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Exploring video length best practices for social media

It’s impossible to open up a major social platform now and not see a video post. Videos range from short promotional videos on Instagram to quick trailers on Twitter to longer livestreams on Facebook. Videos encompass a wide range of topics and are consumed by many people around the world. Between 2013 and 2018, video consumption online has increased at an average of 32% per year.

In a recent report, video completion rates increased from April to July, maintaining a growth of 11% year over year. This aligns with shelter-in-place orders from around the world and the increased number of people who stayed at home this year.

Videos are more important than ever in marketing and this is not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. To make the most out of your video marketing strategy, you’ll need to figure out which video length is best for your goals and social platforms.

General social media video best practices

These aren’t hard or fast rules and we all know that rules are meant to be broken sometimes. In 2019, the average global viewer spent six hours and 48 minutes per week watching videos, a 59% increase since 2016. More and more videos are being published, which means you’re competing against a lot of content. These best practices are a good place to start from if you’re just wading into video marketing.

Videos should be accessible

Not everyone watches videos with sound on. Adding captions or turning the auto-captioning feature on is the easiest way to ensure that your video is accessible in this area. Preview your videos to ensure they look good with or without sound.

Keep videos short

For the most part, people on social media have short attention spans. You need to capture their attention within the first few seconds. Drive your point across quickly and succinctly, don’t drag it on if you don’t need to. This general practice tip does vary across networks and types of videos, as we’ll see later on.

Optimize for social media

The social platform you’re posting on matters. While you could post the same video across multiple platforms, it’s not advised. Each video needs to be optimized for the platform that they’re on.

Video sizing matters on where you intend the video to go within a specific network. Get familiar with social media video specs so you don’t make the mistake of putting a landscape video into Instagram Stories.

Recommended video length per social media network

Because videos are available on so many platforms these days, brands should know where to focus their efforts. In a 2019 study, 51% of social media users watched videos on Instagram, 46% on Facebook and 50% on Snapchat.

Statista table of percentages of several stats, including watching videos, based on social platform

Here are the ideal video lengths based on the network.

Facebook video length best practices

Facebook has a few different types of videos available to you. For example, Facebook livestreams can be as long as 8 hours. And Facebook says that most people will watch other video types to the end if they are 15 seconds long. One study found that if you want higher engagement, 2 to 5 minutes was the range to aim for.

Instagram video length best practices

Both Facebook and Instagram have Story videos available. Instagram Stories and Reels max out at 15 seconds, feed videos are at 60 seconds and IGTV videos at 60 minutes. Instagram feed videos are recommended at 26 seconds. Story videos can be strung together but the first few seconds are vital to ensuring video watch completion.

Twitter video length best practices

Twitter’s video length max is 140 seconds but they recommend videos be 15 seconds or less. According to Twitter’s internal data, Tweets with video had 10x more engagement than without video.

LinkedIn video length best practices

The maximum length for LinkedIn videos is 10 minutes but the network recommends that the ideal length depends on your objective. For brand awareness and consideration, LinkedIn says that a video under 30 seconds has a 200% lift in completion rates.

Pinterest video length best practices

Pinterest videos are relatively new and they’re maxed out at 15 minutes. The network recommends that you keep the videos at 4 seconds to 15 minutes for Pins and 6 to 15 seconds for ads. As for Pinterest Stories, those are maxed at 60 seconds

Snapchat video length best practices

While the maximum video length on Snapchat is 3 minutes for ads, the network recommends that you keep it within 3 to 5 seconds with the call to action in the first 3 seconds.

YouTube video length best practices

A network based entirely on videos, it’s reasonable to expect that the length will vary depending on what the viewer wants. There is a maximum of 12 hours per video, the longest of any network. Longer videos at a minimum of 10 minutes have been more popular lately, possibly because that’s the point at which creators are able to insert ads.
Google survey bar chart showing percentages of participants who used services to watch video
According to Google’s internal study, YouTube surpassed all other networks with 78% of those surveyed having watched a video on the network in the last 24 hours.

Different types of videos

The type of video you publish is directly tied to the objective you want that video to have. These types also affect the ideal lengths of the videos. While we did mention earlier that shorter is usually better as a general rule of thumb, it’s not always the case for videos like webinars and explainer videos.
Graphic depicting the various stages of a social media marketing funnel
To identify where you want videos to go, consult your marketing funnel. Videos in the awareness stage are often short, such as product trailers. Videos in the loyalty and advocacy stage tend to be a little longer since they include types like how-tos or explainers. At this point, customers are familiar with your brand and have converted, so they’re more likely to engage and stay engaged with longer videos.

Live videos

Going Live is more and more popular for brands. Live Facebook videos that last over an hour have been found to increase engagement from 0.19% to 0.86% when compared to 5 to 10 minute video lengths. According to another study, users watch livestream videos at a rate of 10 to 20 times longer than other types of video content.

News videos

News videos are one of the most popular types of videos on Twitter. It’s recommended for news videos to be less than 15 seconds with you getting the point across even quicker.

Promo & teaser videos

Much like movie trailers, promo and teaser videos aim to get the viewer interested and hyped up about a product or service. These tend to rest on website homepages or on social media to hint at a new product. Because of the nature of this video, it’s recommended to keep it under 30 seconds.

Explainer videos

Explainer videos are usually animated and very short, as they function as a type of trailer for a business. The length should max out at 60 to 90 seconds and here, shorter is always better.

How-to videos

Forty-six percent of global viewers use video to learn something new. These types of videos tend to be longer in length not just because of the content but because people will search directly for them. Three to six minutes is a good starting point, though many videos do go beyond if the information is captivating.

Product videos

Product videos are some of the most popular videos out there. They include short product introductions, unboxing videos and feature highlights.
Marketing Charts' bar graph showing top online video qualities for consumers' decision-making
When asked about the ideal qualities in a video that were important to the decision-making process, 48% of consumers surveyed said that it reflects the specific products and services they own or are interested in.

Conclusion

As you can see, video lengths vary drastically between content types and networks. While it is generally best to keep videos short, long videos still have a place. To truly understand the video length ideal for your brand, you’ll need to experiment and analyze. It’s been said that humans now have an attention span shorter than a goldfish but if that was the case, long-form videos wouldn’t be successful. As long as videos are helping you achieve your social media goals, their length should not have a dramatic impact.



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