Share rate. The best way to measure how content spread

There’s a lot of talk about shareable content and what it means to go viral. This post is in no means a guide to make sure content does go viral, with this post I hope to help people understand why content spreads and if that is really what has happened in the first place. The reason I think this matters is because marketers are judging other brand’s content to understand what worked and what didn’t hoping to replicate, but they aren’t necessarily always looking at the right data. And since I get into conversations related to this topic constantly, I figured it would be well worth sharing this idea of share rate here as well.

Enough for the introduction, I will use online video (ads) as an example, but the theory works for all kinds of online content, although the data sources will be different of course. There are two key numbers that people tend to look at when judging the succes of online video: views/impressions and shares, although I presume that’s already a distant second measure.

Youtube for instance has its own way to rate popularity of video ads, that is explained by themselves rated based on “an algorythm that factors in paid views, organic views and audience retention” – the Youtube Leaderboard. It’s unclear what the weight of each element is, but it’s clear that it’s mostly based around views. It is also the only number mentioned in the rating. As an outsider it’s difficult to judge only on that number what made each video succesful, was it the idea or was it the mediaspent? Knowing what Youtube’s business is about, there’s no need to explain why this rating makes sense for them.

YoutubeLeaderboard

So it’s important to look further. If you as a marketer (or agency creative) want to figure out why something worked views aren’t the best number to look at on its own. Unruly Media created another way to measure video by looking at the amount of time something was shared on social media. The ads chart is sponsored by Mashable, but you can also look at popularity of other video content. If you want to understand why content was spread amongst people it’s probably a good idea to check if it actually spread in the first place.

Here’s where it becomes interesting. The ranking based on shares looks pretty different than the one based on views, if you look at Youtube’s n2 for August for instance, you will see it’s almost impossible to find in the Unruly ranking. So it’s clear, you wonder how content spread? Look at the shares. But that’s not all.

ViralVideoChart

Let’s look at a classic video we all know for instance: Evian Babies. With over 3 million shares that puts it at number 7 in the Unruly Viral Ads Chart of all time. Very succesful, but does that proof it was spread across social and hence a big succes? Not quite. Paid views will also generate shares – paid and organic. So we need to look beyond that. Here’s where the share rate comes in. The best way to judge whether a video was viewed because people shared it across the web is to look at the ration between views and shares. There’s a few ways to look at it, we use [shares/views] as the ratio, some use percentages, the idea remains the same.

Snapshot of internal tool (c) Duval Guillaume
Snapshot of internal tool (Duval Guillaume)

Truly viral content such as ‘Dumb Ways to Die‘ or our own ‘Push to add drama‘ will have a share rate in between 1/20 and 1/10 or even higher (meaning 1/9 or 1/8 but you won’t see those number appear much). Evian Babies – to come back to that same reference – has a ratio of 1/40 and the other example I mentioned (Foot Locker – Youtube’s August n2) has a ratio of 1/200. I would reckon that everything below 1/15 (probably) or 1/20 (definitely) received some kind of ad push. The lower the number the more views were generated through advertising (versus organic) obviously.

The share rate on its own doesn’t say much either of course, a high rate with little views isn’t much of a succes. But if you really want to know why a video was seen by so many people then this is the measure you need to look at. Does that mean those other videos weren’t successful? Of course not. Is it wrong the push videos online with media? Ofcourse not. But want to understand where success came from with the little data you can access? Find the video on the Unruly chart (they show both views and shares – makes it easy) and calculate the share rate.

For the record, Youtube also has a kind of share ratio they use in their presentations but it’s not meaning the same thing. They will look at the ratio between paid views and organic views. Again, thinking of their business selling video ads, I makes for them to correlate paid versus organic views, rather than views versus shares as I suggested.

As mentioned in the beginning I used video to explain but this idea of share ratio counts for all types of content and thus should help you analyze success (or not) of others in good way.

(Please note that I only use examples to illustrate a point, it’s no judgement at all about the videos themselves).

Crowd Surfing

Some 2 months ago David Brain (CEO Edelman Europe) launched his book called ‘Crowd Surfing’ and I was able to get a copy for review. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to check out this book was that my buddy Steve Clayton was mentioned in it together with the Blue Monster story (just like in PNI, only David did get Steve’s name right ;))

David (and Martin Thomas) write about this age of new consumer empowerment with a bit of a corporate focus, which is something I’m interested in most given my role at Microsoft. In an interview Hugh Macleod did with David, here’s what was said about this corporate angle:

“Sometimes it is easy for an entrepreneur or small business to be in tune with their customers or stakeholders, because their scale (or lack of it) means everyone is close to the customer (an obvious point I know, but size does sometimes matter). The bigger a firm gets the more difficult that becomes . Big companies need robust processes and structures to organize, to do what it is they do, and that can mean that the people inside can sometimes begin to focus on those processes and structures to the exclusion of the customer or the crowd. Dell and Microsoft have both worked really hard to find ways to bring the crowd inside the firm (at the cost of significant disruption) so that they don’t make that mistake. For me, where the crowd meets the organization is where the real action is.”

Crowd Surfing’ has a big piece on Microsoft, not only on the Blue Monster as I mentioned before, but it also features the whole “Successful Blogging at Microsoft: A Best Practice Guide” which is what Microsoft would like its employees to read when they start blogging. Remember I mentioned before that there is no policy re blogging at Microsoft. David and Martin also talk about Apple and the different approach it has taken, still benefitting enormously from this consumer empowerment.

I must admit there is one thing I missed though and that was a more European view on things. I’ve got another post in my drafts on this topic, but the reason this is important is because many of the learnings we have from the US aren’t easily applicable here in Europe. Given David is running the European part of Edelman and hence dealing with similar challenges for his clients I had hoped there would be more on that in the book.

And now, ‘The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR” by Al and Laura Ries, because Frank De Graeve told me to…. and because there’s a piece in it on the Mustang brand.

Personality matters

PersonalityNotIncluded Last April in NY during the Blogger Social, we all received a bunch of goodies, most of it small promotional items, but also some marketing related books. One of those books was ‘Personality not included’ from Rohit Bhargava, also present at the event. We had a little chat about the book, which was pretty interesting for many reasons but one thing Rohit said made me more curious about reading it than anything else and that was part of a chapter talking about Microsoft and The Blue Monster. So I started reading on the plane back already, it just took me a while to write down my thoughts.

In the introduction Rohit already makes it very clear what this is about:

“Personality matters. Being faceless doesn’t work anymore. The theory of PNI is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers.”

Rohit defines personality then as:

“The unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about”

Chapter 2, that talks about The Blue Monster, interested me for two reasons. One, it’s The Blue Monster (see earlier posts) and two because it talks about ‘The Accidental Spokesperson’. The reason why that interested me more has to do with the revealing of corporations who get social media, lists you can find all over the place these days. Microsoft who used to be mentioned a lot in the beginning as a company who ‘gets it’ is hardly ever in those lists. Why? Because they look at corporate blogs, corporate twitter accounts etc. And we don’t have that – at least not like a CEO blog or something. But there are some hundreds of Softies on Twitter, a few thousands that blog and those are not to be ignored – the chapter shows it well.

Last point I wanted to highlight is something about transparency. Rohit says ’transparency is overrated’ and talks a bit about transparency and authenticity. I pretty much agree with his point and it reminded me of something David Weinberger said during the Euroblog event in Brussels, about how transparency and authenticity are too often used in the wrong meaning, or even terminologies that are sometimes mistaken for one and other. Now David was a lot more articulate about this than I am here now, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Rohit is a smart guy, he writes one of the better marketing blogs you can find and is a great person to discuss with about the changes in consumer engagement. And that reflects on his book, you can see the personality. The one thing I didn’t like (much like Jennifer) is the ‘Guides and Tools’ section of the book, which is too much repetition for me re the first part. That said, good book, go check it out.