Video Length Matters for Message, But Not for Viral Video Potential

Video Length Matters for Message, But Not for Viral Video Potential

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What impact does a video’s length have on its chances for success?  How long does a video have to be to go viral?   Let me put it another way:  what’s the shortest possible video length for a viral hit?  Thirty seconds?  Fifteen? How about three? 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, one of the shortest successful viral videos I’ve ever seen – 3 seconds  – Go! Bwaaah!

Now, there are a few points I want to make regarding video length:

1. There isn’t any direct correlation between length-of-video and viral success.

On one end of the spectrum, you have this three-second clip of a girl falling on her face.  It’s short, but it has enough time to make its impact.  On the other end of the spectrum, you find something like RedLetterMedia’s Star Wars prequel reviews.  Like the Attack of the Clones review, which runs the length of over 90 minutes (there are nine parts, each around ten minutes long).  Here’s the first one, in case you’re not familiar with the series:

Over a million people watched that video.  Each of the other nine parts has roughly half a million views as well, and Part 1 of his Phantom Menace review has nearly 3 million views.  So clearly… extreme length is not a problem either.

2. The quality of your content is far more important than the length of your video.

Length is largely unimportant so long as the content is engaging.  As a general rule, the longer the video, the less likely viewers will stay with it.  Similarly, if your video is too short, you might not have time to make your point.

3. Brands probably need videos that are longer than 3 seconds.

There’s just not much time for a quality message when it’s that short.  Can a 3-second video go viral?  Absolutely.  Can it sell products?  Maybe not so much.  Though, in fairness, it’s not like brands haven’t tried.  Remember those 1-second Super Bowl commercials from Miller High Life?

4. “Short” is trendy.

Possibly thanks to Twitter and its 140-character limit, there are a lot of content producers looking to capitalize on the short-attention-span of the American public.  Lately I’ve been really enjoying the work over at 5 Second Films.  They do exactly what you think they do:  they  make five second films… a new one every day.  And most of them are pretty humorous.  And it’s not that they’re flourishing despite having short videos–instead, it’s the short length that actually creates their opportunities for humor… it’s inspiration for them, not a limitation.

Similarly, I enjoyed the recent Short Songs video from YouTube user “killcure.”  Again, he’s taking an extremely short time constriction and making it the catalyst for his jokes… it’s driving the humor.  (The first song, entitled “What Would Elvis Do,” has only one lyric:  “Drugs!”)

Check it out:

Right now, short is popular.  It’s en vogue.  It’s a way to stand out from the rest of the web’s content.  Even offline–such as the “15 Second Film Festival” (or one of the many similar concepts out there).  But while it may be a great way to find the spotlight–and even go viral–it’s going to make it a lot tougher for you to get your message out.   Of course, if the message is less important to you than the total viewership–or if you have no message at all–then going short, to the extreme, might be just the strategy you need.  Because as long as people enjoy it, they will share it, and length has almost no bearing whatsoever.


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