February 8, 2017

Saying This Word in the First 5 Seconds of Your Video Increases Views By Nearly 100%

A hint: YouTube.

In a sea of seemingly limitless online content, how can you ensure that your video rises above the fray? Apparently, we should all be taking cues from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, House of CardsAustin Powers, and The Wolf of Wall Street—namely, films that break the fourth wall, or transgress the invisible barrier between the fictional narrative and, well, you. 

According to a recent study, YouTube videos that contained the word "you" in the first five seconds had view counts that were 97% higher than videos that did not mention the word. The study, which was conducted by TubeBuddy and Hey.com, analyzed 30,000 YouTube videos uploaded between April 1 and December 1, 2016. In order to be included, the videos had to have a minimum of 40 views and belong to YouTube channels with more than five uploads and 10 subscribers. 

A graph of the study's findingsCredit: TubeBuddy and Hey.com

In addition to nearly doubling a video's view count, the word "you"—or variations, such as "your," "yourselves," and "y'all"—increased a video's likes by 66% and engagements by 68%.

While the staying power of "you" is a well-documented phenomenon in the advertising world, this study suggests that addressing the audience directly in video content, too, is an effective strategy for engagement. In fact, it's one of the oldest tricks in the book: Shakespeare was a fan of breaking the fourth wall, the most famous example being Puck's speech at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Bertolt Brecht later perfected the tradition. And today, blockbuster films such as Deadpool break the fourth wall to the tune of $750 million worldwide. 

You can view the study in full here.       

Featured image: 'Wolf of Wall Street'

Your Comment

9 Comments

And what if I put a sexy girl on the thumbnail? How many more views? :D

February 8, 2017 at 5:40PM

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Emeric
105

Depends on who sees it ;-)

February 8, 2017 at 6:58PM, Edited February 8, 6:58PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8660

YOU put a sexy girl in YA'LLs thumbnails is how YOU should phrase YA'LLs comments if YOU want more likes.

February 9, 2017 at 11:29AM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
74

Hi Emeric - Of course you're saying this to be funny but let me geek out for a moment here. Actually the practice you're referring to will not get you more views UNLESS there is actually one or more attractive women throughout your video. But YouTube is interesting, because if the video is too spicy, it may get flagged by the community as "inappropriate," which means that the YouTube algorithm will show your thumbnail less often (or not at all) which makes it more difficult for you to get any views. Also, if you do not have what's promised or hinted at in the video, viewers will watch for a few seconds and then leave the video and not come back. This is actually the worst thing for your video because a shorter-than-average "watch time" will downgrade the ranking of not just that video, but your entire channel. The "hot girl thumbnail" technique was used a lot by some people until perhaps 2013, when YouTube changed their algorithm to prevent this. Otherwise it probably would be a lot more common today.

P.S. I am the co-author of the study mentioned in this article - it's called "Harnessing the Power of 'You' in YouTube," by TubeBuddy and HEY[.]com, if you'd like to read more. Thanks!

February 10, 2017 at 8:01PM

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Love the clickbait title and the fact that it wasn't bullsh*t

February 10, 2017 at 12:21PM

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Frogy
Director / Shooter / Cutter
358

Yes, the data really does hold up. We ran the data on 30,000 videos and the work took a long time. We believe the findings are correct. Thanks! -- Dane Golden, a co-author.

February 10, 2017 at 8:05PM

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THIS is some useful stuff. Thanks for the article. You got me. In a good way.

February 11, 2017 at 11:38PM, Edited February 11, 11:38PM

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Erik Stenbakken
Videographer & Photographer
330

Good Idea...

February 12, 2017 at 3:07PM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
458

...Think you need a little more information in this article. The study was only conducted on videos that fell into certain categories - How-to & Style, People and Blogs, etc.

On the first page of the study it says (of the correlation between using 'you' and higher views): 'This may be a causal relationship [...] But it's more likely that 'you' is a measurable result of videos that are focused on engaging the subject'. After this the study doesn't seem to make reference to correlation (rather than causation) again at any point - in fact, it states throughout that 'You' is a magic word that will get you more views.

I'm all for a bit of academic study on audience engagement, but you've got to be rigorous with this stuff. Here's a hypothesis - people watch self-help videos, tutorials etc. for longer on average than many other videos because they've actively sought them out - rather than just stumbling upon them by accident. These sort of videos are likely to be led by a presenter, and therefore are likely to address the audience with 'you' early on. Correlation, not causation.

I appreciate you've done a lot of work here - and wouldn't normally respond negatively to something like this - but the fact is that whether it's script formulas ('You must have this one thing happen in your script on page 12, or it'll fail!!!'), weird dating tips ('This one secret word will make your date melt into a gooey puddle!'), fake news ('People are saying that crime is worse than ever!') or advertising nonsense ('Studies have shown that the ideal length of a video is 96 seconds!'), we're awash with phoney statistics (or misinterprations of data) and the impact can be considerable - In the film world, it leads to the tedious procrustean homogeneity of product. And with that wanky sentence, I'm out.

March 2, 2017 at 3:49AM

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Alex Richardson
Director
2866