How Long Should A Video Be?

An experienced direct marketer knows the length of a direct mail letter is dictated by how long it takes to close the sale, generate the lead or get the contribution. Not surprisingly, there are those who believe a video should never be longer than 30 seconds or a minute. For those who bark “keep it short,” we suggest that you should replace those words with

An experienced direct marketer knows the length of a direct mail letter is dictated by how long it takes to close the sale, generate the lead, or get the contribution. Not surprisingly, there are those who believe a video should never be longer than 30 seconds or a minute. For those who bark “keep it short,” we suggest that you should replace those words with “keep it tight.”

Today’s message highlights how to use data from YouTube analytics (not merely someone’s well-meaning opinion) to determine how long your video should be. And we’ll also discuss five video formats—educational, product demonstration, fundraising, lead generation and case studies—with guidelines on the length of your message for each format.

Please share with us your comments, below, about your experience with video length. If your data dictates that a shorter video always works better, we’d like to hear about it.

(P.S. The Online Video Marketing Deep Dive webinar is coming on Oct. 24. Register here. It’s free! And if you have any questions that you would like us to cover, please send me and email).

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

Author: Gary Hennerberg

Reinventing Direct is for the direct marketer seeking guidance in the evolving world of online marketing. Gary Hennerberg is a mind code marketing strategist, based on the template from his new book, "Crack the Customer Mind Code." He is recognized as a leading direct marketing consultant and copywriter. He weaves in how to identify a unique selling proposition to position, or reposition, products and services using online and offline marketing approaches, and copywriting sales techniques. He is sought-after for his integration of direct mail, catalogs, email marketing, websites, content marketing, search marketing, retargeting and more. His identification of USPs and copywriting for clients has resulted in sales increases of 15 percent, 35 percent, and even as high as 60 percent. Today he integrates both online and offline media strategies, and proven copywriting techniques, to get clients results. Email him or follow Gary on LinkedIn. Co-authoring this blog is Perry Alexander of ACM Initiatives. Follow Perry on LinkedIn.

10 thoughts on “How Long Should A Video Be?”

  1. Scientific research has shown that the human mind has a 30-second cache in which to listen to and/or learn new information. After that time, the brain must stop recording information, whether the speaker or video continues or not, so the information gathered up to that point can be placed in the brain’s short-term memory. Then the brain must take a short amount of time to store it in a related location in the brain (so it can later be accurately retrieved), and it must already have enough related information stored in the brain to “know” where to store it. (Are you beginning to see how hard it is to make sense of a run-on sentence? The brain works the same way with any string of information). And the more information your brain has stored on a topic, the more “if-then” qualifications it must go through to give it a correct, associated reference. For example, “if” there are 8 oz. in a cup, “then” there are 128 oz. in a gallon. But what is someone is sharing information about a “liter cup?” Your brain’s intake will freeze until it can sort out if this means (1) a liter, (2) a cup or (3) a cup of some kind that holds a liter of liquid. And until your brain can sort out what information it should store, you won’t hear or see the information following those words and that content is lost. So keep your message short, easy to understand and don’t rush it. (My master’s degree is in Communication.)

  2. Great info Gary! I’ve talked to a lot of marketers who always say pretty much the same thing; "keep your videos short – 1 to 3 minutes". What you say about keeping it tight makes a lot a sense and I think that is the reason why a lot of other marketers advise to go short; they struggle with keeping it "tight" and therefore keeping the viewer engaged in a longer video. I look forward to your future post on video scripting. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks Gary. We’ve produced a number of fundraising videos and your "tight" time limit suggestion is right on. We’ve also learned (at multiple workshops on the subject) that we need to make the audience feel "choked up" 3 times, i.e., tears, welling up, awash in some heavy emotion. The content has to hit hard, especially if you’re at a fundraising event where you’re asking attendees to take out their wallets and checkbooks.

  4. Thank you for this! This article is very timely as we are just now planning our video for year-end fundraising; in fact, we just had a conversation today about how long it should be! I look forward to your post on video script.

  5. You are absolutely correct Gary. I’ve been producing marketing videos and presentations full time since 2000 and have seen the transition from videos that were much too long, to videos that were too short. These days most clients understand there is a fine line between making sure a video contains all the pertinent information, and one that is too short. Thanks for bringing some much needed light to this issue. – David Doggett / Cybernetic Media

  6. Video length is all about getting the job done. There’s no set length…you’re not buying TV air time so no need to fit in a finite time. Ask yourself, Is it too long or too boring?. People watch 5-minute cat videos on YouTube w/o a problem because cats interest them. People watch 55-minute episodes of Sopranos because the writing is compelling. So length isn’t the issue – what the video communicates and how – is. In general, opt-in and lead gen vids are shorter than ones getting people to part with money. Also consider your video as being only a component of your conversion funnel. You can do a lot more selling from a webpage and follow-up emails than from just a video so make your videos work harder by giving them conversion support from other pieces of the puzzle. Here’s a lead gen vid that’s 3-minutes long…opinions will say 3 min is too long…you be the judge.

  7. Ok – to be honest I think this video is an example of one that is NOT tight and way too long. I had to keep jumping forward. There was interesting stuff there, but I want it faster! I was thankful for the little panel of frames so that I could jump to where the words were and ready quickly rather than having to listen to the whole thing. Sorry – but I think you’ve still got something to learn, Gary!

  8. We had concerns about the length of this video ourselves. But if we’re giving our viewers the “deep dive,” it takes time to fulfill on that promise. We agree there is an irony that it took 9:50 to cover the subject, but keep in mind that we discussed five categories of videos, not just one. The driving decision about video length is actual audience retention metrics. The metrics of this specific video about 30 days after its release indicates that half of the viewers who started the video watched the entire video. Maybe that doesn’t seem very impressive, but consider that when compared to other 9:50 videos on YouTube, this video had an above average viewership until the very end.

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