A common question is, “how long should I make my video?” This is a fair question and one that is very difficult to answer. The general rule would be, “however long it needs to be to serve its purpose”. Whilst this isn’t the most helpful answer initially, it does allow us to ask ourselves some questions that will help us understand the process behind deciding on the length a video needs to be...
The three main questions are:
What is the point of the video?
What’s this video for? Is it to educate? Tell a story? Promote? Or even to create intrigue for another video that’s being released soon? This will have a massive effect on the target length of your video. If it’s a trailer for another video then the shorter and snappier it is the better, (if you can get it below 15 seconds it can go on your instagram page). This will leave your audience wanting more and they may even play it a couple of times. For a story, you are much less constrained by time. If it’s engaging then people will watch it as long as its paced correctly and doesn’t lose momentum half way through. A great example of this is the Kony 2012 video- this has over 90 million views and is more than 20 minutes long, showing that if you can grab your audience, they will stay with you for the duration. If you're using the video for promotion or teaching, then the length will be subject to how many bits of information you need to convey, which leads us nicely onto our next point…
How much information do you need to get across?
The point of any video is to tell the viewer something and to get a message across to them. Again, this can range from teaching them something to simply telling them about a new product. Because of this, your video needs to be long enough to show all the information you need it to, up to a point. If you need to tell your audience about 15 new products you have, instead of making one long, potentially boring video listing all 15 and running the risk of people not seeing the end, why not make a series of shorter videos? This has two major advantages; firstly your videos will be shorter, resulting in a higher completion rate and secondly, by making a series of videos you give people something to subscribe to, allowing you to build a following that will see any future videos you release. Just be sure to try and keep a steady flow of material coming out to maintain people’s interest.
Where will the video be shown?
This is very important as it shows who your captive audience is and more importantly, how easy it is for them to click away from your video. For example, if your video has been created to be shown on Youtube, Vimeo or any other video-sharing platform then you need to keep it short and to the point. If you fail to do so, you’ll lose people’s interest and they will navigate away, missing the call to action that will be at the end. If your target audience is, say at a conference where the video will be played, then it can afford to be a little longer as people can’t just leave or click away. It is however, worth noting that even if people can’t physically get away from the video then they may still “switch off” and miss the end- so don’t get too carried away! Recent research by Wista shows that a 30 second web video will be watched 80% of the way through on average, with a 3-4 minute video only being watched 60% of the way through.
So, once we’ve answered all of these questions, we can start to form an idea of the best length. Before you put it online, show a test group and get their feedback. If something doesn’t need to be in there, take it out as it will just distract people by breaking up the flow of your video. But above all, make it interesting and well shot.