Why 1 Million YouTube Views Are No Longer Worth 1 Million YouTube Views

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The question our clients always used to ask was, “How much for 1 million YouTube views?” We gave them our rate card price and worked the social networks and blogosphere to drive 1 million plus views to their YouTube video. Now things have changed; if you Google “buy YouTube views,” nearly 1 million results appear, all claiming to be from “real users” (not robots) and offer a “money-back guarantee if not all views show out.”

It’s a dark world out there, which Sony and Universal recently discovered when YouTube culled billions of views claiming them to be suspect. Suddenly, those millions of cheap views they bought from “real” people are not looking so cheap.

YouTube has invested heavily in technology to not only fight the bots, but to punish the videos on its site that have poor user retention or lack of engagement. What’s important for brands to understand is that YouTube is just one big search engine made up of millions of videos — brands need to recognize this huge potential to reach their audience.

They should think of it as being just like the search initiatives they already spend millions of dollars on. Just as brands desire to appear on page one of Google results (both organically and via ad buys), they also need their videos appearing next to related videos or be discovered by their target audience in the categories related to their market.

Unfortunately, if they choose to only buy YouTube views driven either by a third-party vendor or even just YouTube TrueView products, their videos will fall foul of the YouTube algorithm, which only pushes up content it thinks the audience likes, shares or relates to. Brands need to understand that by not employing all the social opportunities available to them — and just using YouTube as a host — the results will be costly and ineffective for the marketing efforts.

What YouTube is very useful for is measuring an audience’s reaction and engagement with the brand, serving as an instant metric to show brands that their advertising agency is doing its job. It paints a transparent story of the relationship between a brand and its audience. After all, TV, displays and posters don’t talk back.

Properly promote a brand video on YouTube, and you’ll have all the brand sentiment and customer feedback you could have ever asked for — a living, breathing workshop of opinions never seen before in market research. Promote a video badly on YouTube (using third-party vendors who blast the video in embeds on ad networks), and you throw all of this information away, strangling the video from finding an organic, targeted audience.

The prime reason we talk to clients about measuring EPM (engagement per thousand views, likes, shares, comments, etc.) is that they need to track efficacy beyond just a video view. We want our clients to take advantage of the social currency a video can foster. From the more than 100 branded videos we tested on YouTube, we’ve seen an average of 15 engagements per 1,000 views, which is the minimum standard that we recommend our brand clients to expect.

According to a September 2012 report by eMarketer, the social video market value is closing in on $6 billion by 2014 (a growth rate of 38.9 percent). YouTube charges $500,000 just for the pleasure of being on its home page for 24 hours. If brands want to play in this space, it’s costly but can drive all the emotions and brand uplift as a TV ad can while being more measurable and potentially much more cost-effective.

However, when brands are paying more than 15 cents per view (a much more expensive CPM than display or pre-roll), it will only be worthwhile if brands can not only measure efficacy but also expect to see an average or above average engagement score. Without it, they may as well go back to searching for a cheap vendor who has figured out how to cheat YouTube’s bot police.

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