Webvideo: How to ensure it has a longer than 3-second lifespan

4 Steps to success

How to ensure a webvideo has a longer than 3-second lifespan on social media How to ensure a webvideo has a longer than 3-second lifespan on social media

For a webvideo YouTube isn’t just the world’s largest distribution platform, but also a giant graveyard for audiovisual orphans. There are millions of webvideos eking out a forgotten existence online as bloodless zombies. Every hour hundreds of thousands of videos are clicked on, only to be sent back to digital oblivion seconds later.

The fact that many films and videos often don’t survive online for longer than a few seconds isn’t always down to just their content. It also depends on the form and intrinsic structure of the webvideo. In this article we will show you how to think, film and edit videos that are guaranteed to exceed that 3-second online life span.

Schema Aufmerksamkeitsspanne, (c) Microsoft

Schema Aufmerksamkeitsspanne, (c) Microsoft

According to a study conducted by Microsoft, the modern media consumer has an attention span of 8 seconds. For the first time the average attention span of a goldfish is scientifically proven to exceed that of a media consumer. But that’s not all. If within the first few seconds we don’t get what we want, we quickly click on to something else.

The creators of YouTube Pre-Roll Ads face the same time pressures as webvideo makers and those in charge of online platforms such as Facebook, Google/YouTube or Twitter. In this war for attention, how can we ensure we don’t disappear into oblivion?

A checklist of 4 simple pointers, doesn’t automatically guarantee the success of an online video, but these tips help you confront the challenges that webvideos face, from the get-go. These four pointers can by no means replace creativity or an understanding of the positioning or operation methods of the different web channels when it comes to targeting your desired audience.

Create the perfect webvideo using the W.I.L.D principle

As it’s highly unlikely that these lines will be read mostly by goldfish and to ensure these pointers are easily memorised within a few seconds, every one of them is identified by a letter. The first letter of the word W.I.L.D stands for Wow!, the second for Interesting, followed by Logical and finally Do it.

“W” for Wow!-Effect

Everything has a beginning. The same goes for a webvideo. But that alone won’t guarantee your first online video view. A webvideo shouldn’t start with a beginning, but with an enticing hook! This is the “Wow!”-Effect.  It’s straightforward: every webvideo has to start with a promise that entices the target audience. You have to draw the user in immediately.

As soon as he presses play, a user’s internal stopwatch starts racing. Why am I watching this? Why keep watching, when there’s endless, perhaps even better video content out there waiting for me? This promise doesn’t necessarily have to be the highlight of the video, as established online media companies keep trying to convince us of. Of course, if we chose, we can use all our ammo at the very beginning and then go on to explain why the canon was fired in the first place. But the explosion has already happened. “Wow!”-Effects can be created with an array of devices at our disposal in the dramatic toolbox of communication and film. Whether it’s with a loud bang or a striking contrast between sound and image or by the use of more conventional tricks or breathtaking images. The moving image presents us with countless wonderful ways of drawing the viewer in with a promise.

“I” for: Interesting

As in real life, this is a really hot topic: A promise made is a promise kept. Whatever follows that “Wow!” factor at the beginning of the online video has to fall in line with that promise. If it doesn’t deliver, the viewer will quickly lose interest.When the target audience feels that the promise has been delivered and are captured, that’s when it becomes interesting.

Clever webvideo creators will even offer their viewer something more. With the famous so-called “Extra Step” the person who posts the webvideo, increases their chances of receiving positive comments and shares on social media.

“L” for: Logical

Everything also has an ending. Promises are delivered. That however doesn’t mean that the viewer of a webvideo stops thinking at this point. On the contrary. For the webvideo maker it may seem logical that the video ends there. But for the viewer it may be just as logical for the storytelling to continue. Despite the Wow-Effect and the subsequent interesting content of the video, the fact that good storytelling has a lot to do with logic, can’t be overlooked.  Good stories are unpredictable, but always logical. Bad stories are predictable, but never logical. Especially when it comes to webvideos and social media there’s always an opportunity for the story to continue on another channel or medium.

“D” for: Do it!

The command “Do it!” is the equivalent of a CTA (Call to Action). The proud owner of a cat, who has mastered a backward summersault, may be delighted to post a video of his talented, furry friend online. But beyond that, a video can transmit emotions and information so as to produce a very specific effect. An effect can only manifest itself, when the viewer is lead by the hand and pointed towards the objective. The decision must – and always will – lie with the viewer, but he expects to be guided through his decisions. Whether the transmission is subtle or blatantly obvious: The call to action at the end of the video points the viewer – directly or indirectly – to what is expected of him as a next step.

guide to social video metrics videothink

Social video metrics

Further keys to success

Webvideos should ideally be able to be understood without sound. Many users switch their computers, tablets or smartphones to silent. As an online video maker you don’t want your core message to be lost to the majority of your viewers.

If you want to test, if a web video communicates this added value, consider if your viewer/user can answer “yes” to at least one of the following questions:

  • “Thanks to this webvideo, I’m now up-to-date on current events. “
  • “This webvideo has taught me something new. “
  • “I’ve enjoyed this webvideo.”
  • “This webvideo touched me on an emotional level. “

Given that varying channels (see below) are at our disposal, web videos have to be able to be reproduced in different formats. Unlike TV, online adverts don’t limit themselves to the 16:9 format. There are also square and vertical formats. Low budget webvideos, where transmission of a message often relies on sound (i.e. a voice-over), are understandably limited by a series of restrictions. A clearly audible sound track should nevertheless never be compromised. Nothing makes a video appear more amateur-like, than an unclear and noisy audio track.

The use of in-built camera microphones is one of the seven deadly sins for professional filmmakers and a definite taboo and should only be used in absolute emergencies.

An overview of current Video platforms and accepted video durations:

Video PlatformDuration
YouTubeEach video, depending on user status, varies between a max. 15 mins or 11hours. For YouTube partner agencies: unlimited duration.
VimeoNot limited by duration, but by quantity and size of data. (500MB/5GB/20GB a week)
FacebookVideo max. 40 mins
for Facebook partner agencies:  120 Minutes
Daily MotionEach video max. 60 mins.
Twittermax. 30secs per Video
for Twitter partner agencies: 10 mins.
TumblrEach video max. 5 mins.
for partner agencies: Limited data, max. 100 MB
Instragrammax. 15 seconds per video clip
for Instagram partner agencies:  30 secs / 60 seconds
Snapchatmax. 10 seconds per video clip
Vinemax. 6 seconds per video clip

Chart: Technical benchmark data as of April 2016

This YouTube Pre-Roll Video has interpreted the Wow-effect in reverse…- and thereby written advertising history! Not only does it deliver on its promise to the viewer. This charming webvideo manages to integrate the logo as part of the film concept from the very beginning of the video:

Video Thumbnail

Further Information


© filmpuls, translated by Nina Kaelin

About Videothink Team
Articles by the Videothink team are collaboratively-written by more than one member of the videothink publishing team.

Leave a comment

(Your email address will not be published.)