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The Vanity of Going Viral On Facebook

A few months ago, I went viral. It was all my ego could hope for and more. Tens of millions of views of me on stage. What else could a keynote speaker ask for?

Metrics that matter, that’s what.

In this day and age, “Reach” is a metric. Not how many people you actually reached, but some mythical inflated number that looks good but means next to nothing. Let me break down the numbers for you:

32,000,000 reached: That’s how many times the video was served up into a newsfeed on Facebook. Not how many watched it, but more of the old school “your banner ad was served on a website that nobody looked at.”

13,000,000 views: Facebook counts a video as viewed if it plays for more than 3 seconds. That’s not a view to me, that’s a whiff, like you think you smelled something off, so you pause for a second, then carry on with your day. Or one of those billboards that say “You just proved billboard advertising works!”



4,805,002 10-Second Views: Now we’re getting somewhere. One of the reasons we added the letter-boxing and text to the video is to stop the thumb-scroll and have people want to see what it was all about. 10 seconds or more is a good start, but still not there because:

3,400,000 10-Second Views With Sound On: It kind of creeps me out thinking 1,300,000 people watched that video with the sound off for more than 10-seconds. Maybe they were looking at something else in their timeline, while the video played, or they left to investigate that smell I referred to earlier, but the video is useless without sound. I just look like a mime with a man bun that drank too much coffee.

So a useful metric is found after digging down four levels of numbers. About 10% of the original reach was partially useful. But now we have to match goals into metric context. What was the goal of the video? Since keynote speaking at conferences is all I do for a living, getting speaking inquiries is the most important thing. It’s not an everyday thing; they don’t come hundreds at a time usually. Plus they’re usually booked via committee and the lead time between initial awareness to availability request to booking confirmation can be a year or more in some cases.

And the video had a fundamental issue with it: I look like a comedian. Now being called a comedian is an honour for me, since I love and respect the craft, but I don’t do comedy “sets.” Out of all the views, we got one inquiry. And that was asking for me to do my “comedy bit” at a company event.

Now compare those results with a video that got a fraction of the “viral reach” of the first one:


I brought on the team from Luminary Productions to create a speaker trailer that blew my mind. (the opening is the same bit from the viral video.)

43,000 person reach.


5,000 10-Second Views.

1,800 10-Second Views with sound on.

Not even in the same stratosphere as the first video right?

This new video has gotten 7 speaking inquiries since I posted it last week.

Going viral is wonderful. It’s the goal of every piece of content your brand makes. But it needs to move the right needle. If it’s not increasing booking requests for me or increasing sales/sign-ups for you, it’s just vanity.

Because 1,800 real views are sometimes better than 3,400,000.