Ten years ago, the hit TV show Friends aired its final season, with more than 52 million people watching. Back then, giving viewers the ability to stream the series finale or watch the episode online (for free!) from a mobile device or laptop would have been unprecedented.

Since then, however, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other publishers have not only turned this concept into a reality but also begun to produce great original content of their own.

The landscape of digital video is evolving, but the ability to profit from the video investment is not always clear.

What is clear is that the demand for online video is skyrocketing. By 2018, video traffic will account for 79% of all consumer Internet traffic and video on-demand traffic will double, according to Cisco's Visual Networking Index.

As more and more video content moves online, marketers and brand managers continue to grapple with the question, How do we monetize this investment?

First and foremost, marketers must set a clear business objective for bringing the content online. The reason cannot be "because everyone else is doing it"; it has be in the service of achieving your business objectives—and, most important, it has to make sense for your audience.

Key questions to ask before you start to bring your content online include the following:

  • Are you trying to increase membership?
  • Are you looking to improve customer interaction?
  • Are you attempting to increase awareness?
  • Are you trying to engage a new audience?

Only one of those can be your goal, although the others may play a supporting role.

The goal you select will be used to measure how effective the digital investment is—by looking at the metrics and performing tests to measure, diagnose problems, and evaluate the investment.

The Four Vital Signs of Online Video

A great way to think about evaluating your investment in online video content is to compare it to a regular health assessment, such as a yearly checkup.

When you go to the doctor, four vital signs are documented: blood pressure, breathing, pulse, and temperature. Based on measurements, you receive actionable information about yourself that may require follow-up or ongoing monitoring. Moreover, those signs play an important role in measuring the success of a goal, such as losing weight or lowering cholesterol or blood pressure.

The following are the four vital signs of online video that are critical measurements for diagnosing the health of your investment.

1. Consumption

The number of people consuming your online video is the first measurement you should document. It's an easy indicator of a healthy or "at risk" online video investment.

How many people are tuning in? Is the number of viewers high, low, mediocre? From there, take a look at where they are consuming the content and what that might indicate. Also, is there a specific demographic that is consuming the content more or less?

Although the number of eyes viewing your content is critical, it cannot be used as the only indicator of success, no matter what your objective is.

2. Sharing

Measuring the viral nature of your video will tell you how valuable your content is. Users share videos that evoke emotion—humor, empathy, shock, etc. Understanding whether and why your videos are being shared will help you understand the impact of your content.

The number of eyes on your content is great, but how much that content is shared is an important metric to understand, especially for helping you to develop and refine your content.

3. Churn

Churn here refers to how many viewers start to watch your online video content but drop out prior to its completion.

The percentage of users who are leaving your content usually indicates a real issue with customer engagement, or it could indicate a major technical issue. Churn is a red flag, because it that could be extremely detrimental to your online investment if it is not addressed immediately.

If you have a churn problem, take a closer look at which customer segments have the highest churn, speak with them via surveys and pulse polls so that you can identify the cause of and find a solution.

4. Mobile Views

Mobile's role in driving the online video revolution cannot be overstated. Some 40% of YouTube's traffic came from mobile in 2014, compared with 25% in 2013 and just 6% in 2012, according to a Business Insider report from earlier this year.

If a preponderance of your views is from desktop devices, it may be that the user experience of your content on a smartphone or tablet leaves something to be desired. Likewise, if you notice that churn is higher on smartphones or tablets than it is on desktop, it may be that you need to optimize your site or application for consumption via mobile.

The Importance of Keeping Score

Why is it important to track metrics of consumption, sharing, churn, and mobile views? Because metrics measure performance; they give a pulse-check on what's working and whether the needle is moving. More important: they give us real-time visibility into what is not working.

Taking a close look at the metrics can provide invaluable insight into issues with the customer's experience, allowing brand managers to make decisions and adjust the content and experience to ensure the success of the investment.

When conducting the checkup on your video content, or taking a look at the metrics, it is important to look at the aggregate metrics, which are calculated during a defined period of time (week, month). What are the critical activities that are happening in a set time period, and how do they relate to your goal?

Here is an example of what metrics can say about your overall goal:

Ongoing Checkups, Treat as Needed

For analyzing metrics, regular reports or check-ins alone won't cut it. By taking an aggressive follow-up and analyze approach, you can realize new opportunities for improvement and potentially learn new things about your customers that you did not know.

By conducting a thorough analysis and asking thoughtful questions about the trends in your reports, your brand will be able to more quickly monetize its video assets.

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Digital Video Vital Signs: How Healthy Is Your Online Video Investment?

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image of Jessica Hall

Jessica Hall is the director of the Innovate Practice at 3Pillar Global, where she specializes in bringing new ideas to market through rapid prototyping.

LinkedIn: Jessica Hall