marketing professionals probably have a good idea about video length. At the same time, statistics help inform the proper structure and length of corporate videos using known data points. If most videos are between 30 seconds and 5 minutes, is there a sweet spot in duration? Does the length depend on the product or service being offered? Does the length depend on the type of video? Video production is a relatively expensive proposition, so you want to make sure when you commission and create a video that you’re getting the best value for your marketing dollars, which means tailoring the video length and structure to your audience.
Wistia, an online video platform, always publishes the best, most comprehensive research data about video statistics and engagement. They have a massive data set from which to draw, which means their information is highly actionable for marketing professionals. Through more than 1.3 billion plays of 564,710 videos, they found that the ideal video length was almost exactly two minutes. After two minutes, the drop-off in engagement was significant. For the purposes of their research, “engagement” means viewers who started the video and finished it. The best takeaway is the similarity between engagement numbers for a 30 second video versus a 90 second video, or any other length below two minutes. In other words, don’t worry much about whether a video is 70 seconds long or 90 seconds long; just convey the information you need and don’t obsess over a couple of seconds. Viewer engagement for videos under 2 minutes is about 70%.
On the other hand, videos above two minutes experience a substantial decline right up until about six minutes, at which point they level off until roughly twelve minutes. During the 6-12 minute range, viewer engagement remains fairly steady at a tick above 50%. In other words, if you’re going to run long, no need to worry too much about a minute difference once you are above six minutes. Most likely, viewers notice the run-time early with a longer video and as long as the video holds their interest, they keep watching. Once a video hits twelve minutes, though, you’re going to start losing viewers gradually and steadily with each passing minute, so tread cautiously.
Focus on how you will lay out the structure of your video and your overall strategy in feeding the viewer information. Always make sure that if a viewer closes the video early, you’ve still connected with them on some level.
One of the critical mistakes many videos make is to spend the entire length of the video building to one key point that will make viewers want to purchase an ebook or buy a product or sign up for a service. By the time the final message comes, many viewers have already left. When you’re making an effective marketing video, you should lead with your most powerful sales tactics and messages. Make sure as many people as possible understand what you’re offering right away, then delve into details to convince the skeptics. Think of a video much like a five-paragraph essay from your school days, during which the first paragraph outlines the key points, the next three paragraphs emphasize each of the three main points, and the summary paragraph wraps it all up into a nicely concluded piece. If someone just reads the first paragraph, they still understand the highlights and thesis of the piece, even if they haven’t read all of the supporting documentation. The same should be true for your video; lead with the key points and focus on them in detail in the middle of the video.
Also keep in mind your audience when thinking about structure and length. For people completely unaware of your company and its offerings, the first video they see should catch their attention and be a high production value endeavor as well as succinct. When you’ve already caught the attention of your target audience and are engaging people who are likely to buy your product or sign up for your service, you can create a longer video with more details that helps cement their buying decision. Think of video production much like other marketing materials, where you have a funnel of sales that leads your potential customers from one step to another until they become a new paying customer.
Other studies usually confirm video durations under two minutes as being ideal. For instance, an Animoto study (online animation company) found that 73.8% of viewers preferred customer testimonial videos under 60 seconds. Only 5% wanted a video longer than three minutes. Similarly, 70.5% said they liked company overview videos to run under one minute, while only 6.8% said they liked them more than three minutes. Product demonstration videos fared a lot better, with 60% wanting videos longer than one minute. Again, consider the type of material you are creating and the attention span of your viewers. As a video content creator, I personally think a live-action (non-animated) company overview video shouldn’t be one minute or less because it won’t communicate the necessary information, but a 2-3 minute video is an ideal length for a business-to-consumer video with some business-to-business videos needing a bit longer.
Ultimately, the content should drive the length more than just a bunch of data. The key takeaway is perhaps to be cognizant of the running time and carefully guard against viewer attrition by assuring that each second is needed. You may be very excited to share every single thing your company can do for its customers, but will customers be excited to watch the whole video? You’re better off focusing on three key points and keeping the focus broad, then making other videos to delve deeper into different areas or offerings. As a producer, I review thousands of videographer reels to make hiring decisions and I typically can decide within 60 seconds if I want to hire someone or not. I never need more than two minutes, though, and when a videographer sends me a 4-5 minute reel I typically skip through it or stop half-way into it. The quality of shots often declines because they are trying to stretch their material over too long of a running time, which can happen with client videos, too. Focus on quality over quantity. Many of the most effective videos of all time are 30 second commercials, after all.