Why Video Length Matters

A quick guide to long and short-form video content

I’m Kevin Stamps, I’m the director of the production department here at Foundry. Throughout my time here I’ve worked with clients on both large and small video and photography production. If you’ve been involved in any aspect of video creation, you’ve probably been on one end of the question, “How long do you want this video?” Most often it feels like choosing an arbitrary number from follow up questions including: “How long is the limit?” or  “How long do you think it needs to be?” You might just choose a number that sounds familiar, like, 30 seconds? How about anywhere between 3-5 minutes? 

Some people will try to put a bit more thought into their response, “However long it needs to be to get the point across.” 

The issue with these responses is that as much they may sound or feel right, you may be undermining the video’s watchability simply by having it run too long or too short. I’ve put together 6 things to think through when choosing the length of your next video project. 

  1. What is the goal of the video project? 
  2. What are your video limitations?
  3. Are you using the right video platform?
  4. Is your story being told through video?
  5. Cutting to perfection
  6. Is your video project effective? 

What is The Goal of The Video Project?

This might sound like an easy one, but it’s forgotten more often than you might think. It’s important to start any project with a clear and attainable goal. This doesn’t need to be complex. Start with something such as building an audience on a specific platform or raise awareness about a specific amenity offered at your place of business. Learn more about setting goals in our integrated marketing campaign blog post.

With the tools and resources available to the average production team, the possibilities and techniques available are limitless. A lot of times, video requests will come through my office simply because someone thought it might make for interesting content. The problem with this approach is that without a specific goal in mind, a video may get lost in the weeds trying to figure out how to best execute the project. If you aren’t trying to accomplish a specific goal, the length can jump anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes and be met with less than adequate reception. Once an attainable goal is selected, it’s much easier to start crafting your video in line with reaching that goal. 

What Are Your Video Limitations? 

Limitations to your video can be anything from budget, time constraints, or even as simple as the playtime limitations of your intended platform. It’s important to think through what is possible before setting out to achieve your goal. If the project you’ve laid out doesn’t fit within your limitations, you must go back to the drawing board. You may want to create an exciting video of a base jumper drinking your energy drink, but if you don’t have the resources to make it happen, it may be worth rethinking your project.

It’s also important to know that the restrictions on certain platforms help gauge the average audience view time. Although you can post video up to 1 minute on Instagram, it’s important to know the average view time is often half that. For platforms like your website blog, YouTube and IGTV, the audience is interested in longer-form story-driven content, as where your Instagram feed and Snapchat audience is simply looking for something new and interesting.

Are You Using The Right Video Platform?

There are hundreds of options available to you now when it comes to displaying and sharing video content. From popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, to others including TikTok, Vimeo, Reddit, and more. Where you engage with your audience plays a large role in how long your audience is willing to watch your video. It’s important to break it down even further within each platform such as whether or not you are hosting your video on Instagram stories, IGTV, or right on your Instagram feed. Whether it’s an organic post intended to be shared or a sponsored ad that is built specifically to drive clicks. Each of these play a role in the length of your video. 

Is Your Story Being Told Through Video?

It’s easy to overthink the length and style of a video project so much you may lose sight of its original purpose. It’s important to keep an eye on your project and not let other factors overshadow your story. Sure that’s a cool transition, but if it detracts from the story, it might need to be cut. If you’re cutting your video more than necessary to fit into platform restrictions, it’s worth considering a different platform. It’s never worth sacrificing your story to shave off time. One strategy I’ve used in the past is if you know you want to post something on Instagram, but also feel like your story doesn’t fit in the 1-minute time restriction, you can cut a shorter video that teases the story with a link to IGTV or your YouTube channel where the full story is hosted. If you know you’ll have an engaged audience, you can cut your video into a series, so the story unfolds over time. This allows content to gain traction and build audience expectations, looking forward to the next video, anticipating when you next deliver. 

Cutting to Perfection

I used to always think the shorter the better; if you don’t absolutely need a scene or shot, then you should cut it. However, this would often leave me with an emotionless or exorbitantly fast-paced video. There are some shots and scenes that may not directly move the story along, but help add character to your video. I used to cut every um, uh, and pause, out of interviews to keep the video snappy and engaging. Now, I’ve realized that some of those pauses help show the thought that is going into the next statement, or how your interviewee pauses due to an emotional response to what they are saying. The audience notices that. It’s important to remember that there can be a lot more communicated than simply what is being said. In highlight videos or brand teaser videos, you may want to cut 15 shots into a 15-second video to try and show as much as possible, but sometimes one or two shots may be all you need. 


Is Your Video Project Effective?

I had been working on a video campaign for one of our clients and after thinking through these questions, had decided on a 30-second cut for an awareness ad. A week into the campaign, our digital director asked for a 15-second version of the same video. I was wary at first, but after making the cut, I actually found myself liking the 15-second version better. I wasn’t the only one. When A/B testing the videos, we saw a much higher engagement rate on the 15-second video. From there, we redirected our resources into promoting the 15-second version. 

If you have the ability to make these adjustments, do so! There is no sense in backing a project that isn’t performing well. With the data available to us now, it’s becoming easier and easier to get real-time data on whether or not our projects are accomplishing the goal we’ve set. You’ll often see this happen in major commercials where a longer form commercial is originally posted, but later gets cut down to a smaller version to keep the audience engaged. 

If you want to discuss this in greater detail, or are in need of an agency that thinks through this for you, feel free to reach out: [email protected]