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Image of people walking in a building for article B2B Buyer Personas

Creating B2B Buyer Personas

Audio Version — 19:41

Are B2B Buyer Personas Important for Marketing?

Are buyer personas, specifically, B2B buyer personas, important for B2B marketers to develop and use in attracting the ideal buyer? After all, when segmenting markets, marketing professionals can deploy several segmentation strategies that include demographics and psychographics. 

As you read through this article, you will discover that buyer personas are not a demographic segmentation tool but more of a goal-driven buyer’s behavior. But first, to fully understand the buyer persona, it’s essential to trace the concept to its origins to understand its original purpose. From the first creation of personas, we can then discuss the importance of buyer personas in the B2B marketing context.

What Are Buyer Personas? Definition and Origins

Creating B2B Buyer Personas - sketch of person head down by computerIn Alan Cooper’s 1999 published book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, Cooper outlines his case for personas to better design user interfaces and leading decisions about visual design, functionality, navigation, and content using technology. Personas are not necessarily actual people but based on real people. In other words, personas, according to Cooper’s book, are hypothetical archetypes for existing users that drive decision-making for interface design projects. 

In 2001, a colleague of Cooper, Tony Zambito, adapted Cooper’s technology design personas for marketing purposes, leading the way to what we know as Buyer Personas in marketing segmentation. It’s best to clear the air now; buyer personas are not necessarily a segmentation tool by themselves but more of an ideal buyer personality defined by their goals. 

Thus, Zambito’s buyer persona definition incorporates the elements of the original persona definition but with a focus on the buyer. Zambito states that the buyer persona definition is:

“Buyer personas are researched-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.”  

 But make no mistake, while they appear to be simple representations of what the ideal buyer looks and acts like, buyer personas are well-researched concepts that help marketers better design marketing messages that move the ideal buyer along the buyer’s journey. 

We can sum up buyer personas in the following seven points:

  • They are hypothetical archetypes (or models) for actual buyers that drive buying decisions for a brand’s products or services.
  • Buyer personas are not real people but represent real people moving along the buyer’s journey.
  • They are not made-up but discovered through research and the investigative process.
  • Personas are imaginary but defined with significant accurateness.
  • Their goals define buyer personas; that is, the buyer’s goals in making a purchasing decision.
  • Creating effective marketing messages and campaigns incorporates a personas’ needs and goals.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what a persona is and is not, it’s time to turn our attention toward the three different types of personas that B2B marketing managers should develop as part of their marketing strategy.

The Three Types of Buyer Personas: Primary, Secondary, and Negative

When discussing buyer personas, marketers often focus on developing several primary buyer personas for a single product and target market. Creating several primary profiles may seem suitable for some small retail businesses. However, to truly understand the buyer’s goal in a B2B context, the marketing professional should focus on developing primary and secondary buyer personas and consider creating a negative buyer persona. I will discuss the benefits later in this article.

 

Three Types of B2B Buyer Personas sketch of profiles with cogs and gearsSeventy percent of the B2B buyer’s journey is complete once the prospect agrees to speak with a salesperson. Thus, making the first 30% of the journey a critical part. The first part of the buyer’s journey moves the prospect from attention to purchase in what’s known as the AIDA model of micromodels for marketing communications. The second stage of the AIDA model is the interest stage, where B2B buyer personas play a critical role. The interest stage of the buyer’s journey is where marketers develop marketing communications content that fulfills the prospect’s needs and goals, moving them along the journey toward an action, like a sale.

In B2B contexts, there are often multiple people in the buying process. There are administrators, assistants, and other employees of a firm that may participate in the decision-making process, such as provide feedback for the products and services under consideration by the primary buyer. In this instance, the additional participants in the process are considered secondary buyers. Thus we need a secondary buyer persona.

Finally, a negative buyer persona refers to the type of buyer that you want to avoid in your marketing initiatives. However, the negative buyer persona follows the same narrative as the primary and secondary personas but is less critical in developing your marketing strategy.

Developing negative buyer personas will help you better understand your target audience by learning which person is not a potential customer. Creating a negative buyer persona could prevent you from wasting valuable marketing resources and targeting the wrong audience. Negative buyer personas also help your average acquisition cost and strengthen your understanding of your current buyer personas.

B2B Buyer Personas Example

The following buyer persona narratives format follows best practices for creating B2B buyer personas. A recommendation for creating B2B buyer personas is to create a single persona with several secondary personas for each product or service your firm offers and the industry — or market — you plan to target. 

To better understand the personas’ goals, I will write buyer persona examples related to the commercial electric vehicle industry. An industry I spent time marketing for and one that I am familiar with their buyers.

Primary Buyer Persona Example

Sam is a 58-year-old male that was born and raised in Nevada City, California. He currently lives in his childhood city with his wife, Mary. Mary is a homemaker, and the two have been married for 35 years and have two adult daughters and one grandson, all living in the same city. Sam works as a transportation director for the Sutter County education offices and commutes 1-hour each way to his job in Marysville, California, along the picturesque Highway 20. 

As a lifelong resident of his small mountain town, Sam has seen what progress has done to the local environment. He also understands that there needs to be a balance between conservation and progress. Sam does not see himself as an environmentalist; however, he does care about the environment and local wildlife. Sam spends his weekends with his wife hiking in the nearby trails and often takes his grandson fishing at the local lake, just like he did with his two daughters when they were young.

One weekend per month, Sam and his wife volunteer at the local animal shelter to care for and clean up after the animals. Sam sometimes uses his Ford F-250 to help transport the animals when the regular shelter truck is out of service. He doesn’t mind using his truck but does get concerned from time to time about the impact his diesel engine truck is having on the local environment that he and his family love so much. Sam has witnessed the effects of drought and other environmental issues on the local forest and wildlife and wants to do his part to help prevent further damage to the environment while still maintaining jobs in the area.

Secondary Buyer Persona Example

Jarrod is a 35-year-old lead mechanic for the Sutter County office of education transportation department. He’s been married for ten years and has a 7-year-old son he enjoys playing ball with on the weekends and evenings. Jarod’s wife works for the same department as an administrator, and they both drive a short commute to work together after dropping off their son with Jarrod’s wife’s mom in the mornings. 

Jarrod and his wife live in Yuba City and make the 12 miles one-way trip daily. Jarrod has a trade degree from a leading automotive tech school and enjoys working on cars and commercial vehicles. His primary interest includes working on diesel truck engines. However, he has recently been training to support electric vehicles the county is considering buying. Being a family man and the father of a young child, Jarrod is always looking at ways to save money. He understands the need to save and provide for his family and their future, just like his father did for Jarrod and his four siblings. 

Even though Jarrod loves the sound of a diesel engine and the range of the internal combustion engine, he understands the need for the county to save on transportation costs, thus their desire to move toward all-electric vehicles. His concern is not so much moving toward all-electric, but that for the security of his job. 

Jarrod does not have the final decision-making capabilities in making a vehicle purchase for the county; however, Sam often consults with Jarrod. He values Jarrod’s opinion on the types of vehicles he purchases for the county.

Negative Buyer Persona Example

Tracy is a 47-year-old administrator for the Sutter County transportation department. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she moved to Marysville five years ago to get a new start after her divorce. She has twin teenage sons, one in the third year of college on the east coast and the other serving in the US Navy, stationed abroad. 

Tracy is a heavy smoker and likes going out on weekends to local bars and clubs with a few of her friends that live in the same city. Where she lives is not that important to her as long as it’s close to some nightlife. Tracy didn’t initially plan on moving to Northern California but did so because she had relatives living in the area. She often tells her family and friends that she wants to move on from the smaller city and live somewhere on the east coast.

Tracy doesn’t care what she drives as long as it saves her money and she can get up and go where she wants and when she wants. She’s not a fan of electric vehicles considering their short range and the time it takes to charge their batteries. Coworkers often hear Tracy making negative remarks about Tesla car owners and their electric cars.

Explanation of the Three Buyer Persona Examples

The three buyer personas examples above demonstrate the narrative for each type of persona. A combination of demographics and psychographics makes up the buyer’s behavior and goals. We learned that Sam is a decision-maker who cares about his environment while preserving jobs. He feels he can accomplish both goals by introducing all-electric vehicles to his fleet of other existing vehicles.

Jarrod, while not a decision-maker, does provide input on vehicle purchases. His main goal is to keep his job and family’s financial security. However, he is open to electric vehicles providing he can still keep his current position.

Tracy is our negative buyer persona. She is precisely the customer we do not want to target. Some marketing professionals may try to change her mind through various content along the buyer journey. However, it would be a waste of marketing resources considering Tracy does not hold a high value for electric vehicles.

With each persona, the marketing professional can begin to craft messages and content that helps the decision-maker and influencers gain interest in the product and come to a buying decision. With Sam, the marketing message may include environmental topics, sustainability, and job creation. For Jarrod, the marketing messages may consist of job creation and the total cost of saving money on repairs while demonstrating how mechanics can be utilized, with a bit of training, to service electric vehicles and the growth and demand of future EV mechanics.

Let’s turn our attention to the details that go into developing a buyer persona template.

B2B Buyer Persona Template Breakdown of our Primary Persona

Buyer Persona Research Illustration of people and computerCreating the buyer persona begins with research. Research and interviews from real customers or potential customers, then the gathered information is fine-tuned into a fictional character, breathing life into the character with both demographic and psychographic (behavioral) data. An excellent place to begin selecting your samples for the interview may come from your sales team. The sales team is the liaison between the customer and the firm that often gathers customer and prospect data.

Salespeople meet lots of people, understand their needs, and gather information about their prospects. Suppose your sales team collects good, in-depth information about their prospects. In that case, that information can be converted to a buyer persona, reducing the need to conduct in-person interviews of customers.

Keep in mind that a single fictitious persona is a culmination of multiple real people. If you discover that your sales team does not have the necessary data to create personas, you will need to conduct interviews to create effective buyer personas. The interview process can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the product or service you are selling and how much information you need to gather.

Let’s look at the buyer persona breakdown for Sam to better understand the type of data we require to create our personas.

Demographic Data

Age: 58

Occupation: Transportation Director for a Government Agency in Sutter County, California.

HomeLife: Married to Mary for 35 years. Father of two adult girls, Casey and Amanda. He has a 5-year old grandson named Derek

Education: BA in Liberal Arts from California State University, Chico. He also took business courses at the local community college for two years and one year of auto mechanic classes.

Technology used: Sam is computer savvy and prefers to use his desktop computer. He doesn’t spend much time on his computer or phone when at home but does most of his technology use at work, like checking emails and looking for vendors online. He does use a smartphone, but it’s mainly for calls and some game time when at home.

Lifestyle/Psychographic Data

Activities: Sam is a caring man that is close to his family. When time permits, he likes doing things outdoors on the weekend with his wife and grandson, and daughters. Sam cares about his community and the people living there. He and his wife spend one weekend per month volunteering to help the animal shelter.

Sam commutes to work one hour each way and sees the impact of gas and diesel vehicles and manufacturing plants on the local environment and air quality. He does not consider him an environmentalist but cares about the environment and what he can do to help reduce the negative impact. 

Ultimate Goal: His goal is to find a balance between preserving the environment, especially local areas while helping people stay employed to earn a living for their families. 

Needs: Sam wants the feeling of security for his family, both financially and environmentally. He prefers to do his part in making an impact on improving the air quality. He seeks to balance saving jobs and reducing costs and waste for his organization and personal life.

Pain Points/Frustration: The high cost of fuel and maintenance on vehicles and the environmental deterioration of his local forest. He’s patient but wants to know that there is a solution and that he is doing his part in working toward that solution.

Quote: “I believe we can find a balance between nature and man, where we coexist without the destruction of the environment and the loss of jobs.”

Notice that there are additional elements in the breakdown for Sam than is written in his narrative. The information in his analysis is what we would include in a buyer persona template. However, we may not necessarily write it all out in the narrative, yet all the information is essential when developing the fictitious buyer persona.

B2B Buyer Persona Best Practices: Essential Details and Tips

The following are the essential information required for a successful buyer persona. The data is a culmination of demographics and psychographics of a fictional customer but based on research and interviews of actual customers or prospects. For B2B marketers, it’s ideal for developing 5 to 7 personas, with one primary B2B buyer persona and several secondary personas. Creating a negative buyer persona can help you solidify who your target audience is and is not.

Essential Details

  • A real name, like Sam or Tracy
  • The personas age
  • Add a photo for realism (can be stock photo)
  • Personal information about family and home life
  • Working environment. The working environment may include any tools used, but it’s not a job description.
  • Pain points/frustrations
  • Their attitudes
  • Motivation for wanting to buy your product or service
  • How do they seek information and resources? Perhaps their favorite places to congregate online, like social media sites, blogs, or forums.
  • Personal and professional goals.
  • A direct quote that sums up their attitude or goals.

Tips for Developing an Effective Buyer Persona

The more information you add to your buyer persona, the more focused you will be developing the ideal customer and targeting that customer base. The following are tips to help you achieve an optimal buyer persona.

  • Write a one to two-page narrative with the essential information gathered about your persona. Create the same narrative for each primary and secondary persona you create.
  • Provide one or more fictional details about the buyer’s personal life, interest, or habit, making them memorable and unique.
  • Do not base the buyer persona on a single real person, but a composite of various customer types.
  • Use different personas for different market segments and products or services. Do not recycle a persona from another marketing campaign intended for a separate market area.
  • Minimize the number of personas you create for each target market and product or service. Typically, there is a primary persona and about two to seven secondary personas. Adding a negative buyer persona can help you fine-tune your demographics.
  • Make the persona believable so that it makes sense to develop marketing messages and campaign around that archetype.

Summary

While buyer personas were born from developing personas for technology products, marketing has embraced the concept to target their markets better. While buyer personas are not necessarily a segmentation strategy, they incorporate demographic and psychographics to help develop fictional characters based on research and interviews.

The buyer persona may seem like a straightforward narrative on the surface, but much work and detail develop the buyer persona. Interviews and research can take two to six weeks to create just a primary buyer persona. The more detailed a person gets, the better your marketing department can develop marketing communications messages and content to help move the buyer along the buyer’s journey and down the marketing funnel.

In the end, the question, are B2B buyer personas important for your marketing initiatives? The answer is simple, yes. If you want to reduce marketing costs and resource waste, get precise with whom you are targeting and whom you do not become critical. The buyer persona is a goal-oriented tool to help you reach your goals without waste.

Choosing the right social media platform article header image of social websites

Choosing the Right Social Media Platform for your Business

Audio Version — 8:19

The Rise of Social Media Platforms

choosing the right social media platform social web illustrationDigital technology, devices, the surging popularity of the internet, and the human need to stay connected have given rise to many social media sites and other virtual communities over the past 20-years. Social media’s popularity continues to accelerate with no sign of slowing soon, allowing marketing professionals to connect their brands with customers.

Ninety-two percent of marketers in companies with more than 100 employees plan to use social media for marketing activities in the coming years, according to statistca.com. The current data shows that more than 91% of marketers use social media platforms to connect with customers. With so many different social media sites, the question remains, should you be on every platform, and how do you select the right social media platforms for your business?

In this article, I guide you through choosing the right social media platform for your brand and answer the age-old question of should you be on every platform, specifically, the popular ones.

When Your CEO Tells You the Company Needs to be on All Social Media Platforms

It’s a story that transcends social media itself — or it feels that way at least; your CEO walks into the marketing office and cluelessly suggests that the company should have a Twitter presence. You look perplexed, thinking to yourself that your high-target value does not congregate on the social media platform. You quizzically ask, “Why?” He responds, “Because XYZ company is on Twitter, and I think we should be too.” 

The CEO exits your office, leaving you confused and bewildered. You ponder the idea of whether you should add the platform to your marketing communication mix or how you’ll inform him that you should not waste marketing resources to explore that platform.

If this scenario sounds remotely familiar, you’re not alone. I cannot tell you how many CEOs I worked with that suggested which social media platform I should direct the company to because their wife, kids, or friends suggested the social site. CEOs — or anyone for that matter — armed with just a little knowledge of social media can be and are dangerous enough to derail your marketing strategy — or stall your plans temporarily

I am going to arm you with information for choosing the right social media platform for your company. Then you will have the necessary information to help persuade your boss why you should or should not participate in specific social media platforms, perhaps saving valuable marketing resources.

Why Marketers Use Social Media: Advantages and Challenges

Social media has proven to have advantages and challenges for marketers. Advantages include:

  • Social media offers a targeted and personal approach to consumers, allowing marketers to create and share tailored content with specific target audiences and communities.
  • It provides a channel for dialogue (complaints, compliments, and needs) between customers and the brand.
  • It’s immediate and timely. Marketers can reach customers anywhere and at any time, making social media indeed a global communication channel.
  • Social media is cost-effective compared to print or television. Small businesses can embark on a social media campaign for almost zero marketing costs.
  • Social media platforms are best for encouraging customer engagement and sharing, allowing marketers to expand their brand message and content through a word-of-mouth strategy.

Conversely, social media presents a few challenges for marketers. The biggest challenge is walking a fine line between promoting the brand and engaging customers with relevant content. Because consumers drive social media through their positive and negative interactions, brands need to earn the right to be on any specific platform. Marketers that jump right into social media promoting products are often met with resistance by consumers. To gain acceptance and trust amongst consumers, making them a part of the brand conversation, marketers need to produce targeted, valuable content for consumers to digest.

Before you can create valuable content, you need to know where your customers congregate online and what they value. Thus, the question remains, what are the right social media platforms for your business?

Finding the Right Social Media Platforms

target illustration for right social media platform articleIdentify your key customers

Determining the right social media platform requires that you understand your audience. You need to know their likes, dislikes, needs, and where they “live” online; what social media sites they frequent. In other words, you need to identify your ideal buyers, also referred to as buyer personas

Research the Channels Audience

If you are new to marketing or have not yet identified who your ideal customer is and where they may spend their time online, you will want to research each channel you plan on engaging. Researching each social media channel may be daunting, considering thousands of social sites exist, ranging from the mainstream ones like Facebook and LinkedIn to niché social media sites like Reddit and smaller, specialized online communities.

High-quality third-party online sources are also suitable for researching social media statistics and the types of consumers that utilize the platforms. The following are a few research websites for learning more about social media platform audiences and trends:

  1. eMarketer. Part of Business Insider Intelligence is a research firm targeting decision-makers such as CMO’s a comprehensive source of information on operating in a digital world, offering transparently sourced and vetted data from thousands of sources. 
  2. Pew Research Center. Pew Research is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world. 
  3. Social Media Examiner. The information on this website helps businesses discover how to use social media to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate awareness, and increase sales.

Top Social Media Platforms Demographic Overview

The chart below offers a glimpse into some demographic data about the listed social media platforms. It’s an excellent place to begin your research in your potential audience demographics. However, keep in mind that to improve the success of generating a following on the social media platform, you will need to develop a few profiles of the ideal buyer (personas) to develop better content that engages your audience.

I have included several mainstream social media sites along with a few niché platforms. As a general rule, if you are unaware of what platform to start with, it’s good to craft your messages on the most popular social sites. For example, Facebook and YouTube are the most prominent social media platforms, with 81% of users stating they have used Facebook and 69% reporting using YouTube at some point, according to the Pew Research Center.

However, the top two most active social media platforms marketers use to connect and promote their businesses or products are Facebook and Instagram. Below is a list of leading social media platforms ranked according to popularity for marketers, based on the Social Media Examiner’s 2021 Industry Report. The demographic data comes from the Pew Research Center.

Social Media Demographics and Stats Chart

 FacebookInstagramLinkedInTwitterSnapchatYouTubePinterestNextdoor
Users2.7B854.5M740M187M265M2.1B459M27M
Adult Men61%36%31%25%22%82%16%10%
Adult Women77%44%26%22%28%80%26%16%
White67%35%29%22%23%79%34%15%
Black74%49%27%29%26%84%35%10%
Hispanic72%52%19%23%31%85%18%8%
<$30K70%35%12%12%25%75%21%6%
$30K-$49,99976%45%21%29%27%83%33%11%
$50K-$74,99961%39%21%22%29%79%29%12%
$75K+70%47%50%34%28%90%40%20%
High School or less64%30%10%14%21%70%22%4%
Some College71%44%28%26%32%86%36%12%
College +73%49%51%33%23%89%37%24%
Urban70%45%30%27%28%84%30%17%
Suburban70%41%33%23%25%81%32%14%
Rural67%25%15%18%18%74%34%2%

Data Source: Pew Research Center 4/2021

Summary

Since the explosion of the internet and digital technology, social media has gained and continues to gain popularity. The question marketers have is, should they be on all social media platforms or narrow their choices down to a few high-target value sites? Suppose your company has the resources to deploy content to all of the significant and niché social media sites. In that case, the answer is, yes, participate in all of the social platforms. However, the reality is that most firms do not have the resources and must narrow their selection down to the right social media platforms for their business and products.

Understanding who your customers are by developing two to five buyer personas can help you narrow which platform is right for your message. Targeting the different social media platforms requires research and sometimes trial and error in crafting the right message for the right audience.

Image of video blogger for engaging videos article - Allen Stafford

Creating Engaging Videos and Their Optimal Length

Audio Version — 8:58

engaging videos article - illustration of man looking through telescopeThe Web – A Visual Medium and Engaging Videos

Humans are visual creatures. Our survival depends heavily on visual cues for fundamental behaviors like locating food, a partner, and shelter. We also rely on visual cues for complex actions like parental care and the forming of social hierarchies. 

In a 2004 research paper by Indiana University School of Law professor William C. Bradford, he notes that 5% of the population are experiential (tactile and role-play) learners, 30% of the people are verbal learners, with the remaining 65% of the population being visual learners. 

It is no wonder that MTV — the music television cable channel that first aired on August 1, 1981, grew in popularity, broadcasting “visual” interpretations of artists’ music. Record producers probably knew that by exposing music fans to music videos, they could reach a potential 95% of their audience.

Fast-forward to 1990, when the first WorldWideWeb browser developed for the NeXT Computer lead to the graphical internet that we know today. The web is a visual medium for the most part, and the birth of social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube have helped fuel the graphic revolution, specifically amongst the video medium.

There are over 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute. It is no wonder that YouTube is the second most searched website in the world after Google. Facebook users watch over 100 million hours of videos daily on the social media site. There are tens of thousands of other videos watched and uploaded to other social media sites and private and public web pages daily. With so much video distributed throughout the internet, it makes it challenging for marketers to cut through the noise and grab your already waning attention span. 

Whether a marketer should produce engaging videos or not is a pointless discussion. Of course, engaging videos must be part of your marketing strategy. The question is, how do you get viewers to engage with your video content, and how long should your video run?

What is Engagement?

The concept of online engagement is reasonably new, and pundits have not locked in consensus on the idea of what exactly constitutes engaging online content. According to research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review titled, Creating Online Videos That Engage Viewers, the authors — Dante M. Pirouz, Allison R. Johnson, Matthew Thomson, and Raymond Pirouz; professors of marketing at Western University of London, Ontario, Canada — offer a broad view of what constitutes engagement: 

“We…define engagement as behavior that includes sharing but also extends to other forms of measurable user involvement.”

The other forms of measurable user involvement — noted by the scholars — include commenting, favoriting, and liking. In other words, engagement is anytime a viewer interacts positively or negatively with your content or, in this case, your video.

In their research, Pirouz et al. dispel several myths about online videos. Their results show that neither professionals nor amateurs are better than one another in creating compelling content for accumulating views. So, you do not have to run out and hire a professional actor to represent your marketing video; anyone can do the job.

Additionally, the study finds that:

  • Branded videos are liked more but disliked more as well.
  • Adding cute babies and animals does not increase engagement either.
  • Attractive people do not increase engagement.
  • Sexually suggestive videos also do not increase viewer engagement. 
  • Satire, associated with hyperbole, increased views and comments, yet it induced anger. If you are looking to generate outrage, satire may be an option for you.

What Makes Engaging Content?

Hand sketch couple looking at smartphone - engaging videosIn their research, the team discovered that the number one element that increased positive engagement — views and likes — was the element of surprise. Interestingly, surprising yet frightening videos garnered more views and likes than videos with just an element of positive surprise. The team does point out that fear-inducing videos increase views but at the cost of generating negative attitudes toward the videos. The key is to produce videos that induce fear and surprise, not frightening videos like those found in horror movies, which decreased engagement the researchers found.

When looking at ways to invoke surprise, the researchers looked at hyperbole (exaggeration), incongruity, and novelty. They discovered that while hyperbole and surprise increased views and comments, it incited anger. That may work for political marketing campaigns, but not necessarily for brands looking to create a positive image.

The best approach for engaging videos, according to the researchers, is to pair the element of surprise with either something novel that viewers have not seen or show something counterintuitive or incongruent that also demonstrates surprise. For example, I conducted a non-scientific experiment on a Facebook group with over 27,0000 members. I posted varying videos to test the findings in the engagement study. The video that received over 200% more likes, comments, and shares was a video (shown below) of a cat attempting to chase a rat; in turn, the rat chased the cat down the street. The video displayed an element of surprise (the fact a cat would run from a rat), and it was equally out of place or incongruent to what we know about the relationship between a cat and rat or rodent. In other words, the video displayed visuals that are counterintuitive to how we see the world, and that alone created the elements of surprise, novelty, and incongruity.

Copyright Viral Hog

 

Does Video Length Impact Engagement?

The current assumption is that shorter video lengths improve viewership. That is, if your video time is short, then you will attract more viewers. The thinking coincides with recent studies that indicate people today have about an 8-second attention span, shorter than a goldfish. Add in the reality that 4,000 to 10,000 ads and messages bombard us daily; it makes sense to think that shorter is better when it comes to competing for attention. 

Despite all of the noise and clutter that competes for our daily attention, shorter video length does not necessarily impact viewer engagement. What impacts engagement is content. Set aside most social media platforms’ hard video length limits; you are bound by them regardless of content and viewer attention span. You should direct your focus toward the type of story you want to develop and communicate.

Researchers discovered that shorter videos are not necessarily the most engaging in research conducted by Google’s Unskippable Labs initiative (see video below). What engages viewers is compelling brand stories, specifically amongst the Gen Z and Millennial demographics who have an anti sentiment toward being sold. Unskippable Labs found that the longer the ad, the greater the brand awareness and consideration of the brand offerings. The caveat, though, with longer videos is to develop a compelling, emotional story. The unskippable Labs study shows that longer video cuts (30-seconds and 2-minutes plus) increase brand favorability. An increased interest in a brand with the longer video allows more time to develop an emotional connection between the brand and the viewer.

Shorter ads, like 15-seconds, showed ad recall; however, they did not change a consumer’s mind in regards to liking a specific brand.

Copyright YouTube.com

 

What is the Optimal Video Length for Engaging Viewers?

While the Unskippable Labs study measured videos up to around the 2-minute mark, another study conducted by Wistia concluded that the optimal length for a video is between 2 to 3-minutes. Engagement exponentially drops off after the 3-minute mark.

For best the optimal video best practices, it is best to keep your marketing video under 3-minutes. For brands that want to tell a story, the 2-3 minute video range is optimal without introducing the brand until after the 1-minute mark. For brands looking to halo their brand name and build brand recall, shorter videos, like 15-second videos, do well. 

Summary

Video is a fast-growing medium for marketers. The challenge is knowing the right amount of time a marketing video requires before viewer engagement falls-off. Studies show that the optimal video length for engaging videos is 2 to 3-minutes for brands looking to increase brand favorability amongst their viewers. Anything longer than 3-minutes, then viewer engagement drastically drops. Brands looking to increase brand recall do better with shorter videos that are 15-seconds.