By Brian Leigh , Senior Strategist
If you work in social media or on the Internet, you have probably heard that video is the future.
Well, welcome to the future. In the past five years alone, U.S. digital video viewers nearly doubled, and major publications have laid off writers in favor of “pivoting to video.”
This shift is controversial for many reasons, but among the biggest pain points is video measurement. It’s difficult to quantify performance, especially when Facebook, the biggest source of digital video growth, doesn’t offer third-party verification.
But setting aside transparency and objections to three seconds of an auto-playing video counting as a view—both of which are higher-level issues—the biggest roadblock to proper measurement is interpreting the loads of video data that Facebook provides.
To demonstrate, consider this hypothetical example:
A brand posts two separate videos. Video A is 10 seconds long, while Video B is 60 seconds long. Both videos are given $100 of ad spend and receive the same number of impressions. Here is how each video performs:
So. Which video performed better?
Based on just the table, it was obviously Video A—and in some ways, that’s right. It stopped thumbs from scrolling and compelled people to watch. However, it also failed to sustain the attention it captured, with no viewers watching for more than five seconds.
Video B was less successful at stopping thumbs, but those it stopped spent significantly more time watching. According to the table, Video B has only a 5.8% edge in video percentage watched. Doesn’t that number seem low?
The results in this table are misleading because they don’t account for the difference in video length. Using these numbers without considering the larger context can lead brands to make incorrect creative, content, and strategy decisions.
To help you avoid this common error, we have broken down the most common measurements and assessed their strengths and weaknesses below.
What It Measures: The number of times a video was watched for at least three seconds.
Strengths: Indicates audience size. Unlike cost-per and rate metrics, total views measure the scope of how many eyes you got on your content.
Weaknesses: Mainly a product of ad spend. Organic reach is negligible, so in almost every case, videos with more money behind them will generate more views than videos with less spend.
Summary: Views tell you how many people stopped and watched your brand message. Assuming your videos receive ad spend, however, total views should not be used for comparing results.
Cost Per View (CPV)
What It Measures: The media cost per three-second video view.
Strengths: CPV measures how efficiently a video achieved the media objective of generating views. By leveling out differences in spend, CPV is useful for comparing video performance.
Weaknesses: Views are binary. As far as CPV is concerned, a three-second view is the same as a 10-minute view. It can also be misleading when reported without context. Narrow targeting is more expensive than broad targeting, which leads to higher CPVs, but if the audience is more relevant...isn’t that better?
Summary: If you had to keep just one metric from the standard reporting model, CPV would be it. It’s the only one that factors in ad spend, which means it paints a fuller picture than the others. However, that does not mean it paints a full picture, so using it as a catch-all can be somewhat misleading.
What It Measures: The percent of impressions that resulted in a three-second video view.
Strengths: Better than CPV at measuring how well a video captured attention. Because it is independent of ad spend, it better isolates the impact of the content itself. It doesn’t care how narrow the targeting was or how expensive those users were to reach; it only cares that they were interested in the video.
Weaknesses: Just like CPV, it fails to account for viewing drop off. Unlike CPV, it also fails to measure distribution efficiency.
Summary: View rate is most important for optimization. If you want to learn what hooks in your audience, a good place to start is sorting videos by view rate, then analyzing the copy and the first three seconds of top performers. Take those insights and apply them to future content.
Video Percentage Watched
What It Measures: The average percent of a video viewed by video viewers.
Strengths: Adequately measures how long viewers watch. If two videos have similar runtimes and cost per views, video percentage watched serves as a useful tiebreaker to see which performed better.
Weaknesses: Does not account for video length. A two-second video will always score high in video percentage watched, and a two-minute video will always score low. Even if users spend 1,000% more time with the two-minute video, this metric will make the two-second video look better.
Summary: Video percentage watched is flawed but useful. At the moment, it’s one of the best metrics for tracking how long viewers spend with a video, which makes it a good complement for CPV and view rate. However, it should never be used without accounting for video length.
View Completion Rate (VCR)
What It Measures: The percent of three-second video viewers who watched until the end of the video.
Strengths: Identifies the most engrossing videos. Especially on social, where users skew young and impatient, it takes a lot to make people watch something in full.
Weaknesses: View completions are binary. If you watch a 60-second video for five seconds, that counts the same as if you watched for 58 seconds. It also fails to account for video length, same as average view duration.
Summary: Not useless but largely overrated. You can use it to find your most engrossing videos, but only if you account for video length. Otherwise, two-second videos will always rise to the top.
Our main point is that none of these measurements—even CPV—should be used in isolation. Understanding what each metric means and using them together tells a more complete story about performance.
But doesn’t it seem like there’s a way to make video measurement simpler and better? Here at Likeable, we are working on developing alternative metrics.
Stay tuned for Part II.
Have some thoughts or questions about Facebook video measurement? Contact the Likeable Media team to learn more!