Tips & Insights: What’s the Right Video Length for My Emails?

Ethan Beute, BombBomb, Chief Evangelist, The Customer Experience Podcast, Wall Street Journal bestseller, Human-Centered Communication, Rehumanize Your Business.

Ethan Beute

Former Chief Evangelist
video length, video analytics, video study, video research, video tracking, BombBomb, video email


September 4, 2015

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“What’s the right video length?” Great question. Common question. And one we’ll approach here from a couple different angles.

As with so many other questions around video email, like “When’s the best time to send my video email?” or “What’s the best subject line?”, there’s no easy or single answer.

What we’ll do here, though, is give you some tips and insights to help you decide what the right video length is for you and your video messages.

What’s the Right Video Length?

Video Length: The Spark

Again, this question “How long should my videos be?” is a very common one. The spark to finally organize this information was a survey by Forbes Insights – “Video in the C-Suite: Executives Embrace the Non-Text Web.”

One of the questions: How long do you prefer work-related videos to be?

The results: Below!

video length, survey, C-suite, senior executives, leaders, Forbes, insights, research

So your videos should be 3-5 minutes? Yes, if … you’re targeting senior executives and you’re doing some business-related teaching or training of substance.

Note: the survey suggests that senior leaders are watching more videos and taking more action after watching those videos.

The takeaway: The right video length depends on who the video’s for and what its intended purpose is.

Video Length: Tip 1 – Don’t Worry About It

Going along with who it’s for and what its purpose is, don’t worry about the length.

  • Be who you are in terms of tone, style, pace, and personality.
  • Let people know what they’ll get by watching, go through the points you want to hit, and provide a clear call to action.
  • Be focused and efficient, but – above all – be yourself.
  • Let the length fall where it may.

Let replies, responses, and results let you know if you’re getting through with your approach.

And know that we provide plenty of video analytics to let you know what’s working and what could be working better.

Here’s a BombBomb screenshot that includes views/day, a heatmap showing how the video performed second-by-second, a running list of viewers, and a chart of which devices were used to play your video. This (and more) is available for each of your videos.

video tracking, video analytics, video heatmap, video length, BombBomb, video email

Video Length: Tip 2 – More Relevance, Greater Length

A general truism here … the more targeted the video is to a particular person or segment of people, the longer the video can be.

If your video is for a broad group of people, keep it as tight, concise, and short as possible.

If your video is for a very specific person or group of people, you can afford to go with more detail and more length – because the content is (or should be!) more relevant.

To the degree you’re speaking to very specific needs, wants, and interests, you can increase video length.

To the degree you’re speaking to broader interests, you should reduce video length.

Quick Study of 45 Videos Send in Email

To test the validity of some of my basic rules of thumb, I looked at 45 videos sent in BombBomb newsletters going back to January 2014.

The audiences are thousands of people in a variety of industries in all 50 United States (plus DC) and in dozens of countries around the world. The only thing they have in common … an interest in communicating with simple video to build relationships and grow their businesses or organizations.

Some of them are brand new to BombBomb. Others have been with us for years. For stretches (and currently), I’ve sent twice per month. For stretches (and currently), I’ve segmented by customer type. Still: a broad group.

This sample consists of more than an hour and a half of total video. The longest video was 5 minutes 23 seconds. The shortest was 43 seconds.

The average video length across the group: 2 minutes 15 seconds.

The 67% Viewership Mark

In studying this sample, I gathered video length, viewership to completion, and something for which I’ve developed a feeling … the 67% viewership mark.

Admittedly arbitrarily selected, the 67% viewership mark is the point at which 2 out of 3 initial viewers is still with you.

You might go with a different number – 75% or 60% or something else. Regardless, it’s not reasonable to expect – for a send to a large and/or broad group – to have 100% viewership. This number helps you know where a key transition point is.

In the table below, you can get a sense of what this looks like.

video tracking, video length, video email, video analytics, video data, BombBomb

Notice the “Time of 67%” column. This is the point in the video at which 2/3 of the viewers were still with me. It occurred 61.6% of the way through the video on average.

The average across these 45 videos: 1 minute 23 seconds.

And this is the big takeaway.

The Big Takeaway on Video Length

60 to 90 seconds. This was always a rule of thumb – and this data exercise proved it out. Most people stayed with the video through the minute to minute and a half range.

If you don’t look at your analytics (you should!) and you want a safe length, trust a :60 to :90 video to perform reasonably well in most instances.

This is a number I’ve seen from other people. It’s a video I’ve spoken to off and on over the years. Seeing it here again through this little project really confirms it for me.

Obviously, there will be exceptions or variations and, again, you can get away with more if it’s highly relevant and/or deep teaching.

Other Observations on Video Length

Especially for videos that are for larger groups of people and that you send consistently, go in and look at your analytics!

The roundup shown in part in the table above took me about 1 hour to round up. I spent another 30 minutes or so looking at poor performers and top performers to see what I could learn and apply.

For videos that performed poorly in our newsletters:

  • Longer – they were longer than average, often 3-4 minutes
  • Topic Shift – dramatic changes in topic occasionally produced sharp viewership drops
  • “Selling” – sharp viewership drops also came with what, in hindsight, feel a bit like “sales” pitches

Some videos that performed well in our newsletters:

You can see these videos in the table above. I was looking for above average viewership of videos with average to above average length. Here are a few good performers …

October 2014
Length: 2:12 (average)
Viewership to completion: 63% (above average)
Time at which 67% of viewers remained: 2:00 (above average)
Share of video viewed at 67% mark: 90.91% (above average)

January 2014 (Way back!)
Length: 2:49 (above average)
Viewership to completion: 61% (above average)
Time at which 67% of viewers remained: 2:18 (above average)
Share of video viewed at 67% mark: 81.66% (above average)

June 2015 for Real Estate
Length: 1:12 (below average)
Viewership to completion: 67% (coincidentally & above average)
Time at which 67% of viewers remained: 1:10 (average)
Share of video viewed at 67% mark: 97.22% (above average)

April 2014
Length: 3:01 (above average)
Viewership to completion: 56% (below average)
Time at which 67% of viewers remained: 2:15 (average)
Share of video viewed at 67% mark: 75% (above average)

In Closing

Our data and our videos may not fit you and your audience. I share it here only to get your mind going and to give you a baseline. I hope you found this interesting and helpful.

Questions? Success stories? Your own insights!? Reach out: Ethan (at) BombBomb (dot) com

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