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What Influences YouTube Performance?

One of the cool things about my job at WFUV is that I get to do some work in areas other than my primary focus of audio engineering and training. One such area is the development of our YouTube platforms. For background, we film around 200 in-studio sessions each year, then post the videos to the web. By June of 2011 our platforms had an aggregate 173,000 views – under-performance, in my opinion – but making them more successful seemed to be a hairy endeavor.

I’ve always found that the most effective way to tackle a complicated problem is to break it up into smaller segments to visualize and understand it, then begin working on the area in which your efforts will yield the greatest return. While I didn’t have this playbook to refer to at the outset, I can now articulate the framework within which we worked as our “Four-Factor Platform Performance Model.”

“How can we get from a creative vision to performance?”

Don’t be alarmed; it’s less complicated than it looks. In my view, success of our YouTube platform is dependent on the success of its subordinate processes – namely the creation of the product, the process by which they come to life, and the health of the platform upon which we share them with the world.

  • If our videos are awesome (meaning they have intrinsic value) but no one knows they exist (our platform is ineffective) then they’ll never get the recognition they deserve.
  • If our footage looks great and our social channels are effective (i.e. lots of followers, comment activity, and good search rankings) but our production process routinely manifests lost data and endless delays, we’ll never perform as well as we could.
  • Then of course, if the videos suck (poor footage, crappy audio) then they lack intrinsic value and no one would want to watch them anyway. Nor should they – there are plenty of other options.

Signal Flow

The bottom half of the model shows drivers and inputs to each factor, while the top half shows results and outputs. In our case, defining our creative vision was important because that vision influenced the techniques we’d need to use, which dictated the training we had to provide to our production staff. The perfect output of that effort is videos that are compelling and consistent in quality – videos with intrinsic value.

Moving to the right, workflow management is the biggest driver of our production process. By workflow management I mean when and how we edit and publish videos, along with the juggling of resources such as disk space, computers, and payable hours. The perfect output is process efficiency. The engagement with and building of an audience community drives our social platforms, with a perfect output of platform effectiveness. We tie all of those together with a kaizen feedback loop to stay on top of evolving trends and an evolving competitive environment.

For me this model helps answer questions such as:

  • How do we measure up with our competitors?
  • What area should we focus on improving first?
  • What makes an effective production process?

What’s the fourth factor?

The fourth factor – and it’s an important one – is social and market trends. If no one is interested in a given artist, it may not matter how great our videos are, how lean our production process is, or how many Twitter followers we have – those videos may still perform poorly. Conversely, if we have a video for a popular artist, but we fail in any of the other three factors, the video won’t perform as well as a competing video of the same artist. Ultimately, my real-world observations have shown that we will benefit from an artist’s rising popularity if and only if we’re prepared in each of these areas. Otherwise, viewers will simply watch a different video with more views and higher search rankings.

I’ve never purported to be an expert in platform management (is that even a thing?), but creating this model has proven to be helpful when thinking about how to improve our products, and especially helpful when trying to communicate this complex problem to other departments or managers who may not be as deep in the trenches on a daily basis. Hopefully others get some use out of it. And for the record, I should say that since we’re a non-profit, by “Monetization” I’m referring to donations.

Also if anyone is interested, here’s my draft:

The Four P’s of World Domination

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