People often ask me if they should disable the ratings system for political YouTube videos they upload. Although it generally depends on the content, below I provide general guidelines to consider. I will also explain how the ratings system can be used against you using Governor Rick Perry’s “Strong” video as a case study.
Without going deep into the numbers, the first thing to recognize is that YouTube leans Left politically. This isn’t only true because the audience is relatively young, but there are also many International YouTube users who support socialized medicine, secularism and big government. Therefore, if you reach a large enough sample of YouTube users, without enough Drudge Report traffic to compensate, your videos may receive more dislikes than likes.
Conversely, if you can reach a large network of supporters as soon as the video is uploaded, the ratings system is likely to benefit you. Not only will your supporters rate it highly, but your video will go up the search rankings with the positive feedback.
This isn’t to say it is impossible to persuade the Left-leaning YouTube crowd if you are articulate like Dennis Prager, or humorous like Reagan. However, compare the Reagan and Prager videos to an ad Governor Rick Perry recently uploaded that was geared toward the social conservative base of the Republican Party, not the general YouTube audience. As CNET pointed out, Perry’s team probably should have disabled the ratings system before the video was uploaded. I agree.
Ignoring the merits of Perry’s video, he pushed his religious values, and he implied that gays shouldn’t be allowed to serve openly in the military. Each of those messages individually are not going to work well with a young demographic combined with a secular international audience. Now, combine those two issues together in one video, and it was completely foreseeable what would happen. Sure, his base might be happy, but nobody should expect the general YouTube audience to approve of it. Who was he targeting?
Like clockwork, the video was uploaded on December 6, 2011, and two days later the video had 200,000+ dislikes to 4000 likes. It didn’t help that the Daily Kos created a blog post that encouraged people to dislike it too.
So, while some people will say the ad did well, since it reached 2,000,000+ views on Youtube, the truth is that people who see the negative ratings will assume Perry’s views are in the minority, even if they happen to like the video’s message. Furthermore, Perry’s supporters who see the harsh response to the video may question Perry’s appeal with the general electorate. Overall, by enabling ratings, the video worked against him. Again, I’d like to reemphasize that I’m not arguing in favor or against the substance of the video. I’m simply using it as a case study for the YouTube ratings.
Closing Points to Consider:
In general, if you can reach enough supporters to like your video via Email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube subscribers, or you don’t expect the traffic to be too high, enable the ratings system. This will help your video go up the search engine rankings, and it will prevent people claiming that you’re “censoring” what people think.
However, if you’re pushing ideas to a niche audience, and the message would ordinarily be rejected by a young demographic, it might be advantageous to err on the side of disabling the ratings. Don’t forget to disable the comments, and make sure to set the traffic stats to private too. The major disadvantages, which must also be considered, are that you might get accused of “censorship,” you will lose views, and you will see lower search rankings. However, I’m sure in hindsight Perry’s team would gladly trade that for 200,000+ dislikes.