What's A YouTube View Really Worth?
“What is a real, successful YouTube view?” This is a question we are asked by clients all the time. Unfortunately – like most other online measurement questions – there isn’t one standard answer that has been largely adopted by the industry.
Since YouTube doesn’t reveal its algorithm, it’s important for brands to have some solid way to help measure whether or not their videos are working for them effectively. To help brands do this, we’ve compiled our own research to help them better understand what a makes a social video view considered a success, which includes looking beyond paying for completed views because -- as we will lay out in this article -- “all views are not created equal.”
All Views Are Not Created Equal – Engagement vs. Views
Engagement is the pinnacle of a video campaign, the catalyst that initiates a user to get closer to purchase or drives brand uplift. This is why many people in the industry value actual “engagement” over a simple “view” when it comes to measuring success. But whether you’re in the engagement camp or not, there’s no argument that it’s a solid indicator of efficacy.
The fact is that video advertising is a premium product. CPMs are very high (compared to static banners or pre-roll video) ranging from $20-$800 ($20 being Trueview, more like run of network; $800 being native advertising). In order to justify this cost the question must be asked: “Shouldn’t the client be expecting some sort of post action?” We think so.
We use a formula that measures “Engagement Per Thousand Views,” or EPM. The formula comes from broad user engagement by measuring the following: YouTube likes/dislikes, comments; Tweets; Pins; Facebook shares/likes/comments; tumblr posts; stumble; Reddit; etc. We then calculate how many engagements these videos get per 1,000 views – hence the term “Engagement Per Thousand Views.”
Trueview Isn’t Always the Best View
For the purpose of this exercise, we based this research against the value of Trueview, YouTube’s ad server do-it-yourself service. To add context to this hypothesis, we did some basic research using a random sample set of 20 YouTube videos produced by brand advertisers that have predominately (90%+) used Trueview advertising as their view generator, versus 20 YouTube videos also produced by brand advertisers using predominately (90%+) a video seeding agency. We deliberately avoided videos that were “viral” successes, and then we looked at the numbers for true commercial viral videos that have gone crazy, into the millions of views – Old Spice, VW Darth Vader, Red Bull videos, etc. To add further context, we looked at the massive user generated viral hits not shackled by a brand that are well into the millions -- cat videos, dancing men and laughing babies, etc. -- to calculate their EPM.
The results speak for themselves. When it comes to engagement, Trueview advertising fares poorly compared to seeded video, but what’s interesting is that the EPM of the well-made commercial videos (Old Spice, Samsung, etc.) is not that far off from more organic, user-generated viral hits (cat videos), which is a good indicator that a brand’s reach into viral nirvana is not too out of reach. Interestingly, branded viral videos successes had exponentially more Facebook engagement than laughing babies or cat videos, putting to waste the theory that users don’t engage with branded videos as much as they engage with UGC content.
We don’t believe that Trueview is a poor product, but by its own design and nature, it makes it harder for a user to engage with the video. Even if the video content is reasonable and could trigger some social interest, a client using Trueview alone to promote their video will not benefit from this opportunity. Content that has very little engagement can also become a victim of YouTube’s own harsh algorithm; if a video has weak engagement (even with a lot of views), the algorithm will believe that users are not interested in the video and it will never see the light of day in any featured list and will never have the chance to earn any organic media.
The answer is that there’s not a single answer. To make the most out of videos, brands should look at the big picture, which means not only looking at views but also measuring total engagement to make the most of their videos.