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Science and demo videos on YouTube - they CAN succeed!

Bienentanz's waggle dance video passes landmark of half a million views

Berlin, 8 October 2014: More and more life science organisations and companies place their videos on YouTube, but most of these are rarely watched. Over the first year online, many struggle to reach more than a few hundred views. However, a video explaining the complex phenomenon of the honey bee's waggle dance, produced in English and German by the communications firm Bienentanz, proves that it is indeed possible to succeed. Recently it passed the landmark of half a million YouTube views and is today the world's most viewed waggle dance video on the leading hosting platform. Museums, publishers and companies around the globe have purchased licences and integrated it into their multimedia productions. Germany's Spiegel Online and even the U.S. space agency NASA placed it on their websites.

YouTube rewards videos that people like to watch

Like Google, YouTube provides a search facility. And similarly, the aim is typically to appear as high up in the search results as possible. But whereas Google's ranking remains crucial to the number of website visits indefinitely, the importance of the YouTube search for videos diminishes over time. It now generates only about 20% of the waggle dance's views, with the lion's share of visitors finding it through links or recommendations on other portals, websites and social networks like Facebook. This, in turn, improves the video's ranking. A catch 22 situation? Perhaps, but it can be solved if search engine optimization (SEO) is complemented by rigorous optimisation of the video itself. If people like to watch it in full length (YouTube can actually measure this), many other ranking criteria, such as "likes", comments, links and recommendations, will simply fall into place.

The key to success: viewer retention

For long-term success, a good average playback time is immensely important. What's clicked away within seconds is rarely recommended by viewers and tends to slip down the search result pecking order. It is therefore pivotal to captivate viewers from the very first second onwards. "Starting off with the company logo is a cardinal sin," explains Christian Boecker, Managing Director of Bienentanz Gesellschaft für Kommunikation mbH and previously an author and director of technical reports for TV channels. "Each second of the video needs to be scrutinised. After my TV pieces were broadcast, I used to receive viewer figures resolved down to two-minute intervals, and we discussed them at editorial meetings. That helped us to identify weaknesses and to learn from these. Such experience, however, is not available in most life science companies, even large ones." According to YouTube Analytics, the waggle dance video achieves a very high average playback time of more than 80% of total duration - most viewers watch it to the very end. From the first second to the last, its viewer retention values lie well above the average of similarly long videos.

Getting off to a good start

After uploading the optimised video onto YouTube, the focus should be on an appealing preview thumbnail, the title, description and tags as well as publicising it through other means, such as social media or EDMs. "There are some parameters that you can vary to get off to a better start," Christian Böcker explains. "But from then on, it is the video's ability to attract and captivate viewers that counts. What's needed are some truly creative ideas, a good concept and the video to focus on what really matters. Mere eye-candy, such as full HD resolution, subtle lighting, soft camera movements or post-production effects, is simply not enough to keep viewers glued to the screen."

Links to Bienentanz's waggle dance video on YouTube:

English language version

German language version

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English                      Deutsch

"When I started Bienentanz, I wanted to create a video that showed what the company's name was about. One challenge was to make the phenomenon easy to grasp, in particular how the angle in the upright hive is carried over into the plain field environment. The other was to keep the video short, leaving out everything that isn't absolutely necessary, to appeal to a wider audience. I think the balance between the video's scientific depth and its ability to keep viewers on board is just about right."

Christian Böcker, Managing Director
Bienentanz Gesellschaft für Kommunikation mbH