In theory, the answer to how long your brand’s video content should be on social media should always be the shorter, the better. For example, a 2015 Microsoft study found the average adult attention span is only 8 seconds, while TikTok has exploded in popularity, with 1 billion active global users, in large part because they placed tight limitations on how long videos can be.
However, digging into the data, it’s clear that optimal video length is far more situational than just making the blanket statement that less is more. Not every piece of video is just an “average” level of interest to the audience, and not all ideas can be best communicated in just 8 seconds. Here are the top 4 insights marketers need to know about video length on social media.
Insight #1: Optimal Video Length Varies By Social Platform
Each social media platform has its own culture, and it would be a mistake to assume that the right video length for brand content would be the same across multiple audiences. For instance, looking at the 10 best performing video posts for episodic TV shows between January – August 2021; their average video length was 47 seconds long on TikTok, 1:20 minutes on Twitter, 4:17 minutes on Facebook, and 4:11 minutes on YouTube.
Nickelodeon’s top performing video so far in 2021 has been a 16 second clip, where Charli D’Amelio got slimed. That video got nearly 9.4 million responses on TikTok. When that footage was shared on YouTube, it included more build up to the slimming and was expanded to 1:05 minutes, receiving an additional 22,545 responses. Since the audience goes on YouTube expecting longer videos compared to TikTok, the additional time made sense.
Insight #2: Video Length Is Vertical Specific
While the average length of top performing TikTok videos was 47 seconds for TV shows, between January – August 2021 the average length for the 10 best performing video posts for CPG Food on TikTok was 13 seconds long. The best performing CPG Food TikTok video was a Ben and Jerry’s clip about trying to scoop into frozen solid ice cream. The video clocked in at 9 seconds.
In the same time period, the top 10 CPG Food posts averaged 1:42 minutes on YouTube, 0:34 seconds on Facebook, and 0:29 seconds on Twitter.
That data just highlights how critical it is to benchmark your performance against brands in your own vertical to determine the most effective video length for your brand content. The audience’s attention span for a trailer of the latest Marvel movie and a video about heartburn medication is not going to be the same, and an apples to apples comparison is needed for length optimization.
Insight #3. Let Influencers Dictate Video Length In Partnership Posts
When working on paid partnerships, it’s important video length be at least in the ballpark of what the content creator normally posts on social, both because that’s what the influencer is most experienced at producing and because that’s what their audience expects of them.
For instance, almost all the TikToks videos by beauty influencer Christine Le are between 6-32 seconds. The most popular Sephora TikTok between January – August 2021 was 22 seconds long and had 4.5 million views, featuring Christine Le showing off claw-clip hairstyles. Additionally, a Christine Le TikTok sponsored by Sephora showing off all night setting spray which was 14 seconds long, received 14.8 million views. These partnerships posts worked in large part because they were in the exact same format of Christine Le non-sponsored posts.
Meanwhile, the comedy troop Dude Perfect tends to make videos that are slightly longer. For example, their best performing Instagram post so far this year generating 402,512 responses was about a baseball-basketball hybrid stunt and was 2:11 minutes long. Therefore, it makes sense that Dude Perfect’s sponsored content would be longer as well. Their top performing sponsored content video on Instagram with 103,685 responses was a 48 seconds long promotion for Nerf Curve Blasters, with their sponsored content posts being as long as 1:14 minutes.
Insight #4. Certain Types Of Content Require Longer Video Length
While generally the trend is shorter videos equal higher engagement, situationally there’s still types of content that are more effective at a longer length, such as makeup tutorials, unboxing videos, or other “how to” content. For example, the top performing YouTube video by Fenty Beauty between August 22, 2020 – August 21, 2021 with 748,030 views was a Tutorial Tuesday featuring Rihanna putting on powder foundation that clocked in at a little over two minutes.
Also videos from the entertainment industry such as film trailers or talk show clips often perform better when they’re longer. For example, so far in 2021, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon post that generated the most responses on TikTok was Vin Diesel talking as Groot in different languages which was 1:23 minutes long. Meanwhile, the top performing film content on Facebook between January – September 2021 was the second F9 trailer which got 1,910,366 responses and was 3:20 minutes long.
That’s not to suggest that in all instances, film videos should be over a minute long. Just look at the top 5 TikToks from films so far in 2021. They were all from F9 and between 6-22 seconds long. It’s important to analyze owned and competitor social media posts at scale to understand the exact circumstances where shorter is better.
For example, consider a call to action like “Tell us you’re a Fast & Furious fan without telling us you’re a Fast & Furious fan”. That can be communicated in 6 seconds, while an actual trailer requires more time to communicate the movie’s actual story.
Looking for more insights on how to properly analyze video length on social media? Request a ListenFirst demo today!