Beyond YouTube Views: How Do You Measure Success?

A year or two ago, the online team at EDF focused on getting people comfortable with the idea of using video. We urged staff to consider the option and answered basic questions. Now, we have 175 videos on our YouTube channel, created by staff from La Paz, Mexico, to Boston. And we’re picking up steam — we have four more in the queue this week.

With all this video to work with, we’re increasingly looking at how to gauge whether videos are successful. In a conversation about another organization’s nicely done video series, a colleague commented:

…when you go to their YouTube channel, you’ll see that hardly any of their videos have more than a couple of hundred views. So, they are putting a lot of effort into something that doesn’t have a great promotion plan in place.

That’s an astute observation, but hidden in it is the thought that views are what define a video’s success. Is that really the best or only option?

I’ve been asking around, and consensus is that people are still figuring it out — and that it’s important to figure out. A counterpart at another large environmental organization suspects the lack of goals for video contributes to their lackluster results. It’s hard for them to get staff time to work on videos, and the videos they do produce tend to be fueled by enthusiasm rather than a clear communications purpose.

I also got suggestions for specific metrics, like this one from Jordan Gantz:

While we still haven’t figured out an effective way to know across the board if the videos are achieving the expected goals, one thing that has been interesting is looking into how long people are spending watching each video and at what point they leave.

When I asked Wendy Harman how the Red Cross, which produces huge amounts of video, grapples with this, she mentioned a time they knew what the metric was but that still didn’t help. They got great attention to a video they made right after the Haiti earthquake — so much attention, in fact, that the tracking mechanisms didn’t hold up to the traffic, so they couldn’t be sure exactly how much money it helped them raise.

Michael Hoffman from best said the view that I’ve been coming around to:

Generally, we think video should be measured in similar ways that you measure other content investments and to connect the ROI of video to broader organizational goals. Views are fine, just as website visitors are fine, but it only gets you a sense of the total amount of engagement.  (If, for example, you make a video designed to influence a small  group of elites (lawmakers, corporate decision makers, etc.) then views doesn’t seem so important at all. The metrics should reflect the purpose, like in any communications effort.)

He’s absolutely right — we don’t measure all our blog posts or web pages or actions by the same standards, so it follows that the same should be true of videos.

I’m looking forward to the challenge of figuring out the best ways to convert goals into metrics, so that for each video, we can answer the tough questions about what worked and what didn’t.

Have anything to add about how you do or don’t measure video? Please leave a comment!