I’ve mapped optimum video lengths for a few years now and the landscape is often moving across that time.
Earlier in 2019, it was the shift from Facebook to steer people towards three minute videos from the previous optimum of 15 seconds.
Now, looking at it fresh there has been a further tilt. Filling the 15-second void is the Chinese-owned video network TikTok. I’ll blog a quick explainer on how public sector people can approach TikToc as a platform.
Video in the UK remains a key part of a comms strategy
Globally, video consumption over the internet is expected to rise by 13 per cent over the next five years, according to PWC.
With 87 per cent of UK adults using the internet daily or almost daily, according to the ONS internet use is baked in to what we do. It’s no surprise that on a smartphone or a tablet is where a lot of video is going to be consumed.
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.
There’s a number of other ways to present video I’ve not touched upon. VIMEO has fallen behind in recent years but still has fans and you can upload via VIMEO LIVE with a premium account. You can go live via YOUTUBE LIVE but there is little accessible guidance for the amateur. FLICKR can take video of up to 1GB but will only play back the first three minutes.
360 & VR Facebook and YouTube in particular are chasing this new way of shooting video but there is little out there on maximum and optimum upload times.