How long-form videos fit into a short attention span world.
By Dorn Martell
There is no doubt that the average person’s attention span has decreased (are you still with me?). Four-hour political speeches and three-hour operas were once considered the norm a hundred years ago. Now people exist in a constant state of restlessness swiping and clicking their way to the Promised Land of interesting content. But, does this mean that all video must be cut down to nanoseconds, and that anything over 30 seconds will never be seen?
Simply put, no.
Our experience and research has shown that long-form videos enjoy great viewership and engagement, but the challenge is putting the most engaging content on the right platform. And there is a difference between the platforms and the state-of-mind of the viewer.
YouTube and your Website
The difference between these platforms and other Social Media Platforms is the search/opt-in dimension. For example, our 2-minute video for the Rustic Inn at Jackson Hole generated more views and had greater engagement than any video the company had ever produced. And over 85% of viewers watched the whole film. It wasn’t just because it was a really high quality film; viewers who were interested in visiting Wyoming sought it out. The sweet spot for length appears to be between 2 and 3 minutes, but videos between 6 and 15 minutes can garner a 50% engagement rate! This demonstrates that relevant content can hold the viewers attention for much longer than predicted.
Videos on Facebook are viewed differently than videos on YouTube or your website. The videos may appear in your newsfeed, as posted organically by friends, or you may see videos posted in groups that you belong to. Then, there are sponsored posts with videos. These videos are supposed to be targeted to your interests but experience shows they are quite random. The optimal length of a video on Facebook is 60 seconds. If a viewer has a connection to the content they will invest a minute of their lives to watch it. This 60-second video was part of a very successful fundraising campaign for the Coral Restoration Foundation: If a tree falls.
The popularity of Instagram is quite amazing, from its beginning as a photo filter app to its current dominant position in Social Media. Millennials and Gen Z flock to Instagram mainly because their Mom is on Facebook and you can “follow” celebrities instead of having to “friend” people. The videos that got the most comments on Instagram averaged 26 seconds. So, the prediction of the “death of the 30-second spot” has proven to be over-hyped as the 30-second video is alive and well on Instagram. Here is an example of The Florida Keys & Key West’s sponsored post.
A lot of advertisers will see stats that indicate that viewers will drop off within 3 seconds and therefore try to pump as much info in the beginning of the film as possible. This is a mistake. If your audience taps out before 3 seconds your content is either not relevant, not engaging or they clicked on it by mistake. Our research indicates that the “skip ad” button stimulates viewers to click off regardless of content. So it is important to buy pre-roll that cannot be skipped. 15 and 30 second formats work well for video pre-roll. An engaged viewer will consume up to 30 seconds while waiting for their video to play or continue. Here is an example of 15-second pre-roll for The Florida Keys and Key West.
The bottom line is this: if you create relevant and engaging content your audience will watch it, whether it’s 15 seconds or 15 minutes. Don’t dumb down your videos or assume you have to trick people into interacting with your brand. Be honest. Be creative. And don’t be afraid to go long.