What One Study ShowsAccording to Wistia, a professional video hosting company, the longer the video, the shorter viewer’s engagement time, so videos need to be as short as possible to hold a viewer’s attention, with “short”, in general, being 2 minutes or less. Wistia arrived at these findings by viewing 564,710 videos and over 1.3 billion plays in a research study.
From the study, Wistia found that viewers hold an average engagement level of 70% for videos lasting 1-2 minutes. What this means is that video creators don’t have to agonize over whether to shave a few seconds off their videos for good response as long as the time falls within this window. After this 2-minute mark, however, the attention span sharply drops for 2-6 minute videos and plateaus at 50% for videos lasting between 6 and 12 minutes. Because of the rapid decrease between 2 and 6 minutes, it’s important to take stock of every second of the video’s length in this interval; there’s a significant difference in viewership drop off between a 2-minute video and a 2.5 minute video, for instance. This observation also shows that video marketers should start off keeping their videos under 2 minutes if possible, loading the most important information near the beginning.
By examining how much followers engage with the videos, such as whether they like the videos or watch them in their entirety, marketers can then determine if they need to revamp their video content or create longer videos without losing too many viewers. Between a 6-12 minute range, video creators have flexibility in duration to retain an attention level of 50%, but because videos of this length are more costly and time-consuming to make, the content must be detailed, straightforward and compelling. Video creators should also be familiar enough with their base of viewers to know if they’re dedicated enough to faithfully watch these videos from beginning to end. The average viewing engagement does drop further from 50% after the 12 minute mark to about 46% at 20 minutes. However, viewers searching for specific types of in-depth content usually expect videos providing that content to fall between extended lengths of 12-20 minutes. However, care should still be taken to ensure that information presented in longer videos is of high-quality and actively holds the viewer’s attention.
Another PerspectiveDavid Waterhouse, the content director for Unruly Media, gathered and studied data about Youtube videos, which gave another perspective on video time lengths that yield the most fruitful results. He calculated the average time length for the top 50 most shared global advertisement videos by various sub-groups. These videos were shared worldwide on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Waterhouse found that the top 10 most shared global video advertisements on Youtube lasted 4 minutes and 11 seconds on average, while the top 50 most shared were only 2 minutes and 54 seconds on average. Here are the average lengths for other sub-groups among the top 50 videos: For top video numbers 11-20, the average was 2 minutes and 30 seconds, videos 21-30 averaged 3 minutes and 5 seconds, videos 31-40 had a 2 minute and 57 second average, and videos 41-50 averaged 1 minute and 45 seconds.
What Waterhouse deduced from these findings is that the shorter video advertisements are, the less frequently they tend to be shared. Although this seems contrary to intuition, Waterhouse determined that this pattern is because viewers have longer attention spans for social media ads than conventional TV ads, which is supported by scientific/academic research that has shown that the sharing frequency of videos is associated with the level of their emotional appeal to viewers. So not only are viewers more willing to watch longer advertisements on video, but they also want to connect with what’s presented in these video ads through genuine engagement instead of seeing these ads as annoying interruptions. What can be taken from this observation is that videos, advertisements or not, that elicit strong emotional responses from viewers have some leeway in lengthening their durations up to about 5 minutes. This is because the emotional appeal of these videos keeps viewers more engaged than if emotional elements were not present.
Another key point to note is that whether or not your animated video is specifically created to be shared, these insights from Waterhouse’s study can certainly be considered in setting a video time length that will yield the most viewing engagement.
Putting It All TogetherOverall, both studies by Wistia and Unruly Media’s Waterhouse indicate that there is no specific ideal duration for animated videos, or for videos in general. There seems to be a broad, general consensus that this optimal time length should fall somewhere between 2-5 minutes, but there are numerous exceptions that can apply in shortening or lengthening this time span. The time length ultimately depends on factors like the purpose of the video, the type and depth of content in the video, and the actions that viewers are expected to take in response to the videos.
General GuidelinesHere are helpful guidelines to follow when deciding which specific time frame your animated video should fall into:
- 30 seconds – Many video professionals suggest that 30 second videos are adequate for brand promotion, social media sharing, and products or services that require brief, simple explanations.
- 60 seconds – Creative commercials like comedic sketches, exciting challenges, and amusing stories that are meant to pique a viewer’s interest immediately should last no more than a minute.They should also conclude with a strong call-to-action that prompts viewers to share, comment, or visit a site.
- 90 seconds – For quick step-by-step tutorials on how to use a mobile device or set up features in a web application, The Next Web says video creators should aim for a range that is no more than a minute and a half: 45-90 seconds. Brief tutorials like these should easily show how something works and how easy a product or service is to use.
- 2 minutes – According to Wistia, this length is the ideal time spot for viewer engagement; it’s a relative threshold limit where video marketers can expect significant viewership and therefore high marketing impact before the engagement drops off. Videos covering complex products and services with advanced features should fall within this span, especially those that utilize whiteboard animation techniques that explain information using anecdotes to relate to viewers.
- 3 minutes – Three minutes falls within that sharp attention drop off window from Wistia’s study, but it’s a timeframe that will still generate good results for videos that cover in-depth, important topics like crowdfunding. Crowdfunding videos seek to inform viewers on the history or background of a social issue, cause or product and why an organization is seeking financial support to develop solutions to problems. Consequently, these types of videos need upwards of 2.5-3 minutes to provide this type of information. According to The Next Web, the audience of this type of video is more attentive because they seek to learn about the product or service and its expected benefits, so such a video needs to be direct and thorough with details and facts to build credibility with viewers. Viewers also prefer to get information via video instead of lengthy brochures, which crowdfunding literature typically comes in.Some video experts also advise setting a 2-3 minute window for product or service videos with detailed information such as how to sign up for a service subscription or how to schedule a call with a sales representative.
- Narratives & Educational Videos – Again, there is no hard-and-fast rule as to exactly how long a video should last. Depending on the video’s purposes or objectives, relatively longer periods of time like 6 minutes or beyond 12 minutes may be necessary to adequately provide special types of information. Historical narratives, educational lessons, and instructive tutorials are some types of content that warrant extended video time lengths. Although long videos like this naturally lose viewer engagement as they progress, they can still maintain substantial engagement because viewers watching these videos expect them to be longer. The viewers are willing to pay more attention because they seek to learn or gain something from the presented content.
- Videos intended to be shared – Again, as found from David Waterhouse’s study, a video’s emotional appeal can override time restrictions when it comes to gaining maximum viewership and sharing. There is some breathing room to make emotion-eliciting videos as long as 3 to 5 minutes to allow enough time to establish a connection with viewers, share a touching story, and then prompt the viewers to take a desired action. To get the most out of these types of videos, make sure the content is sincere, captivating, and inciting to keep viewers watching all the way to the end.