As I was finalizing my presentation for the YouTube Marketing Best Practices Workshop at this week’s ReelSEO Video Marketing Summit, I was invited to speak about the “Secrets of Mobile Video: YouTube and Instagram and Vine, Oh My!” at September’s SES San Francisco Conference & Expo. (I accepted the invitation.)
Now, my presentation for this Thursday’s pre-summit training workshop is about two hours long – which seems to be the right amount of time to share some best practices and success stories of TrueView ads. (My presentation also includes a sneak preview of Unruly’s Social Video Scorecard, which identifies the key psychological responses and social motivations that the video’s content elicits, by Devra Prywes, the Vice President of Marketing and Insight at Unruly Media. So, I won’t be speaking for two solid hours.)
But in September, I’m supposed to talk about YouTube, which lets users with a history of complying with the YouTube Community Guidelines and copyright rules upload videos that are longer than 15 minutes, Instagram, which has introduced a new way to share 15-second videos, and Vine, which creates six-second looping videos. (If I really wanted to be ecumenical, I could toss in Netflix, which lets you watch TV shows and movies on nearly any Internet-connected screen.)
So, maybe it’s time to revisit the question: How long should a video be?
Well, it depends. The British and Australians have an expression, “horses for courses,” which means that it is important to choose suitable people for particular activities because everyone has different skills. And, if you adapt this idiom for videos, then you’d select different solutions to engage customers in different ways, based on your marketing objective.
Between now and September, there will be plenty of time to take a closer look at the shorter formats. So, with the ReelSEO Video Marketing Summit just days away, let’s examine some of the longer formats.
One of the longest videos that I’ve ever watched all the way to the end is “Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” It is 1 hour, 16 minutes and 27 seconds long.
"Randy Pausch Last Lecture” was uploaded on Dec. 20, 2007, to the CarnegieMellonU channel on YouTube. That’s back when most YouTubers couldn’t upload videos longer than 10 minutes.
If you haven’t read Pausch’s The Last Lecture yet, then I encourage you to find the time to watch the video. The content is unique, compelling, entertaining and informative.
Pausch’s moving presentation is modeled after an ongoing series of lectures where top academics were asked to think deeply about the question, “What wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?”
And a month before giving the lecture, Pausch had been given the prognosis that the pancreatic cancer with which he had been diagnosed a year earlier was terminal. So, “Randy Pausch Last Lecture” actually is his last lecture to a large crowd of over 400 colleagues and students.
During the lecture Pausch is upbeat and humorous, shrugging off the pity often given to those diagnosed with a terminal illness. At one point, to prove his own vitality, Pausch drops down and does push-ups on stage.
He offers insights on computer science and engineering education, multidisciplinary collaborations, and working in groups and interacting with other people. Pausch also offers his listeners inspirational life advice that can be applied to one’s professional and personal life.
At the end of 1 hour, 16 minutes, and 27 seconds, I was in tears. And I shared a link to the video with my wife and three kids. It’s not only a video worth watching, it’s also content worth sharing. This explains why “Randy Pausch Last Lecture” has more than 16 million views. And according to the Viral Video Chart powered by Unruly, the video has 176,203 shares.
Now, does anyone actually think that “Randy Pausch Last Lecture” is too long? And would anyone seriously suggest that the content should be broken up into a set of shorter videos and then put back together as a Playlist? I don’t think so.
In fact, one of the most compelling videos of the United States Presidential election in 2008 was “Obama Speech: ‘A More Perfect Union’” – which has almost 7.2 million views even though it is 37 minutes and 39 seconds long.
In spring 2009, I got an opportunity to ask Arun Chaudhary, the New Media Road Director of Obama for America (OFA), some questions about OFA’s YouTube and video marketing campaign. When I asked him about “A More Perfect Union,” Chaudhary said:
“We had consistent calls from the public to put up speeches in their entirety. As time went on, we found that some of the effort of finding specific clips and producing them with cut shots was better spent trying to get entire speeches and town halls online. Folks really seemed to respond to being allowed to see the candidate unedited. In a sense they wanted to see the candidates in the raw and make their own decision, not to feel like they were being fed media. With a candidate as compelling as Barack Obama was, it made a lot of sense to let them see him in this manner. The more people actually saw him speak and heard his views, the more likely they were to vote for him. With a different candidate one might need to take a different strategy, but for us Barack Obama was always the star; we were just the backup singers.”
So, if your content is really unique, truly compelling, especially entertaining and remarkably informative, then “Keep Calm and Go Long.”
Need a third example? Then watch “Kony 2012,” the short film created by the non-governmental organization Invisible Children, Inc.
Published on Mar. 5, 2012, “Kony 2012” now has more than 98 million views and over 10 million shares. And according to Unruly Media, “Kony 2012” was by far the most shared video ad of 2012.
In a press release announcing the 20 most shared social video ads of 2012, Unruly Co-Founder and COO Sarah Wood said, “The world’s biggest brands can learn from Invisible Children: it’s not about a 30-second commercial anymore when a 30-minute video gets 10 million global shares.”
Three examples are normally enough to win most arguments. But, let me conclude with one more that comes from a speaker at Friday’s ReelSEO Video Marketing Summit.
While you enjoy lunch, you will be entertained by Jim Louderback from Revision3. At the summit, he will be filming an episode of his highly popular downLOADED – the show where opinionated geek and tech pundits gather around to discuss issues and news impacting technology and its users.
Over the weekend, I watched the Sunday, June 30, 2013, episode of downLOADED, “Is Ouya A "Success"? Does Windows 8.1 Fix Anything? Why MySpace is Cool Again.” The running time of is 41 minutes and 42 seconds.
So, I actually hope that I can keep calm and go long – because Louderback has just invited me to one of the opinionated geek and tech pundits on Friday’s episode of downLOADED. This means I need to create content in real time that is unique, compelling, entertaining and informative.
Oh great, either I’ve got to bring my A game, or talk a lot about dinosaurs. Or, a little from column A, a little from column B. As Bart says in Blazing Saddles, which is 1 hour and 33 minutes long, “Always like to keep my audience riveted.”
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