What makes YouTube videos successful?

Use a subjective tone and don’t overwhelm with information. Ideal length is 10min or longer and published during non-business hours.

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Today, we look at what successful videos on YouTube have that others don’t.

A new Brazilian - Canadian study analyzed 11,177 videos from 150 YouTube influencers to find which characteristics are associated with success (views, likes, comments).

Let’s take a look.

P.S.: Here’s a list of past tips (to date) covering other social media platforms:


Longer YouTube videos with a subjective style and passive information are more successful

Impacted metrics: Engagement
Channels: Social media | Video ads
For: B2C

Tip type: New research (March 2021)
Previous tip: Use color saturation to change product size perceptions (All tips here)

📈 Recommendation

To boost views, likes and comments, YouTube videos should:

  • Provide information in an informal tone of voice, avoiding too much information at once.

  • Use a personal, subjective touch in their message.

  • Be moderately positive, balanced with occasional negative emotions (e.g. sadness, anger, shame).

  • Last longer than 10 minutes.

  • Be published outside of business hours during weekdays (i.e. after 6pm Mon-Fri).

🎓 Effects

  • The YouTube video characteristics above are correlated, on average, with more views, likes, and comments, and fewer dislikes.


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🧠 Why it works

  • We tend to go to YouTube to learn about something or problem solve, and do so more in-depth than on other social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, TikTok).

  • At the same time, we’re still looking for entertainment, so we like information that’s not too dense (e.g. to the point that we’d need to pause to think about it) and doesn’t require immediate action (we’re relaxing, after all).

✋ Limitations

  • These are characteristics that boosted video success of top YouTube channels on average. Different creators may have their own style that is different from these characteristics and still be successful with their audience (e.g. objective science videos).

  • The analysis focused on videos from influencers in general interest topics (e.g. beauty, food, gaming, kids). These effects may not apply in other contexts (e.g. instructional videos released by companies).

  • The researchers used auto-generated YouTube captions to analyze video content and run it through a linguistic model. Slang and visual elements from the videos (e.g. text shown on screen but not out loud) were therefore excluded. There’s a chance they could impact results.

🏢 Companies using this

⚡ Steps to implement

  • As a creator, use these guidelines as an insight on how to produce successful videos - while keeping in mind that you should differentiate yourself with your own town of voice and unique audience.

  • As a marketer, partner with successful creators based on engagement (views, likes, comments). The main takeaway is that you should focus on longer videos, which also gives you the opportunity to more extensively give information about your offering.


🔍 Study type

Market observation (analysis of subtitles and metadata of 11,177 YouTube videos across 11 categories).

📖 Research

Munaro, A. C., Hübner Barcelos, R., Francisco Maffezzolli, E. C., Santos Rodrigues, J. P., & Cabrera Paraiso, E. (March 2021). To engage or not engage? The features of video content on YouTube affecting digital consumer engagement. Journal of Consumer Behaviour.

[Link to paper]

🏫 Affiliations

Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná and École des sciences de la gestion de l'UQAM. Brazil and Canada

Remember: Because of the groundbreaking nature of this paper, it could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.


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