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YouTube Explains Some Common Algorithm and Video Distribution Queries

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

Over the past year, Google has repeatedly noted that a China-based group has been looking to use YouTube, in particular, to influence western audiences, by building various channels in the app, then seeding them with pro-China content.

There’s limited info available on the full origins or intentions of the group, but today, Google has published a new overview of its ongoing efforts to combat the initiative, called DRAGONBRIDGE.

As explained by Google:

In 2022, Google disrupted over 50,000 instances of DRAGONBRIDGE activity across YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense, reflecting our continued focus on this actor and success in scaling our detection efforts across Google products. We have terminated over 100,000 DRAGONBRIDGE accounts in the IO network’s lifetime.

As you can see in this chart, DRAGONBRIDGE is by far the most prolific source of coordinated information operations that Google has detected over the past year, while Google also notes that it’s been able to disrupt most of the project’s attempted influence, by snuffing out its content before it gets seen.

Dragonbridge

Worth noting the scale too – as Google notes, DRAGONBRIDGE has created more than 100,000 accounts, which includes tens of thousands of YouTube channels. Not individual videos, entire channels in the app, which is a huge amount of work, and content, that this group is producing.

That can’t be cheap, or easy to keep running. So they must be doing it for a reason.

The broader implication, which has been noted by various other publications and analysts, is that DRAGONBRIDGE is potentially being supported by the Chinese Government, as part of a broader effort to influence foreign policy approaches via social media apps. 

Which, at this kind of scale, is a concern, while DRAGONBRIDGE has also targeted Facebook and Twitter as well, at different times, and it could be that their efforts on those platforms are also reaching similar activity levels, and may not have been detected as yet.

Which then also relates to TikTok, a Chinese-owned app that now has massive influence over younger audiences in western nations. If programs like this are already in effect, it stands to reason that TikTok is also likely a key candidate for boosting the same, which remains a key concern among regulators and officials in many nations.

The US Government is reportedly weighing a full TikTok ban, and if that happens, you can bet that many other nations will follow suit. Many government organizations are also banning TikTok on official devices, based on advice from security experts, and with programs like DRAGONBRIDGE also running, it does seem like Chinese-based groups are actively operating influence and manipulation programs in foreign nations.

Which seems like a significant issue, and while Google is seemingly catching most of these channels before they have an impact, it also seems likely that this is only one element of a larger push.

Hopefully, through collective action, the impact of such can be limited – but for TikTok, which still reports to Chinese ownership, it’s another element that could raise further questions and scrutiny.

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The Drum | Trump’s Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say

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The Drum | Trump's Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say

While the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s Twitter account in November had some advertisers packing up in protest, many will strike a different tune with Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, experts predict.

Meta Wednesday announced that it’s lifting the ban on a handful of Facebook and Instagram accounts, including that of former US president Donald Trump – who was suspended nearly two years ago following the January 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol.

In a blog post yesterday, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, explained the reasons for the company’s decision, saying that it “evaluated the current environment” as it pertains to the socio-political landscape and security concerns and determined that “risk has sufficiently receded.” As a result, the company will welcome Trump back onto Facebook and Instagram.

The former president will be expected to comply with Meta’s user policies, but, considering his past violations, will face “heightened penalties for repeat offenses,” Clegg explained.

While it’s unclear whether Trump will become an active user on either platform following the decision, media and marketing experts are already sounding alarm bells at his potential return.

In particular, experts are cautious considering recent developments at Twitter. Elon Musk’s turbulent takeover – which has included mass layoffs, dramatic platform changes and the decision to reinstate the accounts of controversial figures like Trump and Kanye West (whose account has since been re-suspended) – has led to an exodus of advertisers. Could Meta’s decision to reintroduce Trump invite a similar fate?

‘Fear, frustration and protest’ could catalyze drawback

Concerns regarding brand safety and suitability on Facebook and Instagram are piquing among marketers. Trump’s presence on social media has long proven to exacerbate the spread of misinformation online. The risks of a potential recession, paired with new political tensions spurred by the 2022 midterms and the anticipation of the 2024 presidential election, may only up the ante.

“Misinformation on Meta’s platforms was an issue prior to Trump’s ban, during the ban and will likely continue to be an issue, even with the new [policies that] Meta has put in place,” says Laura Ries, group director of media and connections at IPG-owned ad agency R/GA. In light of this fact, Ries says, “Advertisers will need to continue to consider the type of content they’ll show up next to when evaluating whether or not to advertise on the platforms, especially as we march toward the 2024 election.”

She predicts that Meta may see some advertisers leave Facebook and Instagram “out of fear, frustration or protest.”

Others agree. “I suspect advertisers will not be pleased with this move and might make reductions in spend as they have done with Twitter,” says Tim Lim, a political strategist, PR consultant and partner at creative agency The Hooligans.

Although some advertisers are sure to pull back or cut their investments, the number will likely be low – largely because the scale and reach promised by both Facebook and Instagram will make it hard for most advertisers to quit. Smaller brands and startups in particular often rely heavily on Meta’s advertising business to spur growth, says Ries.

A ripple, not a wave

Most industry leaders believe Trump’s reinstatement won’t cause anything more than a ripple in the advertising industry. “Marketers who advertise on Facebook and Instagram care about their own problems, which generally [entail] selling more products and services,” says Joe Pulizzi, an entrepreneur, podcaster and author of various marketing books. “If Meta helps them do that, they don’t care one bit about brand safety – unless this blows up into a big political issue again. It might not, so marketers won’t do a thing.”

The sentiment is underscored by Dr Karen Freberg, a professor of strategic communications at University of Louisville, who says: “Facebook and Instagram are key fundamental platforms for advertisers. Marketers may … be aware of the news, but I am not sure if it will make a drastic change for the industry.” She points out that Twitter’s decision to lift the ban on Trump’s account in November caused such a big stir among marketers advertisers that Meta’s decision to do the same may come as less of a shock.

Trump’s return may even benefit Meta’s ads business by giving the company new opportunities to serve ads to Trump devotees, says Pulizzi. Ultimately, he says, Meta “needs personalities like Trump,” who, whether through love or hate, inspire higher engagement. “With Facebook plateauing and Instagram now chasing – and copying – TikTok at every turn, Trump’s follower base is important to Meta, which is hard to believe, but I think it’s true.”

But while some users may be energized by the former president’s return to Meta platforms, others may be outraged – even to the point of quitting Facebook and Instagram, points out Ries. In this case, she says, “advertisers will need to follow them to TikTok, Snap or other platforms where they’re spending their newfound time.”

R/GA, for its part, which services major brands including Google, Samsung, Verizon and Slack, will work on “a client by client basis” to address concerns about Facebook, Instagram or any other platform, says Ries. “R/GA recommended pausing activity on Facebook and Instagram after the insurrection and won’t hesitate to do so again if another incident occurs.”

For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.

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Snap Launches New Ad Campaign to Showcase its AR Offerings

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Snap Launches New Ad Campaign to Showcase its AR Offerings

Snapchat has launched a new promotional campaign which leans into the uniqueness of its viral AR trends, with a showcase of bizarre effects, as a means to present people with a different perspective on the real world.

Pretty trippy, huh?

As explained by Snap:

At Snap, we celebrate the joy, irreverence, and spontaneity of communicating with your real friends in fun, unexpected ways. Over the years, we’ve pushed the boundaries of how people see and experience the world through augmented reality. AR makes conversations and experiences better, and unlocks new ways to connect with others, learn about the world, shop, and more. [Our new campaign] shows you what it’s like to see the world the way Snapchatters do.”

It’s pretty weird, but will that get more people using Snap?

Certainly, the campaign will grab attention, and with 72% of active Snapchat users already engaging with AR elements in the app every day, there’s clearly a lot of interest in these types of weirdo activations that provide a new way of seeing the familiar.

Maybe that’ll prove to be a good lure to get people into the app, and broaden its user base. I mean, at the least, it’ll spark intrigue, which will likely get at least a few more people downloading the app to see what they can do.

AR is a key focus for Snap, and despite operating at a much smaller scale than Meta and Apple, which are both also investing big in AR projects, Snap has continued to punch above its wait in this area, by continually coming out with AR content that grabs attention, and engages audiences.

Meta is still struggling to maintain relevance with younger audiences, a key element that could de-rail its metaverse vision, while Apple has actually leaned on Snap to help showcase its advanced AR tools over time.

If nothing else, Snapchat has its finger on the pulse, which is why virtually every AR trend – from anime filters to baby faces, from crying faces to vomiting rainbows – all of these have originated from Snapchat, and that’s remained consistent over time, even with newer platforms like TikTok entering the same realm.

Snap is very in-tune with its user base, which is also why its Snapchat+ subscription offering is already doing better than Twitter Blue, even with the addition of tweet editing verification ticks (Snapchat+ has over 1.5 million paying subscribers, versus an estimated 325k for Twitter Blue).

That community sense has helped Snap maintain growth and relevance. But it also needs to expand – and maybe, through a bizarre showcase like this, that could help to make more people aware of the things that they can do in the app.

And this is how Snapchat Lenses tend to be shared. Somebody uses it, then they just have to show their friends.

In this respect, it seems like a good initiative, which could help Snap spark more interest and engagement.

It also serves as a demo of scanning in the Snap camera – if you want to try out any of the Lenses featured in the ad, you can scan the screen in the Snap camera, which will then open up whichever Lens is featured at that moment.

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