13k YouTube Views in 72 Hours – How, Why, and What We Can Learn

One of the videos that I made at SEMA (with my friend Mark’s generous help) received more than 13k views on YouTube during a 3 day period late last week. What follows is a description of how this happened, what caused this massive increase in views, and what we can learn from this particular experience.

First, some background on the video:

Toyota debuted a “sportsman edition” Toyota Tundra concept truck at this year’s SEMA auto show, and I was lucky enough to be able to interview one of the truck’s creators. With help (thanks again Mark), I got the video below edited and uploaded to YouTube on November 7th, 2010.

Yes, that’s me in the video conducting the interview.

When The Increase in Views Occurred

Between November 7th and December 14th, the video received a small number of views (just about 500). Not huge, but not too shabby considering how narrow this niche is. However, starting on December 15th and continuing through December 18th, the video was viewed 13,616 times.

YouTube video views graph

Between December 15th and December 18th, one of my videos was viewed more than 13k times

When I first noticed the number of views last Friday, I wanted to know what was going on.

Where Did The Views Come From?

I looked at the video’s insight information Friday afternoon and it said that traffic was coming from the YouTube homepage…which was exciting but a little hard to believe. Videos that appear on YouTube’s homepage usually need a great number of views (and likes and comments) before they will be placed, and this video certainly didn’t fit that criteria with only 500 views. However, without any other info, I assumed the insight info was correct and suspected that YouTube’s new homepage¬†algorithm was¬†responsible.

On Sunday the 19th, I pulled up stats again and it was clear that the video viewers didn’t come from the YouTube homepage. Instead, based on the referring URI’s, it looked like the video had been referenced in an email newsletter:

YouTube video view sources

You can view this data yourself right now by visiting the video page (here) and then clicking the graph icon just to the right of the video view count (the icon is titled “Show Video Statistics”). You can view this kind of data for a lot of videos, in fact, provided the owner of the video has allowed the data to remain public.

I also logged into my YouTube account and checked my insight “discovery” stats:

YouTube insights video discovery sources

As you can see from the first source graphic, there are a lot of odd referring domains that end in “yahoo.co” as well as “mail.aol.com” – these are all domains that represent email accounts. Looking through the video’s “discovery” information (second graphic – available only in my account) you see that 48% of the video views came from an external website. Clicking on that link shows much of the same data we see in the first graphic.

After doing a little digging, I found the URI that looked like it could be the source of the email – namgnewsletter.com. NAMG stands for “North American Membership Group Holdings,” the parent company of HuntingClub.com (a.k.a. the North American Hunting Club). A little searching led me to this newsletter dated December 16th, 2010 that featured five separate links to the video I created.

I’m reasonably sure that the explosion in views was a direct result of this email newsletter. Since I did not contact NAMG and request placement, I can only assume that they found this video on their own.

Take Aways

1. Internet video production quality doesn’t have to be top-notch. I’ve said this for a long time, but this little lesson only confirms it: people like authenticity, and while my interview video certainly isn’t low quality, it’s not something you would see on television either…and yet it was good enough to be featured in a newsletter sent out to thousands of people.

2. YouTube insight data can’t be trusted right away. When I looked at my data on the 16th, it showed that my video was getting traffic from the YouTube homepage. Two days later, it said no such thing. Therefore, I suggest giving data a couple of days to “settle” before doing any analysis.

3. Never underestimate the power of email marketing. HuntingClub.com has an email list that’s big enough to generate 13k + video views in less than 72 hours…imagine what happens when they promote a product or service? If your company isn’t leveraging email marketing, now would be a good time to start.

4. Ask viewers to “thumbs up” your video using YouTube’s annotation tool. If I had taken the time to add the annotation “If you like this video, please give it a thumbs up” I might have dozens of likes instead of just 19. Likes would have translated to higher rankings on YouTube for this video, more search traffic, and ultimately even more views.

5. Ask viewers to subscribe to your channel via annotations. Same as above, only this time I could have asked for subscribers.