How a government department gained 1 million YouTube views with no advertising

Tonight I attended the Wellington Web Content meetup to learn about the YouTube strategy behind a government website that took them to over a 1 million views… with no advertising.

I half expected a case study from NZTA showing how their Ghost Chips or Mistakes ads had gone viral.

I was half right…

Tina from PracticeNZ explained how NZTA and ACC had joined forced to help learner drivers gain the skills needed to be safe drivers and pass their restricted license test. After a change to the test raised the difficulty the pass rate dropped to 40%. PracticeNZ was tasked with improving pass rates and the percentage passing first time.

PracticeNZ has trialled video content previously but with limited success. Their original 12 videos reached 12k people over a year. As part of a two year project, they created a new series of 41 videos and rocketed their views to over 1.2 Million per year (including international audiences). The NZ audience grew to over 50,000 views per month.

Tina explained two keys to their success:

1. Getting the content right

I must applaud Tina and the team at PracticeNZ for their commitment to the content. It sounded like a long and painful process with some videos needing 14 script rewrites before the extensive review panels were happy with the content. All content was reviewed by teen drivers, instructors, subject matter experts and teams from ACC and NZTA. Ensuring that the videos demonstrated best practices was essential.

Tina also explained that casting was an important factor, feedback and testing has shown teen drivers found the actors used relatable. Showing them as nervous and making common mistakes like stalling created credibility and helped build the audience’s confidence as they learned how to drive.

Creating these videos was large investment, so to ensure they were on the right track they filmed and released in batches of 12 videos and then gathered feedback. They made adjustments based on this for future videos. They used precise voice over scripts to cover the prescribed content while letting the actors have more freedom when demonstrating the driving, leaving impromptu coaching from the driving instructors and driver reactions in the clips to add realism.

Initially video content was only available behind a login on the PracticeNZ website. But quickly it was realised that the benefits of exposing the content to a wider audience outweighed the advantages of tracking the results.

Proving that the content is right – views continue to grow with over 80% watching to the end of videos and many sharing socially.

2. Leveraging YouTube

Once the content was right, PracticeNZ turned to YouTube to expand their reach. They released all video content publicly on the PracticeNZ YouTube channel and saw a quick ramp up in views.

Tips Tina shared on maximising YouTube SEO :

  • Use clear video titles – including “How to” for educational content (eg “How to parallel park” is obviously better than “Parallel Parking”
  • Use all relevant subject tags to show in searches
  • Use playlists to gather related content and help watchers move onto the following video

Another tip I took away from Tina’s talk was that they resist the urge to instantly reply to YouTube comments. Instead they only react when the comment is offensive or offering incorrect advice. As a preference they won’t jump in quickly so that the community can offer help first.

The results

One of the interesting results PracticeNZ found was that their audience gender balance was quite different between their website and their YouTube channel. On their website the audience is 60% female, while on YouTube it’s 62% male. While Tina was quick to point out that because they don’t track individual users, and because there’s other programs working to improve driver skills, the affect on driver pass rates are promising. At the end of 2014 the pass rate had increased to 60%, with 57% passing first time!

Wellington Web Content Meetup

I had a great time at the Wellington Web Content meetup group. The group is on the lookout for speakers for upcoming events. If you have some web knowledge to share then get in touch with the group, or just come along to the next event!

Web content meetup

A snap from tonight’s meetup, yes that’s me geeking out in the front row with my notebook!

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