Measure Twice, Cut Once: An Online Video Lesson from my Dad

Jan 17, 2013

My father was a true handyman. From the moment I could hold a hammer I was drafted into service for projects and repairs around the house. Construction and deconstruction are ripe opportunities for fathers to pass along words of wisdom to their sons, and my dad excelled at it. He was always passing along gems like, "A short pencil is better than a long memory," "Take care of your tools and they'll take care of you," and similar solid life lessons. And while I learned many things while hammering nails and digging ditches, the one pearl that has followed me throughout life is, "Measure twice, cut once."

If only my dad had known how that platitude would stick with me throughout my life and ultimately be shared as a method to promote online video success. And with the new year ahead of us, and the holidays still fresh in our minds, this is the perfect time to share why this lesson stuck with me and how it can help you with your online content. But first, how did "Measure twice, cut once" become the most memorable lesson from my childhood?

Christmas is the perfect time to be eight years old. You're still young enough to have a lingering belief in Santa Claus but not old enough for the blatant commercialism to have soured your outlook on the holiday season. That year we had somehow lucked out and were living in a rented farmhouse -- way beyond our family's means -- that was the perfect setting for Christmas. A warm, glowing fireplace, a large kitchen filled with tasty morsels and a second story stairwell that allowed space for a massive 25 foot Christmas tree. My dad borrowed a chainsaw and we found a huge cedar tree in the cow pasture behind the house. With the help of several friends and neighbors we managed to drag Methuselah into the house by wedging it through the front door. Once it was inside there was no turning back. And as we slowly lifted the lumbering beast into place we all gasped as the top 6 feet of the tree bent over against the second story ceiling like an NBA player in a Mini Cooper. As we all stood in stunned silence my dad did the only thing that could be done. He walked outside and returned a moment later with the chainsaw in one hand and a plastic tarp in the other. By this time a small crowd had somehow gathered in our living room just in time to hear the roar of the saw springing to life and see a festive spray of wood shavings fill the air. Whether it was the visual image or the constant verbal reminders from my father, I'm quite confident that I will never forget to "Measure twice, and cut once."

So as we prepare our seasonal campaigns and look to 2013, what can we learn from dad about online video?

To be honest, I don't think companies spend enough time looking over video analytics. And I understand why. It's easy to look at video views then cross reference that with your targets reached and call it a day. You had 1000 views and 100 hits after the video, so your return is 10%, we're done here. But if you just look at results you are missing a vast treasure trove of data that can help you focus and refine your campaigns for even greater success. Here are three simple things you can do to measure your analytics twice and have better success with your cuts.

First, who is watching your videos? Whether you are using basic YouTube analytics, TubeMogul results, or enterprise level analytics packages, you can find out so much information about your target audience. What countries/states/regions are they coming from? How old are they? Are they male or female? A recent search on my meager YouTube channel showed that I had 113,000 views with 68% males primarily aged 45-54 from the United States, Philippines, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Digging down into this data will really help focus additional content. Knowing your target audience is critical for success.

Second, where are they coming from? Monitoring traffic results can shed light on where people are watching your content. There are always surprises in the list of inbound links. You never know when an obscure blogger will pick up your content and share it with their audience leading to a possible new venue and additional viewers. It's great to see a bump in views on your videos, it's even better to know exactly where those new eyeballs are coming from.

Finally, how long are you viewers sticking around? This is probably the toughest pill to swallow in the world of online video content. Depending upon the content of your video it is rare for everyone to watch your video all the way through. And while this can be frustrating to see that 75% of your audience is bailing after the first minute of your three minute video, it can also be very rewarding to learn from this. Can you trim your content down to match your audiences needs? Are you waiting too long to get to the most important part of you video? Answering these questions will help to guide your video production in the future. If you pay attention to audience retention and tweak your videos accordingly, you will see positive results.

So remember, find out who your audience is, where they are coming from, and how long they are watching your content. If you take time to measure your results, you won't wind up with videos that feel like they don't fit. It pays to heed the wise words of my father. Trust me, as someone who was cleaning up sawdust for weeks... Measure twice, cut once!