Videos over 2 minutes on the internet translates to cruel and unusual punishment. Attention spans for internet videos are short (even shorter if your video isn’t about cats or laughing babies). You have a small window of time to grab your audience’s attention and keep them engaged.

You know the problem, but what’s the solution? Is there a set video length that works best for viewer engagement?

Well, yes and no.

Generally speaking, shorter is better

Viral and entertainment videos will always have the edge over brand videos. Viewers know your company’s ultimate goal is to have them buy a product or a service. Don’t waste their time. Cut right to the chase within the first 10 seconds.

Wistia, a video hosting company, looked at the data of millions of videos and found that 30-second videos work best at holding attention.

Wistia

“The above graph (let’s call it Exhibit A, because it’s fun to feel like a detective) is the most consolidated display of the data, with one data point for each video length range, on the x-axis, with the average % viewed for videos of that length on the y-axis. Basically, it’s representative of the video engagement number within Wistia. . . This graph tells us that shorter videos are better for getting people to watch the whole thing. After all, most business video is created to serve up a pre-packaged message, so the longer the video, the less people will watch.”

Wistia

Different video goals require different amounts of time to achieve them.

Introductions and Testimonials: 30 – 45 Seconds

An introduction video is your company’s way to introduce the world to your business. The best way to think of it is an elevator pitch. What could you say in a 30 second elevator ride to convince someone to invest in your product or service? There’s no need to dive into details at this stage.

Introduce Yourself. Address a Need. Offer a Solution.

Your follow-up testimonial video should be just as short and sweet. Video testimonials allow potential buyers to connect with people similar to them and have similar needs. Any endorsement over 45 seconds teeters on overindulgent.

We’ve noticed this with our own videos. When comparing the engagement of a 2 minute video with a 45 second testimonial, the engagement went up by 30%.

All Pro Media Testimonial Stats

Some videos need further explanation. If you really want to dig into the benefits of a product or service, you need more time.

Promotional or Sales Videos: 2 – 3 Minutes

Your promotional video is an opportunity to really dive in and explain the ins and outs of what you’re offering, like in this promotional video for Kidde’s Worry-Free CO alarms

Kidde Worry Free CO Alarm from All Pro Media on Vimeo.

For these kind of videos, 2-3 minutes seems to be the best length. That gives plenty of time to explain the important information while still being brief enough that your viewer is more likely to commit to watching the whole video.

You may think you’ve got too much to say and 3 minutes isn’t nearly enough. Most of the time, you’ll find that you’re including content that isn’t really necessary to the message you’re trying to convey.

You want to say just enough. The best way to do that is to spread out the information. Instead of trying to say 10 things in your video, stick to about 2-3 major ideas. Make other videos for those 7 other points and topics. That makes the information more manageable and focused for your audience.

Educational Videos: 6 Minutes

Yawn. Lectures. 60 minutes of pure torture for some. Teachers and professors are well aware of students’ dwindling attention during an hour long lecture. That’s why they incorporate videos into their lesson plans. Though as short as their attention spans can be for an in-person lecture, it’s even shorter when watching educational videos online.

The Wall Street Journal article, An Early Report Card on Massive Open Online Courses discusses that the optimal length for online educational videos is 6 minutes or shorter. That’s because students will actually watch these videos most of the way through.

Philip Guo, an assistant professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester explains that engagement times decrease as videos lengthen:

“For instance, on average students spent around 3 minutes on videos that are longer than 12 minutes, which means that they engaged with less than a quarter of the content.”

Length of educational videos, wall street journal

Wall Street Journal

 The key takeaway from this information is that lectures should be broken up into small, bite-sized pieces to maximize student engagement.

Final Verdict: It Depends…

It all depends on what kind of video you’re making. If you’re introducing your company or providing a testimonial, keep it short and cut to the chase. 30 seconds should do it. For videos a little more in-depth, allow for a little more time (2-3 minutes). When you want to produce a video for educational purposes, break the information into digestible, 6 minute segments.

No matter the video; put your message at the beginning to keep your viewers engaged in your message. Most people don’t finish the videos they watch, so don’t wait until the end to make your point.

Use your best judgment. Keep your goals clear and your video focused and your audience will (hopefully) be engaged from start to finish.