I recently saw a graphic circulating around Twitter listing the lifespan of posts across different social media channels. The user who shared the graphic was arguing that blog posts were the only form of online content marketing that had a lifespan of more than a month.
“Like heck it is,” I thought. “A video’s lifespan is much longer than a month.”
In searching back for the tweet I initially saw, I found countless versions of the numbers below, all giving YouTube an average of 20 days. I could not believe the consensus was so wrong.
Videos on YouTube have a shelf life of far, far more than 20 days. In fact, I would argue that most brands don’t see true ROI out of YouTube videos until more than a month. Video content has one of the longest tails of any online marketing content.
There’s a reason some brands have been running the same commercial for decades. When video content works, it can keep working for years.
The last in-person production Umault did in March of 2020 was a series of ads for ourselves. We released our favorite, “Trapped in a Corporate Video,” a few months later. It consistently got views, but was hardly the top video on our channel. In fact, we started to worry it was a bit of a dud. However, we left it up on YouTube and embedded it on our website.
After more than a year, view counts steadily ticked up. Prospects on initial phone calls started to mention “the slow motion conference room video.” Some had seen it on our website, others on YouTube, still others from coworkers on Twitter. People were watching, sharing, and most importantly, converting off a video released way more than 20 days ago.
Unlike social media platforms that rely on time-sensitive feeds, YouTube can reward older content. The social currency of YouTube is views. Personally, when I search for something on YouTube, I often click first on the video with the most views. Unless you are running ads or have a large subscriber base, it can take a long time for a video to gather enough views to be deemed trustworthy.
But once you have a good chunk of views (over one thousand for consumer/general interest content, less for specialized content), two things will happen: more people will click and YouTube will serve it to more people. Views beget views.
We still convert on a video on our channel from 2015. That’s longer than the half life for entire social media platforms. (Back then, we may have considered promoting the video on Snapchat, Google+, and Vine…) That video continues to get views, likes, and comments — and convert new clients.
That’s not to say that all videos can and should stay on YouTube for more than five years. It’s important to regularly curate your channel and remove anything that’s out of date, precisely because it can still be easily searched.
A key point those social media lifespans graphics ignore is that video has multiple uses for a brand outside of YouTube. A LinkedIn post is limited to being, well, a LinkedIn post. Sure you can and should be repurposing social media posts, but they still have limited range.
A video, on the other hand, is a useful asset for many channels. It can live on your website, be embedded in sales presentations, or be used for paid ads. It’s actually a waste of a quality video to only plop it on YouTube and hope for organic engagement.
When making an investment in content, you want to get the most out of it that you possibly can. Video is a useful asset across the organization.
When I say “invest,” I don’t necessarily mean high production value (though that has its place too). Still too often we talk to B2B brands who treat video as an afterthought in their overall marketing strategy. To them, video is simply a box to check.
That’s a huge mistake. We’re long past the days that simply having a video is valuable. But a quality video can be humming along in the background, churning leads into your pipeline long after a conference sponsorship is forgotten.
How do you create quality video content? A quality video is:
• On brand
• Well targeted
• Engaging and entertaining
These attributes grow naturally out of developing a video strategy before diving into production. Here’s how each contributes to a video’s long life.
An on-brand video represents who your company is. It’s consistent with how you present the rest of your brand. It fits with your industry and the messaging you want to send to prospects.
When a video is on brand, it can serve the most uses. Consistent messaging means it works equally well on your website, on social, or at live events.
If a video isn’t on brand, it will stick out like a sore thumb. For example, a funeral home with a somber, respectful voice would not be well served by a funny commercial. Putting a funny spot on their website would be jarring. But GEICO can put their gecko on their landing page without anyone losing trust in their insurance because it’s on brand.
A well-targeted video knows its audience and speaks directly to them. While all marketing needs targeting, a YouTube video has a higher likelihood of being found, watched, and acted upon if it has a specific viewer in sight.
To ensure your video is well targeted, develop a messaging strategy for every video you release. At the very least, this strategy should lay out the most valuable target customer, what their pain points are, and what you hope this video will make them do. With these three things in mind, you can come up with creative that appeals to the right person.
In our experience, the biggest factor in whether a video has a long tail is both the most obvious and the hardest to achieve: entertainment. The 2015 Umault video I mentioned above? It’s funny. People come back to watch it and share it because it brings them value in the form of entertainment.
When you are investing in video content for your brand, entertainment is an ROI multiplier.
If video only had a shelf life of 20 days, it wouldn’t be worth the cost of production. But the value of an asset that works for years can well surpass a one-time cost.