How long should your video be?

December 3rd, 2021 Tribe Pictures

We find many clients get the answer to this question wrong—and in the beginning stages of a new project, we often do too. Here’s how we determine how long a video should be.

Who is your audience?

First and foremost, you should know your audience before starting the video process. You’ll have to know their demographics, like age and location, and what platforms are best to reach them through.

But there are a few additional attributes about your audience that will shape your messaging—which, in turn, determines the length of your video.

Is your audience uninformed about your topic, or are they already experts? Are you pitching a brand new concept to new people, or are they longstanding stakeholders?

And how will they feel, emotionally, about your message? Are you announcing celebratory news or doing damage control?

This chart helps us determine where your audience falls among these spectrums. And once we know who we’re speaking to, we can understand how long they’ll be willing to stick around to hear your message.

How dedicated is your video’s audience?

If you’re showing a fundraising film to a room full of past givers and friends of your cause, you’ve already got their attention. Your video can stand to be longer—you’ll have more room for lengthy personal stories that tug on heart strings.

If you’re introducing your brand to an entirely new audience, you’ll need to grab them immediately. With the fast-paced consumption of video through social media and other digital platforms, people need to be hooked within a few seconds, or they’ll decide it’s not for them. And since the payoff has to arrive quickly, your video can’t drag on afterward.

And if you’re hoping to catch the attention of Millennials and Gen-Z users with a social media marketing campaign, you’re going to have to hook them within the first 3-5 seconds.

How complex is the content of your message?

One of video’s unique strengths is the ability to compress time and space. It can connect people from across the world with a couple of cuts. And it can distill your entire company history down into a couple of minutes.

The complexity of your message will impact the length of your video. Generally, we find that brand videos have a sweet spot of 2-4 minutes. That allows enough time to build up the emotion of your story while keeping your audience actively engaged. If you stretch the story too long with slow pacing or complex details, you risk losing your viewers.

But if your story is simple, like an animated explainer for figures, your video should be short and sweet.

What is the purpose of your video?

Why did you make this video in the first place? What is its purpose?

If you to hook your audience and inspire them to act, you’re going to want to keep it on the short side. Sometimes, a minute or less is all you need. Especially if you’re asking them to stay involved afterward: visit your website, read your white paper, follow you on a social media platform.

But we’ve seen Ken Burns tell stories across tens of hours, split across multiple televised showings, with a massive dedicated audience. When you need to dig into the heart your story, share a lot of information without rushing the pace, and make a deeper connection, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your video’s mission with a longer video.

Keep It Concise: Recruiting Brand Film

Compare these two videos yourself. The first is a brand film we made for BASF, with the purpose of reaching Millennial recruits. It’s punchy, direct, and bright.

Indulging in History: College Anniversary Story

The second is a film made for Hamilton College’s bicentennial anniversary. We captured the 200-year history of the college, which lended itself to a longer story, rich with the spectacular beauty of the campus.