The Social Video Blueprint, Part 4: It’s About Shares, Not Clicks

The Social Video Blueprint, Part 4: It’s About Shares, Not Clicks

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Welcome to Part 4 of our Social Video Blueprint series. In Part 3, we talked about how the age of social media is causing brands to be more concerned with views than with old-school impressions, at least as a measure of engagement or campaign success. Today, we’re going to take a look at how sharing has replaced clicking as the most desired consumer action for online video campaigns.

sharethrough social video advertisingThis post was made possible by Sharethrough, the social video distribution platform that offers guaranteed viewership and maximized sharing for branded video content. Sharethrough distributes brand videos in user-initiated content placements across the social web and & optimizes brand video performance against social engagements, including Likes, Shares, Comments and more. Click here to learn more about their distribution platform and see past campaigns.

What Is A Click?

A click represents a single action by a user, typically performed to follow a display ad’s hyperlink or, in the case of online video, to begin playing the content.

For some time now, clicks have been a fairly common measure of an online ad campaign’s success. For instance, with Google’s Adwords, there are ‘impressions’ and there are ‘clicks.’ The former is a measure of the number of times an ad is displayed, while the latter is a measure of how many times that displayed ad was intentionally clicked on by a user.

Clicks are all well and good. I’m not here to bash clicks. They are still a representation of the consumer’s intentional action to learn more about a brand, project, or campaign. There’s value in that, and I won’t say there’s not.

However, something better has come along, and smart brands are beginning to care less about clicks and concentrate more on shares.

What Is A Share?

A ‘share’ is a measure of a consumer sharing your branded message (article, ad, video, etc.) with another individual (or multiple individuals). To put it simply: shares measure when your audience starts doing your job for you.

Social media has really exploded, and along with that growth has come the added power of the share. Now, instead of simply counting the consumers who willingly choose to watch a video, brands can begin to measure how many ‘brand apostles’ they’re cultivating.

A click is just one thing. It’s just one… click. One person clicking on one link or video giving that brand the chance to market themselves to one person.

A share represents much more than that; it represents one-to-many, and the chance for exponential growth.

Remember this Volkswagen ad we talked about last week:

In addition to the over-40-million people who have viewed that video, data from Unruly Media’s Viral Video Chart can tell us a whole lot more. The chart measures sharing activity around a video, rather than ranking them by total views.

Here’s the sharing breakdown for the Darth Vader social video campaign:

  • 4,103,870 Facebook shares
  • 161,901 tweets
  • 2,428 blog posts
  • Discovered 02 Feb 2011
  • 46 duplicate videos

That’s an awful lot of sharing behavior, which is why the video has as many views as it does. Most of those shares listed probably resulted in multiple other individuals viewing the ad. Which led to even more sharing… and so on and so forth.

This is the power of social video. Successful campaigns can be self-sustaining, and many have surges and waves of popularity–small bursts of viral sharing behavior that keep the campaign alive, still engaging audiences months after their debut. Check out this graph of the sharing behavior for the Volkswagen spot over the last month and you’ll see what I mean:

Social Video: Why Brands Value Shares Over Clicks

Shares are more desirable than clicks alone, for a multitude of reasons. Here are a few of the bigger ones:

Brand Apostles

Your audience is spreading your company’s message on your behalf, without you having to lift a finger. Think of shares like character witnesses in the online video court of lawevery share is an endorsement, where users are vouching for you.

And if you’ve spent any time at all working in or with small businesses, you know how important the almighty referral can be. Customers trust their friends, family, and favorite celebrities more than they tend to trust brands; this is why we see so many celebrity endorsement deals, right? “Buy our product, because Hollywood Actor Guy loves it!”

Shares work the same way, only our friends and relatives actually have an even more powerful influence over our purchasing habits than A-List actors do.

Cost, Or Lack Thereof

Shares are free, where clicks often cost money. Why do you think every movie Hollywood puts out strives to get some good ‘word of mouth’ going? Because it’s free advertising. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and that may be true, but I say that ‘free publicity’ trumps all other kinds.

Social video campaigns are like a snowball at the top of a mountain. If all goes well, every view will lead to a share, which will lead to more views and more shares, and the snowball begins to rapidly grow in size as it moves down the slope, and eventually its own momentum takes over and it becomes an avalanche.

There are obviously costs involved with creating social video: production, personnel, distribution, etc. But under the old television advertising model, you pay for every airing of your commercial. With social video in today’s online world, you can get huge numbers of new viewers for no cost at all… once you get that snowball rolling.


You can share an online video in a variety of ways. There’s only one way to click on it.

A share might be a Tweet, or even a reTweet. Or it could be a posting on a Facebook wall… or the act of ‘liking’ a video on someone else’s Facebook wall. A share can be an email, blog post, Tumble, or even a thumbs-up. Heck, I might share a video with a friend during offline, face-to-face conversation.

In a recent white paper from comScore – which focused on Facebook activity for Bing, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines – the research firm found that brands get far more exposure from being featured in users’ news feeds on Facebook than from their official Facebook Fan Page (in Starbucks case, it was a whopping 150 to 1).

In the same white paper, comScore reveals that social media fans and friends of Starbucks spend 8% more than the average consumer, and visit a Starbucks 11% more often.

The variety of ways to share things online leads naturally to an overall increase in activity. More options means fewer obstacles between the initial viewing and the sharing activity. Social media makes it easier than ever for viewers to share with friends, and so they do it more often.

Power & Potential

Measuring clicks only gives you a static number… it is the beginning and the end of your campaign analytics. How many people clicked? That’s really all there is. Sure, you might get some general demographic information from the IP address, but it pales in comparison to what you can learn from shares.

Shares have incredible long-term potential to germinate and grow more fans. I’ve seen videos sit on YouTube ignored for years, only to be shared spontaneously by an influencer or gatekeeper and then take off for the viral video record books.

A click means we agreed to view or learn more about an ad. But a share represents a viewer who is standing up for the brand, evangelizing it. Almost every human being on the planet will always trust the word of their friends over that of a stranger or brand.

That’s exactly why Unruly Media’s Viral Video Charts are based on shares and not just on clicks or views. If brands are really looking for a conversion, there is far more potential and power in social video than there will ever be in a single click. Every share is a potential spark toward a wildfire of awareness and engagement.


With the explosion in new social media metrics, brands are able to actually interact with the people sharing their social video content. With an old-school click, the brand might get some basic demographic information about the user, which could potentially help with future marketing campaigns.

But with a share, well, in many cases the brand can simply send a direct Tweet, or reply to a customer’s posting on their Fan Page. It’s not a figurative ‘conversation with the customer,’ it’s a literal one.

Social video allows for a brand to be part of a conversation–or become the conversation topic itself–which results in much more highly engaged viewers.

Exponential Growth

Because of influencers and gatekeepers – those social media individuals with larger followings – shares have the potential for exponential growth. A click is always only going to be a single action of one user. A share from the right influential user might represent hundreds more consumers reached… or even thousands.

There’s a scene in the movie, That Thing You Do, where Tom Hanks’ band manager is trying to convince his musicians to perform well for a particular concert. He points at a local radio DJ in the crowd, explaining that if they can impress that one radio DJ, then the man will then play their song on the radio the following day for tens of thousands of other potential new fans.

It’s the exact same with social video–brands are just hoping to impress or engage enough influencial social media users to achieve that same ballooning audience effect. Which is why the best campaigns include much more than content creation, but also distribution and social media strategies.


Shares are simply more valuable, powerful, and cost-effective than clicks. But in order to see consumers share your brand, your story, or your online video with their friends, you have to make some kind of connection with them. You have to engage them emotionally, and in a way that traditional television commercials never did.

And as more brands wade into social video waters, the competition for those shares and for the attention of those influencers is only going to get more steep. That will drive even more ingenuity and creativity from brands and continue to propel the shift away from ads toward brands creating their own original content.

Join us next week for Part 5, when our topic will be Social Video Case Studies.

If you’ve missed any articles in our Social Video Blueprint series, you can catch up below:

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November 2018

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