One of the easiest ways to measure an online video’s success is by counting the number of times it’s viewed. Online videos with millions of views get such high exposure for a variety of reasons. Some videos will get exposure no matter what - these are videos that come from sources that already have a large audience. They’re generally well-produced, high-budget, and are made with a very distinct purpose. For example, when YouTube posts Obama’s State of the Union address, it’s going to get more than a couple hits. Same goes for Bieber. Other videos have to earn their audiences - these are videos that come from unknown sources but, because of the video content, are shared and watched all over the world. These videos are generally low-budget and have very little production value.
The crucial distinction between these two types of viral videos is that the first kind is made with the intention of reaching an enormous audience, while the second kind reaches a large audience inadvertently. This distinction is critical because it’s difficult to leverage inadvertent exposure. This is why the early heros of YouTube - although being some of the most viewed humans on the planet - don’t really reap the benefits of their fame (you’re probably outta luck borrowing money from the stars of Chocolate Rain, Charlie bit my finger, David after the dentist, etc.)
However, the divide between the two types of high-exposure online videos is becoming more blurred. Unknown filmmakers and video producers can make online videos that intentionally have a low-budget, home-made feel and are intended to go viral. For the average would-be-video-producer, this is great news. These are what we’ve been calling DIY videos - they’re cheap to make, you can do them yourself, and you can drive your audience to take some sort of action after watching them. To make a successful DIY video, you should have a few things in mind. First is if somebody starts watching your video, why are they going to keep watching it? You need to keep the content coming. The second thing to remember is that you’re asking your audience to become active towards your cause at the end of the video. Why are they inspired to do that? Why are they going to answer your call to action? There’s not much point in having a ‘Charlie bit my finger’-style video and at the end tacking on ‘btw u shud don8 2 my nonprft!!!!!!’ There needs to be a connection between the video content and the call-to-action. This is the difference between your video gaining exposure and your exposure gaining you donations.
The example I want to leave you with is one that we came across recently on THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING. My mom’s an author and I grew up with my nose in books so for me this video is extremely important. It’s short, extremely low-budget, it convinces you of its message, and I’m yet to show it to somebody who didn’t want to share it themselves. Keep it in mind when you’re brainstorming for your own call-to-action videos.