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Go Long, or Keep it Short? The Reality of Online Video for Business

Short attention spans.

Need it now generation.

Instant gratification.

If it doesn’t load fast people click away.

You’ve heard all these phrases in relation to how people use the Internet. And how we generally live our lives now (in much of the western world anyway). Anecdotally it’s been reported that this means short videos are the only good online videos for businesses to use.

But what if you have more to say than can be jammed into a thirty second or even a minute and a half video? Are long videos really that bad?

First let’s look at what short vs. long really is.

Short form and long form video defined

The Internet Advertising Bureau defines a short video as anything less than ten minutes. Correspondingly a long form video is anything over ten minutes. It’s a standard they set to help online marketers define video in their marketing efforts. The origins of the choice to make it ten minutes might be based on YouTube’s initial limit of ten minutes, or something else entirely. But it is probably safe to say that it is at least somewhat arbitrary.

So even if you accept that definition, it really is just a reference point for marketers to use in creating their online video ads. And there is a lot of research out there offering varying opinions on what people watch, how long and how often they watch.

Over the last year, ComScore reports that viewers in the US reversed a trend toward watching longer videos. As of June 2013 the average length of videos watched was just over five minutes compared to around seven the previous year. Another study released by Oooyala says just the opposite, that most of the viewers in their study watched long form (over 10 minutes) videos. But fewer of those viewers completed the long form videos versus the shorter ones.

But as a business, it’s difficult to take these numbers alone and make any decisions. That’s because there are many other metrics beyond just how long viewers watch a video. Metrics like completion rates, clicks, impressions, and leads or sales generated.

How to decide

binderfrontSo starting out asking whether to make a long or short video isn’t the right way to go about it. First ask yourself what you are trying to do with the video. From there you can determine the other factors that will play into the decision on whether to go long or keep it short. For instance, even though fewer viewers complete a long video according to Oooyala, the likelihood of those that do being a better lead, or even completing a sale is higher. This is assuming of course the viewer finished the video because they were interesting in the product or service. But if they weren’t, why would they have watched until the end? Of course you should calculate your own metrics for each video to ensure that completed videos actually do correspond to better leads, more sales, or whatever your goal is.

Still feeling a bit undecided about what to do next with your video marketing? Download our white paper, How to Use Online Video to Grow Your Business. In it you’ll find examples of successful case studies, useful statistics, and a 15 point guide on how to use online video in your marketing.

Oliver Burt

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