What's the Ideal Length for a YouTube Marketing Video? A look into Video Duration vs. Social Sharing

Whats the Ideal Length for a YouTube Marketing Video? A look into Video Duration vs. Social Sharing

David Waterhouse, the Head of Content for Unruly Media, has just compiled some interesting stats on the average length of the ads in the Top Global Video Ads Chart. It ranks brands’ social videos worldwide based on the amount of times content has been shared on Facebook, Twitter and in the blogosphere.

The data is pretty interesting.

Average Video Length for Top 50 Most Shared Global Video Ads:

  • Top 10 - 4 minutes 11 seconds (2,513 total seconds - does not include “Kony 2012”)
  • 11-20 - 2 minutes 30 seconds (1,501 total seconds)
  • 21-30 - 3 minutes 5 seconds (1,849 total seconds)
  • 31-40 - 2 minutes 57 seconds (1,770 total seconds)
  • 41-50 - 1 minute 45 seconds (1,049 total seconds)
  • Top 50 - 2 minutes 54 seconds (8,682 total seconds - does not include “Kony 2012”)

How Long Should a YouTube Marketing Video Be for Shareability?

Now, one of the most frequent questions that I get asked is: How long should a YouTube video be? And I often reply, “Long enough to reach a point.”

But the Unruly data provides an even better answer to the question.

So, I interviewed Waterhouse via email to discover the story behind the story. Here are my questions and his answers:

GJ: If internet marketers and video content producers want to create a video ad that will be shared across the web, but they aren’t sure how long to make it, what would you recommend? Should it be less than one minute? If it is longer than two minutes are web users less likely to share it with their social networks? Is there an optimum length? Does it even matter how long it is?

Whats the Ideal Length for a YouTube Marketing Video? A look into Video Duration vs. Social Sharing

David Waterhouse | Unruly Media

DW: Well, in the world of social video advertising, size does matter – but maybe not in the way you think. You would imagine that the average web user would rather have a red-hot poker rammed in their left eye than sit through a four-minute-minute ad. After all, these are the days when consumers pick and choose what they watch with a nonchalant flick of their DVR remote. These are the days when a 15-second pre-roll ad can drive even the calmest and most patient individual into a frothy ball of uncontrollable rage.

However, if you look at the length of most popular online video ads of all time, a very different picture emerges. The average length of the Top 10 most shared ads of all time is a 4 minutes and 11 seconds. Yep, just short of five minutes (sort of). Now, I know what you are thinking: it’s the Kony factor that has driven up the time. Stick the charity Invisible Children’s 30-minute video in there and of course the numbers are going to fly up. Kony 2012 was a one-off; a global phenomenon that is not a good yardstick for commercial brands trying to make it big online.

Well, what if I told you that that figure actually does not include Kony. In fact, if you did include it, the length would increase to a mammoth 6 minutes 12 seconds. Indeed, even without Kony, half of the top 10 are more than three minutes long, including Abercrombie & Fitch's Call Me Maybe spoof, while four are more than four minutes 57 seconds. Two, including the highly successful Gymkhana 4, created by DC Shoes, are more than nine minutes.

In fact, look at the top 50 and a pattern develops: the shorter the ad, the fewer shares it tends to attracts. For example, the average length of the 11th to 20th most shared ads of all time is 2 minutes 30 seconds; videos 41-50 it's 1 minute 45 seconds. The top 50 average (again not including Kony) is 2 minutes 54 seconds.

GJ: So, what does this mean to internet marketers and video content producers?

DW: Well, firstly, the attention span for social video advertising is considerably longer that of a traditional 30-second TV spot. It’s not surprising. Recent scientific and academic research has found that the number of shares a video attracts, whether it is user-generated or commercial, is linked to the strength of emotion it elicits from its viewers. The stronger the emotion, the more likely it is going to be shared. So it’s hardly surprising that longer ads are more likely to wring out people’s emotions. Thirty seconds is barely enough time to do anything. Sure, it's long enough to introduce a product, but is long enough to tell a story?

More significantly, it shows that people’s attitudes to advertising have changed. Rather than being interrupted by a brand, they want to be engaged by one. It’s a change that more and more advertisers are beginning to embrace. They know the days are long gone when they would just buy some airtime or ad space and blast it out to a supposedly captive audience.

These days, they know that to reach out to their target audiences online they can’t just put their TV ad on YouTube and hope for the best. Instead, they are embracing the opportunity to become content creators - and it is these brands that are reaping the rewards online.


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About the Author -
Greg Jarboe is president and co-founder of SEO-PR, a content marketing agency which provides search engine optimization, online public relations, social media marketing, and video marketing services.  Jarboe is author of "YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day". He is also a contributor to "Strategic Digital Marketing: Top Digital Experts Share the Formula for Tangible Returns on Your Marketing Investment" by Eric Greenberg and Alexander Kates; "Complete B2B Online Marketing" by William Leake, Lauren Vaccarello, and Maura Ginty; as well as "Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions" by Guy Kawasaki. Jarboe is profiled in "Online Marketing Heroes: Interviews with 25 Successful Online Marketing Gurus" by Michael Miller. Jarboe is on the faculty of the Rutgers Center of Management Development as well as Market Motive.  He is also a correspondent for Search Engine Watch as well as the Knowledge Transfer blog. He is also a frequent speaker at industry conferences. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://snobbyrobot.com/ Erik Urtz

    Successful brands appeal to people on a deeper, more human level.

    They need to communicate a story to viewers that gives meaning and purpose to the brands existence.

    They make people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves and that with every purchase, every share, they are making the world a better place.

    Good luck doing that in 30 seconds.

  • Karen Pickles

    If it feels too long or is a chore to sit through, there is something wrong with the delivery of the message. Aim for strength and forget the length.

  • Chris Abbott

    Engaging content does play a big part in the Shareability on social but I would be very interested to see the stats on how long the videos were watched and the interaction happening not only on Facebook and Twitter but also Youtube....

  • http://twitter.com/MontseCano Montse Cano

    I think we shouvd draw a line between the different videos we can have, ie, specific for campaigns, company promos, etc. Other studies show that people may stop watching after only 10 minutes. So, the biggest chunk of info and CTA should probably be within that time.

  • http://www.videomakingonline.com/ Riccardo Romano

    veeery cool article... I'll use it for my professional job... here where I live, we tend to make video shorter than 3-4 mins.
    I agree with you with the emotional stuff: a longer video has better chances to make people more envolved with feelings.
    Thank you!