Flora Grubb, San Francisco

Flora Grubb, San Francisco

Is there an ideal time or a time limit for online video content?

Well, it depends.  On several occasions I’ve been asked to create some 30 second videos to be included in social media.  There is a widely held belief that short is good and that people don’t have long attention spans so we should keep our video content to 30 seconds, one minute maximum.

However, that the 30 second time constraint came from television advertising and is based on how much time people can stand to be interrupted (like for commercials on television) and not how much time they are willing to spend watching an online video that they feel would provide value.

So my questions to you are?

Are you creating a video that will interrupt people's online experience in a way that they must tolerate watching?

Or are you creating something that you want people to enjoy and find value and inspiration from watching?

Want evidence that people are watching longer videos?  Digg, a platform that shares the most talked about content on the internet, recently started sharing the best of the videos trending online each day.  Check out their site on any given day and you’ll likely never find a video shorter than one minute.  In fact, many of the videos reach five to six minutes in length.  And true, although many of the featured videos are entertainment or news, they also include informational  content that again, runs longer than a minute. That goes to show there is no magic number if you are providing relevant content. 

Can your video be too short?

Again, this depends on what it is you are trying to do with your video.  

Assuming you want people to watch your video by choice, there are two reasons people watch video online.  In general, people are watching videos to either pass the time or to learn something.  Regarding your business, what would people watch video to learn?  When it comes to your business, people might want to learn what you do, how your business can help them become successful, if you are trustworthy, if they want to work for your company, or how to do something. You can present this information in a way that is entertaining or serious. 

The point is, you are providing information that people want and need, and in this case 30 seconds might be too short.  If people are going to click on your video they generally want to watch something that has meaning and value and not just a glimpse of something.

When is 30 seconds the better route?

So when is shorter better?  Mostly when you are interrupting people or when they won’t have time.  An interruption generally falls into the category of push marketing strategies and can include video on your landing page, as at that time people not knowing you or your product may not want to invest 3-5 minutes in getting to know you.  I’ll be covering more about push versus pull video content in upcoming blog posts.

Shorter can also be better when you want to give a glimpse of a larger project like a film or an online course.  Again, this is closer to an advertisement.

One innovative way companies and organizations are using shorter videos is on the background of the landing page of their website.  These videos are generally silent and convey information about the product in a way that creates an emotional experience about the product or service.

Time and money

Good videos are going to create an audience whether they are 30 seconds, 5 minutes or longer.  What qualifies as a good video will depend on what you are trying to say.  So if a business is going to spend time and money on creating a video for the web and for social media, it is important to think about what you are trying to say, why you are trying to say it and what information your audience will find useful.

We’d love to hear from you.  In the comments below, tell us about your online video experience.  Have you found that audiences are willing to watch longer  form online video content?  Do you match your content to your audience expectations and the way your audience consumes content?