Who Needs Millions Anyway?
Jul 24, 2009
In a great piece of analysis by Chris Wilson for Slate magazine, the question, “Will my video get 1 million views on YouTube?” gets the definitive answer, “No!” The chances are… well… one in a million. Here’s a better question to ask: Do you need a million views on YouTube? I’m going to propose the answer stays the same: No!
Here’s a snapshot of Mr. Wilson’s findings in his study of 10,000 random videos, tracked for 31 days from the moment of upload:
- 3.1% had more than 1,000 views
- .3% had more than 10,000 views
- 2.8% had 0 views
- 65% had less than 50 views
- A second study had almost identical results.
The only video in Mr. Wilson’s study to garner more than 100,000 views was a music video. That’s about as far as you can get from even the most entertaining product or service advertisement. And that makes a point that can’t be stressed enough: the overwhelming majority of videos to hit the million view mark aren’t selling anything. They are music videos, home videos of sporting events, and random acts of entertainment (using the term very loosely).
For the few that are selling something that make the million view mark, what portion of those viewers are, or will ever be, buyers?* For instance, I’m a huge fan of the Blendtec videos. I’m always interested to see what they’re going to shred next. But I will not be spending from $400-800 on a blender. (Please don’t stop making those videos on my account, though.)
So as a marketer, if you’re not going to attract a million viewers, is it worth it to get your video up on YouTube? Absolutely. Just be realistic about what results you can expect. And, more important, be smart about how you post so you get results that matter.
Google bought YouTube because it is, in large part, a search engine. Marketers should approach it that way as well. To get your content in front of the right eyes, you should be as diligent in your SEO as you are with the creative. The title, the description, the poster and the creative content should align. And I’m pretty happy that I can use one of our project as a good example of this.
Green Data Center Man is one installment video in the Migrate To IBM campaign. You may not know it, but the Green Data Center movement—the search for energy efficiency in IT—is strong and growing. (And if you don’t, that means you probably haven’t seen the video, and that’s okay since you’re not part of the target audience. But watch it now anyway, because it’s good.) So people might actually be searching YouTube or Google for “green data center” to learn more. If they do, they’ll find the video for IBM Green Data Center Man because the title, description, poster and content align nicely with that common search. And once they see it at or near the top of the results, they pay attention because the content is creative, entertaining and relevant, garnering almost 40,000 views (a number that puts it among the .3% and, in a way, even surprises us). Even better, approximately 6% of those viewers are compelled to continue to ibm.com, learning more and registering.
It really boils down to this: Forget millions. You don’t need millions. You need to be found by your audience, regardless of numbers. And then compel them to action.
*This question was also posed in this post about the Samsung Camera Trick video—a video that was both selling something and reached the million view mark. So far, we don’t know how many viewers of that very cool idea became buyers. We’re hoping that when that number is known, whether good or bad, it’ll be shared as a case study.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline. Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.