5 lessons from YouTube’s most-hated video ever

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The Independent’s headline on 2018’s biggest YouTube story says it all: “SITE’S OWN RECAP VIDEO BECOMES THE LEAST POPULAR EVER.”

In under a week, the video goliath’s “YouTube Rewind 2018” has overtaken a Justin Bieber video to earn the distinction of the most unpopular video ever uploaded, with just over 9 million thumbs down.

You know your effort has gone awry when the U.K.’s Telegraph headlines a story, “How YouTube’s 2018 PR stunt became even more hated than Justin Bieber.”

At this rate, Rewind 2018’s “dislikes” will soon overtake the falsetto phenom’s “Baby,” about which the Telegraph reported, “Bieber’s exasperated warbling has racked up 9.7 million dislikes in eight years.”

Subtract “Baby’s” millions of “likes,” and the 2018 YouTube roundup becomes the least popular. (And in fairness, Bieber was just a teen at the time.)

“It completely smacks of ‘How do you do, fellow kids!’” says Dave DiVerniero, freelance producer and editor. “It plays like it was made by people who spent 15 minutes researching what trends are popular, but have a complete disconnect with the culture and viewers.”

For those who want to avoid producing a video that irks multitudes, here are some lessons:

1. Remember your stars.

Many organizations are learning that their image all about its employees, not the faceless brand, the CEO or celebrity endorsers. By the same token, YouTube has left out some of its biggest stars.

As Mashable notes: “The deep unpopularity of YouTube’s Rewind video, which becomes clear through the video’s comments and social media chatter, is due to YouTube omitting some of the platform’s biggest stars.

“The likes of Shane Dawson, Logan Paul, and PewDiePie don’t make an appearance, and that weird, but ultimately very popular boxing match between KSI and Paul didn’t rate a mention either.”

Despite what Mashable calls “PewDiePie’s rather odious behavior in the past,” fans were irked at the absence of the platform’s biggest names.

The Independent reports adds that “large parts of [Rewind 2018] are made up of people who are not famous through their YouTube posts, but through traditional media—such as John Oliver and Trevor Noah, who both appear in the video doing dances from Fortnite,” a video game.

For its part, YouTube is declaring the video a victory.

“Every year when we release our Rewind video, our number one goal is getting the community to engage with it,” a YouTube spokesperson told us. “This includes liking and disliking the video. With millions of comments, millions of likes and dislikes, and more than 100 million views, we’re pleased with the results.”

Well, if raw engagement is what you’re after, consider this a win.

2. Remember your audience.

When a platform becomes as humongous as YouTube, perhaps one can lose sight of the millions it’s serving.

“I think YouTube has ignored who their audience is and what its strengths are,” says Scott Levely, digital communications lead for Hamilton Health Sciences, which is known for its successful videos.

“Authentic, user-generated content is at the heart of the second-largest search engine online, and they’ve missed the mark by creating an homage to the complete opposite of that—a highly produced, big budget video that doesn’t resonate with those same users.”

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