Goldfish illustration with headline "Video for 8-second attention spans"

That’s a tricky question.

A study by Microsoft Canada indicated that our attention span is shorter than a goldfish. Eight seconds and boom, we’re bored and our mind goes walkies. People have curious minds but are easily distracted.

So, what is the point of making a video longer than eight seconds? A hugely important question if you want to build relationships with your consumers and get your message out there. Eight seconds is little more than a moving print ad. So what to do?

In a moment we will look at the stats for individual social media channels which will give you an insight on how people consume video differently on different channels. However, that said, these stats are averages. Good content gets watched, bad content does not.

From a copywriting point of view, you should always try to be succinct. Stick to one message and get your point across as quickly as you can. Give people a reason to watch and they will. The length of your content definitely plays second fiddle to the quality. But let’s look at specifics.

Ideal length of a video post by channel

We consume are content in different ways on each channel but your twitter feed is a different animal to your search to find a video on YouTube to fix the kitchen sink.

Hubspot analysed their data to find out what is the optimum length for each social media channel. We have different viewing habits across all our social media, so it is best to edit your video for each channel individually. 

Chart of ideal length of social media video posts

Instagram video posts lengths

Hubspot found that the videos that received the most comments averaged at 28 seconds. Instagram users are used to graphic content and have very itchy thumbs that quickly scroll down the page. Our brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, so in an image heavy feed, we scroll very quickly.

Now you have the option of Instagram stories, which perform brilliantly by the way, probably because they are constrained to bite-sized 15 seconds. If you have a longer story, publish in batches. Same rules apply though, don’t drift with your messaging – they say, three parts are the optimum length for engagement.

Twitter video posts lengths

A Twitter video can be as long as 2 min 20 seconds to match the number of characters in a tweet but, HELLLO this is Twitter. People content snack – with little nibble-sized content. Their #Video of the Day averages at 43 seconds but you will have much more success if you tease your content. Give people a sneak preview of what to expect. Keep it short and link it to the full length version on Facebook or YouTube.

Facebook video post lengths

If you have a page with a large following where people are actively seeking you out to consume your content, people with have much more patience. These are your organic posts, the ones that you publish in your feed.

In this case, people are invested in your content and you can produce longer form video to accommodate your communication goals. Facebook will allow you to post a video up to 240 minutes long. Hubspot found they got the most engagement from a one minute video.

Your consumer will still not cut you much slack. Facebook recommends that small businesses limit their videos to 15 seconds. Your customer will take just 3 seconds to decide whether to watch or not.

Optimise for mobile – 88% of people view their feed on their phones.

Optimise for no sound – 85% of people watch with the sound turned off.

Now, that is the recommendation for organic posts but they will not give you much reach unless you already have a large audience.

If you use video with your paid ads bear in mind, people are not invested in your content. You have to try harder. Get to the point quickly. Use copy to make your ads more effective.

YouTube video post lengths

YouTube is the only platform that is successful with more extended content, according to Wired, the top 100 most viewed videos are between five and seven minutes.

People come to YouTube to specifically watch video, so they are more tolerant. YouTube actively encourages longer content, like all the platforms, they want to keep you on the platform to serve you ads.

The average length of a video on YouTube is around 4-5 minutes but there is a significant drop-off of viewers after two minutes.

The length of your content is dependent on what you need to say. If you can keep people engaged they will watch. If it is information they need they will watch. If there is waffle and fat, they will switch off.

If you have longer form content, like course or conference you want to share, consider breaking that down into manageable pieces. It is very easy to create playlists that auto-play.

We are more interesting than Goldfish. Just.

All of these post ideal time lengths are much more than eight seconds. Why is that? Well for a start, I think we can be a bit sceptical about a goldfish’s attention span. They don’t have TVs or phones and they can’t hold a magazine with those flippers, so I think it is safe to say it is pretty boring being a goldfish.

You have eight seconds to make your mark.

Obviously, we can concentrate for longer than eight seconds, or we would not get anything done. But, and it is a big but, we are so bombarded with content, that we give it short shrift if it does not grab our attention – 8 seconds is probably the sweet spot.

Just because you’ve paid to get in front of someone’s eyes doesn’t mean they will watch your content.

The moral of the story

Keep it interesting and get the important stuff up front. The ideal length of a social media video post is dependent of what you need to say.

Ideally, create a separate edit for each social media channel.

If funds don’t allow for that, then max out at one minute.

Just one more thing...

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