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Why You Should Question Most Video Marketing Stats You See

We all know the value of a good stat. It can add weight to an argument or back up the proposed benefits of a business. But the internet has made it too easy to quote numbers that don’t add up. At a time when many people think facts are fluid, I decided to evaluate some video marketing statistics reverberating around the media industry that everyone likes to pass off as truth.

Here’s one you may have read over the years: One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. That claim, attributed to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, gets cited by marketers all over the globe. A Google search on the topic returns an ocean of articles, listicles, and infographics, all proudly pointing toward this fantastical figure highlighting the power of video marketing. Yet, none of them seem to link to the original source.

It turns out that this grandiose statement is nothing more than an elaborate idiom. The genesis can be boiled down to a century-old saying and some quick calculations:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video plays at 30 frames per second, and there are 60 seconds in a minute, then 1,000 x 30 x 60 = 1,800,000.

When this curious math gets misrepresented as a scientific data point, it’s no wonder that video agencies fervently shout it from the rooftops to embolden their cause. “Look, here’s legitimate research that supports our business model. Why use your budget on blogging when we can help you create that video?

I’ve been told that the statement originates from a 2008 Forrester report titled “How Video Will Take Over The World,” but the full text is behind a paywall. Nevertheless, given the nature of the study and caliber of Forrester, it’s safe to assume that the 1.8 million figure was meant figuratively—a playful extension of the cliche we all heard growing up.

I don’t believe deception was the original intention, but I do think this type of stat speaks to the way marketers hunt for any information that makes them look good without properly vetting it first. It appears that somewhere along the line, a video marketer latched onto this snippet, took it out of context, produced a press release, and watched it spread like wildfire.

Learning to question what you read

After trying to get to the bottom of that misleading video stat, my team at Hurricane Video Marketing got the idea for a project. We produced a short animated video examining marketing myths, challenging others to step up their game instead of blindly following dodgy data:

Industry roundups have perpetuated the wave of vague figures: One-third of all online activity is spent watching video. Using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19 percent. Including video on a landing page can increase conversion by 80 percent. The vacuous claim that the average internet user spends 88 percent more time on a website with video is another example that throws up more questions than answers. Even though it is widely cited, tracking down the source results in a deeply frustrating 404 error, so there’s no way of verifying the methodology.

I firmly believe that video is the most effective form of online marketing. There’s no doubting its growth, engagement power, and rising popularity, particularly with Facebook moving toward a video-first future. But where, exactly, should one go to back up that belief?

There are some fantastic, reputable sources that only publish comprehensive research, such as Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, which periodically charts and forecasts the rise of online video. You should also turn to my go-to site for reliable marketing analysis: eMarketer. Look at the detail contained within this graph:

360-degree video stat

The age range, study, and publication date are all referenced, making it easy to verify each statement and use this information with confidence. I’m backing 360-degree video as one of my top three video marketing trends for 2017, so I can now refer to this study when championing it.

As marketers, we’re used to getting sign-off on every minor detail when it comes to client work, ensuring accuracy before publication. Yet it appears that, all too often, we’re not quite so robust with our own output.

Being firmer with our facts is crucial because digital natives have an amazing nose for BS. They can tell if you’re regurgitating falsehoods, half-truths, or lazy assumptions. If you don’t have the resources to conduct your own research, make sure you’re looking in the right places when quoting others, and leave those shifty “facts” to politicians.

Image by Lyudmila K / Getty
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