In early 2013, the internet was captivated by six-second clips they’d come to know as Vines. While these videos were fleeting, they told an entire story and entertained audiences in a few seconds. Today, Vine is no more, and TikTok dominates the short-term video space.
But whereas Vines had a fixed length – six and a half seconds to be exact – there’s much more wiggle room when it comes to TikTok lengths, which can be confusing when trying to figure out the optimal length for your videos.
Recently, while filming a TikTok video for one of our Buffer articles, I wondered about the ideal length. Should I be quick and snappy or go into detail and make the TikTok a bit longer? This led me to the idea for this article, where I’ll tackle the question of the right length for a TikTok. Let’s get started!
How to find the right TikTok length
To figure out the best length for your TikTok, you need to consider a few things, including the app’s algorithm, understanding user preferences, and factoring in the type of content you’re creating.
What video lengths perform the best on TikTok?
TikTok has never publicly come out about which video lengths perform the best. However, we can make a reasonably accurate guess based on data and research.
In mid-2021, internal data from TikTok that was given to creators said the optimal TikTok length was 11 to 17 seconds. However, by the end of that year, that number had increased to 24 to 31 seconds. According to Wired, a TikTok survey also found that users felt videos longer than one minute were stressful. All of this indicates that shorter videos perform best with the TikTok community, however, the platform has recently been pushing for longer videos for different reasons.
The reality is, while user attention spans are shorter now, TikTok wants longer videos to help sell more advertising revenue (this is partially why Vine shut down – it couldn’t sustain its business model) hence their recent move to allow up to 10 minute-long TikToks in early 2022. So over the years, TikTok video lengths have increased: from 7 seconds → 15 seconds → 3 minutes → 10 minutes.
With this being said, the consensus is still that shorter videos perform better on TikTok. Not only is the platform still known for short-form content, but you don’t want people to be scrolling past your videos without finishing them, meaning it is probably best to stick to shorter TikToks.
Social media is constantly changing, however. And because there is a financial incentive for TikTok to venture into long-form content, there is a realistic chance that the app’s algorithm may prefer longer videos in the near future – so stay flexible.
What video length suits your TikTok content the best?
We’ve already established that shorter videos perform best on TikTok – but this doesn’t necessarily mean that longer videos don’t have a place on the app. The length of your TikTok will depend on the message you want to convey.
While it’s best not to drag a video on for too long, you also don’t want to cut yourself off before you can effectively get to the point. When I was filming this TikTok on AI writing tools for an article I wrote on our blog, I wanted to give an accurate summary of the article, and the video turned out to be over 1 minute. We still received good engagement on TikTok and our Instagram, where we cross-posted the video as a Reel. Had I shortened the length of the video, I don’t think it would have been as effective.
But even longer videos can perform well, too. This TikTok from Jess Hunt, founder of makeup brand Refy, lasts for over six minutes. Jess tells a story time on how she founded her company. The TikTok received over a million views, over 100,000 likes, and 342 comments.
Similarly, if you want to highlight a product, talk about your company culture, or share a story time video, you probably are going to need to make a bit of a longer video, and that’s totally OK! Longer TikToks can also get great engagement, so don’t feel like your TikToks always have to be bite-sized.
The importance of adding a hook to your TikTok
By now, you’ve probably realized that there is no magic number when it comes to TikTok lengths. However, one thing we can say for sure is that TikToks that open with a strong hook during their first three seconds tend to perform the best.
Specifically, research directly from TikTok says, “over 63% of all videos with the highest click-through rate (CTR) highlight their key message or product within the first three seconds.” This means you want to start your TikTok off strong and quickly introduce the topic or thesis.
This TikTok by content creator Naomi Burtt is 46 seconds but opens with a hook quickly – “This is my Chipotle hack.” Its received over one million views.
Here, content creator Kevin – also known as the CEO of Chai – has an immediate product hook. The TikTok opens with a clip of Emma Chamberlain highlighting her chai poweder mix. In the video, Kevin reviews the product and talks about the chai for one and a half minutes. Note that even at a longer legnth the TikTok performed well and garnered over 180,000 likes.
We recently went viral on TikTok with a fun video our social media manager Mitra made about remote work. While the video is short – only five seconds – the visual hook is immediate as the first thing people see is the text, “POV: You’re a remote worker vibing at Target in the middle of the work day.”
A good hook will captivate the audience's attention right away, meaning these users will be more likely to finish your video instead of just scrolling past it. This is important because the TikTok algorithm will ding you if users aren’t engaging with your video and watching it in its entirety.
Examples of different TikTok lengths from small businesses
While shorter TikToks may be your best bet, exploring with and diversifying your content is a good strategy, too. In this section, we’ll go over how these small businesses create both short and long TikToks.
On our TikTok, we cover various topics, including social media management, remote work, and the 4-day work week.
Here, Mitra shared a funny and relatable TikTok about social media managers, which lasted only five seconds. The video received over 270,000 views, 3500 likes, and 32 comments.
In this TikTok, Tom Redman, a former Director of Product at Buffer, filmed a TikTok about a job opening. In the video, which lasts 46 seconds, Tom opens with Buffer’s benefits and goes into more detail about the job. This TikTok received nearly 300,000 views, over 17,000 comments, and 550 comments.
This is a fun and casual TikTok by clean makeup brand Saie, which lasts only five seconds. Here, Saie talks about a trending topic – the Sephora sale – and highlights their blushes in the caption. This video received nearly 7,000 views and close to 200 likes.
This TikTok on the other hand is more educational and lasts for over two minutes. Saie’s CEO, Laney, gives users her best marketing tips. The video received over 11,000 views, 700 likes, and 60 comments.
Foton Pearled Candle’s TikToks
Foton Pearled Candle has a thriving TikTok which showcases helpful tips and tricks for users who purchase their products. This TikTok on candle safety lasted only nine seconds and received over 27,000 views, nearly 1,000 likes, and 10 comments.
On the other hand, This TikTok explaining the benefits of pearled candles is a bit longer at 26 seconds and received over a million views, 130,000 likes, and 257 comments.
The consensus here is that both long and short TikToks have their place, and both seem to perform well.
Comparing TikTok lengths to Instagram Reels
Instagram's hard push to Reels last year was a direct result of its competition with TikTok, so it’s no wonder the two mediums feel very similar. In fact, it’s common for creators to cross-post their TikToks directly onto Instagram Reels and we even recommend doing so for more visibility on your posts.
In this regard, a lot of content that performs well on TikTok can perform well on Reels and vice-versa. But there is one key difference. Currently, Reels can only be up to 90 seconds long, whereas TikToks can be much longer at ten minutes. This means Reels are more fast-paced than TikToks, and they also tend to be more polished, whereas TikToks can have a more off-the-cuff feel to them.
Hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful! Instead of focusing solely on your TikTok length, remember you have to produce quality content on TikTok, too. As long as you’re making TikToks that users find entertaining, insightful, and educational, your videos should perform well.
Get started with Buffer for free and schedule your TikToks today!