It’s one of the cardinal rules of video production for social media platforms: keep your videos short. Stick to under 160 seconds, and people will watch from start to finish. It’s been repeated often enough before; the longer your videos are, the greater the chance of people clicking out (or scrolling away) before it’s finished. We’re dealing with a whole new generation of people with very short attention spans; ergo, videos must be tailored accordingly.
However, video trends change every couple years or so. In fact, some crazes only last a couple months before the internet finds something else to obsess over. According to Sprout Video, long-form videos—or videos running well over 10 minutes—are looking to be a growing trend this 2018.
What changed, is long-form video production worth investing in now, and is it possible that brands (specifically yours) can release the occasional ten- or fifteen-minute video without worrying about numbers rapidly dropping?
BuzzFeed: Quantity Over Quality
One thing digital news and entertainment company Buzzfeed is well-known for is their obvious preference for quantity. This isn’t to say that they don’t produce quality content, as they wouldn’t be half the success they are now if that were true. However, with several highly active YouTube accounts—i.e. BuzzFeed Violet, BuzzFeed Yellow, As/Is, BuzzFeed Unsolved—putting out at least two videos a week, it’s obvious that they prefer to garner views and engagement through numbers.
This kind of video production schedule is sustainable because majority of their videos are skits, taste tests, interviews, product reviews, and other generally random concepts that rarely go over four minutes long. And with that time limit, they can average between 500,000 to 2 million views per video, with the occasional 5M to 7M success.
However, they do put out the occasional long-form video. Although they don’t consistently perform (with some videos flopping and others barely making it to the first SERP), some of BuzzFeed’s long-form videos are solid proof that video production and execution are just as important—if not more important—than concept and length.
They released two short videos within the same year on roughly the same concept. One is titled “Women’s Ideal Body Types Throughout History,” which is 3 minutes, 10 seconds long. The other is titled “Women’s Ideal Body Types Around The World,” which comes in at 1 minute, 40 seconds.
“Women’s Ideal Body Types Throughout History,” reached an incredible 46 million views, 283,000 likes, and 48,300 comments. “Women’s Ideal Body Types Around The World,” on the other hand, got 3.3 million views, 29,000 likes, and 5,900 comments.
Long-Form: It’s In-Depth
The problem with a video being one to two minutes long is that there really isn’t room for expounding. If you have to cover three points in the span of 120 seconds, you’ve only got about 30 to 40 seconds for each point.
Using the BuzzFeed example, Body Types Throughout History covered 11 different eras and managed to offer a little extra info regarding which features were considered attractive during each era (i.e. full hips, slender waist, hourglass-shape, etc.) Each example listed between four to eight specific features.
Body Types Around The World had 18 pictures, but they were simply put up on the screen without explanation. The video didn’t explain the preferential differences, the desirable features, or the “beauty standards” of each country. So even though they technically had 18 points to offer, there was very little informational value compared to the first video.
It Can Be Accessed Anywhere
In an age of free public WiFi, unlimited data plans, and handheld charging devices, people are constantly plugged in and connected. Things like distance and mobility are no longer an issue when it comes to accessing videos. As such, viewer’s standards have risen once again. Without the accessibility problems of three, four years ago, people now expect high quality content to be available regardless of when they decide to watch it.
That being said, it’s just as likely for someone on a thirty-minute metro ride to watch an engaging fifteen-minute video as it is for them to spend the next half-hour watching multiple thirty-second cute cat videos.
Overall, brands no longer need to be afraid of their videos reaching the six- or seven-minute mark. The takeaway here is that as media becomes more accessible, video length might not matter as much as it used to five, six years ago. As long as your video production process is solid and produces quality content, people will consume what you give them.