How are publishers and brands optimizing their video strategies across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? We take a look at viral video length.

‘Intention’ is the name of the game for content creators. Even as video continues to dominate social platforms, publishers and brands must define what success looks like.

Recently, INSIDER changed its KPIs to measure video views at the 30-second mark, instead of the traditional 3-second mark that Facebook uses. The publisher has decided to define views based on when users stop and watch videos, instead of scrolling past them in the news feed.

Today, INSIDER videos are at least three minutes long, and the publisher is creating more episodic pieces, which are often eight minutes or longer. This appears to be paying off, which we noted in our recent analysis:

INSIDER Facebook Watch
According to an interview with Digiday, INSIDER’s head of video, Tony Manfred said, “You make what you measure. If we organize ourselves around three-second views, then we’re probably going to make a lot of videos designed to get three-second views.”

So what do video strategies look like for publishers, platform-by-platform? We decided to investigate the length of top videos for a number of publishers and brands across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. 

How are news publishers creating social video content? 

We recently added video length to our NewsWhip Spike platform, so we were quickly able to analyze how the likes of CNN, NowThis News, and others are finding their video duration sweet spot.

We focused on a week’s work of content, published between October 23rd and 30th. We discounted live videos and feature-length documentaries.
news publishers how long video
First, the obvious. Videos were generally much longer on YouTube than on Facebook, and shorter on Twitter than either platform, but there were a few surprises.

For instance, the Daily Mail’s top videos were slightly longer on Twitter, while they averaged the same length on Facebook and YouTube. BBC News and NowThis also had a longer average for their Twitter videos than their Facebook videos, though not by much.

The Guardian had the longest YouTube videos by far, with a 13 minute average. The videos are essentially long-form deep dives into current issues on everything from crime, to U.S. politics, to the Colombian drug trade.

Across the eight publishers, their top YouTube videos averaged just under six minutes long. That average was two minutes on Facebook, and about 1 minute and forty seconds on Twitter.

For the most part, these publishers are posting the highest quantity of video content to Facebook, though some of these can be videos posted from other Pages, or reposts of the same video. We’ve previously noted that sharing from Watch Pages seems to be a way to boost video interactions for existing Facebook Pages.

YouTube had less video posted from five of the seven publishers. NowThis posted nearly 300 videos to both its Facebook and Twitter in the past week, but only 18 videos to its YouTube account.

Notes on methodology: We examined a maximum of ten videos by platform, within the week. For Facebook, they were ranked by total likes, comments, shares, and reactions. For Twitter, it was by retweets and favorites, and for YouTube, just likes.  

How are viral publishers creating social video content?

For viral publishers, we examined five popular ones: LAD bible, 5-minute crafts, both BuzzFeed and Tasty, and Cheddar, since INSIDER’s Facebook videos are so intermingled with its Watch offerings.
viral publisher how long video
For the viral video publishers we examined, all of them had significantly longer YouTube videos.
On Twitter, again, the videos tended to be shorter than the other two platforms. However, Cheddar’s were the same length on Facebook and Twitter, and BuzzFeed’s top Twitter videos were two minutes longer on average than its Facebook videos.

5-Minute Crafts, which is regularly producing viral hits on Facebook, had the longest average for its YouTube content, even longer than the Guardian. It had the biggest disparity, with a nearly 15-minute difference between its YouTube average and its Twitter average.

Much like we saw for news publishers, there was generally less video content posted to YouTube and Twitter than on Facebook.

Case in point, LAD bible had 116 video posts in a week’s time to its Facebook Page, but only eight on Twitter and one on YouTube.

How are brands creating social video content?

We examined seven brands across different industries, including fashion, tech, auto, entertainment, toys, and finance.
brand videos how long
For these brands, their video times were generally less diverse than we saw for the publishers.

NASA, MasterCard, and Netflix had similar time lengths across the three platforms. When averaged across the brands, the length of Twitter and Facebook videos was almost identical.

LEGO had the longest video time on YouTube, due to its investment into an episodic video series, with each video clocking in at 11 minutes long.

Much like the publishers, the brands generally posted the most video content to Facebook. Boohoo had the most videos, with 51 posts.
Boohoo Facebook video
Despite being a clothing brand, most of Boohoo’s Facebook videos feature puppies, memes, or desserts, all already popular topics on the platform.

Boohoo hadn’t posted any videos to YouTube in the past week, and Mercedes Benz and MasterCard had each only posted one video.

Netflix was the outlier, posting 32 videos to YouTube in the past week, 26 to Facebook, and just seven to Twitter.

Surprisingly, the brand’s video content wasn’t only recycled content from its shows, but also featured behind-the-scenes takes with actors and others.  

What’s does it all mean?

A few further conclusions from the data:

  • Each platform has an optimized video strategy, based on your content and target audience
  • Longer videos are the norm on YouTube, though fewer videos are posted than on Facebook or Twitter
  • For viral publishers and brands, the average length of Twitter and Facebook videos are almost identical

For more into the best video practices, platform-by-platform, check out our social video guide here.