Word on the street for a few months now is that Facebook’s video player has surpassed YouTube in terms of views. This has led marketers to dig into experiments, to determine whether Facebook or YouTube is the better option for their video marketing. Before getting into all of that, though, you need to know something about the numbers.
Facebook really wants everyone to migrate to their platform for video advertising, and there’s a reason for it; their premium video ads are hilariously expensive and make them a ton of money. Normal video marketing through Facebook works the same as normal Facebook PPC, with a video view objective.
To facilitate the impression that Facebook is the premier place to be for video marketing, they publish all of these fantastic numbers about how many views and how much engagement every video gets. The problem is, comparing the views 1:1 with YouTube is disingenuous.
YouTube doesn’t release the exact details about what it takes to count as a view. Prior to the famous 301+ limitation, any view of the page itself is a view for the video. Once that number is reached, however, the algorithm changes. Chances are good that the exact qualities necessary to make a view depend on the length of the video, the percentage of the video watched, and perhaps even whether or not the screen is in focus. The reason for this is that Google doesn’t want people to try to robotically game the view system, as they do so many other aspects of the Internet.
Conversely, Facebook makes views easy. All it takes is a mere three seconds of view time to count as a video view, and that time is made all the easier by the Facebook autoplay preview. See, a video begins to play the moment it scrolls on to the screen, silently. The audio only plays when a user clicks to hear it, but the playing of the first few seconds may very well count as a view. So, you have people scrolling slowly past your videos, and those counting as views.
The end result is that one validated view on YouTube is very likely worth more than one, two, or even five or ten views on Facebook.
Methods of Advertising
There are also the means of advertising that differ between the two platforms.
On YouTube, you can post a fully promotional video if you wish. Many companies upload their TV commercials, though commercials are something of a special case, as they have an entire culture surrounding them. Small businesses won’t likely be able to succeed simply by posting commercials.
YouTube also has pre-video view ads, which load before a video and play through before the user can reach their desired content. This costs money for the advertiser, and earns money for both YouTube and the video owner, and if the ad is compelling enough can earn the advertiser some conversions as well.
The third method YouTube uses for advertising is the textual ad displayed at the bottom of a video. These tend to be affiliate links, more or less, though the owner of a video can customize them and turn them to their own purposes. YouTube also has sidebar banner ads, though these aren’t really video ads and aren’t relevant to this discussion.
Facebook, meanwhile, has a their premium video ads. These are limited to 15 seconds, they’re very expensive and they operate essentially as tiny commercials added to the news feeds of people using their service. These are still rare.
Facebook also has traditional PPC ads with the video view objective. These are normal text and image ads in the news feed as page posts, or in the sidebar. They link to a video posted on Facebook, which plays and activates a particular call to action button the advertiser customizes, while the video plays. That button can in turn link to a landing page for the product in the ad, for example, or another target for conversion.
On the tricky side, Facebook has also tweaked their algorithm to favor Facebook videos while simultaneously giving YouTube links less weight. If asked about it, Facebook would no doubt say that they’re only responding to the decreasing interest users have in clicking through to YouTube, but the causation may be the other way around.
A Difference in Styles
There’s another fundamental difference between Facebook and YouTube, and that’s n how people use the platforms.
YouTube, for example, is used as a combination home theater and jukebox. Some people build playlists of music and put it on in the background, just to listen to music. Other people will spend hours browsing from one video to the next, watching full series’ of videos or clicking from one related video to the next.
In all cases, once a user visits YouTube, they’re around to stay for a while. YouTube is a time investment, and people realize it. They visit with the goal of watching videos, and that’s what they do.
Facebook, on the other hand, is about serendipity and discovery. There’s no video library or video search. Users can visit pages for their favorite content creators in hopes of more videos, but it’s never guaranteed. Video is popular, but it’s not the major dominant type of content on Facebook itself.
Therefore, people don’t visit Facebook looking for videos. They visit looking to keep up with their friends, their family and their favorite brands. Videos, when they show up, do so because they were shared by someone the user knows. This sort of recommendation is a direct incentive to watch, but it’s also not going to lead to a chain of other videos and exploration. The user may watch, and then scroll away, satisfied. Of course, Facebook carefully engineers their serendipity.
Of course, the question marketers will be asking is “which is better?” The answer is, neither. It depends entirely on your business, your message, your budget, your video content and your methods. For that matter, why not just use both?