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YouTube Explains Some Common Algorithm and Video Distribution Queries



YouTube has sought to answer some common questions about how its algorithm works when highlighting certain content to users – and why your video metrics may not always reflect performance.

In a new video on the Creator Insider channel, YouTube product managers Patricia and Rachel focus specifically on the impact of click-through rate (CTR) and average viewer duration (AVD), and how YouTube’s algorithm factors these into video distribution and performance.

Recently, YouTube outlined its coming analytics insights display, which will show creators their average CTR and AVD, helping to provide more insight into how their content is performing.

YouTube analytics

But as YouTube notes, that’s not always indicative – first off, the managers discuss the discrepancy that can occur when videos which have a low CTR still have high views.

As per YouTube:

“Click-through rate is a really tricky metric to understand. So, for a lot of creators, if you go in you look at your most successful videos the videos with the most views those are actually the most likely to have the lowest click-through rate.”

YouTube explains that this is because high distribution videos end up being shown to a much broader audience, which means that your content will be shown to a lot more people who are less familiar with you and your work. That, inevitably, means your CTR will be lower. So in some ways, it’s a consequence of success – the broader your distribution, based on how your video is performing, the lower your CTR will be.

“On the other hand, some of your smaller videos that were shown to a really relevant small targeted audience are the most likely to click, so those might have a really high click-through rate.”

So it makes sense that there will be a discrepancy between performance when your CTR is low on high performing clips, even if these data points seem like they should, generally, correlate.

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But that can make it hard to measure your overall performance, or even track relevant trends. On this, YouTube recommends that creators take into account all of the available metrics, including these new insights, in order to get a better comparative view – i.e. if one metric seems out of whack, the other may better qualify it.

In isolation, any single metric could, theoretically, be confusing.

“In the long term, we hope to have A/B thumbnail testing eventually, which will help give you even more concrete answers.”

YouTube also addresses creator concerns around the impact of lower average view time resulting from external links, which could impact reach and distribution in the algorithm.

“So, in discovery, we actually look at how a video performs in the context it’s shown. So when a video is shown on Home, how does it perform there? And Home and Watch Next each have their own ranking models.”

In other words, both these discovery surfaces have different ways of deciding which videos to show to users – which, of course, makes sense, as your Home recommendations will be based on your overall viewing history, and your ‘Watch Next’ listing will be influence by what you just viewed.

With respect to the impact of lower AVD, YouTube says that this is one of several factors which will influence what’s displayed in a users’ home feed.

“So overall click-through rate and average duration are pretty good indicators of how your video is doing in general, but they definitely don’t cover all cases. […] Having more traffic from external is not going to hurt your discovery, or how your video is being recommended in Home or Watch Next. Sometimes you have to do deep-dives into individual traffic sources.”

YouTube also notes here that the new analytics display actually filters out CTR and AVD for both ‘Home‘ and ‘Watch Next’, making it easier to understand the impacts of external sources on those two metrics.

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YouTube also addresses the concern that its algorithm unfairly compares average view duration for videos of different lengths.

“So, in discovery, we actually look at both relative and absolute watch time, those are both meaningful signals and how your videos are going to be recommended. You would still need to do some cross-referencing, even if we swapped out ‘average view duration’ for ‘average percentage viewed’, because it’s easier for short videos to hit a really high amount of average percentage watched. We can only focus creators on so many metrics, and we chose average view duration because how much time somebody spends with you in your content is a really strong indicator of interest. That being said, we want videos of all lengths to succeed on YouTube, and get discovered.”

YouTube also seeks to explain another common issue, where a video’s CTR will be good, and the AVD will also be good, yet the video will still underperform, making it difficult to understand what went wrong.

“CTR and AVD are among dozens of signals that we use for search and discovery – but there are also a lot of other factors that are going to influence how many impressions your videos will get, and how many people watch them.”

YouTube specifically highlights three other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Competition – With so much content available, there’s inevitably a level of competition for audience, and at times, even if your video ticks all the boxes, it simply won’t gain significant traction.
  • Topic interest – YouTube also notes that some topics are simply more popular. “For example, soccer – there are more people in the world interested in soccer than there are in golf. Sometimes soccer videos will get more views than golf, and that’s not because our algorithm has a preference for soccer videos, it just has a larger potential audience size for that kind of topic.”
  • Seasonality – YouTube also notes that different topics will see higher levels of interest at different times of the year. That also, conversely, means that some topics will also generate less interest at the same time, which sort of points to the competition factor once again.
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YouTube also notes that it’s working on new tools to provide more insight, and help creators maximize their video views. As noted, A/B thumbnail testing is one element, which will provide more specific insight into how your thumbnails are grabbing attention (or not), while YouTube’s also looking to add a new comparison tool for CTR and AVD, which would show how your channel is performing on these elements when matched against other channels similar to your own. This would be similar to the Page performance comparison tools available on Facebook or LinkedIn.

There are some interesting, valuable – though technical – insights here, which address some common YouTube algorithm pain points. If you’ve been trying to get your head around why your YouTube clips are performing, or not, these notes may help better contextualize YouTube’s internal processes.

You can watch the full Creator Insider video here.

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers



Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers

With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps



Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump



Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.

On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.

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Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.

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