When we started making videos professionally for clients, our first projects ran a little long, by today's no-attention-span standards.
Our first project clocked in at a whopping 12 minutes. Whoa!
Essentially, we were creating mini-documentaries for our clients.
We still make them, when they ask us to.
Staunch Defenders of Long Videos
The topic of ideal video length is complicated and controversial.
In our early days, we heard a lot of opinions about ideal video length, most of them erring on the low side - one to three minutes.
We'd hear it over and over again - "one to three minutes."
It got to the point where we'd get outright defiant on the topic.
"Videos should be as long as they need to be!" we'd argue, "so long as they keep moving the story forward, and aren't boring."
Our stance has softened since then, especially after hearing from our very early clients that they would have appreciated having some shorter, stand-alone segments of the longer videos that we created for them. Something shorter they could present during live presentations where time is limited, and also to use on social media.
When Portland PR firm AM:PM summoned us to share our "Pro Secrets for Making Powerful Videos," the topic of long videos captured our imagination.
We rolled the idea around in our heads for a while.
The Elusive Unicorn Viewer of Long Videos
What were we thinking back then? Who on earth has the time - much less the required attention span - to watch a 12-minute video?
We thought and thought about it.
And then... ah-ha! There is, we realized, an extremely important group of viewers who would (and do) watch long videos.
Who are these elusive, rare unicorn-like viewers with a seemingly endless supply of time on their hands?
I think I've got the answer.
Our First Whopper
That 12-minute whopper of a video I mentioned before? We made it - the first video made by Beyond Measure Media - for the Renzi Education & Art Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
You can watch it below, but if you play it for a few seconds and then decide to skip down to read further, I'll understand.
It is, after all, TWELVE MINUTES!!!
Now, here's what I can tell you about this super long video:
It somehow managed to attract donations and support. It still does to this day.
As the Shreveport Times reported:
Within the first week of it being posted, "we got in donations immediately," said Renzi Executive Director Christy Kirkley.
The video was sent out via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and even text messages.
"It paid for itself immediately. There were even supporters who had supported us for a long time that said they really didn't get us until they saw that video."
The video is still front-and-center on Renzi's home page.
And all twelve minutes of it are still played to captive audiences at the beginning of fund-raising events, such as the Center's annual Bunco Bash.
"So many people in the room have already seen it, but they still get weepy every time," one of the organizers told me. "It's like a favorite old TV show everyone wants to see again."
Another Long Winded Video
In a past life, I was a real estate sales agent in Texas.
And, to no surprise to anyone, I was far more enthusiastic about making promotional videos about my business than I was actually selling houses. Go figure.
Anyway, I published a series of long-winded videos on YouTube. These videos consisted of nothing more than me sitting at a desk and answering real estate questions.
Those videos were super long. And super boring (I thought).
Eventually, as I walked through a house I was about to list for sale on behalf of a new client, something remarkable happened.
It began to dawn on me that my new client was quoting me, back to me. She started spouting off all kinds of ideas I had droned on about in those super long videos.
"Where did you hear that?" I gasped.
"From you, of course. I watched your videos. That's why we hired you. You seem to know your stuff."
So What's The Answer?
So then, what's the answer?
Who watches long videos?
To finally answer the question, consider just a few more questions.
What if you got some bad news from your doctor? What if she said you had a terrible disease, and needed surgery?
What if she recommended to you a highly-specialized surgeon who offered the very best chances for your survival?
And what if this specialist surgeon had a website? And on that website, was a super long 15-minute video in which the surgeon described his medial philosophies.
What if the super long video also told the story of where the surgeon studied medicine, and who his mentors are?
What if, in the same video, the surgeon described in detail how his technology and surgical procedures have evolved over the course of his practice?
What if the video even included a personal biography of the surgeon, with shots of his family, and even highlighted a few of his personal outside interests, such as cooking and golf?
What if the video also contained images of the surgeon's operating room and office, with sound bites from his nurses and members of the office staff?
If it were you -- would you watch this 15 minute video? The whole video?
Who Really Watches Long Videos?
As I thought more about it, and as I prepared the PowerPoint slides for our presentation on this topic, the answer to the question finally came to me.
Who watches long videos?
I typed the answer on the screen:
Buyers watch long videos. Not browsers...BUYERS. (And, in the case of nonprofits... donors.)
Now, don't get me wrong: Short (3 minutes or less) videos are an incredibly important part of any business marketing plan. I'm not saying you should only do longer videos.
In fact, when building a library of videos for your organization, you probably are better off having more short videos than long videos.
The Long and Short of It
But the key idea here is that short videos are for browsers, while long videos are for buyers.
Short videos are your homing signal... a message you beam out to the wide world from which a small percentage will emerge to join your tribe.
Long videos are for those who have already joined your tribe. They're already in your boat, waiting to see where you'll guide them.
Long videos give you a chance to "take your tribe inside" your organization. To show them around and let them get to know you even better. Maybe even to help these buyers (or donors) fall even more deeply in love with your product or organization.
Long videos are what you make to speak to your people. To take them by the hand and lead them on a journey of deeper understanding. To solidify and deepen the authentic and meaningful relationship between them and YOU.
Long videos - as is the case with any length video - must be executed well. They must be interesting, and offer a compelling story that keeps moving forward.
In the right circumstances, a long video can yield some amazing results. I've seen it happen.
Every situation is different. There are circumstances when making a longer video might not be the best move, after all.
But don't ever let anyone tell you nobody watches long videos.
The kind of person who'd watch your long video is the same kind of person who'd bother to read all the way to the end of this blog post.
And for your organization - and for ours - those are the most important viewers of all.