Why Going Viral is Getting More Difficult

© Disney https://flic.kr/p/MeZPnV

© Disney https://flic.kr/p/MeZPnV

For brands looking to get noticed online with brilliant video content, the battle isn't getting any easier. Especially since Youtube has been fiddling with its algorithms.

On the internet's 3rd most-visited site (after Google and Facebook), viewers are watching a staggering 3.25 billion hours of content every month. One key mechanism Youtube uses to suggest content is the Trending tab, which shows the day's most interesting/informative/cute videos (in any given region). Getting to the top of that pile is key in the fight for digital marketing success.

As we've seen Youtube's algorithms evolve over the last year, here are three of the most important factors to keep in mind for 2017:

  1. Quantity is as important as quality. Up until 2016, we've always advised clients to keep films short. Viewership always drops after the first two minutes, so "don't waste time creating long-form content...unless it's a TED Talk". But that's changed in recent months. Youtube's long-term goal seems to be taking viewers away from TV, so it rewards channels that retain viewers for significant periods of time. It's algorithms now prioritise minutes spent viewing, rather than the number of views each video receives. This means to attract the algorithms attention, a channel should post long form content, as regularly as possible. It doesn't matter what percentage of a video is watched either. To Youtube, 15 minutes of a 3-hour video is better than 50 seconds of a 1 minute video.

  2. A video's first few hours are make-or-break. Youtube's algorithms use a video's first few hours online to determine both if should be sent to a channel's subscribers, and whether it will appear on the Trending tab. This means videos should be posted at times when viewers are definitely around – like evenings and weekends – and should be spread as widely as possible within the first hour.

  3. Advertising will get you views, but that might not be what you need. Ad spend is always second to organic reach. As soon as money is spent on advertising, it limits the reach of the video, and whist it will increase the numbers of views on a video, it won't generate engagement with your audience – through likes, comments and shares. Carefully sharing a video across sites like reddit and imgur, and generating influencer attention, should be the first port-of-call for the digital marketing team, while advertising spend comes later.

Of course, these changes massively favour content producers such as TV shows, who already have fantastic long-form content at their fingertips. So Carpool Karaoke isn't going anywhere soon.