One of the questions I get asked the most is “How long should a promotional video be?” This is a fair question and one that will get a variety of responses depending on who you ask. Some people will even say there’s a perfect length for a promotional video.
Here’s how I usually respond to this question: “As long as it takes for the video to do its job and not one second longer”
Now I realize that phrase doesn’t exactly answer the question. That’s because I think that it’s best to answer a few other questions first. Here are 3 questions that will help you determine a good length for your promotional video.
1) How will the video be shown?
Will the video be shown at an annual meeting or fundraiser? If so, you have more freedom to make the video longer (4-10+ minutes) because you’ll have a captive audience that won’t be able to grab a remote or mouse and turn the video off.
If your video is for the web, you’ll need to watch your length a lot closer. On the web, your viewers have all the control. If the video gets boring for too long your audience will abandon it. In fact, as a general rule, shorter videos are more engaging on the web. Recent research by video hosting provider Wistia shows that 30-second web videos get watched on average about 80% of the way though. At 3-4 minutes, that number goes down to about 60%.
The take-home? On the web, shorter is almost always better. (as a general rule we try to keep web videos under 3 minutes)
2) What length best serves the material?
Sometimes the amount of content you have warrants a longer video. This is particularly true if your content is story-based. Stories need to be told in sequence and that often takes more time. If your content is compelling enough people will stick around to watch (see Kony 2012, which is 30 minutes long and sits at around 96.5 million views at the time of this post) . Also, complex subject-matter may take longer to explain and create the need for a longer video. For content like this, oftentimes it helps to write a script rather than delivering the content via interview. In any case, you should try to let the content dictate the length. While it’s true that shorter is better on the web, there are exceptions that show longer videos can perform very well. Use your best judgement and be honest about how captivating the material is. Many times you’ll find that there’s content that you think is essential that just isn’t connecting with the audience in reality. Cutting away that excess helps enhance the rest of the video.
3) How many points are you trying to make?
Here’s a trap that many businesses can fall into while producing a corporate video: They have 8 or 10 or more important things they feel they need to communicate about their company and they feel like they have to say it all in one video. This is a recipe for a really long ineffective video. The reality is that your audience won’t remember the 10-12 things you’re throwing at them. I find the sweet spot is to focus on 2-3 things per video. This keeps the length down which drives higher engagement. It’s also a perfect opportunity to produce multiple videos. So if you really want to include those 12 topics, why not make 4 videos that cover 3 topics each? This makes the content more manageable from the audience’s perspective and it can often be accomplished for the same price as one video that covers all of them.
Answering these questions should get you off to a good start to arriving at the best length for your video.
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Photo Credit: purplemattfish