Shorter attention spans vs algorithm updates: is there really an optimal video length?

In 2019, Facebook announced a set of changes to the way they rank videos. Encouraging video creators to keep their audience engaged for at least one minute, they added that:

“videos get shown organically to more people when they’re at least 3 minutes long”

So it’s true that longer videos have a better chance of organically appearing on feeds.

Since then, however, many people have taken the longer-format rule and ran with it. Marketers are eking short and snappy material into extravagantly-long videos – at the expense of genuine engagement.

Creating lengthier videos won’t automatically guarantee you the top-spot on timelines. On the contrary, content that’s dragged out for longer than necessary could be hurting your chances of reaching a higher audience.Facebook aren’t just looking at the length of your video and ranking it accordingly. To make sure your content is good quality, they’re also looking at how engaged your viewers are.

As part of their News Feed ranking update, Facebook are more likely to favour videos that spark interaction and conversation. So while your three-minute video is perfectly timed for Facebook, that alone won’t help you rank organically. You’ll need to give your audience something to talk about.

What does engagement involve? Along with people who ‘like’ or comment on your post, Facebook also track those who watch your content for longer than a minute. So whether your video is two minutes or ten, you’ll need to create content that gets your audience talking (and watching).

Top tip: gear your video content around your audience’s specific interests and habits to capture their attention.

Along with video length and engagement, it also pays to make sure your audience returns. If your viewers keep coming back for more, Facebook will prioritise your video content.

As they summarised in their best practices:

“We take into account how frequently viewers return to watch your content and how many you retain on a weekly basis.”

Instead of creating one mammoth video tutorial, you could see higher engagement by breaking your content down into shorter videos and posting them as a series. If you create regular content, your audience is more likely to return – which could help your videos appear on more feeds.

Handy hint: stick to a weekly or daily schedule to encourage your audience to come back for more.

Ultimately, shorter is best. Despite the algorithm updates, overly long videos could bore your audience and negatively impact your engagement. As long as you cover your essential points and keep your videos above the two-minute mark, your videos should appear in the right places.Your video should last long enough to get your main message across – and not one second longer. If you can keep your video around 3 minutes long, you could keep your audience engaged without being hidden by algorithms. If your content is longer (like a video tutorial), it could be worth breaking it down into smaller videos.Discover how you can reach your peak video potential with these tips:

Optimise for mobile

A massive 79% of users only browse Facebook on mobile. That means you’ll need to make sure any on-screen text is clearly visible.

Find your ideal length

Before you settle on your video duration, see if your audience prefers shorter or longer videos. Find your viewers typical drop-off point by looking at your Facebook engagement stats.

Create soundless videos

85% of videos on Facebook are watched without any sound. If your video needs sound to be understood, many viewers could skip past your content – which could hurt your ranking ability.

Stick to a regular schedule

Facebook rewards videos with loyal viewers. If you stick to a regular posting schedule, your audience is more likely to come back for more.

Be topical 

Videos that lead to engagement helps Facebook prioritise your videos. Pick a topic your audience is interested in to spark a conversation.

Speak to your viewers 

Are your viewers commenting on your video? Speak to them! This will boost your engagement and help your video appear in more feeds.

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