Video Length Matters for Message, But Not for Viral Video Potential

Video Length Matters for Message, But Not for Viral Video Potential

What impact does a video's length have on its chances for success?  How long does a video have to be to go viral?   Let me put it another way:  what's the shortest possible video length for a viral hit?  Thirty seconds?  Fifteen? How about three? 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, one of the shortest successful viral videos I've ever seen - 3 seconds  - Go! Bwaaah!

Now, there are a few points I want to make regarding video length:

1. There isn't any direct correlation between length-of-video and viral success.

Video Length Matters for Message, But Not for Viral Video PotentialOn one end of the spectrum, you have this three-second clip of a girl falling on her face.  It's short, but it has enough time to make its impact.  On the other end of the spectrum, you find something like RedLetterMedia's Star Wars prequel reviews.  Like the Attack of the Clones review, which runs the length of over 90 minutes (there are nine parts, each around ten minutes long).  Here's the first one, in case you're not familiar with the series:

Over a million people watched that video.  Each of the other nine parts has roughly half a million views as well, and Part 1 of his Phantom Menace review has nearly 3 million views.  So clearly... extreme length is not a problem either.

2. The quality of your content is far more important than the length of your video.

Length is largely unimportant so long as the content is engaging.  As a general rule, the longer the video, the less likely viewers will stay with it.  Similarly, if your video is too short, you might not have time to make your point.

3. Brands probably need videos that are longer than 3 seconds.

There's just not much time for a quality message when it's that short.  Can a 3-second video go viral?  Absolutely.  Can it sell products?  Maybe not so much.  Though, in fairness, it's not like brands haven't tried.  Remember those 1-second Super Bowl commercials from Miller High Life?

4. "Short" is trendy.

Possibly thanks to Twitter and its 140-character limit, there are a lot of content producers looking to capitalize on the short-attention-span of the American public.  Lately I've been really enjoying the work over at 5 Second Films.  They do exactly what you think they do:  they  make five second films... a new one every day.  And most of them are pretty humorous.  And it's not that they're flourishing despite having short videos--instead, it's the short length that actually creates their opportunities for humor... it's inspiration for them, not a limitation.

Similarly, I enjoyed the recent Short Songs video from YouTube user "killcure."  Again, he's taking an extremely short time constriction and making it the catalyst for his jokes... it's driving the humor.  (The first song, entitled "What Would Elvis Do," has only one lyric:  "Drugs!")

Check it out:

Right now, short is popular.  It's en vogue.  It's a way to stand out from the rest of the web's content.  Even offline--such as the "15 Second Film Festival" (or one of the many similar concepts out there).  But while it may be a great way to find the spotlight--and even go viral--it's going to make it a lot tougher for you to get your message out.   Of course, if the message is less important to you than the total viewership--or if you have no message at all--then going short, to the extreme, might be just the strategy you need.  Because as long as people enjoy it, they will share it, and length has almost no bearing whatsoever.

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About the Author -
Jeremy Scott is the founder of The Viral Orchard, an Internet marketing firm offering content writing and development services, viral marketing consulting, and SEO services. Jeremy writes constantly, loves online video, and enjoys helping small businesses succeed in any way he can. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Ronnie Bincer

    The sponsored ads (overlays) don't start on youtube until 10 seconds in... so if you are going for overlay ads, "you're shooting yourself in the paw!".... also from my experience, the Big box ads on the right top, don't always load right away. But after a 5 sec video, the viewer might still be looking at the page anyway (wondering about what just happened!).

  • Jeremy Campbell

    I'm really surprised that 12SecondsTV didn't do better because of our shortening attention spans! Really short videos are good to consume but can there be money made off of them? Will we ever see ad companies that specialize in content 10 seconds or under?!

  • affiliatesea

    Now there are lots discussion is going on different blogs about this length of video for ads.In my opinion 5-8 second length video would be very good.A long length may impact people but who will watch for that long time?

    • Jeremy Campbell

      I agree, 5 seconds would be fantastic and cause people to not leave the page while the ad plays because there isn't time to do anything in 5 seconds, you can't even write a decent tweet in that amount of time. 15 seconds or 30 seconds and I can see people going somewhere for a few seconds, then listening to hear when their actual content starts playing.