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Why 5 Million YouTube Views Are Not What They Used to Be

A while back, I wrote about why 1 million YouTube views are no longer worth 1 million YouTube views. Well, as they say, social media moves like human years versus dog years, and things have moved rapidly in the business of the value of YouTube views since that short time ago.


We’re in the business of helping brands distribute video content across the social Web, engage users and — as frequently demanded — generate YouTube views, so we spend an unhealthy amount of time worrying about how we can effectively and efficiently deliver YouTube views for our clients. Taking a page from Google, YouTube has made its competitors irrelevant and parlayed its dominant position in video into “the good housekeeping” seal of video success, so brands now want to be big on Google and on YouTube; they want millions of views because millions of views connotes brand equity and success.


If only that were true…


Pre-TrueView days, getting millions of views on YouTube meant you either had amazing content or you had a rock-solid seeding strategy with some half-decent content. Now, it’s just a matter of “pay to play.” You want 5 million views? YouTube will sell you 5 million “views,” but these are really pre-roll videos that users didn’t bother to skip masquerading as 5 million people who have chosen to watch the video. The video counter says 5 million views; wow, that video must be good.


If only it was…


This all came to light recently when Google bought Motorola, and the company’s brief to its agency was to make the videos more popular than its competitors videos. Some of the videos weren’t bad, but most of the content was average. Within days, these videos had millions of views(buy youtube views), and the one decent video climbed to more than 10 million views in about 24 hours. Now even the greatest piece of content in the world never travels at warp speed (YouTube restricts growth to weed out the bots), but we watched it grow overnight until one day, it jumped from 11 million to just shy of 16 million. And then it just stopped.  See below.


It all seemed a bit of a coincidence to us that here was a brand that was owned by Google — which also owns YouTube — and these videos were doing so well so quickly. I reached back to my agency contact and asked him what was going on. He calmly responded, “the company had a board meeting the next day, and they needed to show more views than ‘you know who,’ so somebody flicked a switch and…” One month on, the videos have since stopped getting any views.


The problem with just buying video views, once you turn off the paid and you’ve not build a decent earned strategy, the junk stops working. We witnessed this again recently with some great content out of Wieden+Kennedy for P&G’s “Raising an Olympian.” The collection of videos have several million views. One for Lindsey Vonn has 700,000 views but only nine comments, 95 shares and 185 Likes. Really? These are great long-form social video perfect for the social environment, but they are wasted on an over-dependent use of untargeted paid media.


Okay, let’s not get too far into conspiracies, but we’re shouting, hoping and praying that media agencies and their clients don’t back themselves into the same dire position as they have with Google. Much as Mr. Sorrell refers to Google as his “frenemy,” we refer to YouTube as such. Yes, it’s a nice to have millions of views on YouTube to show off in your board meeting or a case study for your hard earned video campaign, but how many of these views are just bought views?  It doesn’t mean your video has changed your brand recognition or helped you sell more products. Like brand messages, brand video needs to be ubiquitous. Thousands of relevant and targeted websites, multiple social platforms and multiple engagement touch points need to be employed to help bolster and distribute your video, building an earned strategy before launching a video campaign is not only critical for your video to retain some kind of life when you turn off paid, it’s a wasted opportunity if you don’t. YouTube advertising should be a part of that strategy, not the whole.


And, to further cement this argument, YouTube has gone to great lengths to reduce views coming from outside YouTube. Its new algorithm is a firewall to exterior video views and has taken to “scrubbing” views from outside YouTube. In tandem with adopting this more aggressive approach, it increased its prices for TrueView by 300 percent. YouTube has built an empire and a virtual monopoly, it knows that brands covet its view counter and it knows how to give the brands the gold they seek. But, we all know what happens when cartels get too powerful.

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