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What Is The Ideal Length of an Explainer Video?

By November 16, 2016Video Marketing Strategies

You may have heard that a recent study found that humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, which has increasingly… wait!

Where are you going? Come back! This will be worth it, I promise.

That shorter-than-a-goldfish attention span that we now apparently have is a source of consternation for any company that has to explain complex products or services to an audience of potential customers.

Most people think that if the video is longer than a minute, anyone watching is going to get bored and flee to the nearest video of an animal doing something funny.

(Excuse me for a second, I just have to go watch this cat video … for work.)

Some business people even think a minute sounds close to eternity for potential customers and believe an effective video should be measured in seconds, maxing out at around 30 or so.

Elma/Flickr

Elma/Flickr

The problem is, of course, that while you can capture people’s attention and even hold it for a minute or less (usually with the help of some slick production work) that often isn’t enough time to get into the details of a subject.

Many products/services require at least a couple of minutes to fully explain, even when you do it as quickly as possible.

It’s been our experience that this hard cap on video time limits of one minute or less simply isn’t necessary.

The Thing Is …

When many business people talk about having a short time limit on their videos, they’re actually thinking about video ads.

But, it’s important to remember that video ads and explainer videos are not the same thing. We admit that it’s nearly impossible to get people to refrain from reflexively tapping or clicking that “Skip Ad” button as soon as the infuriating little countdown timer lets you.

Trying to forcibly entice people into watching an ad is always going to be a losing battle no matter what you put in those first five seconds (and the only things that you could put in those first five seconds to keep people interested aren’t actually allowed on YouTube, anyway).

But, for non-ad videos, it’s a different story. And that’s because people who actually search for a subject aren’t being forced to watch explainer videos in front of what they actually want to watch. The explainer videos are what they want to watch.

Not counting purely entertainment purposes, when someone searches for a subject, they’re usually looking for an answer to a problem. It’s because of this that your video doesn’t need to be less than a minute.

If you have a legitimate solution to a person’s legitimate problem, they will be more than happy to give you their full, undivided attention for as long as you need to explain the solution you are offering.

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So what is the ideal length?

Like almost every single thing in life, the answer is a frustratingly vague: it depends.

The ideal length for a video depends on:

  • whether you’re just trying to introduce your product/service,
  • whether you want to give people an in depth look at it and convince them to take action, or
  • whether you need to train them on how to use it.

Quick Overview / Introduction:

A one minute video can reasonably convey about 150 words without being too rushed. If all you want to do is to give people a quick overview of your product/service and let them know that it exists and it’s available, than a one-minute-or-less video should be fine for that.

Explaining a Process / Product / Service:

For videos that are meant to explain your product/service more in-depth and lead to the watcher taking some kind of action like signing up for your service, scheduling a call to talk with a salesperson or ultimately purchasing your product, the ideal time is between two and three minutes.

This amount of time will give you enough space to outline the problem your product/service solves, how it solves this problem and allow you to put a strong call to action at the end.

Social media sharing app Buffer did an analysis of top YouTube content and found that 2:54 was the ideal length of a YouTube video. That’s nearly three minutes that you get to introduce, explain and propose action to a viewer.

Educational or Training Videos

Training videos have no ideal time limit. Once a person has purchased your product/service, they’ll watch any length of video that shows them how to use it best. However, you should still try to make your training videos as short and engaging as possible while still being clear. If there are multiple complicated steps, break the process down into shorter videos for easier digestion.

What We Suggest:

business videos

JD/Flickr

We suggest making a series of videos to address each of the above categories. Have an introduction video that gives viewers the main points of your product/service and keep that one to under a minute if possible.

Create another video that goes more in-depth about your product/service and explains the problem it solves, its benefits (ie how it solves the problem) and proposes a call to action to purchase. This one should be as long as you need it to be, but aim for that three minute sweet spot.

And, regardless of how easy your product/service is to use, we suggest making at least one training video because no matter how simple it is, there will be at least one person who just can’t figure it out. These videos can be as long or short as is required, but keep them to a reasonable length and break up the process into multiple videos if necessary.

Long Enough!

Although you shouldn’t ignore people’s obviously shrinking attention spans, you also shouldn’t let those cause you to rush through a video that requires more time. A video that is too short risks confusing and misleading viewers by leaving out or glossing over key details for the sake of brevity.

Just like adding too much cutesy editing can distract from the main message, concentrating on making it shorter than a certain time limit can end up detracting from the message.

Rather than having a time limit you want to work within, it’s more productive to start your video creation with the goal of using enough time to clearly explain what you need to. If you can clearly explain what you need to in under three minutes, that’s great. But, if you find that you need four minutes to fit everything in and make it clear, than don’t try to hack off that last minute just to shoehorn all the information into three minutes.

With any video, your No. 1 goal should always be clarity, regardless of length.

Click here to schedule an appointment with WizMotions to see how we can help you make the perfect explainer video.

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Rob loves nothing more than sitting around in his jammies all day and writing useful blog posts for WizMotions.