Leveraging social media to gain video page views

A common complaint I hear from other video producers is that their news and feature videos are not getting the page views they had hoped for.  I too, have struggled with this since I started posting video stories on my newspaper’s Web site five years ago.

Let’s take the most common reasons for lack of views off the table first.

  • Your videos are not compelling enough to be noticed by a wide audience. If you’re not producing something that people want to look at, then you are wasting everyone’s time, including your own.
  • Your creaky content management system is still stuck in the ’90 when all it was designed to do was show text and thumbnail sized photos.  If your website viewers have to search aimlessly for a link to videos on your homepage then you might as well put your video camera back in the equipment locker as walk away.
  • Your video player sucks. No full screen mode? Only 320 pixels wide? Videos have lousy compression?  Inconsistent storytelling? That pretty much rounds out why many viewers don’t bother watching your videos.

So what if you are doing most things right and you’re still not getting the page views you expect?

This year, my newspaper finally recieved a new ground-up redesign of it website called Spokesman.com. I had hoped its modern CMS would help deliver increased page views to our staff produced videos. Unfortunately that did not materialize.  It helped some, but missing key features like the ability to embed video ala YouTube were not enabled.

Finally, last month, a refreshed version of our video player, which added a host of new features, including embedding, was launched. This has helped our online staff to better leverage our video content using social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. The best thing about the new player is that it now allows Google Analytics tracking, which follows the embedded player wherever it lands.

Let’s say, one of my videos goes viral and gets embedded in 100 blogs. When someone clicks “play,” Google Analytics calls back to my newspaper’s web server with all the pertinent page view tracking info. Now I can see where the video is embedded and how long a viewer stays with the video before bailing. Is it 25% in? 50% ? 100%? etc. I now even know how many clicked the full-screen button (less than I expected.)

Page hits graph

My most recent video I produced before heading on my staycation—“In the Realm of Fairies,” became sort of a social media experiment for me.  Page views started out slow—I posted a link on my Facebook page late on a Thursday night. I have about 150 friends and a few reposted it on their pages. On Friday morning I tweeted a link on my twitter feed—another 151 followers were given the opportunity to view the video.  Then several people, included our online staff, retweeted my post. By late on the second day page views started inching up. Normally one of my videos will get about 500-1000 page views after the first week. With the fairy video I got 1400 in one day.

A big video aggregator, collegehumor.com, and about a dozen other sites began to push traffic to our website by either linking or embedding the fairy video. Over my two-week vacation, I have seen the video continue to receive page views–now at just under 8000 hits and growing. OK, it probably not near what the New York Times gets for a video on a slow day, but it’s eight times better than what I usually see on our video content.  Was social media the reason for the bump in hits?

My Google Analytics tells me it was a big contributing factor. This video had a couple of other things going for it. It had an unusual topic, strong narration, with a wonderful ending. It continues to have great placement on the S-R homepage with a strong colorful thumbnail that draws your eye to the link.

What surprised me most is that the fairy video was long at six minutes. It just goes to show you–if you have a good story told well–viewers will watch it.

Social media can and will deliver more page views if you allow your content to be set free in the cloud. With proper tools, you can track your video content and even monetize it as it propagates itself all over the Web.



9 thoughts on “Leveraging social media to gain video page views

  1. Thank you for sharing real world results and stats.
    It’s always encouraging to see others experiment and then share how they got to the result. Great work.

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  4. outstanding job Colin –

    Local/regional newspapers face one other issue when competing for video-views: the appeal of most stories is limited in terms of geographic location and timeliness. And this is reflected in the advertising – most of it time-sensitive and local.


    So the issue for the newspapers becomes how to monetize media outside the traditional demographic and timeframe.

    • At the Spokesman.com we use a custom version of an open source player. It has been extensively revised and updated for things like hardware acceleration and Google Analytics tracking in the embed code.

  5. I showed your fairies video on my recent training tour of U.S. newsrooms. It’s a fun film.

    Colin, I also recently documented how I I used Twitter to get 9,000 views in one day on YouTube from a news video I made in Cairo.


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