What’s the Best Length for an Internet Video?

Question: Since videos can be published online of any length (even if broken into a series of segments), what would be the best length for a self-created video?

Answer: It depends on the purpose of the video and who it’s for. The following are guidelines and you will find exceptions for each.

1) “Introductory Videos” are short: 15 seconds to 2 minutes, and no more than 4 minutes. If you want to expose a brief message to as many potential viewers as possible, who do not otherwise know you, the shorter the better. Anytime someone clicks on a video they are making a small commitment of time and a shorter video just makes it easier for someone to make that decision. If they like what they see, then they may be more inclined to watch a longer video from the same creator, whether that might be immediately, or later.

2) “Content Videos” or marketing videos should be less than 10 min. These are videos that have relevant info for the viewer and can even be condensed highlights from longer videos. They have the potential for being passed along to others if the content is considered by the viewer to be valuable, interesting and/or entertaining.

3) “Training Videos” can be any length. Training or educational videos could include how to use specific software, or how to perform maintenance on an engine, or how to use a specific camera or anything you can imagine. These could even be complete seminars. However, the longer a video is, the less likely it will be viewed at all and the less likely it will be viewed to the end and the less likely it would gain traction as a property that gets passed along broadly (although anything can happen on the Internet). In other words, if a 3-hour presentation could be edited down to less than 30 min, it would generate more views. However, given a valuable enough seminar, there would still be a smaller amount of viewers who would watch the entire 3 hours.

Conclusion: Each of these different video lengths can be used by any one creator or brand. For example, if you create software and wish to get viewers to watch a long training video about your software, existing users of the software may be willing to watch the whole thing. However, an important opportunity would be missed if only long videos were available, since non-users or prospective users may be more likely to watch a short introductory video to determine what level of value the software has for them. If their interest is kindled by a short video, they may be more inclined to consume a content video or perhaps even several content videos, before ultimately they might be inclined towards viewing a training video.

The same pattern could be applicable for not just software, but any product, service, or topic.

In brief, if you want to attract new viewers, shorter is better and as short as possible is ideal. From there, longer videos should be available for greater engagement opportunities. And as would be pertinent to all marketing, advertising and promotion, split-testing different approaches and combinations is recommended to find the most productive paths towards engaging your audience.