What is the best length for social media video?

Apparently video increases engagement, both on your website and across the social media platforms. Compared to images, it increases a Facebook post’s reach by an average of 135% , and receives 6 times more retweets on Twitter. And crucially, when talking business to business on LinkedIn,  75% of executives (however we define this) say they watch video daily. But

What is the optimal video length for social media?

And what are your best practices and recommendations for video on social media?

These are questions which we’re asked as much as any, and it’s an ever evolving beast which you need to keep one eye on, and which is specific to the platform.

The following is not a comprehensive study of all the sub-genres of each platform, nor is it a bible detailing all the video permutations and spec options available. This is really to get to the nub of how we recommend using each platform. So let’s take a look at each of the major players, in duration ascending order:

 

Instagram

Instagram

  • Our recommended duration: 10 – 30 seconds.
  • Max duration: Limited to 60 seconds max
  • Instagram Stories Duration: Limited to 15 seconds max
  • Aspect ratio: Square. You can post in vertical or horizontal aspect ratio, but I’d not recommend doing so, it’s just a waste of space in this format and even appears sloppy. Most people look at it on their phones, and space is obviously very limited – so take advantage of that and make it easy for people to see.
  • Resolution: 600 pixels square minimum, 1080 x 1080 is recommended. Essentially, go for a high a resolution as Insta will convert and re-compress it anyway.
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • File format: .mp4 or .mov

Twitter 2

Twitter

  • Our recommended duration: 10 – 60 seconds. This platform is not quite so bite-size as Instagram and the viewer will accept a slightly longer film. But attention spans still won’t go over the minute mark, nor is it a good look.
  • Max duration: 2 minutes 20 seconds. Why? Who knows?! But you shouldn’t be getting close to that anyway.
  • Aspect ratio: Square. Again they will accept horizontal (16:9) video, and that indeed is more acceptable here. But I’d still just go for the square, especially as we would already be creating square versions for Instagram.
  • Resolution: 32 x 32 pixel minimum! I don’t really know how you even shoot such a thing. Anyway, we recommend at least 720 x 720, and would advise 1080 x 1080 (for a square aspect ratio).  The absolute maximum (non-square) is 1920 x 1200.
  • Max file size: 512 MB
  • File format: Needs to be .mp4 via a web browser, though the app will accept .mov or .mp4

 

Facebook

Facebook

  • Our recommended Duration: 15 seconds – 2 minutes on your page. (10-30 seconds for targeted ad’s)
  • Max duration: 240 minutes. So you can stick a whole feature film up if you want. But most people will probably want to put shorter versions of their main film(s) on here in order to drive traffic to their website. Some companies do kind of ‘stop’ at Facebook, and essentially that is the site, or where most of their sales happen. And so then it’s fine to put the full film up. We would not generally make films over 2 minutes for web promotional purposes anyway, even for your website.
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 (horizontal) or square. The stat’s are that most people view video on FaceBook on the app, i.e. on their phone. For example, world-wide 80% of users are only on a mobile. Though this will be skewed by those in developing countries, without access to a PC. In fact, if you have FaceBook device consumption stat’s for the UK please go ahead and add a comment below. But whether you go 16:9 or square is down to your market and the image you want to convey. Either are acceptable.
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (full HD, 16:9) maximum. 720 x 720 (square) minimum. No Twitter 32 x 32 pixel sizes here. You can see Facebook is catering for a far less disposable, more serious approach to video. Posts on Facebook are not nearly so ephemeral, previously posted videos remain readily accessible on the user’s page, and can be found and viewed far more easily at any point in the future.  Again, we would recommend uploading either in the 1080 x 1080 social media format, or 1920 x 1080, depending on your market. There is a bit of a language here, and my advice is for a business to business market approach to ere towards the 16:9 aspect ratio. So I would add the shorter (10-30 seconds) films in the square aspect (which will probably be ad’s), and put the longer, more in-depth, more considered films on at 16:9.
  • Max file size: 10 GB
  • File format: Pretty much any file type, including .mp4 or .mov.

linkedin

Linkedin

  • Our recommended duration: 30 seconds – 2 minutes. (10-30 seconds for targeted ad’s). LinkedIn by its nature draws a nice neat line between the ad’s and the content. The content on your page needs to deliver something concrete, provide information about your business, service or viewpoint etc. Unlike FaceBook, if you have an ad there’s only one place for it – as a paid for, targeted ad. And not to sit directly on your page.
  • Max duration: 10 minutes
  • Aspect ratio: Square, 16:9 (horizontal), or even vertical (to cater for mobile app’s). So you can obviously chose what’s best for you, but as the only dedicated business to business platform here it’s a bit more ‘serious’, worky, professional. So not only is it more likely to viewed on a laptops, which the 16:9 / horizontal / landscape (whatever you wish to call it) aspect ratio suits, but the less-playful feel of 16:9 makes it the general preference, and which I would certainly go with.
  • Resolution: 4096 x 2304 (4k) maximum to 256 x 144 minimum. Notably the only one accepting 4k – another nod to the more professional nature of the thing.
  • Max file size: 5 GB
  • File format: mp4, VP8, webM, and lots lots more. But again not the Apple preferred .mov. Another factor in why we supply our films as a .mp4 file.
  • It should be noted that video uploaded specifically as Linkedin video ads is subject to far tighter size and aspect ratio restrictions. That is, at HD resolution max (1920p), and 200MB. Though bizarrely can go up to 30 mins… should anyone ever want to for an ad.

CODEC

All platforms accept H264 encoded files. Warning, tech alert. So for those who care: Released in 2013, and saving a fairly massive 50% on file size, H265 (HEVC) didn’t make the hoped for impact due to tying itself in knots in licensing restrictions. It may yet find a way out of the tangle, or 2020’s release of H266 may pave the way forward. But at the moment we’re still on the H264 road as standard (as we have been since 2003!).

Subtitles

Finally, we would always post social media videos with ‘burnt in’ subtitles. Also knows as ‘open captions’, this is simply subtitles which the viewer cannot turn on or off. The reason being that most people’s feeds will be muted, and may well stay muted. And again, it simply looks more professional this way.

 

Conclusion

So what is the best video length for social media? Well, there’s a range from 10 seconds to 2 minutes. If it’s an ad / promo which you’ll be placing in people’s feeds, then 10 to 30 seconds. If it’s something to sit on your Facebook or Linkedin page then that allows for the longer pieces. We would normally want to hover around the 1 minute mark these days, anything more could realistically be off-putting for the viewer to even play it.

For nearly all of the companies with which we deal it’s cost-prohibitive to produce a big range of social media films, slimming them down and tailing them to suit each platform. We would normally produce a set from the the footage shot for longer pieces, being of durations between 10-30 seconds. We’d supply these in square and 16:9 aspect ratios with burnt-in subtitles (so essentially just two alternatives) to be placed on each platform as the marketing manager sees fit.

If you have any questions or feedback, or if there’s anything you feel I have missed or would be useful to the list do let me know.
Or if you want to get in touch for a quote for video production, feel free to get in touch.