Of all business videos in 2018, 73% were less than two minutes long, reflecting a 33% drop in length compared to 2017. Countless Digital Marketing studies urged marketers and advertisers to hold their videos to a two-minute maximum because attention spans are shrinking. Studies even showed that two minutes was the magic number—the length of time most likely to evoke the highest engagement.
But the pendulum is swinging, and, frankly, those studies were overhyped. The content should dictate the length, not some arbitrary rule. B2B brands need to focus on the story itself and worry about telling it in the most authentic and effective way possible for audiences. The story determines the length, not the other way around.
Innovative B2C brands, including REI and Patagonia, are producing longer-form content, and B2B brands, such as IBM, are following suit. When analyzing the engagement stats of our clients’ B2B content, I have noticed that companies have more license to let their content breath than they may realize. When someone is interested enough to start watching a long-form video, they typically finish it. And, telling a longer story is certainly better than forcing a nuanced narrative into a tight timeframe.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider the length of your B2B content.
1. It Is Not Either/Or
Marketers often think they have to choose between short- or long-form. But, if your content is rich enough to warrant in-depth storytelling, it could make sense to create a shorter version, too. This gives your audience choice and allows you to use the abbreviated video to promote the longer one, hopefully driving more people to engage at length.
2. B2B Buyers Are People, Too
You are not Marketing to businesses; you are Marketing to the people who work there. These folks consume content in their personal lives, and their content expectations carry over to what they consume in a business setting.
Bite-sized content had its moment, but entertainment audiences are increasingly comfortable engaging with episodic stories, as illuminated by the explosion of new series across the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. These players are committed to telling longer stories, in keeping with user preferences. B2C brands including Patagonia have followed suit. And B2B marketers are starting to as well.
For example, GE created an eight-minute video about how it uses wind to power nearly 1 million homes in Germany as part of its “In the Wild” series. Viewers join celebrity hosts as they journey from the world’s largest power transformer, to an offshore converter, to the facility where wind power is converted. The video has been viewed more than 364,000 times. Interestingly, some “In the Wild” videos are less than two minutes while others are longer than five, suggesting GE lets content dictate length.
3. Humans Like Videos About Humans
It is typically the human-centered narratives, not the technology-heavy content, that work well in longer-form videos. If people are going to invest their time, they need to have empathy for the story characters. That is not to say technology content never warrants long-form. It can; but it usually works best when delivered by an engaging narrator the audience can connect with.
As you evaluate your story, consider your characters and the interactions between them. How much backstory does your audience need to understand and care about these people? These answers will help you tell the best story possible, and that may mean creating a long-form video.
For example, I was working with a client on a documentary-style piece. The story was layered and interesting, with multiple characters with relevant backstories. We ended up creating a 10-minute video, as well as a shorter one to drive engagement. This is a pretty novel approach in the B2B space, and we are in the process of testing audience response and measuring engagement. But the client was open to it because they agreed it was the best way to tell their story.
4. Understand the Difference Between Brand Awareness and Brand Affinity
Brand affinity is an individual’s brand preference within a specific category. As a brand, if you have increased your brand affinity, you have caused more buyers to prefer your brand over your competitors. Awareness, on the other hand, is more flash in the pan. Sure, someone might be aware of you today, but that might go away tomorrow after they watch someone else’s quick story.
To generate brand affinity, you need to build human connections. In the video, that means bringing human stories forward, and, when needed, giving those stories room to breathe. Longer forms of video can be a valuable tool for increasing affinity. If someone spends 11 minutes watching an REI video about the macro trends that impact outdoor places, it deepens their connection to the brand and cultivates or enforces brand affinity.
5. Shorter Is OK, Too
Conversely, longer isn’t always better. Many short videos would turn dismal if you extended them because they don’t have the plot or characters to justify the length. If you can say something quicker—you should. That may mean creating content that is less than two minutes, and that is OK, too.
What matters is that you think about the story first and the length second. Maybe your story takes one minute, eight minutes or 20. Your audience won’t mind as long as it is quality storytelling driving your decision-making.