Short Video vs. Long Video: Optimizing Video Length

Updated on February 12, 2020.

Video marketers often have to ask themselves, “how long should our video be?” Everyone wants the answer to be simple and concise, but that’s just plain bad advice. Instead, the answer to this question depends heavily the content, viewing platform and purpose. In the end, these are just a few of the many factors contribute to the length of videos, which makes choosing between a short or long video challenging. Here, we’ve outlined the best times and places to use short vs. long video to ensure you get it just right.

Short Videos

Because 5% of viewers will stop watching videos after one minute and 60% of viewers drop off after two minutes, short videos can boost the amount of people who actually get to the end of your video. Short videos are ideal for social media, like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat because users are usually scrolling quickly and their time is at a premium. These videos have higher retention rates, making it more likely to capture the viewer’s attention – and for longer.

With at least 55% of videos viewed on mobile devices running under 5 minutes, short video is ideal for smartphone users. For instance, if you know that your intended audience – say, millennials – will most likely watch your video on their phone, you’ll want to keep your videos short so they’ll finish them. Use brief videos to relay a quick message, focusing concisely on just one or two concepts.

Shareable Content

Short videos are optimal for creating shareable content intended for social media engagement. According to Single Grain, 92% of mobile users share videos, so focus on producing pieces that are entertaining, relatable and interesting. Tease your audience with something that piques their curiosity, leaving them eager for more. This helps to help create brand awareness and encourages users to distribute your videos.

Android’s “Friends Furever” is an excellent example of shareable content in the form of a short video. In just one minute, Android hooks the viewer’s attention with adorable animal friends. The brand nailed it by creating shareable content that quickly went viral, receiving a staggering 29 million views on YouTube. Though the touching content is unrelated to technology, it flashes a short message and the Android logo at the end. This boosts brand awareness as it rockets across the Internet. Viewers were encouraged to share this video because it appeals to emotions all humans share and connect through.

Explainer Videos

Short videos work great for an easy-to-explain product or service. In this case, it is not necessary to drag an explainer out. Keeping explainer videos concise allows you to compete effectively for all those short attention spans.

This Visually video is a great short explainer. In under 90 seconds, the short animation uses aesthetically pleasing animated graphics to quickly capture the viewer’s attention, and keep it through the very end. It’s effective because is efficiently relays the purpose and goal of the company in an easy-to-understand format. A few descriptive words with big fonts effectively outline Visually services. You shouldn’t need more than 90 seconds to explain your product or service – any longer and you’ve lost your viewer.  

How-To’s

A short video is ideal if you’re interested in creating How-To videos. The How-To format shows the viewer how to accomplish a task or reach some sort of goal.

Saveur Magazine’s “How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds” aptly accomplishes its mission in one quick minute. They use the title to immediately let the viewer know that it will be a short, concise video. The chef successfully offers a useful kitchen hack in a way that draws the viewer in. The point is to ask little of the viewer’s time to get them willing to invest in your content.

Product Demos

If you want to demonstrate your product in video form, short videos are your best bet. People’s time is valuable; these days, folks are looking for a quick learn. As a marketer, your challenge is to engage your viewer, spark their curiosity, and persuade them to make a purchase. By showcasing how your product would specifically benefit the customer, the decision to invest becomes clear. The faster this is achieved, the better. You want to impress and influence your audience in a snap.

Apple’s product demos always rise above the rest, often due to gorgeous video and captivating graphics. The product demo for the iPhone 7 is proof that effective demos can be comprehensive, yet intriguing in just over two minutes. The tech giant is able to convey a lot of information about the new product, while featuring iPhone users employing new features and its operating system. The demo is effective because viewers can “see” various tools,  like the new camera. The video has over 24 million views on YouTube. Clearly, Apple hit a home run here, inciting curiosity and drawing in a wide audience primed to learn what the newcomer can do.

 

Long Videos

Since “long” is a relative term, we’ll define long videos as exceeding three minutes. For the average, busy individual, videos longer than three minutes are a small investment of time. You need to make clear that your video is worth taking the time to watch in full. Ask yourself, what would guarantee that my audience will find my video important and interesting enough to watch all the way through? For long videos, you want to lock in your viewers’ attention and hold it.

Since it is more difficult to retain your viewer’s attention for longer videos, it is critical that you focus on the content of the video. You should create long videos for complex ideas that need a lot of explaining. If you want to provide a lot of information with the intent to entertain or persuade, consider lengthening your video. This will allow you to go more in depth with your topic and explain with attention to detail.

Inspirational Content and Emotional Storytelling

Extending the length of your video is smart when it comes to producing inspirational content and emotional stories. For this type of video, you want to flesh out the background and story to create a full understanding of the situation. With more time, you can build the content and really pull at your audience’s heartstrings, making them emotionally attached to your idea. If your intention is to inspire, you can utilize added minutes to expand on your story to enhance the experience and connect to viewers.

Green Buzz Agency’s “Ocean’s Call” serves as an excellent example of longer inspirational content. In twelve minutes, the video fully explains Claire’s background and story. The length is effective because the video was shown at an event, where people were seated and attentive. The viewer is able to move through a background story and a turning point in Claire’s life. The video shows passion, love, and generosity. These are strong cues that are developed throughout the video and encourages the viewer to feel inspired by Claire’s will and strength.

 

Documentaries

The best documentaries have some length. This is because they are nonfictional stories that are usually told in full. They often are created to share a story, educate, and persuade. Good documentaries feel real, intimate and are well composed. It takes time to fully develop a story that includes all the important details and facts. Documentaries can range from a few minutes, to a few hours, to a few episodes. Determine your documentary length by assessing what is important to include and how long to expand on each detail. Don’t rush through your story, but don’t drag it out to unnecessary lengths. Find that sweet spot of length that adequately covers all your information.

Square’s documentary “Yassin Falafel” tells a moving story in just over eight minutes. The content is socially relevant – a Syrian refugee pursuing the American dream – and follows the entrepreneur’s life in the U.S. This Webby award winning documentary would have felt rushed if it was any shorter, or it may have been forced to exclude crucial details. 

Data-Heavy Video

Videos that are data-driven should usually be a bit longer. When making claims, especially scientific ones, it is important that they are supported by quantitative facts. Viewers who are uneducated about your topic benefit from in-depth explanations that make your points clear and give you credibility.

“Network Earth” exemplifies a longer video that is data-heavy and fact driven. It describes some of Earth’s environmental networks and the effect of climate change on those networks and species across the globe. The video visualizes the very real, massive consequences of climate change. At five minutes in length, the video displays research in a manner that is easy to understand by a general audience.

 

Summary

When creating videos, it is important to take length into consideration to optimize quality and effective storytelling. Determine length by categorizing the video and paying attention to your target audience and context of distribution. A video’s length affects its impact, so be sure to get the most out of your minutes.  

Emily Herman contributed to this post.