The Video Metrics That Matter. Hint: It’s Not Views [Panel Discussion]

The Video Metrics That Matter. Hint: It’s Not Views [Panel Discussion]

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The final panel of the ReelSEO Video Marketing Summit was titled, “Video Metrics that Matter and Tools I Wish I’d Created,” and it included an encore appearance from Pixability’s EVP of Sales and Marketing Rob Ciampa (subbing for a sick Will Keenan of Maker Studios), vidIQ CEO Rob Sandie, and Tubular CEO Rob Gabel.  Yes, it was a host of Robs all speaking at once, and the video acknowledges this quite a bit in the final session of the day.  Our founder Mark Robertson moderated.

Questions and answers are paraphrased and edited.

Mark asks, “What are the most important metrics to measure for engagement?”

robert-sandie-vidIQ-200x200Rob Sandie: I think it all ties back to watch time.  That’s what YouTube emphasizes when they talk about their algorithm.  And what drives watch time?  Is it the number of tweets, the virality of it on Facebook, is it the amount of comments and the engagement you’re leaving them on those comments, is it appropriately tagging the video, using the right thumbnails and titles…and it’s of course, all of the above.

rob-gabel-tubular-labs-200x200Rob Gabel: Yeah, watch time is first.  And second is, ‘How passionate does the audience feel?’  And are they sharing, commenting, adding to the conversation?  If you’re Starbucks, you want people in Starbucks…but beyond that are they telling their friends about Starbucks, do they love it, do they share their experience?  Those things are “likes” and “favorites.”  I think “Add to Playlists” is interesting.  Are they curating your content?  Are they tweeting about it?  Those are the signals you’re looking for.

Rob-Ciampa-Pixability-200x200Rob Ciampa: Earlier we warned about getting over the “view addiction.”  Views aren’t engagement.  Views are prostitution.  Engagement in many respects is an equation.  There’s no “engagement metric.”  But we look at engagement in terms of subscribers.  Subscribers matter, but not all subscribers are equal.  We see subscribers that are very engaged, and those who really don’t do anything.  Engagement is tied to content, and if it’s great stuff, that audience is going to share, they will curate, they will comment, and they’ll make magical things happen.

Mark asks about the importance of social media:

Ciampa: You can’t treat social media the same way.  Social media has been a train wreck, because we’ve basically turned to a 13-year-old just out of college to shepherd our brand.  But we looked at the role of social media and video and we found several different things.  Some brands are very Facebook-centric.  By the way, Facebook isn’t about Facebook video, on Facebook you put YouTube videos.  But we just did a study that found that of the top 100 brands, the top 25 percent had 330 percent times more social media engagement than the bottom quartile.


If you want to read that study, here’s a link.

Sandie: Outside of YouTube, one of the strong conversations that are occurring is around something that you can monitor, that goes unmonitored–all the tweets that are being shared around your YouTube URLs.  We do data on this, and we found that 90 percent of the tweets talking about your videos don’t mention your brand.  We had a client where Tony Robbins tweeted about how much he loved their video, but there wasn’t any mention of the brand in the Tweet…and it would have been a gem of a reTweet, but there wasn’t any mention of the brand name and no one could find it in search.  And at the time, the social team wasn’t monitoring the thousands of YouTube URLs being shared on Twitter.

Gabel: I have a friend who runs a software company and he was experimenting with TrueView about a year ago when it first came out.  And I think a lot of you might be disappointed in TrueView in the area of direct response–the CTR is amazing, but the direct response on your site isn’t good.  What he did is, they’re an English language site, and he hadn’t done any advertising in Australia before.  So in Australia he was doing TrueView-only and seeing if organic search increased and sales increased.  And what he found was that TrueView was working more like traditional TV in that for every one person that was coming in to sign up for the software, he was getting additional “view-throughs” or organic traffic that rose in Australia.

Mark asks a question about paid and optimization–which do you do first?

Gabel: Well, obviously you have to make great content first and you want that content to resonate with your audience.  But I think organic comes first–you want to do the tagging right, you’re getting it out there, finding people who will promote it.  We helped some people on a movie campaign.  There was a band in the movie, and we had band members sharing it on Twitter.  So get it out to your core following first.

Paid marketing can help in a number of ways, it can help if you’re a brand advertiser.  There are a lot of MCNs who will use TrueView to backstop so it can guarantee a minimum amount of views.  And no one wants to create a web series and then no one watches it, so they use TrueView and “guarantee” 5 million views over the entire series, and as the MCN we’ll pay to make sure it gets there–but we don’t want to, we want to try to get it there organically.

Mark: As search becomes more social and my search results become different from your search results, is that when you decide to use a paid push and then optimize specifically based off the response?

Sandie: As an organization you have to choose where you focus your time.  Do you want to spend money creating content and spending time with that audience, or do you want to spend time and money trying to come up with finding the right target audience on TrueView?  And in the end you really start pushing yourself to create engaging content for that audience.  On the data side, you see people making all sorts of mistakes, like only putting two tags on their video when they give you the capacity to set 16.  There’s no negative toll to adding more tags.  We actually show more search volume the more tags you add.

Ciampa: I would say about 80 percent of our business now is a combination of both paid and organic.  It depends on the type of campaign.  And before we take a look at when to do paid or when to time paid, we’re going to take a look at the audience.  What is this audience’s metrics, what do the content look like, is it going to resonate?

There’s a problem with paid–we suffer from a lot of people doing stupid things with TrueView.  TrueView is incredibly effective if done right.  A client will come in and say they did TrueView and say it didn’t work.  And we ask them, ‘What data did you use?’  It was horrible. ‘Who did you target?’  Oh, we had an SEO guy kind of did some targeting, we had some keywords.  ‘Did you have the metrics behind it? What were you looking at?’  So for those of you who have tried TrueView who might be skeptical, throw that away.  It’s really very effective.

Gabel: It’s hard to build an audience with a brand new channel, you know, with four subscribers.  And there are tactics to get better SEO on YouTube by distributing through a partner that already has good SEO.  For example, for the movie Black Swan they distributed the dance sequence through DanceOn, one of the leading dance YouTube networks.  And they give it to DanceOn and they treat it like news.  ‘We’ve got an exclusive dance sequence from the upcoming movie,’ and they blog about it, tweet about it, let their influencers share it.  And the dance sequence got something like five times the views as the official trailer did when they released it on the movie site.

Mark asks for the panel to elaborate on the watch time metric.

Ciampa: So you know our opinions on views.  YouTube made an algorithm change to weight watch time more.  Views have been gamed.  So with watch time, is it a percentage the video is watched?  In that case we’d make very short, compelling content.  I made the point earlier that long content is equally as important as short content.

So in regards to watch time, it’s not how long time was spent watching a particular video, it’s watch time for a session.  So when someone goes to your site, and this is why content curation is so critically important–what did we say before, “After you watch one video, you watch another video.”–so as a person sits and watches all your videos, all of that is counting towards watch time.  It’s an aggregate measurement of engagement.

Keep people on your channel.  We want people to create core content and lay off trying to create viral videos.

Sandie: You emphasized this earlier with subscribers.  The average watch time among subscribers is much higher than someone who just randomly found your video on the site.  You see these brands on YouTube with hundreds of subscribers but millions of Facebook fans.  And you ask them why that is, and you find out they don’t put much emphasis on getting subscribers.  And when you show them the difference in watch time between subscribers and random people, it sort of opens their eyes.  Maybe we should be encouraging subscriptions in annotations, or putting it in our descriptions.

Gabel: It’s murky.  It’s something YouTube keeps close to the vest.  It looks like a mix of ‘percentage of time they engage’ and the ‘minutes of time they spend on the video.’  I would not recommend, though, really long credits at the end of your video.  YouTube says, ‘Nah, don’t worry about that, let the credits run, it’s all about watch time’ but I would put a link to another video with the credits.  I would not put 1-2 minutes of dead time at the end of your video.  I don’t have any proof, but that’s what I would do.

Mark asks, “Is the view dead?  Does it matter?”

Sandie: Subscribers matter.  Views don’t matter, watch time matters more.

Ciampa: I agree, with an asterisk.  Views can be a proxy.  For those of you who serve clients, there is still a “view addiction” out there.

Gabel: I think views are a good stand-in when watch time isn’t available.  If you were trying to find a partner to help distribute videos, it can be helpful to look at the number of views they have over thirty days divided by their subscriber base.  If they have all these subscribers but over the last several days, haven’t gained any views, that channel might be dead or not active.  Watch time is better, but views are easier to get with these metrics.

Mark asks if the panel still has clients who don’t care about watch time and are still fixated on views.

Ciampa: We still get the calls from clients who call and ask for a viral video because views are very, very important.  The first thing we tell them is when you analyze a viral video, in 99 percent of the cases, if it’s brand-related it’s shared because of humor.  They don’t care about your brand.  Once we convince them of that, we talk about subscribers and subscriber engagement with the brand, and that’s when everything changes.

Mark talks about how brands seem to give up on YouTube took quickly and asks “When do clients get that video is a good idea beyond an initial testing phase?”

Sandie: Those same brands they’ll turn off comments, and create 30-second videos, no engagement, no end caps, don’t address the YouTube audience.  YouTube is complicated relative to Facebook or Twitter and even traditional video advertising.  It’s a unique community, a unique place to put video content, and no one really goes the full length to address YouTube when they’re the ones that are giving up.  My big pet peeve is seeing the brands that treat YouTube like Dropbox.  They just send over ten videos at once and it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’

Gabel: One thing about YouTube is that people subscribe to personalities more than brands.  I think that’s true for radio hosts, and it’s about Anderson Cooper, not CNN.  I think if you’re a brand, you should think about having a personality.  It could be the Geico gecko…If you want to get outside the viral video hit, you need to be helping people with their problems and to be standing for something.  General Mills came out and said every single one of their 37 different brands has to have a purpose beyond selling the product. So with YouTube it’s about finding a purpose or a theme.

Mark asks the panel for their number one video tip:

Ciampa: Again, it all comes back to content and community.  Produce content with regularity, make it predictable, and be interesting and you’re going to feed it in such a way that your audience is engaging and sharing.  But also don’t be blind.  The dialogue outside your brand is important–like Rob (Gabel) was saying, get a personality.  You may not own that personality, that personality might be Michelle Phan…embrace that, that’s what you have to nurture.  And by doing regular stuff and tying into that, and also leveraging and curating their content, that’s going to make the difference.

Sandie: Respond to as many comments as you can.  When you leave comments on and respond to comments, we’re seeing 4 times more views on those videos compared to the ones where you’re not responding.  No matter how many subscribers you have, you should responding to as many comments as possible.

Gabel: Don’t confuse having a viral video with having a YouTube Audience (with a capital A).  There’s plenty of people out there that have a “bacon-flavored mouthwash” viral video smash.  If you want to be a creator it’s not easy, if you want to own content.  However, the reason people want to do this is because, one way is you could spend a few million dollars for some commercials and at the end of the quarter, you’ve got to start all over again.  Michelle Phan hasn’t spent a million dollars total, and whatever she puts out now will actually have a half million people watch it.  That’s the allure that they’re trying to bring brands in.

The panel was then open for questions, which is where we’ll conclude here, although I suggest watching the rest of the video because some good stuff is discussed there.  We’d like to thank Video Aptitude for their work on all of these videos.


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