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How long should my video be?

As you can imagine, we get a lot of enquiries about producing videos, because you know, that’s what we do here at Square Daisy!  We get all sorts of requests, from product videos to explainer videos, animated videos to pitch videos, and believe it or not a few years back I was even asked if we were available to produce an ‘intimate’ video. 

What tends to be a fairly constant element of these enquiries however is the desire to produce a 30 second video.  Now we have always worked based on the mantra that a video should be as long as it needs to be, to do what it is supposed to do.  You can have a 30 second video, but if it doesn’t tell your target audience what they need to hear, it is utterly pointless.  For reference the paragraph before this sentence is 74 words long, about 30 seconds in terms of voiceover content – not a lot is it.  Think you could write something compelling for a viewer in that space? 

So we thought we would write a blog to bust this myth wide open.  We always knew from our own statistics that two minutes was the golden number but we’ll go a little further with this blog to explain some other factors to consider.  The statistics that we are using are based on studies that Wistia have done, so they are watertight and from a massively credible source.  Their statistics come from over 530,000 videos and 1.3 billion plays, so they really hold their own.  Wistia are a video hosting platform, one that we use and often recommend to our clients. 

Is 30 seconds the best length?

Put quite simply, no it isn’t.  The drop-off rate of viewing and engagement between a 30 second video and a 2 minute video is practically identical, meaning that as long as you sit under the 2 minute threshold you are absolutely fine. 

Interestingly if you moved the length of your video from 1 minute to 2 minutes, the levels of drop-off are negligible, but you get 100% more video to show off your product or explain your service with no penalty – so why wouldn’t you use it?

How long should a video be?

What about over two minutes?

So this is the point where you have to tighten up.  After two minutes the watch through rate drops from around 70% to around 64%, and it keeps going down thereafter.  A four minute video is in the mid 50’s and a 6 minute production hovers just above the 50% mark.

So what are we saying?  Try and plan for a 2 minute video because after this, every second counts. But remember, if the video needs to be longer then it absolutely should be.  If you can, you should try and factor in a call-to-action at the end (the bit that has the message saying what you want the viewer to do next or your contact details, etc) as part of this two minutes.  This element normally takes about ten seconds, and you may have an opening sequence, so you’re already down to only 105 seconds of pure content.

Why do we prefer videos be around 1m 59s?  If you think about, when we click on a video to watch it the first thing we naturally do is look in the bottom corner to check how long it is. If there is a ‘1’ at the start we’re generally okay with that, however a ‘4’ always means an audible sigh!

What if it does need to be longer?

Then it should be, simple as that.  We only have to look at recent political campaigns to realise that sometimes,  complexity can’t be boiled down into a soundbite. The same goes for video.  If you are Samsung, Hilton or PWC, you can be super creative and punchy with your video content because you have massive brand recognition.  You don’t need to explain what you do to people because they know, you can just focus on inspiring them.  Like the Waitrose advert below, you can take your time and focus on a single point rather than try and explain myriad things about your business.  If you are an SME or a large business operating outside of the consumer mainstream, you need to explain who you are, what you do and why you’re credible to begin with.

 

If it is a powerful or complex offer then it will be as long as it needs to be, providing you capture viewers’ attention early on to re-assure them that they’ll get the information they came to get.  The ones that leave would have probably left whatever the length.

There are also occasions where people really want a longer video.  We’ve done a lot of work in the engineering sector and they love detail, so why condense it to some headlines when you can really give them the meat on the bones?

A case in point is our process videos.  There is generally a misconception that video is created by either turning up and filming some stuff and then it magically turns into a video. Or with animated video, you push some imagery into the computer and it sort of, well, animates.  There’s a lot more to it than that so we created two explainer videos to show our process – one for animated videos and one for live action.  The animated process video is 1m 52s in length and the live action one is 4m 26s –  a massive difference for fundamentally the same process.  The live action one needed to be longer, so we made it longer.

Is there any difference between animated and filmed footage?

The only statistics we have for this point is what we have from our own videos and those of our customers, and we see no significant difference between the two.  That said we approach our videos very differently, with lots of time invested in the planning phase to ensure we make the productions as dynamic as we can, so we’d hope that because we have the ability in-house to create animated videos and live action videos (or a combination of both), we choose the best option for our clients.

Now if you have a middle aged guy, wearing a suit, sitting in a chair badgering on for several minutes about the history of the company, when his great grandfather set it up, how he’s made the business a success, you’re going to see massive drop off rates, because let’s be honest, no one cares about that stuff.  If you make a talking heads video interesting and storyboard it well, you’ll get more success.  On the other hand, a well produced animated video has the ability to create visuals from nothing with very little restriction, therefore keeping the viewers entertained and engaged throughout.

SLD 2016 Publications
SLD 2016 Publications

When is a 30 second video a good idea?

When it only takes 30 seconds to explain what you do in sufficient depth that the viewer will happily do the thing you want them to do next. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not against short videos. We like to be concise but we have found very, very few occasions where you can explain your product or service adequately in 75 words or less.  It’s a tough ask.

There is one area where we really strongly suggest developing very short videos- around 15 seconds each, and that is for social media.  Where budget allows, we suggest to our clients that they have a full length video made to use as part of presentations, on the website, on their e-mail signature, to send out as part of a campaign, etc. But also invest in chopping that video up and using micro edits on social media to drive engagement.

We also tweak the productions so that they don’t need sound, as more often than not the sound is turned down on devices when you watch videos on social media. We use on-screen text to deliver a single, quick message that hits home as soon as it pops up in your feed.  Having these micro edits as part of your marketing toolkits is a nominal additional cost as it piggy-backs on the bigger production, but can make a considerable additional return on your investment.  Below is an example of one video from a Christmas 2016 campaign that we ran, where we created a short animated ‘Daisy’ every day leading up to Christmas and generated some real traction on Twitter as it became a little thing that people looked forward to.  Each video was only 15 seconds long but was part of a wider strategy.

 

 

Conclusion.

So here are some headlines pointers to take from the blog:

  • If you’re creating a corporate video / promo video / explainer video keep it under two minutes and you’re fine
  • If you have detailed client case studies, a really complex product or service that is quite niche, or a more sophisticated story to tell that will resonate with viewers (charities for instance) you can run to around five minutes
  • Tutorials or short documentaries on something amazing your company has done can last up to 12 minutes
  • Anything over 12 minutes drops well below 50% engagement so isn’t worth the extra budget or effort

If you want to make a short video, a long video or something in between, we’ll be happy to pass on the benefit of our extensive knowledge of length. Because genuinely, not all men have a realistic idea of length.

By the way, we said no to the adult movie opportunity.  We left you hanging there didn’t we.

You can read the full Wistia full blog here.

 


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