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July 24th, 2010

The Myth of the Perfect Video Length

By Lee Aase, Director, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

Ruben Mesa, M.D. is a blood cancer specialist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. He previously served for several years at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Just before he left Rochester for Arizona, he recorded this video about a particular kind of blood cancer called myelofibrosis:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxKPasVMN1o]

Dr. Mesa recently discussed how this video and others like it have helped patients and affected his practice:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBOtRIkEo2E]

In-depth videos like Dr. Mesa's aren’t the kind that will go “viral” like our famous piano-playing octogenarians from Iowa. But within a community of patients and caregivers who gather online from around the world, they have become popular, with more than 4,600 views to date.

These videos illustrate an important principle that runs counter to a common (but mistaken) myth about Web videos:

There’s no such thing as “the” ideal length for online videos.

Many people say online videos should ideally be 90 seconds or less, and certainly no longer than three minutes.

That’s wrong.

The real key is to be useful to your community. In the case of Mr. and Mrs. Cowan and their piano duet, the video was useful because it brought joy to the millions who watched it. Viewers weren’t bashful about passing it along, because they knew their friends would love it too. It met the need for joy. For a funny video, the 1:15 or so that the Cowans took for “Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet” was probably just about right.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI-l0tK8Ok0]

For patients who are hungry for detailed information about a serious disease, however, longer is better. An opportunity to hear directly from an expert is what they crave. And as Dr. Mesa says, they find it helpful to share with family and friends, to help them better understand the disease, and it serves as a helpful refresher for patients after their visits to Mayo, too.

So there isn't an "ideal" length for a Web video. It depends on what you're trying to accomplish, and the needs of the people you're trying to reach.

Tags: Case Studies

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