• Cooper Gould

Do “Likes” Matter Anymore? Why Successful Videos Don’t Need to Go Viral

According to Business Insider, over 80% of all internet activity will involve some form of video by 2021. This statistic is astounding; online video has quickly shifted from a supplemental medium to the dominant language by which we communicate and consume information. For companies and brands particularly, the conversation has shifted from whether to produce online videos to how to make videos that have a measurable impact.

The rise of video has also crowded the internet, as more and more people strive for the elusive goal of going viral. It’s easy to see why going viral is not just the gold standard for smartphone-wielding teenagers, but most marketers, influencers, and digital agencies. The more eyeballs, the better results, right? The metrics seem to speak for themselves. How many views does the content have? How many likes or comments? These go-to indicators have quickly become the consensus measures for success for digital media.

While there is little doubt that these metrics mean something, they are also deeply flawed. A “like” doesn’t guarantee that someone is interested in what you have to say, or even that they’ve paid attention. Most importantly, not all likes or views are created equal. To illustrate, would an organization rather have 30,000 views from overseas bots, or a handful of meaningful engagements with key stakeholders?

Videos can communicate essential information without generating an outpouring of visible engagement. For example, a well-crafted video geared to employees would never appeal to the masses, but might inspire teams internally and increase performance. A powerful video viewed by just one or two investors could move the financial needle for a startup or nonprofit, or a piece directed at a niche market could spark a loyal and active following for an emerging brand.

Let’s be real: 99.9% of videos will not go viral. Viral videos fall in our laps multiple times a day, but this obscures the fact that most videos are seen by remarkably few people. Even when the potential is there, going viral is an emerging science that no one entirely understands. What’s clear is that going viral is a limited end goal. Getting a million people to laugh and move on is one thing. Making a real connection with an engaged audience (who then tell their friends) is something else entirely.

In the end, virality is still awesome. Getting content to millions of people in a short amount of time is usually an advantage, and can rapidly elevate something from obscurity to the mainstream. However, the standard metrics for success are usually misleading. As video takes over the internet, brands, organizations, and content creators are recognizing that meaningful, lasting connections with the right people tend to be more valuable than short-term clicks.