Facebook has been increasingly popular for years, and despite the current exodus of the youngest users, it’s still immensely populated. This makes it a pretty interesting place to watch for emerging trends. One such trend is the rise of videos embedded in the Facebook video player.
The Facebook video player is something of a mystery. To some users, it’s deeply annoying. The fact that Facebook autoplays any video you hover over for more than two seconds is a terrible precedent. Nearly every site on the web, when it embeds YouTube videos, has the decency to require you to click play before it starts. No so Facebook.
But then, Facebook has a long history of deciding that it knows better than its users. That’s why the news feed resets to “top stories” nearly every day, even when a user desperately attempts to lock it into “most recent.” It’s why Facebook’s algorithms mix and match engagement factors to determine just who of your friends you’re friends with. A friend of mine recently related an anecdote; Facebook decided that a post from one of his high school friends he never talked to was more important than one of his closest friends announcing their engagement her fiancé.
The Rise of Facebook Video
The point is, Facebook makes decisions, often questionable decisions, time and again. One such decision is refusing to embed YouTube videos and instead using their own proprietary player.
The thing is, Facebook videos are on the rise. They’ve been on the rise virtually as long as they’ve existed. More and more users are uploading video through the platform, and more and more users are watching those videos. Entire Facebook pages exist with one purpose in mind; uploading and sharing videos. Just like a YouTube channel, these Facebook pages are looking to become media moguls.
According to a study conducted last year by SocialBakers, Facebook videos have already surpassed YouTube videos in terms of popularity… on Facebook.
A Look at a Study
SocialBakers has conducted several studies into Facebook videos versus YouTube videos, actually. One study determined that videos posted to Facebook directly have as much as a 40% higher engagement rate – that’s the rate of likes, shares and comments, predominantly – than YouTube links. It only makes sense; a link takes you off site, and many users don’t necessarily want to leave Facebook. With the embedded Facebook player, they don’t have to.
Another factor to consider is that of mobile access. Both YouTube and Facebook have mobile access, of course. No site their size could survive in the modern world without one. YouTube is somewhat more intensive, however, and less enjoyable to navigate. The Facebook app, for all of Facebook’s failings, is incredibly slick. It will easily play video for you, assuming you don’t have any device-relate failings. Facebook, of course, has a huge majority over mobile traffic.
Back to the data. According to their study, performed for a scant four days during January, over 4,100 videos were posted. The vast majority of those, over 3,600, were YouTube links. The rest, at least the rest they studied, were uploaded directly to Facebook. Dailymotion, Vimeo? Never heard of ‘em.
The number of likes was very similar between the two, as were the number of shares. The number of comments, however, was by far higher for Facebook native videos.
User Behavior with Video on Facebook
Some of this can very well be tied to how we access videos, between desktop and mobile, and what we do when we watch them.
If a video is uploaded to Facebook, you can either watch it or you can scroll past it. If you watch it, you can scroll away at any time; no back button necessary, if it’s in your news feed. This will pause the video. Facebook’s news feed loads dynamically, and Facebook doesn’t want users to crash their browsers with half-played videos.
Meanwhile, if someone posts a YouTube video link, you have to click to go over to YouTube in order to view it. On a desktop platform, this isn’t an issue. You can click over easily, or you can open your Miley Cyrus video in a new incognito tab, whatever you prefer. On mobile, it’s a different story. Often, loading a video through YouTube is going to be slow, if it even connects at all.
Once you’ve watched a video on YouTube, how might you share it? It’s just as easy to click a sharing button via YouTube, or to copy and paste the URL in a new post, as it is to go back to Facebook to share the video. Leaving a comment? On YouTube, you might just leave the comment on the video itself. If you can’t, or don’t want to, you can then go back to Facebook, where you may or may not leave a comment. With a video natively posted to Facebook, if you like the video, the comments are right there. You can tell Aunt Irene just how cute her baby is, right to her face.
Facebook’s Sneaky Reach Tweaks
It’s no secret that Facebook tweaks reach, both organic, viral and paid, in its favor. SocialBakers performed another study, a longer one this time, covering December to March. This one measured the reach of videos posted natively through Facebook compared to YouTube links.
What they found shouldn’t surprise you, if you’re aware of how Facebook likes to skew things in their favor. Facebook videos had 10.3% organic reach, while YouTube links had a lower reach, at 8.9%. Of course, in EdgeRank, a link is given less weight than a media post, so that makes sense.
Viral reach, which is primarily controlled by users, however, suffered. YouTube links only received a meager .2%, while Facebook native videos had an astounding 2.2%.
Where is paid reach in all of this? The folks who ran the survey avoided it, for fear it would skew the results.
So, are Facebook videos becoming more popular than YouTube links? Some might say they already are, with one caveat. The raw numbers still heavily favor YouTube. For every one video uploaded to Facebook, there are 5-10 YouTube links posted. YouTube is still by far the most popular video host; it just doesn’t perform as well on Facebook as the Facebook player natively.