Maximising the success of social media video channel
The widespread adoption of broadband internet, white-label OTT platforms and social media provide an inexpensive way to publish videos, giving content creators the opportunity to distribute their content directly to consumers.
There are two main business models for content creators in this area, with differing definitions of success. Where advertisements or product placement are the main revenue sources, revenue is determined by audience, and so the main KPIs are the number of views and the number of unique viewers. In a subscription model, consumers pay a monthly fee to have unlimited access to a catalogue of content. In this case, once a subscriber has been onboarded, retention is the main concern: the probability of churn falls significantly as engagement rises, and so the KPI to watch relates to user engagement.
On that basis, we carried out a case study to see how content creators can maximize the success of a social media channel. We focused on soccer, analyzing more than 20,000 videos on both fan and official channels, with a total of over 900 million views between them.
Fan channels carry a much larger number of videos than official ones, but their videos are shorter and of lower quality. Official channels spend much more on production, but is that money well spent? Overall, view numbers are broadly similar (45.8 million for fan channels vs. 38.5 million for official ones).
A closer look at the data, however, reveals a striking difference: many official videos have a very small number of views, for which they compensate with a small number of videos generating an extremely large number of views.
For a business model based on advertisements and product placement, audience volume is the key factor leading to more revenue. According to the statistics, then, for a given budget, the strategies of fan channels and official channels show broadly similar performance. However, official videos are more likely to end up not being watched. For risk-averse content creators, the strategy employed by fan channels is a safer bet.
We found that the best way of measuring engagement is by counting the number of comments per video. Writing comments costs users a lot more effort than simply rating or bookmarking a video, and so signals a high level of engagement. On this basis, there is a clear difference between fan and official videos: the number of comments per video is over 2.4 times higher for the former than for the latter.
Interestingly, we found that just because a YouTube channel has a large number of subscribers — people who have signed up to receive notifications when new videos are published — this does not necessarily mean that the videos on that channel will generate large audiences or high engagement. If we take into account each channel’s age, subscriber numbers are correlated with the popularity of the relevant soccer club (as measured by its number of followers on other social media), not with the volume or quality of content on the channel.
As a result, subscriber numbers are not predictive of engagement or audience. This finding is likely to apply more generally to other sports and areas where consumption is largely fan-driven, such as channels publishing content about celebrities.
Optimizing engagement/audience based on the type of video
To find out what does generate engagement and audience, we looked at different types of video. We tagged a random subset of 50 videos per channel according to two factors: 1) their focus, i.e. whether they focused on members of the team, fans, or something else and 2) their content, i.e. analysis and interviews, behind-the-scenes content, match highlights, or other.
To generate audience, behind-the-scenes content featuring the team was best, followed by match highlights, provided that the channel has the rights to carry this content. Match highlights generate 21% less audience on average than behind-the-scenes content. If channels have no access to official material, then interviews with fans generated most audience.
In terms of engagement, videos in the “analysis and interviews” content category but with the focus on fans are by far the most likely to generate engagement through comments. Behind-the-scenes content and match highlights generate less than half the comments per video achieved by analysis and interviews. As a result, behind-the-scenes content is not effective at all in generating engagement, despite being the best way of generating audience.
Our regression analysis showed that, for a given audience, the engagement generated by a video is largely determined by content category and focus, with only 25% of the variation in comments due to other factors like image quality, video length, or the identity of people featured.
Based on these findings, our recommendations for maximizing the success of a direct-to-consumer channel are as follows:
Create a community: identify and attract fans from the channels they engage with, talk with them, interview them, and feature them in videos to build engagement.
Engagement is best measured through actions that require at least some effort from users, such as comments. “Likes” do not involve any effort and are thus mainly a passive indicator, like the number of views.
Budget isn’t everything: focus on creating short, frequent, highly engaging videos.
Content creators with rights to official content and wanting to maximize audience should focus on behind-the-scenes content featuring celebrities. However, audience does not guarantee engagement, and this is not the best way to create a community.