The False Truth of 1 Million Views

August 29th, 2018

“Our content needs to go viral! We need at least 1 million views for our video to be successful.”

As professionals, you’ve no doubt heard this phrase at some point throughout your careers. Perhaps it is a topic of conversation in your marketing meetings or even distinguished as the main objective of your current digital strategy.

Volume, measured by the number of views, is still seen as the key metric of success for video and the way that a brand compares itself to its competitors.

However, there’s more to content than just views.

What’s wrong with prioritising volume as a success metric?

It may be the case that your goal is one of general awareness, but there’s probably a far more targeted business problem that your content is trying to solve. It may be to sell more of your product, it may be to reach a new audience, or it may be to recruit more staff.

Be clear, before the cameras even start to roll, what the real business objective is that your content is trying to solve. It is on that objective that the success of your content should ultimately be measured.

Whatever your true goals are, the simple fact that the content has been seen by a lot of people is not enough on its own to determine its success. At the very least, it misses the digital opportunity to actually do something with those viewers and make sure they’re not wasted.

This brings us to the second issue of using volume as a primary success metric: how can brands understand the true value of the views they get?

What counts as a view?

How are views defined by the platform on which the content has been seeded? Are they three second views, watched largely on mute (as with Facebook)? Are they 30-second views that are seen by 14-16-year-old girls who are actually waiting to hit “skip” and watch a make-up tutorial (as with YouTube)?

And then comes the ad fraud debate: do you even know that your 1 million views were genuine and seen by 1 million “real” people?

On the one hand, you’ve got the scourge of bots and click farms, while on the other there’s the visibility problem, where some videos will play with less than a quarter of the video player in view as with Instagram (that is, if they are indeed visible on the page at all.)

If not views, then how should we measure our success?

We’re not saying that volume is meaningless and entirely unfruitful. After all, if no-one sees your content, then what’s the point?

There is also another very useful side effect of volume known as the volume effect whereby, when we are presented with two different videos on the same topic, we are more likely to click on the one with the higher view count, as it appears to be more popular.

So, while reach is clearly important, it’s a metric that should be considered alongside others such as view-through-rate, likes, dislikes, comments, shares, etc. in order to acquire a much more comprehensive insight on whether your content was actually successful with audiences, was able to get their attention and encourage them to engage with it.

And if your intentions are simply volume, the key piece of advice would be to make the content fit-for-purpose. Don’t expect the longer form, 5-minute version that lives on your website to work as well in a skippable, pre-roll environment as a bespoke, sub-30 second edit.


Here’s three lessons to remember when it comes to your own digital video strategy:

1. Volume is not necessarily a true representation of success. Understand what “views” actually mean for the platform you are using.

2. Adopt a multi-metric approach. Consider all the different ways to measure the success of your content (including engagement and action rates) before making a judgement.

3. Learn and adapt from the results. Keeping your original objectives in mind will allow you to see whether your content has worked and if it hasn’t, enabling you to learn and change your approach for any future content you create.

Nick Hajdu, Founder, Navigate Video

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