Subscribers vs. Views – How To Best Measure and Create Engaging Online Video Content

In my last blog post, I talked about the fact consumers are watching less online video than many of us may realize. The other issue we content creators – and if we’re in PR, we should count ourselves in that camp – are facing is: how many of those views are accurate?

There was a great post on GigaOm by Liz Shannon Miller this week that asked, “What should matter more on YouTube: Subscribers or Views?” 

It started with a simple question: if views can easily be sold, manipulated, etc., is there a “better metric for determining online success?”

The article was written after YouTube announced that their Subscribe button has now been clicked over one billion times. It’s an amazing number, especially when I realized I don’t think I’ve clicked it once, even though I’m on YouTube every day. (Sorry IT… it’s for research!)Miller argues that viral creators are constantly gambling whether or not their one-off videos will become a hit, but “subscribers represents a stable user base: one that has shown active interest and engage with the show or creators.”

Not everyone agrees. Miller quotes Ben Relles, Barley Political/Barely Digital founder and executive producer that said, “Total viewership numbers are still more important … our show The Key of Awesome has been viewed over 250 million times this year, and less than 20 [percent] of that came from subscribers. The rest came from viewer discovery like search, ‘viral’ sharing, and blogs embedding our videos.”

The answer for how to best measure online video metrics and actively engage consumers with that kind of content probably lies somewhere in the middle—(doesn’t measurement methodology always turn out that way?) So, here’s some best practices on how to potentiallyincrease both your views and subscribers:

·         Never be one and done. Rarely should a brand create a single video online and hope it “goes viral.” (Also, retire that phrase.) Unless you’re introducing a ground-breaking piece of technology never-seen-before (I’m talking time machine level of cool), you should be prepared to create content on a semi-regular to regular basis if you’re hoping to reach people familiar and not-so-familiar with your products.

·         Never make videos that are all about you. If you’re a technology company, don’t be afraid to make a video talking about a cool product (non-competing of course) your engineers are a fan of and got to play with at CES this year. If you’re a hotel company, there’s no reason you can’t focus a travel video more on the great gyro place just down the street from your hotel.

·         Regularly create new content… but if you’re uploading more videos a day than a blog like Gizmodo, you’re doing too many. Regular and differentiated content is a great way to keep your subscribers engaged (they likely won’t watch every video, so keep them diverse), but also new viewers who may wait three or four times before watching your first video. Just make sure you’re not “spamming” out new videos every week (or even worse… every day.)

·         And finally, always cut your video’s length during the final edit; and then do it again. As I discussed in my last post, most people barely watch the first minute of a video, and sometimes not even more than ten seconds. So always make it short—it’s more likely that a subscriber will watch all your videos if they’re always short, and a first-time can easily get bored if your video tops 5 minutes; if they’re bored that quickly, they never may want to watch another one from you in the future.

Alan has been with Ketchum for more than five years. Follow him on Twitter at @adanzis if you want rare insights about PR and social media, and tons of stuff about video games, technology and other sci-fi and nerdy things.