How often do you finish reading an entire article? What’s the likelihood that you’re going to finish this one?…oh, awkward. Well, everyone agrees—attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. In fact, in a study by SumoMe found that only 20% of people read articles from start to finish. So that made us wonder, how does that translate to video? It’s proven that people are more likely to watch a video than read. So does that mean people are more likely to watch an entire video?

Video Length vs. Engagement

According to video experts, Wistia, the length of your video has a ton of influence on whether the audience will stick with it or not. They studied video length vs. engagement, thinking that the trend would look something like this:

…not linear, but some sort of exponential decay. However, after studying 564,710 videos and more than 1.3 billion plays for the research, Wistia found that the relationship between average engagement and video length (in minutes) actually looks like this:

The Quality Question

With length established as important, there’s one more element to consider. Quality. That’s right—quality is what hooks in your audience and draws engagement. So before putting all your effect into maintaining a certain length, stop and check on video quality. This doesn’t mean expensive filming equipment, it means great writing, planning, and execution. Use these elements to hook your audience earlier, so even if your content needs to be longer, you can still improve engagement. The key is hooking your audience early. Because if you don’t get to the point quickly, your audience will be hitting the back button—whether your video is two minutes or twelve.

So to keep your audience, it’s important to ask how early is early? Should you put that hook 20 seconds in or one minute in? The answer? Eight seconds. Studies show that the current attention span is eight seconds, so if you don’t hook your audience by then, you’ve probably lost them. Thanks, Internet.

So while it might be tempting to build up to the main point, today’s audience wants you to give the main point first. After that, you can expand and explain. Think a school paper (only more interesting). The thesis statement needs to be in the first paragraph, followed by the supporting information. As a bonus, when you place the important information first and keep it focused, it’s easier to cut away the excess from your supporting content. State the facts, support the facts, all within a few minutes.

So video length, quality, and hook all play important parts in the engagement question. Let’s recap.

Four main video tips from Wistia’s research:

  1. Videos up to 2 minutes get tons of engagement.
  2. There’s a significant engagement drop off between 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. 6–12 minutes is sweet spot number two.
  4. Proceed with caution after 12 minutes.

Pause for a moment and think critically about the videos you’re creating for your marketing, training, or sales efforts. Are they 90 seconds, 8 minutes, or a shocking 15 minutes? The very effectiveness of your content relies on the length and quality of video, and as Wistia points out—at a certain length, every second counts.

Want to see how effective a short video can be?

We made one for Southwest Airlines.

Check it out!