This is a question that was recently asked by Feed Company in a survey of 40 executives at top U.S. creative ad agencies and media buying firms. Almost 28% considered it a success if a viral video got more than 1 million views followed closely by about 22% each evenly saying it was successful if it was viewed 100,000, 250,000, or 500,000 times. A meager 2.8% each considered it successful if it was viewed 25,000 or 50,000 each. I’m telling you that of all these numbers the 2.8% were the closest to being correct. It’s not about the cumulative total of those views, it’s about getting that video in front of the right eyeballs.

“The benchmark of success for viral video depends on the campaign creative and brand goals. Of course everyone wants more views and reach, but the quality of engagement and conversation matter too.” – Josh Rose, Senior Vice President, Creative Director, Deutsch

This was a quote I pulled from the Feed Company’s Viral Video Marketing Survey “The Agency Perspective” The last part about the quality of engagement and conversation — that’s the real key to the success of a viral campaign.

Here’s an example that I utilized for a company I formerly worked at using word of mouth or viral marketing as a self-promotional piece in a B2B environment with measurable results. I was named by the Worcester Business Journal to their 40 Under Forty list. So to celebrate this we created a funny movie poking fun at myself. We set very clear goals to:

  1. Increase our brand recognition within the Central Massachusetts region served by Worcester Business Journal.
  2. To open a discussion which would hopefully lead to a working relationship with Worcester Business Journal.

First, we sent it to our contact at Worcester Business Journal to get their “blessing” before sending it out to our e-newsletter subscribers. The Business Journal’s editor-in-chief called us within 15 minutes to say that it had already been forwarded around their entire office and they wanted to show it at the awards banquet the next night with over 500 attendees. At the event the owner of the Business Journal (and several other regional business newspapers) came up to me and asked if they could send it out on their e-newsletter to their list of over 5,000 subscribers.

Within about two weeks after the event our e-newsletter subscriber list doubled and from that event we created videos for two of the event attendees, we produced videos for all three business journals owned by the parent company of Worcester Business Journal and set up all three business journals to resell our online marketing video product. As with any word of mouth marketing campaign, it needs to grab people’s attention and be easily passed on.

Based upon our website views of this video and the video views on sharing sites such as YouTube, we had a little over 12,000 total views. That’s it. But we were able to target our demographic specifically to decision makers in businesses in a select region. So all the right people were viewing the video that we wanted to engage with it.

So what’s the moral to this story? You can have 50 million views of a video but if it ultimately doesn’t lead to the desired brand interaction you were looking for how effective was it really? Be more targeted in your distribution and don’t worry about cumulative views if it is engaging the right people.



Eric Guerin is the founder of Adelie Studios. He chooses to use his creative powers for good and not evil by helping businesses to better market themselves using animated marketing videos. He can easily be bribed with coffee. Read more of Eric’s posts