Video Monetization

How to Increase Audience Retention on Every Video Platform

By Irene Chan
10 Min Read

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Young woman engaging with her viewers and learning how to increase audience retention on video platforms.

You’ve been consistently publishing videos and live streams on your YouTube channel. That’s a remarkable feat! Plus, people are clicking and watching your videos.

But then you discover your viewers only watch for a few seconds. You may feel frustrated, but you know it’s just a matter of improving your audience retention. 

There are tons of tips for YouTube retention out there, but we want to give you an overall strategy and guide that works with any video platform. 

In this article, we’ll discuss: 

Let’s get into it! 

Why Audience Retention is an Important Metric

Audience retention is a metric that measures how long your audience watches your videos. A high audience retention rate means people watch most or the entire video.

Meanwhile, a low audience retention rate indicates that people are leaving before the end.

Why is audience retention necessary? 

Because it’s a good indicator of how engaging and entertaining your videos are. If people are sticking around until the end, it means they’re enjoying what they’re watching.

Other benefits of increasing audience retention: 

  • If viewers stay until the end of the video, your viewers will be able to hear your call to action.
  • The algorithm shows your videos on YouTube (and Google) search results to more people.
  • More views mean more potential ad revenue. 

Now, let’s talk about translating audience retention reports into numbers you can manage and measure. 

Audience Retention 101: Get Your Numbers Right

Before recording your next batch of videos, spend some time getting a bird’s eye view of  video analytics.

Search For Industry Benchmarks

The first step is understanding each video platform’s industry benchmarks for retention. It varies depending on the platform, type of video, and your target audience.

Here are some general benchmarks on average audience retention in percentage:

  • YouTube: 50% to 70% for most videos; over 80% for how-to videos, product reviews, and unboxing videos.
  • TikTok Videos: 60% – 80% for most videos because popular TikTok videos are less than 30 seconds long.
  • Instagram Reels: 40% to 60% since reels are up to 60 seconds long.

For example, if you have a 30-minute video on YouTube that teaches people how to create a personal dashboard on Notion, ideally, viewers watch up to 24 minutes of your videos.

Once you have the industry benchmarks, get your baseline data. 

Get Your Baseline Retention Metrics

Getting the baseline establishes a starting point, and you can set specific and realistic goals for each video. 

You can ask questions like: 

  • How many videos have you made in total? 
  • What is the average watch time on all of those videos? 
  • Once you’ve done the math, is your baseline data close to the industry benchmarks?

To do this, you need to check your analytics. Look at the average watch time and percentage of people who watch your videos all the way through.

You can find this information in YouTube Analytics or your preferred video platform’s analytics. Here’s an audience retention graph where you’ll know exactly at which point the viewers drop off from the video:

A graph showing audience retention where one can know exactly at which point the viewers drop off from the video.

In general, retention metrics are represented by these 2:

  • Average View Duration: ideally, the average view duration is around 50% of the total length of the video. For example, it’s a good indicator if the video is 10 minutes long and the average view duration is 5 minutes.
  • Average Percentage Viewed: you should aim between 50% to 70%. So, if you have a 10-minute video, ideally, almost 70% of the video has been viewed.

Essentially, both retention metrics came from the same formula: it shows the total watch time divided by the number of video plays.

An image showing average audience retention data.

Note that the longer the video, the higher the average view duration. Plus, the more viewers, the lower the average can get.

For example, a how-to video will naturally have a higher watch time because each video moment is essential to understanding how to achieve a particular goal. 

If you’re publishing videos on multiple platforms, you can use Google Sheets to bring the data to one place. 

Once you have the numbers, you’ll be able to make a more precise action plan.

Identify the Key Area To Improve

Once you have the industry benchmark and your baseline data, it’s time to assume why your retention is low. Data provides you with the what, but it’s only the first step. 

You need to figure out the why and then the how.

Here are other ways you can figure out why your retention is low:

  • Survey your current viewers.
  • Ask fellow creators and see if they can provide honest and valuable feedback.
  • Watch video creators in your niche and study how they engage their viewers.

At which part of the video do your viewers drop off? Do they leave the video in the first 10 seconds?

You might resist the process of asking questions because it can be scary to hear the answers. But if you want to get to the bottom of things and make improvements, it’s a necessary step.

Once you have the quantitative (your analytics) and qualitative (answers from your viewers) data, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get the ball rolling.

3 Tips to Improve YouTube Audience Retention (Or Any Long Video)

Let’s assume that you’ve already mastered creating the best thumbnails because you’re getting views. But you have to make sure that what you say in the video matches the thumbnail, especially if you’re using clickbait-y titles.

Now, here are other 3 tips to implement right away in your existing videos or integrate in your editing process:

1. Deliver a Great Intro in the First 15 Seconds

You need to deliver a great hook in the first 15 seconds  that will make viewers want to watch the rest of your video.

For example, you can open with a question to which they need an answer.

But you’ll promise to answer it in the later part of the video because you want to provide some context or interesting story first that lead you to discover the answer that they need.

2. Use Video Chapters

This native YouTube feature is easy to implement but can keep viewers engaged for much longer. By breaking up your video into smaller sections, viewers can easily navigate to the parts they want to watch or rewatch.

An image of Ali Abdaal, YouTube content creator.

3. Add Engaging Visuals and “Pattern Interrupts”

Make sure your video has engaging visuals. This can be anything from using on-screen text, highlighting key points, and adding fun animations like GIFs. 

If the entire video is just you talking to the camera, most viewers might get bored. Adding a b-roll serves as a “pattern interrupt” to refocus the viewers’ attention. 

Even just a change in camera angle can be enough to change the scene. 

Alex Cattoni, who teaches copywriting to freelance writers, uses fun GIFs as a b-roll to illustrate emotions in her videos. 

Adding GIFs to parts of your video is a smart move because everybody loves and can relate to GIFs. And it’s easy to add to your video editing process. 

While these tips are specific for YouTube’s algorithm, this can practically work with any long-form video. 

TikTok, Reels, and Short Videos: 3 Tips to Keep Viewers Hooked

Viewers’ attention on TikTok is a lot shorter. You have to work on the audience’s attention span and figure out how to pack a punch in each video.

4. The Shorter, The Better

According to Hootsuite, the recommended length is between 7-15 seconds. That’s why it’s best to avoid providing a long-winded introduction. Assume that your audience already knows the pain point. 

For example: 

When editing your work, one tip that most editors suggest is to read your article out loud. But if you’re writing a super-long article, that could get tiring really quickly! I discovered this totally unrelated thing when I was googling some random stuff.

Here’s how you read your article out loud without using your voice.

This strategy works with Instagram Reels, too. Before hitting record, figure out the best way to structure your video in the shortest way possible. 

5. Reel Them In with a Paradox

A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself. It’s the opposite of a predictable pattern.

An image showing a TikTok about money.

Introducing a paradox in your video will make people want to watch until the end to see how you resolve it.

If you’re teaching viewers how to save money, say something like: Spend more if you want to save money.

6. Deliver Value Quickly

Once you have a compelling hook, deliver the value quickly. 

How do you exactly spend more to save money? Why do you have to spend more to save money? Show them how a cheap purchase costs you more in the long run.

3 Tips on Keeping Live Viewers Engaged

Live streams are tricky because they are usually longer than your pre-recorded YouTube videos. So, the percentage of people watching it to the end is usually low. 

Here are 3 tips that work with any platform, from YouTube to Facebook to Twitch. 

7. Create a Reason for Viewers to Stay and Watch

You’ll need to use different strategies depending on the live stream you’re producing. Are you doing an IRL stream? Or are you on your desktop and screen sharing?

Whatever it is, make sure your viewers have a reason to stay. 

For example, if you’re doing a travel tour, you’ll have to showcase the most popular landmark in the later part of the live stream.

This way, people are more likely to stay and watch the “finale.” 

8. Gamify Engagement

Molly Mahoney, also known as The Prepared Performer, does a great job of keeping her viewers engaged by asking them what “nuggets of wisdom” they’ve learned. 

And when they share what they’ve learned in the comment, she gives a variety of prizes, from books to ring lights and even branded coffee mugs.

You can find more ways to add games and interactive elements in your next video. Have fun and experiment!

9. Use Visuals Strategically

Use various visuals to help your audience understand and retain the information. If you’re talking about a new product, show pictures or videos of it.

If you’re giving instructions, use infographics or screencasts.

Wrapping It Up 

So, you’ve got 9 actionable tips to implement to improve your audience retention. It may still be a lot. Here’s a 3-step guideline:

  • Research industry benchmarks for audience retention. 
  • Get your baseline data for watch time. 
  • Pick one key area to improve (like making your intros and hooks better). 

Keep experimenting and creating better videos that serve your audience. You’re already on the right track! You just need to keep going and keep the video rolling.