One of the major riddles in the fields of online marketing is the YouTube platform and its public. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that it doesn’t have the form of the major social networks (digg, stumbleupon, sphinn, etc.) but neither does it have the structure and rules of blogs. Indeed, decoding the marketing potential of YouTube is a very complicated process. But if we take a more attentive look at its users and videos, we might gather some valuable information.

In this article, we will concentrate on the variables, which specify the popularity of a submission in YouTube.

The Peculiarity of YouTubeYouTube_Logo

The viral potential of YouTube cannot be studied like the other popular social networks or blogs. YouTube is a combination of both.

  • A YouTube channel should not update regularly to be successful (in comparison to blogs)
  • It uses other social networks to increase popularity (like blogs do)

The studied videos, their submitters and their YouTube Network

We will study 3 of the most viewed videos of all time and 1 less popular for comparison. The videos are:

  1. The evolution of dance, by judsonlaipply
  2. Lo que tú Quieras Oír, by kaejane
  3. Hahaha, by BlackOleg
  4. Homenagem a Isabella Nardoni, by jeholiver011

Judsonlaipply is a YouTube member since March 23rd, 2006. He has submitted 2 videos and has viewed 859.
His channel has 23,432 subscribers and 1,130,903 views. He has 2,326 friends.

Kaejane is a member since 18th January, 2006. He has submitted 3 videos and has viewed 1,883.
His channel has 2,597 subscribers and a total of 151,191 views. He has 0 friends.

BlackOleg joined YouTube on November 01, 2006. He has submitted 6 videos and has viewed 25.
His channel has 3,560 subscribers and a total of 257,587 views. He has 287 friends.

Jeholiver011, joined YouTube on 2 April, 2008. He has sumbitted 1 video and has watched 10.
His channel has 228 subscribers and 11,737 views. He has 1 friend.

A first observation we can easily draw is that the number of friends does not play an important role in promoting a video. This is a very interesting conclusion, which goes beyond what we already know about social networks and the attention economy.

Kaejane has no friends and still his video is the 3rd most viewed of all-time. The same applies to Jeholiver011. His submission was top of the week and he just joined YouTube, having only one friend.


Popularity of the videos in other social networks

One of the main factors, that defines the success of a YouTube video is its submission in other social networks.

The evolution of dance got more than 2000 diggs and 200 stumbleupon reviews. It is natural since it got dugg by msaleem, one of the top Digg and SU users. It is no wonder it became so popular in YouTube.

Lo que tú Quieras Oír, on the other hand got only 2 stumbles and 2 diggs.

Hahaha, also did extremely well on other social networks. 62 reviews in StumbleUpon and 3536 diggs (again submitted by a top digger, MrBabyMan).

Jeholiver’s video had no luck in social networks.

The role of the popular social networks for the popularity of the YouTube videos is very clear. Would “Hahaha” and the “evolution of dance” have reached such view counts, if it weren’t for Digg and StumbleUpon?

Nonetheless the riddle remains: why the other videos became popular with such a low presence in social networks?

Conclusion and other variables which define YouTube popularitynetwork

Our observations so far suggest, that – in comparison to the other social networks we know – having friends on YouTube doesn’t necessarily mean popularity. Instead, having friends in other social networks can help promote the video.

But lets try to solve the riddle of the other videos, which became popular without being submitted in other social networks. What other factors can define the success of a YouTube video?

  • demographics: the average age of the users, their location, their gender. We have for example two Spanish videos, which became popular without the assistance of any other social network. How big is the Spanish community in YouTube? Do they watch only Spanish videos?
  • the interests of the average user: like other social networks, videoblog platforms concentrate on specific topics. Others on humor, others on animation/art, etc.
  • the quality of the content: I think this is very important in YouTube. Thousands of people subscribe to a channel with just a couple of submissions (see judsonlaipply’s channel), with the hope to get some more quality flicks. Quantity is not important – YouTube users subscribe massively in channels – quality is.
  • time of submission: this is a minor factor, but I believe it still plays a role. If you submit a video when the most users are offline, it will probably get lost in the archives.

I’m interested to see how you assess YouTube. What other factors could define the success of a YouTube video?

Written by Matt Peters
Matt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pandemic Labs, and enjoys thinking about, writing about, and talking about social media marketing whenever someone will let him.