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The False Truth of One Million Views: Why Volume Shouldn’t Define Video Strategy

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“Our content needs to go viral! We need at least one million views for our video to be a hit!”

You’ve no doubt heard these phrases at some point throughout your career. Perhaps it’s a topic of conversation in your marketing meetings or even a main objective of your current digital strategy. Volume, measured by the amount of views, is often still seen as the key metric of success for video marketing and the way that a brand compares its performance to its competitors.

However, there’s more to content than just views.

What’s Wrong with Prioritizing Volume as a Success Metric?

It may be the case that your goal is general awareness, but there’s probably a far more targeted business problem that your content is trying to solve. It may be to sell more of your product, it may be to reach a new audience, or it may be to recruit more staff.

Be clear, before the cameras even start to roll, what real business objective your content is trying to achieve. It is on that objective that you should ultimately measure the success of your content.

Whatever your true goals are, the simple fact that content has been seen by a lot of people is not enough on its own to determine its success. At the very least, it misses the digital opportunity to actually do something with those views to make sure they’re not wasted.

eye glasses

Image attribution: Kyle Loftus

What Counts as a View?

That brings us to the second issue with using volume as a primary success metric: How can brands understand the true value of the views they get?

How are views defined by the platform on which the content has been seeded? Are they three-second views, watched largely on mute (as with Facebook)? Are they the 30-second views from YouTube users waiting to hit “skip” before they watch the video they came for?

And then comes the ad fraud debate. Do you even know if your views were genuine, seen by real people? On one hand, you have the scourge of bots and click farms. On the other, platforms like Instagram and Facebook frequently introduce a visibility problem, where some videos will play with less than a quarter of the video player in view (that is, if they are visible on the screen at all).

If Not Views, How Should We Measure Success?

This isn’t to say that volume is meaningless and entirely unfruitful. After all, if no one sees your content, then what’s the point?

Another useful side effect of volume that we’ve seen in our own research is that when people are presented with two different videos on the same topic, they are more likely to click on the one with the higher view count, as it appears to be more popular.

So while reach is clearly important, it’s a metric that should be considered alongside others, such as view-through rate, likes, dislikes, comments, shares, etc., in order to acquire much more comprehensive insights on whether your content was actually successful with audiences, getting their attention and encouraging engagement.

And if your intentions are simply volume, the key piece of advice is to make the content fit-for-purpose. Don’t expect the longer-form, five-minute version that lives on your website to work as well in a skippable, pre-roll environment as a bespoke, sub-30-second edit.

Here are three main lessons to remember when it comes to your own digital video strategy.

1. Volume is not necessarily a true representation of success

Understand what “views” actually mean on the platform you are using.

2. Adopt a multi-metric approach

Consider all the different ways to measure the success of your content (including engagement and action rates) before making a judgment.

3. Learn and adapt from the results

Keeping your original objectives in mind will allow you to see whether your content has worked—and if it hasn’t, they enable you to learn and change your approach for any future content you create.

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Featured image attribution: Hermes Rivera

Nick Hajdu is a Co-Founder of Navigate Video, a digital consultancy that helps brands navigate the world of video marketing. Having spent the last 10 years of his career in digital video, Nick is an expert in helping brands ensure their video content really works, that the right people see it and that it drives real business objectives.

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