VIDEO CHANGE: What are the optimum video lengths for social media in 2019?

Facebook has gone and done it again and shifted the algorithm.

For video, the optimum video has shifted from just 15-seconds to a bumper three minutes.

The new number is contained in advice to Facebook page admins spotted by eagle-eyed Bradford City Council digital comms whizz Albert Freeman.

Thinking behind three minutes

For a while it’s clear Facebook has had designs on being YouTube.

The optimum time for a YouTube clip has consistently been around the three minute mark for years. Of course, some will be longer and some shorter but around the three minute mark has been optimum.

The thing is, people head to YouTube in the same way people head to the library. They want information or to be entertained. So, to spend three on YouTube to learn how to change a tyre or watch a cartoon is fine.

But I’d bet the real driver for Facebook’s shift to three minutes is driven by money.

The longer you spend on Facebook the more attractive you are to advertisers. That includes ads cropping up part-way through videos that Facebook are keen on and with a short 15-second clip you can’t really do that.

An unscientific check of my own Facebook timeline shows these results:

56 per cent are over three minutes.

9 per cent are between two and three minutes.

22 per cent are between one and two minutes.

6 per cent are between 30 seconds and one minute.

3 per cent are 30 seconds or less.

But grabbing attention remains paramount

The temptation to use the three-minute mark as an excuse to park sloppily-edited content would be a mistake in my view.

Let the camera run for three minutes on a subject?

That would be a huge mistake.

The one thing that I think hasn’t changed is people’s attention span.

How are they consuming media? They’re scrolling through their timeline looking for something interesting.

So, the first three seconds are STILL paramount

A week or two back I met a journalist from a news site that is part of the new breed of journalism. Video, he said, is a key driver.

But for him the first THREE seconds were critical. If it didn’t have anything to grab attention in those seconds he tends to skip over your email.

If your content is interesting and tells a story then you’ve a chance. A film sent back from an embedded journalist on life as a medic in Afghanistan was re-edited to open with the burst of machine gun fire that came in towards the end.


To grab attention.

Length is one factor but quality is another

It’s tempting just to look at video length and keep the record button pressed for the required amount.

That would, of course, be really silly. The optimum lengths are useful to know what is being encouraged by big tech companies so you can plan your video accordingly.

But you also need interesting and engaging content.

You need an eye-catching start and story telling is a strong asset while you are planning your content or editing.

You also need to think titles and sub-titles as 80 per cent of video gets watched without sound.

Notes and queries on the research

YOUTUBE: The maximum length of 15 minutes can be increased to 12 hours through a straight forward verification step.  Optimum length is much shorter

INSTAGRAM: Maximum length was increased from 15 seconds to 60 seconds with research via Newswhip suggesting a much shorter length. 

TWITTERMaximum length of 240 seconds   is comfortably within Hubspot’s suggested 45 seconds.

SNAPCHATMaximum length is a mere 10 seconds but Hootsuite suggest five seconds is the sweet spot.

PERISCOPE: A maximum length and the sky is the limit but there is no research on what the optimum length of a live broadcast is. 

FACEBOOK LIVE: Can run for 240 minutes but 19 minutes is best say Buzzsumo.

LINKEDIN is the new kid on the block with native uploaded video. Five minutes is the most you can upload and there is research that the best length is 30 seconds.

I’ve helped train more than 2,000 people from 300 organisations over the past four years. For more on workshops near you click here. Or give me a shout by email


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