Why Watch-Time Should Your Metric to Watch

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In the world of social media and content delivery for our business, I think business owners and marketers are often heavily focused on the amount of engagement we get on our videos. But the topic I’d like to explore further is whether that is the ‘right’ engagement. Or perhaps better phrased, do we use the right measurement of engagement.

As humans we’re always looking for success in what we do or in the case of videos, create.

When we look to create business videos, we look for success in;- Did it sell product? Or did it help sell out services? And these are good questions to start with. But if you’ve ever shot videos for your business you’ll quickly understand that measuring this success is much harder than a quick glance, especially if you sell a service or your product is of higher price.

I mean, can you attribute looking at a video at buying something? Perhaps you saw something on Instagram and went to the website and brought it - so yes. Perhaps you saw a restaurant on social and therefore went and checked them out - so again yes. But this metric isnt always possible, and in a more important question, did they (or in your case you) know that’s where that lead or client came from?

So the first important take away for any business is to make sure they’re measuring where leads and customers come from. If you don’t measure, how do you know what’s effective or not?

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Ok, so we’re measuring where our leads and clients come from - but that is an end result. Perhaps your product or service is a slow-burn - it takes a long time for someone to move their client journey.

Here at GINGERBEARD Media we’ve had clients who have followed our work for years before picking up the phone to enquire about services. So can we attribute a specific piece of marketing or a previous project that we’ve created to that client’s sale? Probably not. And do you think that car manufacturers know which piece of advertising, be it magazine, TVC, cinema ad or billboard, they’ve had out really sold the person on ‘that car’? Again, probably not.

So this is where we start to look at other metrics, and for videos that commonly falls to ‘engagement’ on your video marketing.

I’ve worked with a few marketing managers over the 5-6 years that GINGERBEARD Media has been operating and I can tell you that when a video is posted for their brand they are monitoring everything. The comments, the engagement, the views. They’re looking at whether it’s being received positively, whether the comments are negative and what they might have changed whether they’d do it all again.

But for small business owners, I think we attribute success more to ‘views’, ‘shares’ and emoji’s - often because these are what’s chosen to be displayed under our videos by the platforms. These are simple figures that we can track and compare to other videos that we’ve used.

But I still think there’s one metric which is commonly missed. And that’s watch-time.

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So what is watch-time and why is it important?

Watch-time is the % measurement that viewers complete your video. And this isn’t just a measurement at the end - it’s a continuous measurement throughout the entirety of your video.

And for obvious reasons, watch-time is important because if someone exits out of your video early, then you’ve lost the chance to continue spreading your message. They’ve cut the conversation short.

Usually watch-time is displayed like this:

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With this example of watch-time you can see that viewership dropped over the time of the video. And if you’ve never seen one of these graphs, you’d probably be worried.

But this is a pretty normal, healthy viewer watch-time graph. We’ve got a healthy viewership throughout the video and really only see a drop decline in the last 20 seconds or so - which is likely to be where someone is signing off the video and the viewer knows its coming to an end, yes, we’re that fickle as viewers.

So what would an unhealthy watch-time graph look like?

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In unhealthy watch-time graphs we’re looking for severe declines, especially early on in the video.

This shows the audience has clicked off.. they have run away from your content!

So why does this happen?

Click bait videos or ones with click-bait thumbnails are often receivers of this sort of treatment. Sure they get the initial click, but once the viewer is in and identifies that this content is not on topic or useful for them, then they exit out.

Sometimes it’s because the useful information has already been provided, the user is satisfied and they can move on.

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Thanks! Watch-time is my new go to metric, I can’t wait to try this across all my social platforms.

And here lies the next problem.

Not all platforms have this metric available. Facebook for example provides a break-down of 3 and 10 second views, but no graph like the ones shown. Same situation with Instagram. “True” video platforms like YouTube and Wistia provide them. In fact Wistia provides some really interesting analytics and might be worth checking out.

So why don’t they all have watch-time available as a metric?

Pretty simple in my opinion really. If you ran a platform where you constantly encourage people to boost posts to get more eyes on it… would you provide detailed analysis of how successful you were? No.

And that ‘s why you see views on Facebook counted as 3 seconds, whereas YouTube needs around 30 seconds. So if you’re purely reviewing ‘plays’ then it’s not a level playing field to start with.

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How can I make sure my watch-time remains healthy?

Good question. And it’s really a combination of a lot of things in my opinion.

  • High quality, relevant content - don’t try to dupe people into watching your video with thumbnails that are representative of the content or titles that aren’t on topic or click bait people to watch. Make sure your videos are of the highest quality possible - remembering that audio will beat visual every time, but that actual content - the message you’re delivering is the most important.

  • Keep it to the point - there’s no perfect length for a video, but look, we can all tell when videos are being pushed for length just to make them longer because that might perform on that platform better. If you’re trying to help people, help them, don’t mess around with their time. We don’t need a 20 minute introduction on who you are for a 2 minute piece of help.

  • And provide value - business videos shouldn’t just be about marketing your business. They should be about providing value to the viewer. We don’t want to listen to some cheesy sales pitch, but we’ll happily listen to 5 points that would help me, and I’ll remember your brand for next time, and come back to your videos.

You could also keep your content so short that people can’t skip past it. By the time they’ve seen the video they’ve got your message. It’s a cheeky and often difficult to shoot approach, but it’s something that seems to becoming more and more popular on platforms like Instagram.


Let’s Wrap This Up…

So there you go, we’ve talked about a fair bit in this article.

Why likes, views and shares perhaps shouldn’t be the most valuable thing in video, what watch-time is and why we should pay attention to it… and that sometimes it isn’t possible to look at which is frustrating. And finally how we can get/improve our watch-time stats.

As ever, I hope this article has been useful, I would love to hear you thoughts on the topic.

Until next time

Beard Out!

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