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What Is The Optimal Video Length?

Despite our position at the top of the planetary food chain, a 2015 study from Microsoft showed that the human attention span is actually shorter than that of a goldfish. It also showed that our attention span has decreased substantially from 12 seconds to around 8 between the years of 2008 and 2013.

Attention Span Graph 1Whilst the legitimacy of Microsoft’s sensationalist conclusion is sketchy, there is still plenty of substance to the claim that our attention span is shortening, especially in regards to our internet browsing habits.

For example, Mozilla discovered that users start to abandon web pages that take just 3 to 5 seconds to load and Amazon discovered that load time delays of just 1 second could leave them with a 1% shortfall in sales per year (which is billions of dollars!).

Page Load Speed DiagramFor written content it’s a similar story, SumoMe analysed 650,000 sessions and discovered that just 20% of people read articles start to finish.

All of this data raises important questions about the optimum length of digital content. In this piece we’ll be focusing on the optimal length for video content.

So what is the optimal length for video content?

Wistia studied 564,710 videos with 1.3 billion plays to help answer this question.

Before we look at this data, let us first consider some general factors in video creation:

1. What type of video content are you offering?

Video content comes in a variety of lengths for a variety of purposes. That’s plain and simple.

Marketing and advertising videos that are designed to engage potential customers should remain short but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from long-form videos that offer in-depth information to those who are interested.

An example might be an explainer video styled like a TED-Talk presentation or a comprehensive walkthrough of a product. If you want to engage people with intricate details then you’ll need to take your time and not rush your video.

2. How and where is the audience watching the video?

With an array of video platforms at our fingertips, you should consider the scenario in which your video will be viewed and the platform it could be viewed on.

Social media is becoming the hottest platform for video content with statistics indicating that 8 billion videos are now watched on Facebook alone each day. Also, the majority of videos on social media are watched on mobile – a whopping 93% of Twitter videos are watched on phones and devices!

Also, it’s important to bear in mind that mobile viewers will have more distractions and shorter attention spans than desktop viewers. Just 45% of people who watch the first 3 seconds of a Facebook will go on to watch for 30 seconds.

This suggests that you need to tailor the information, length and style of your video to suit the marketing platform.

3. What are your audience’s expectations?

When someone clicks on your video, they likely have a clear expectation of what they’re about to discover. If the video doesn’t meet their expectations then they’ll be more likely to click off.

The thumbnail, title and caption play a fundamental role in attracting viewers and can reveal clues to viewers as to the type, subject and length of a video.

For example, a video entitled “How to Alter your Android phone for Better Performance” gives the impression of a video of greater length and detail than one entitled “Android Phone Speed Hacks”.

In terms of thumbnails, always put the time in to ensure your video tempts potential viewers. Quality thumbnails have been found to double search traffic.

Salesforce’s research into thumbnails found faces to be the most effective for attracting viewers. Bright and contrasting colours are great and always remember to display your brand’s logo!

4. What action do you want the viewer to take?

Depending on the intention behind your video, you should consider what you want the viewer to take away from your video.

If you’re marketing or advertising then this is often obvious: you want the viewer to click through to enquire, buy the product or consume your content.

Video Length and Engagement: The Data

As we’ve now looked at some general considerations for video creation, let’s dive into a video analytics survey performed by Wistia.

The below study was created to assess at which point people were more likely to stop watching the video.

Average Engagement vs Video Length - Whole Graph

From this simple graph, you can see that two minutes is the sweet spot that combines maximum video length with maximum engagement. After then, engagement does start to decline at a variable rate.

A drop in engagement can be a leading indicator for success

That sounds strange, right? Well let’s explain… If your call to actions (CTA’s) are located towards the middle or end of the video, then a large drop in engagement could be due to your audience simply responding to your desired action.

Whether you mentioned another video with an on-screen caption or asked users to visit your website, a drop in engagement must be taken with a pinch of salt and the larger context of where and why the drop in engagement occurred needs to be taken into consideration.

1. Videos up to two minutes are optimal in most situations


Engagement strongly declines after the 2 minute mark. The duration of any video up to 2 minute mark sees the strongest engagement %. That means it’s less important whether your video is 1.5 mins or 1.9 mins as long as it sits within the 0 – 2 minute range.

2. (2 to 3 minutes sees a significant decline in engagement)

The data shows that seconds after 2 minutes create sharp declines in engagement. Obviously, some videos cannot be 2 minutes or under but practically speaking, a short video of around 3 minutes should be cut down to 2 minutes if possible.

3. (6 to 12 minutes is a steady spot for engagement)

Average Video Length 6 - 12 Minutes
If your video is a long form content asset then the 6 to 12 minute length is optimal. Around here, the decline in engagement is pretty slow. The interesting thing here is that 6 minutes is more or less the same as 12 minutes in terms of the engagement % – so it’s recommended that you use these additional 6 minutes to further expand on your desired topic without sacrificing user engagement.

4. Over 12 minutes, engagement drops below 50%

Video Content Engagement Past 12 Minutes

There is something to be optimistic about here: 50-46% of people will continue viewing videos past the 15 minutes range. In the case of narrative-based videos or long tutorials, viewers expect this sort of length from a video.

5. Your Industry and company’s video content performance is unique

Despite being able to produce the above statistical data from an aggregate overview of videos, it’s important to remember that your industry, customer and their content needs will be unique. We recommend following the data above as a general rule of thumb but encourage you to use analytics for monitoring how your content is being received.

Video content can be broken into topic categories and video format, topic categories might include:

  • Account based marketing
  • Lead generation

Video formats may include:

  • Explainer videos
  • Product based adverts
  • Brand awareness videos
  • “How to” videos

Separating your videos by topic category or format enables you to see which style of video your end user prefers. Also, you’ll want to compare channels such as YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as every platform has its own preferences and optimal video content length for delighting your users.

Analytics platforms:

Remember to always set KPIs and use the data to continuously optimise your video content performance.

Conclusion

This data is particularly useful for those who are scrutinising the length of their advertising or marketing material. If you’re trying to cut down your video time to something extremely short like 30 seconds then relax and make the most of the 2 minutes available to you.

Producing anything beyond this point is risky unless you need a longer format for your video (and your viewers should understand that). For marketing and advertising, videos beyond the 12 minute mark are scarcely required and through the 6 minute to 12 mark still provide high engagement rates.

If you want to maximise your video content engagement it’s clear to see that 2 minutes is the optimal video length.