It used to be that YouTube was a place for short-form cat videos, pranks, and baby clips to go viral. While that's still true, most of us know that today YouTube is much, much more than that. Now YouTube entails everything from hundreds of featured films to weblebrities to a community that surrounds pretty much anything you can think of.
Along with the changing landscape of YouTube comes the question; Is the notion still true that videos must be super-short, no longer than two minutes long, especially if you want them to go viral?
What's Important for Viral Success? Long-Form vs. Short-Form
While being clear and concise is still very important, videos go viral all the time now that range from 10 minutes (Cain's Arcade) to 30 minutes (KONY 2012) long. And many of the top YouTubers are regularly posting videos over 20 minutes long that earn very high audience retention scores.
Thanks to the progression of online video, people are becoming more and more used to watching long-form content on the web. Hulu is certainly to thank for this, but YouTube itself is pushing this forward by offering movies and removing the old 10 minute limit (now 15 minutes for non-partners) on video uploads.
So what does that mean for us content creators?
1) Dont Worry About Length, Worry About Making Engaging Content
It's no longer as important to keep your video to only a few minutes long. While it may still help with audience retention, sharability, and the A.D.D. nature of many who watch online video, it is in no way a crucial element of successful YouTube videos anymore.
2) The First 15 Sec. is Really What's Important
What's much more important now than the total length of the video is the first 15 seconds of the video. Those first 15 seconds must capture the viewer's attention and set the stage for answering this question for the viewer: "Why must I watch this video?" Similar to how a public speaker must capture the audience's attention in the first two minutes for the content ahead, so we must do the same with online video, except with all the other voices and videos competing for their views, we only have 15 seconds to do it. Instead of starting your video with a branded logo or intro, think through the first few seconds of your video very carefully. Set a high expectation and don't let the audience down.
What do you think? Is it still as important to worry about the overall video length in terms of generating enough engagement to make a video go viral?