Boost YouTube ‘Watch Time’ With User-Generated Video

As one of the largest social media networks in the world, YouTube merits close attention from the online world for every change it makes to the way users interact with video. For online retailers, YouTube’s algorithm changes, which can dramatically alter video rankings, are major events. For example, YouTube’s recent announcement that it’s adjusting its ranking algorithm to favor videos with more “watch time.” The net effect is that videos that are watched for longer periods in a single stretch will be ranked higher, at the expense of videos that are clicked on often but are abandoned early on.

YouTube’s shift towards watch time indicates the network is measuring the impact of a video by how engaging it is and by how many people watch it from start to finish, rather than whether thousands of people only watch for a few seconds. As YouTube explained in its blog post about the algorithm change, “less clicking, more watching … this should benefit your channel if your videos drive more viewing time across YouTube.”

Increasing video watch time may be difficult for online merchants. Product videos are usually only about 30 seconds long, therefore they can’t generate as much watch time. Product videos more closely resemble commercials instead of narrative videos, since they’re meant to simply deliver the information a consumer needs about a product — and hopefully drive a purchase.

The solution to this watch time dilemma for online merchants is user-generated videos. Website visitors very much want to know what their fellow shoppers have to say about products. They’re considered to be honest opinions that the retailer hasn’t paid for. User-generated videos are often informative and funny, which can encourage viewers to keep watching.

To make the most of user-generated videos, online retailers should make it easy for customers to submit their videos to the retailer’s YouTube channel and website. For retailers with upwards of thousands of products, it helps to choose solutions that automate the management of video content. Follow these suggestions to start gathering more user-generated videos:

  • Spread the word about your interest in hosting customer videos. Post a banner on each product page announcing that you welcome review videos, and mention this in follow-up emails after you deliver orders. Provide incentives such as discounts or free products to encourage submissions.
  • Create an interface that allows customers to upload videos to your website. For instance, develop a form that can be used to upload and describe videos. You’ll also need a server to host the videos, either your own or via a third-party company. Ensure that technology is in place to filter out inappropriate content.
  • Do A/B testing to figure out which videos attract the most watch time and promote the videos that generate the most conversions.
  • Post the videos to your YouTube channel if your customers don’t, or give them an easy way to do it themselves.

User-generated videos are extremely popular across the web. In fact, on lists of high-traffic videos like The Huffington Post’s regular feature, “Top 9 YouTube Videos of the Week,” many often come from individuals instead of companies. That’s a good reason for maximizing your customers’ eagerness to become video contributors and improving your own YouTube channel watch time. However, your own product videos still play a key role in increasing sales and conversions. They still make a difference when it comes to helping consumers make buying decisions — just not towards the higher ranking you’re seeking on YouTube.

Dr. Melody King is the vice president of marketing and sales at Treepodia.

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