Stop Using Views To Measure YouTube Success

Measurement is a hot theme right now. Lots of smart people are writing about it regularly and Joseph Thornley (also a smart guy) is even organizing a social media measurement roundtable.

Here’s a measurement issue that’s bugged me for a while.

I keep seeing and hearing people citing video views as a critical success measure.

For example, Dan Ackerman-Greenberg pushed views as his key success measure with his (*shudder*) "viral" YouTube strategies.

On the other (i.e. right) side of the ethical fence, Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson talked about the number of views of Microsoft’s YouTube videos on a recent episode of FIR.

Isn’t there a better way to measure the success of videos?

It really seems like people take the route of least resistance by using an easily available bit of data to measure success without considering whether it actually shows success or not.

  • Does the video change peoples’ knowledge, perceptions or behaviour?
  • Do viewers get the message?
  • Do they go to your website after viewing the video?
  • Do they buy your product/service after seeing your promo?
  • Do they take whatever other action you want them to take?

Views don’t answer any of these questions. Sure, they’re nice to know and a large number of viewers may well be better than a small number, but not necessarily.

  • Are all those people your intended audience?
  • Are they influential in their field?

If not, then all those views may mean nothing.

Does several hundred thousand views of Microsoft’s new videos mean they’ve succeeded? Maybe. On the other hand, the negative comments would seem to indicate otherwise. Only more useful measures will tell.

Sure, it would be more work to find out more useful stats but really, what’s the point if you don’t?

I’m no measurement expert so I put the question out to you: What’s a better way to do this?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.