Sooner or later, in every discussion about content creation, someone will ask…
“Which is better: short-form or long-form content?”
The answer is, it depends. Both short and long-form content can be equally effective… or fall flatter than a pancake – depending on the topic, the audience, the format, and the circumstances.
But you don’t come to our blog for vague answers, do you? In today’s post, we’re going to try and resolve the debate of short- versus long-form content – at least as far as whiteboard animation videos are concerned!
We’ll start with one all-important rule of content creation…
Rule #1: Long is OK – long-winded is not
The true measure of content – any kind of content – is how useful it is to the people who consume it. And when we say “useful”, we mean it in the broadest possible sense. Practical and valuable content is useful, but so is something entertaining.
Whether your target market will run off to apply your advice, laugh out loud, or think about what you wrote for weeks afterwards, all of it speaks to one quality – usefulness.
You should always ask yourself, “If I make this content longer, will it become more useful?” If the answer is no, don’t do it.
Right now, you’re probably thinking that this guideline sounds vague. That’s true – because it’s not meant to be used in isolation. Let’s examine other rules of thumb that will help you decide on the length of your whiteboard video…
Rule #2: The type of video will influence how long it should be
Different types of video content might work better or worse depending on their length. Oftentimes, you can guess how long a video should be from the call to action it contains.
If the action is simple (click the link, go to website, etc.), a short video will do just fine. If the action is complicated and involves effort, money, or both (register for a free trial, sign up for an account, pick up the phone, make a purchase), a longer video will perform better.
For example, here’s how it might work for certain types of real-world videos:
- Whiteboard animation advertisement urging the viewer to visit a website. This type of video needs to accomplish just two things: get the viewer to watch the entire video, and persuade them to take a micro-action. The perfect length for it would be 15 to 30 seconds – maybe one minute, tops.
- Explainer video showing how a product or service works, and asking the viewer to fill out a form at the end (if they are interested). A video like that would work best when it’s 2-3 minutes long. That said, if the product or service is highly complex, or very unusual, it could affect the length (more on that later).
- Video sales letter that needs to convince the viewer to buy a product or service. Buying decisions are complicated and fragile – it’s very easy for a customer to get cold feet and change their mind about the purchase – so a VSL could run for as long as 10 minutes, or even more.
In addition to the type of whiteboard animation video you’re doing, you also need to consider what is being presented, and to whom – which brings us to the following 2 rules…
Rule #3: A complicated or innovative offer needs more time
If you’re selling scissors, do you need a 3-minute explainer to convince people to buy? Of course not – everyone already knows what those do!
But what if you’re selling something very complicated, like payment collections software? Or something new and cutting-edge, like genome sequencing services? Your prospects will have a lot more to think about, and many more questions to answer before making their decision…
If that’s the case, keeping your videos as short as possible might not be the best strategy. If you rush through explaining and demonstrating the unique value proposition of your complicated offer, odds are that it will go right over your customer’s head!
Similarly, if your video explains a complicated idea, like the inner workings of a giant tech company, you might want to be generous with your runtime!
Also, if you can’t explain something simply in under 3 minutes, maybe you should pick a more narrow concept. For example, instead of tackling how the economy works (as fascinating as this 30-minute video is), you might just focus on one aspect of the economy, like credit, or compound interest.
Note: there are exceptions to this rule. For example, on their YouTube channel MinutePhysics manage to break down highly advanced physics questions – like “What is Gravity?” – in very short, entertaining whiteboard animation videos.
Rule #4: Sophisticated market wants more details… until they don’t
“Market sophistication” is the term popularized by Eugene Schwartz – the author of “Breakthrough Advertising” and, at one point, the highest-paid copywriter on the planet.
Basically, the more sophisticated (read “hard to impress”) your target market gets, the harder you will have to try to stand out.
According to Schwartz, there are 5 levels of market sophistication:
- The basic claim, where brands do little more than yell the core benefit at their target prospects. “Lose weight!” “Make money!” “Cut your lawn!” – that kind of thing.
- Amplified claim, when companies expand on their benefits: for example, by promising specific results within a specific timeframe. “Build a $100,000/year business in 7 months!” is an example of that.
- Unique mechanism, when you focus on a particular solution that delivers the benefits better than any competing ones. For example, “Sell more products and services by using whiteboard animation video” – sound familiar?
- Amplified unique mechanism. Eventually, as more and more offers appear on the market, you will need to kick your unique mechanism up to eleven by differentiating it even further. So, for example, instead of just “whiteboard videos” it would become “high-converting whiteboard animation videos, written by professional copywriters” – you get the idea.
- Market identification. This is where everything breaks down and your prospects stop caring about the benefits and unique features of your offers – completely. The market is saturated, people are too jaded to believe anybody, and the only way to reach them is to appeal to their emotions, and identity, and values, without even mentioning your product or service most of the time.
Obviously, as you go from Level 1 through Level 4, your whiteboard animation videos will need to become progressively more sophisticated… until it all comes crashing down at Level 5, when all the concerns about content length fly out the window (again)!
Note: For an example of a Level 5 marketing video – non-whiteboard, but relevant all the same – you should check out this wonderful (and very funny) ad from Chatbooks.
And finally, Rule #5…
Let’s face it, whiteboard animation videos are not the most affordable type of marketing content. When it comes down to it, one of the most important guidelines to keep in mind is your budget.
In the perfect world, you would take no shortcuts and make no compromises on your message and your vision. But sometimes you have to, and that’s OK!
Only have enough for a 1-minute video? Not a problem – just create a super-short, engaging advert that gets leads into your marketing funnel.
Debating if you should splurge some more and make a 3-minute video instead of a 2-minute one? Apply Rule #1 and see if it works for you… or forget the rules and go “the shorter, the better” – you can spend the rest of the money on traffic!
Whatever you do, don’t just copy someone else’s case studies, or follow another marketer’s advice without considering these five rules. Then you will be able to create a whiteboard animation video of just the perfect length – the ones that works for your brand, and your target audience.