uSocial, the company that has created controversy regarding their services in the past, is at it again. You might remember them as the company that sold Diggs for your Digg submission, friends for your Facebook account, and followers of your Twitter ramblings. Now they're offering a new service: views for your YouTube video.
For $127, you can buy 5,000 views for your fledgling viral video. That's about 2.5 cents per view. uSocial claims:
"Using several of our methods, we can get a totally unknown video in front of the eyes of potentially millions of people which can mean megabucks to anyone who's in business."
Exactly how they do that is apparently a "trade secret". But with 168 Million US viewers per month, racking up 26 Billion views, it's not too hard to believe that a fraction of them are willing to sell their services as a viewer.
As of the writing of this post, you need at least 88,000 views to crack the first page of YouTube results for videos filtered by "today" and "number of views," and more than 54,000 to make the second page of results.
That's not a terrible amount of money at uSocial prices. It's actually pretty cheap. You could buy, at $127 per 5,000 views, a block of 88,000 views for $2235.
But cost isn't the problem. The bigger issue here—at least to me—is how worthwhile those views are going to be. Unlike on Digg, where enough upvotes will get your story on the home page and seen by tens of thousands, YouTube doesn't just automatically start promoting your video because you got 5,000 views. Now sure… if you buy enough blocks of 5,000, you'll eventually get 100,000 views. And you'll definitely get noticed by the audience at that level—at least the audience that filters by number of views.
But are we really to believe that uSocial has 100,000 or more viewers ready to go at a moment's notice? I very seriously doubt it. It's possible that they're paying out to contracted individuals who are using multiple computers at multiple locations to view a particular video.
I feel like this system is going to break down somewhere between uSocial signing up enough paid viewers and Google figuring out how to tell when views are being manipulated. With all of Google/YouTube's raw computing muscle and human brain power, it seems pretty likely that they'll catch on pretty quick to uSocial's tricks and begin penalizing videos they believe are artificially increasing the view count. You don't think they know the organic growth track of a successful viral video by now and are able to spot when something artificial enhances that number? uSocial is going to have to serve their "employees" with either a link or a keyword phrase or at least some method of finding that video so they can watch it, right? You don't think YouTube has a grasp on how videos are naturally found? I mean, this is the company that claims they can tell when you've bought a link from a blog as opposed to having earned one.
Of course, it's also the same company that allowed Avril Lavigne fans to artificially boost a particular music video to the top of the "all time" views chart, so maybe I'm off my rocker.
Ultimately, the real problem with uSocial's service is that it simply won't translate to conversions. While they claim they can target your video to receive views from a certain demographic (a claim of which I am skeptical), they are still paid views. People paid to watch something will watch it and move on. They're not the kind of viewers a viral campaign is seeking. They're not potential customers. They won't forward it to mom and dad. They won't post about it on their Facebook wall, or email their frat brothers. They'll simply watch, and then move on to the next one they get paid to view.
Bought views don't convert, don't promote the video for you, and are the exact opposite of the kind of viewers viral-producers are seeking (and YouTube is hoping to deliver). They are a band-aid covering up the root problem of poor content. I would not advise you to start buying video views from uSocial. You don't buy Adwords ads for an awful-looking website that has no call to action, do you?
Is there such a thing as great video content that never finds its audience? Sure. But those videos are the exception, not the rule. There are a host of proven methods for driving valuable views to your online video, such as SEO, email marketing, links, and more. Going uSocial's route seems misguided. It's like filling a convention hall with people you paid to listen to your product pitch, and then being upset when they all leave afterward without buying the actual product. They weren't in your demographic to begin with, and the only thing they had in common with each other was that they all suckered you out of your money.
If your content is good enough, viewers will find it. If your content and SEO work is so awful that viewers can't find it, then it's not worth the money it costs to buy the viewers.