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Video is an increasingly popular content channel for marketers, as branded video has a high impact on consumers’ purchase decision-making. For brands looking to reach video consumers, new data from the Pew Research Center highlights the importance of YouTube as a primary destination.

The platform has grown in overall popularity in recent years. Pew’s report indicates that roughly 2 in 3 adults (68%) use YouTube as of Q2, up from fewer than half (48%) at the beginning of 2016. Separate data from Pew also indicates that it’s the most widely used platform among US adults and tends to have less of an age gap in use than many other social platforms.

YouTube users clearly value its ability to provide educational videos. Fully 86% of YouTube users surveyed for Pew’s report said that the site is very or somewhat important to them when it comes to figuring out how to do things they haven’t done before. That includes 51% of users – or 35% of US adults overall – who said that it’s very important for this purpose. Moreover, heavy YouTube use isn’t a prerequisite: 56% of users who visit multiple times a day say the site is very important for helping them learn how to do new things, but its value is just as high for almost half (46%) of users who visit the site less than once a day.

This makes YouTube an important platform consideration for brands, given that how-to videos are the most popular video type for US adults, and particularly for youth. It also serves as a counterpoint to trends favoring social media platforms including Facebook over video platforms such as YouTube for video distribution.

The Pew survey additionally reveals that YouTube can help purchase decisions for some users. A slight majority (55%) consider videos on the platform to be very or somewhat important to them when deciding whether or not they should buy a particular product. YouTube isn’t quite as important in this regard – only one-fifth (19%) of users feel it “very” important to their purchase decisions – but the results nonetheless show that it could be make the difference for a sizable share of the population.

Meanwhile, the Pew study also contains an analysis of YouTube’s video recommendations, based on almost 175,000 “random walks” that consisted of randomly selecting 4 recommended videos after watching an initial video. Among the highlighted findings:

  • More than one-quarter of the time, YouTube recommended the same popular video more than once;
  • Recommendations increasingly direct users to longer videos, as the first recommended video’s length averaged 12:18, growing to an average length of almost 15 minutes by the fourth video;
  • Recommendations also increasingly point users to more popular videos (by view count), and that’s regardless of what criterion (e.g. view count, relevance, date) was used to select the starting video; and
  • The most frequently recommended videos leaned heavily towards music videos, TV competitions, kids content, and “life hacks.”

The full report, which contains the full methodology concerning the “random walk” analysis, is available to view here.

About the Data: The survey data in the report is based on a survey carried out from May 29-June 11, 2018 among 4,594 US adults (18+).

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