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Writes guest columist Greg Jarboe
Last week, Unruly released its 2012 Global Viral Video Ads Chart, its annual ranking of the year’s most shared video ads. “Kony 2012,” created and released by the not-for-profit Invisible Children, was the most shared ad of 2012, generating 10.1 million shares from March 5, when it was launched, to Nov. 21, 2012. Other brands in the top 5 include TNT, Abercrombie & Fitch, DC Shoes, and Procter & Gamble.
Overall, the number of video shares of branded content increased in 2012. The top 500 ads of the year attracted a total of 113 million shares in 2012, a 21 percent increase over 93.3 million in 2011. Shares of the top 10 ads rose from 16.8 million in 2011 to 28.0 million in 2012 – an increase of 67 percent – and a clear sign that media consumption habits are continuing to evolve rapidly.
These social video rankings are derived from the Unruly Viral Video Chart, the definitive source of video sharing behavior across blogs, Facebook, and Twitter since 2006. Unruly measures “shares” rather than “views” because it is a better metric for an ad’s “virality” and the strength of the emotion it triggers in viewers.
But, if you compare the number of “shares” to the number “views” an ad gets, you can begin to appreciate the role that the people who share a social video play in determining whether or not it “goes viral".
Everett M. Rogers, the author of Diffusion of Innovations, called the individuals who are able to informally influence the attitudes or overt behavior of other individuals in a desired way with relative frequency “opinion leaders”. Although the fifth edition of his book was published in 2003, before the advent of YouTube, he did look at the diffusion process for interactive innovations like the internet.
Rogers said: “A good deal of interdependence occurs among the adopters of any innovation in the sense that adopters influence their peers to adopt by providing them with a positive (or negative) evaluation of the innovation. Such peer influence usually makes the diffusion curve take off somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of cumulative adoption (the exact percentage varies from innovation to innovation, and with the network structure of the system). Once this take-off is achieved, little additional promotion of the innovation is needed, as further diffusion is self-generated by the innovation’s own social momentum.”
So, let’s take a look at the full rankings – based on data collected from Nov. 21, 2011, to Nov. 21, 2012 – to see the ratio of shares to views:
Share rate: 10.7 percent of 94,111,314 views
Shares: 4,352,283 shares
Share rate: 11.2 percent of 38,954,586 views
Shares: 2,435,774 shares
Share rate: 14.3 percent of 17,043,041 views
Shares: 2,292,354 shares
Shares: 2,227,528 shares
Share rate: 4.2 percent of 29,235,140 views
Shares: 1,127,479 shares
Share rate: 6.4 percent of 17,688,568 views
In other words, social videos may be very similar to other new ideas or interactive innovations. And the people who discover, watch, and then decide whether or not to share a new video ad with friends, family, or colleagues may play a very similar role to opinion leaders.
If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, then it opens up a whole new field of diffusion research. However, it needs more research.
After I shared my initial findings, David Waterhouse, Unruly’s Head of Content, looked at a random sample of 500 videos from the Global Ads Chart. He found that the share rate was 2.1 percent, a ratio of one in 47.6 who shared it.
Perhaps a high percentage of these brands’ social videos were also being “promoted” as in-stream ads on YouTube, which might account for the relatively high ratio of “views” to “shares”. Or, perhaps only a small percentage of the work produced by ad agencies and approved for release by brands has been optimized for sharing.
As Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) says in the film Shakespeare in Love (1998), “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”