We analyze the data to see what length successful Facebook video publishers are making their clips.
When it comes to video on Facebook, one question we get asked over and over is ‘what’s the ideal time range of a native video on Facebook?’
Looking at the times of the most popular videos for some of the leaders in Facebook video, we came up with a few patterns.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the short answer is that they’re short.
A lot of publishers seem to figure this out the hard way. Even NASA have had to cope with the fact that the raw feed of their exclusive, pioneering footage isn’t going to hold the attention of the average Facebook browser on a mobile phone. In a recent interview about their social media strategy, manager John Yembrick explained:
“There was a test firing of a rocket engine. We did an 8-minute video and it bombed online. We pulled out a 45-second bit for social and it did great.”
But how are publishers following through with this logic in their own videos?
We looked at the average length of the 10 most shared videos for six different Facebook video publishers over 30 days, all of which regularly publish native video to their Facebook pages.
The videos that we looked at were for a mix of traditional publishers and digital natives. The digital natives all practice ‘distributed content’ across the board, from BuzzFeed’s food vertical to NowThis, who we recently blogged about as an example of a distributed publisher with numerous distribution points. The legacy outlets included the Guardian and the BBC, who have been expansive in testing new distribution formats on social media.
Here are the publisher pages that we analysed:
– BuzzFeed Food
– BBC News
– Daily Mail
– The Guardian
Here’s how they stacked up, based on the average length of their ten most shared Facebook videos in September. The data is from our content discovery platform Spike, where we track how the Facebook videos that people are sharing and talking about in real time, among other things.
The above graph clearly illustrates what type of videos that Facebook viewers are opting to engage with. With the average length for four of the six well below 60 seconds, publishers seem to be tackling the battle for attention head-on.
BuzzFeed Food: A Snackable 24 Seconds
As we revealed in our recent Facebook video rankings, BuzzFeed’s Food page is amongst the most popular original video publishers on the entire platform. Their videos about making S’Mores and pizza cones with a few common household ingredients attract enormous engagement each month..@BuzzFeedFood's average Facebook video length in September was just 24 seconds. Click To Tweet
In September, the longest of BuzzFeed Food’s 10 most shared videos was 56 seconds, while the shortest came in at just 4 seconds. As average lengths go, BuzzFeed Food’s super-snappy sub 30 second average may not be feasible for all types of content, but it certainly gets peoples’ attention.
AJ+: 1 minute 26 seconds
Along with NowThis, AJ+ videos are a great example of a publisher dealing with serious news issues in a snappy native video.
But some of the AJ+ videos are quite long. In fact, their most shared video of September was over 4 minutes long. It shows that the right topic can draw in engagement and viewers, regardless of length.
More generally, it’s interesting to see how AJ+ focus on a different overall topic each month, rather than day-to-day coverage. This helps bring in readers by appealing to their curiosities and interests, rather than waiting for them to react to a current news event.
The Guardian: 54 seconds
An interesting finding from this research shows that the Guardian has been creating video for Facebook at an average of under 60 seconds.
Compared to some of the other names here, the Guardian aren’t pushing a huge number of videos on their page. In September, they uploaded 56, out of a post total of over 1,100.
The Guardian have seen success with video teasers. In September, one of their most shared clips was a 1.03 minute segment of a longer 17 minute documentary on the European refugee crisis.
But the Facebook clip wasn’t simply a rip from the main video. It was a Facebook native adaptation, with large, easily-readable subtitles and evocative and descriptive title cards. The maneuver worked, generating huge viewership and engagement (particularly comments) on Facebook itself. This is a good example of how publishers can start experimenting with native data. The Guardian’s journalists had already made the documentary, and making it digestible for a wide Facebook audience only took a fraction of the work that had already been done by their team.
This isn’t to say that the Guardian doesn’t see success with some more traditionally popular social media content. With over 243,000 shares, the page’s most shared video of the month was a clip of a beagle breaking the world record for the number of balls successfully caught by a dog.
BBC News: 36 Seconds
BBC News reach a phenomenal audience on Facebook each month, and as a major new publisher, any new move is watched closely. In September, the average length of their top 10 videos was just 36 seconds long, making them one of the producers of some of the shortest videos that we analysed.
With over 20 million fans on Facebook, the broadcaster has enviable reach. Their approach to social media (and other platforms, such as messaging apps) has been open and experimental.
They’ve clearly seen the value of platforms like Facebook in reaching a new audience, fast, and our data shows that their native video and images have a much higher share rate than links on their website..@BBCNews' average Facebook video length in September was just 36 seconds. Click To Tweet
Of course, the publishers themselves have much greater insight into how long that people are watching their videos through the ‘Average Duration of Video Viewed’ tab in their Facebook Insights. But the takeaway from this data is twofold:
1) Firstly, the most successful publishers have realised the need for adapting their videos for a social audience.
2) Secondly, there’s been a decisive shift towards cutting video length on Facebook. With the BBC down to an average of 36 seconds (and doing pretty well with engagement), it’s a sign that there’s something resembling consensus on what viewers want in Facebook videos.
We’ve seen data to suggest that the longer that video, the bigger that the screen should be. With many publishers now producing quality long video features, a ‘device-targeting’ setting on Facebook could be an interesting proposition. Then, putting entire documentaries in the stream could be a possibility.
Facebook’s new announcement about some possible new tools for their video offering underlines their continuing focus on what the news feed of the near future will look like.
Of course, publishers still have to figure out the revenue side, but with Twitter now moving to pre-roll for their video partners, there could be change afoot generally.