The Impact of Content Creation Strategies on Engagement With Trending YouTube Videos: An Analysis of Video Style and Thumbnail Customization
Co-authored with Kate Wallace, Sarah Johnson, and Maureen Mosmiller. Advised by Amanda Sturgill of Elon University School of Communications. 

Over 1.9 billion users visit YouTube each month generating billions of views, according to YouTube (YouTube, 2019). The number of channels earning six figures per year on YouTube grew by more than 40 percent from 2018. With a wide, growing audience and increasing opportunity to make profits, the incentive to promote and create popular content is clear.  Enter the YouTube trending page.
This list of 200 trending videos is updated every 15 minutes by YouTube and aims to surface videos that, according to YouTube (YouTube, 2019), appeal to a wide range of viewers, are not misleading or sensational, showcase a diversity of creators, and are surprising or novel. The trending list considers many metrics including: views, age of the video, how quickly the video is gaining views, and where views are coming from. 
While YouTube gives vague guidelines as to how the trending list is determined, it does not provide insight into what style and strategies creators should use to achieve trending status. With more than 500 hours of content uploaded every minute (Statista, 2019), creators have developed many methods to make their videos to stand out, like creating customized thumbnails and creating/promoting their own unique styles of videos not recognized by YouTube, like challenge and unboxing videos. As these methods have not been heavily studied, our team analyzed YouTube’s top 200 trending videos to determine what video styles, thumbnail styles, and durations were most common and whether these methods were related to views and levels of engagement.

Our Research Questions:
1. Do different styles of trending YouTube videos get different levels of engagement?
2. Do trending YouTube videos with customized thumbnails get higher views and engagement than videos with less customized thumbnails?
3. Does the duration of a video have an impact on the trending rank or user engagement?

To see our findings and read more, click the link below.

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