You Can Change Your Mind

You Can Change Your Mind

I tweeted this the other day, it was really a passing thought. The more I let it stew, though, the more I realized there was probably a fuller blog post in there somewhere. So here we are.

Some people are always skeptics. That must be hard, though I bet it can come in awfully handy on occasion. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them, but I could also describe myself as situationally skeptical. I think this is probably the most normal, but I don’t have any sociological data to support that notion.

I’ve always been skeptical of the reporting that companies spit out, particularly internet companies who rely so heavily on the impression, the click, the interaction or my favorite one, the “active” user.

Some companies claim an active user is someone who has interacted with their site in the past 12 months. Some only count active users if they’ve done something on their site in the last 30 days. That’s a wide swing. Personally, I believe an active user should only be in the 1-3 day range for most sites.

The one I’ve been thinking about lately, as my tweet mentions, is the “unintentional engagement.” This doesn’t exist. But it should.

Have you ever been scrolling through your Twitter feed on your phone, using your finger to swipe down, down, down and you accidentally click instead of swipe, so a photo or video comes up? Of course you have. I think it might happen to me every day.

change your mind

If you’re looking at the bottom tweet, the auto-play video on top is counted as a view. Wrong.

Well, Twitter is counting that as engagement. It’s a click. If it’s a video and it plays for just 3 seconds, Twitter considers that a video view. Three seconds! 

If you were an advertiser paying Twitter, wouldn’t you want your reporting about video views or tweet views to be more true? Can’t they detect when you click and revert back to the main feed right away, like in 1-2 seconds? Of course they can. And they should.

Facebook, same idea. Have you ever been scrolling down your feed and a good friend of yours posts a paragraph or two of deep thoughts and you read it for a bit? Yes, you have. But just above that, a video starts playing on it’s own (that’s called “auto-play”) and it continues to play while you read something else? Facebook considers that an engagement, a video viewed! That you didn’t pay attention to it or see it matters none. They have the same 3 second rule in place, too.

YouTube is a little better. They don’t consider a video viewed for their analytics platform until :30 seconds. That seems much more reasonable to me. Unless your video is 20 minutes long, I guess.

Auto-play seems a little misleading to me, too. For example, the sound never goes on. That’s why you’re seeing a lot of recipe videos with text overlaid on them. Clever. But 3 seconds on auto-play counts as a viewed video? Facebook and Twitter say yes. I say no. There have been recent reports saying that as much as 85% of videos aren’t even heard!

So let’s get back to the main point of the tweet. I think it would be great if the social media sites actually reported “unintentional engagement.” They can absolutely do it. They can track if I click something and immediately head back. Facebook could easily not count an auto-played video as an official view for my brand if people have engaged (commented, liked, shared) with a post right below or above mine. It can be done.

But it won’t. Because they need to show HUGE numbers to advertisers as a carrot to get them to spend and keep spending.

Let me also say this, to play devil’s advocate for a moment. I’ve purchased plenty of video advertising on Facebook at my last couple of jobs. I don’t pay much attention to views or impressions, because those are bullshit measurements.

The success – depending on your goal – is usually in the engagement of it, the clicks to your website and the performance once they get there. I’ve generally been happy with the performance, particularly on Facebook.

I just think social media sites could be a lot more honest about this stuff. Or the IAB should come out with universal standards for engagement metrics. I’m not holding my breath.

Bullets & Stock Tips

Ever since 1990 when I first attended Kent State, all my friends, acquiantences and strangers always had some kind of remark about the 1970 shootings. Lots of people told me things like “make sure you wear a bullet-proof vest” and “don’t get shot.” Never very clever, really, but still, I have to agree it’s a pretty easy joke to make. It also got old pretty quick. Whatever. But The Onion’s article this week actually did elicit a chuckle out of me, particularly the picture. Good stuff. I’ve laid off The Onion over the last year or so, so maybe I should start reading regularly again.

Stock tip? A few months back I started using Comcast’s OnDemand more than I had been previously. The reason? We cancelled Netflix when the babies were born, because the day they were born, the same four movies sat on the TV stand for about 3 months. It was a little sad, because I had been a member since June of 2000! But I couldn’t accept paying the monthly fee for dust collecting. We might subscribe again, but with Apple’s announcement and Comcast’s OnDemand, we may not need it.

Anyway, OnDemand requires a lot of backend…….stuff. That backend is powered by a company called SeaChange International, who handles OnDemand for many of the tier 1 and tier 2 cable companies in the U.S. I think it’s fairly clear that the cable companies will be a player in this stuff, so growth seems imminent. Now might be the time to hop on board SeaChange and get some stock – it’s at a very cheap price right now and they also just announced another deal with a top 5 cable TV provider. So I added them to my stable.

As a sidenote, 2 out of 3 companies I’m invested in are within 15 miles of my house. That’s one way to support the local businesses, I suppose.

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