What is the optimal length for video to maximise engagement?

Table of content
  1. Introduction
  2. Instagram
  3. Facebook
  4. TikTok
  5. Twitter
  6. YouTube
  7. LinkedIn
  8. Snapchat
  9. Pinterest
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90 Seconds
2 years ago・8 min read

There’s an old saying that a story should be as long as it needs to be, and it’s good advice on the whole; on one end of the spectrum, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic ‘The Great Gatsby’ clocks in at a measly 47,094 words, while Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace stretches over a massive 587,287 words. Both are considered masterpieces, both tell substantive, compelling stories, but both take their own time to reach their natural conclusion.

But in video marketing, a world with dollars on the line, ever-changing algorithms dictating the reach and success of each video, and a jam-packed marketing calendar of key messages to (successfully) relay to audiences, it isn’t as simple as pulling the trigger on a video shoot and hoping it works out. Budgets are planned, scripts are written, teams are assembled and the final product – in all its glory – needs to be carefully executed to maximise the chance of success.

It’s well-established that video is a marketing must-have. In their Digital 2022 report Hootsuite points out that watching video is the fourth most popular reason people use the internet, and the average person watches an average of 6 hours and 48 minutes of video online each week. But how do you make it so that audiences watch your video, instead of the billions of minutes of other video content competing for eyeballs each day?

Part of that mix is getting the length of your video content right. And when it comes to deciding on the length for your video, to maximise engagement, the key things you need to consider are the channel you’re posting it to, the type of video it is, and the amount of information you need to relay. All will have direct implications on the success of the video, whether that’s in views, likes or seconds watched.


Instagram Video

In 2021 Instagram merged their IGTV and main feed video functionalities under a new format they call Instagram Video. The maximum length that will appear on your actual Instagram grid is one minute, but viewers can tap through to finish watching videos up to 15 minutes. If you’ve got a verified account, you can upload videos as long as 60 minutes from your desktop app. Try not to exceed 1 minute if you can – forcing people to head elsewhere to watch a longer video inevitably damages the engagement. But if you’re going to go longer, for a story that’s a little more complex and structured, try and keep it between 2 and 5 minutes.


Instagram Stories take up 72.6% of the app’s total ad reach, so it’s clearly a space you need to be performing well in. The maximum length for Stories is 15 seconds per slide, but there’s an opportunity to use multiple slides if need be. We suggest keeping it as short as possible – one slide is better than two, and two is better than four. Be economical with what you’re trying to achieve – Stories aren’t the place for in depth customer profiles or case studies.


Instagram’s direct response to TikTok is tailored to viral videos and bite-sized content that is engaging. While you can now post Reels up to 90 seconds, it’s all about those first few seconds – you need to grab the viewer’s attention quickly and stop them scrolling to the next Reel. Short and sharp is the key – you want the viewer to digest the information and get to the end of the video before they’re bored, so end the video as soon as you’ve achieved what you need, regardless of how long it’s allowed to be. Check out this short and sharp ad for Chandon x Seafolly 2019, getting to the heart of the vibe with speed and energy.


While technically you can post a video up to 240 minutes on Facebook, that doesn’t mean you should! If you want to go ‘viral’, keep it under a minute – share-ability increases with short, punchy video content. Keep your Stories under 20 seconds, because it’s a feature tailored to short form, whereas your episodic content, developing stories or live streams can be more than three minutes – it ticks over the required length for ads to feature, which can be good news for getting shared by the algorithm. It really comes down to the type of content you’re creating, and the complexity of the storytelling – an interview or case study may need a little more room to breathe, but a teaser or a product showcase could be more concise. Cut the story to its shortest form. Check out this video for the social media profiles of Les Mills, which manages to say a lot in a less than a minute.


Speed, speed, speed. While the app has been steadily increasing the maximum video length (last year it went from 1 minute to 3 minutes, and recently it went to 10 minutes) brevity is still essential. A video between 7 and 15 seconds, hovering around that 15 second mark, is key to getting a viewer engaged without seeing a drop-off. If you need to say more, look at how you can break the video up into separate (but equally engaging) videos. Each piece of video content can be tailored for a different channel and audience. For this Carnival Cruises video, various edits were chopped up to reflect different lengths and specs, ensuring best possible engagement and results in each channel.


Twitter allows a video to be 2 minutes and 20 seconds (which is a 140 seconds, a sly reference to the old character limit allowed in a Tweet!) but the data shows that videos around the 44 second mark perform the best, nabbing an audience attention without overstaying the party. If you need to say more, consider hosting the video on YouTube or Vimeo and posting a trailer or teaser to Twitter instead, linking to the full version.


One of the true homes for video, you’ll find videos of all styles and lengths on YouTube, from short bites to hour-long seminars and feature films. Verified accounts can post clips up to 12 hours (and even longer, if they’re compressed below 128GB in size) but that’s not advisable unless you’ve managed to uncover a previously unseen Star Wars trilogy. The key is in deciding what you’re trying to achieve. Looking to monetize and cash in from YouTube ads? Something a little longer will mean more spots for advertisements – depending on who you ask (and which report you read), the sweet spot for cashing in is between 7 and 15 minutes. Looking for engagement and stacks of views? The two minute mark is a good rule of thumb – enough time to capture audience attention and retain it, without seeing views drop off too markedly. Check out this video for Kyndryl, shining a light on their leaders, clicking in at an optimal length of just over two minutes.


Native videos can be up to 10 minutes long and video ads can be up to 30 minute mark, but that doesn’t mean you should go long for the sake of it. Think about how complex and detailed the story is – do you think you need lots of time to tell the story? Will you be able to hold the audience’s attention for that long? If not, keep it under 30 seconds – LinkedIn suggests videos under this mark boast a 200% completion rate (without seeing people click away). But for those (rare) videos with lots of interesting things to say, long form videos can drive just as much engagement.


Keep it snappy! The maximum length is ten seconds, but you’re better off going shorter still – keep it around the 7-second mark. If you’re buying an ad, you can go as high as 3 minutes, but realistically who is going to watch a video that long on a platform built on brevity? Snapchat research says a video should stay between 3 and 5 seconds, with the important stuff front-loaded to those first couple of seconds.


The quiet performer that is Pinterest has become a rich playground for boutique communities and businesses looking to find value in platforms many brands ignore. The reasonably new video feature consists of Video Pins (which can be from 4 seconds to 15 minutes) and Pinterest stories (a maximum length of 60 seconds), but Pinterest suggest keeping your video between 6 and 15 seconds for maximum engagement. IHG Promotions created this short (and easily scalable) 15-second video to celebrate Songran Festival through 90 Seconds.

In the end, video marketing is a complex tool; getting it wrong can cost you a lot of money and time, but getting it right can move your business in significant and exciting directions. The right content, created in the right way and at the right length for the right channel, is more than just another tool in your toolkit. It’s one of the most important tools you’ve got. 

Lucky for you, 90 Seconds has assembled an international team of leading minds and experts in the field of video marketing, from scriptwriters to strategists, producers, videographers and creative talent. If you want to get it done in the right way, reach out for a conversation with a business that thousands of leading brands depend on for their video needs. In the meantime, explore some of the amazing content we’ve custom made for brands in specific channels.