Battle of Video: Facebook vs. YouTube
Video may have killed the radio star, but it has ad executives feeling more alive than ever. Can they be blamed? Online video is watched by 78% of people every week and 55% every day. In fact, according to HighQ, just including the word “video” in an email subject line “boosts open rates by 19%.” The all-powerful video has been shown to not only attract large audiences–it also engages them, makes them feel, makes them act on those feelings. Take for example the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which led to 2.4 million tagged videos on Facebook and raised over $40 million within weeks of going viral.
But most marketers by now are aware of video’s power. The question is not whether one should make video content or not, but rather where that content should live.
YouTube used to be the #1 home for video, with over a billion users and an expanding group of creators with large audiences and followings.
Its success grew to the point that YouTube became the second biggest search engine after Google. But 2014 brought a power shift. Facebook Page owners, for the first time, were uploading more videos directly to Facebook instead of sharing from YouTube (source). Facebook’s share of the video market has been growing ever since, forcing marketers to reconsider where to publish videos.
Before making a decision, it is important to define the criteria or metrics of video success, and weigh them against the characteristics of each platform.
Number of Views
Total Time Watching
Engagement & Shares
Number of Views
How many people are actually watching your video? The winner for sheer size of audience and view numbers is, at least for the moment, YouTube. YouTube has the largest slice of the pie when it comes to video hosting, and with over a billion active users, the views add up.
Moreover, YouTube has solidified its brand over 10 years as the primary search engine for video. When searching for a specific clip or video genre, YouTube is where the majority of people go. This holds true globally. According to YouTube’s report, 80% of its views come from outside the U.S.
That said, when it comes to desktop viewing alone, Facebook managed to surpass YouTube video views in 2014, delivering a billion more views. This could signal a turning point in this battle of giants.
Total Time Watching
Are people watching your entire video, or just the first few seconds before they move on to something else? When it comes to staying power, YouTube is the winner.
Facebook videos have been proven to be most successful when their duration is no longer than 20-40 seconds. For YouTube, that number is just under 3 minutes (source). Add to this the fact that an average mobile session for YouTube is 40 minutes, and one could argue that a YouTube audience is willing to pay attention to video content for longer.
From a video analytics perspective, Facebook also looks weak. Facebook counts a view as being 3 seconds or longer. With Facebook’s autoplay feature, it is entirely possible for a person who did not intend to watch your video to scroll through their news feed, stumble on the video, watch for a few seconds out of curiosity, and then scroll past it without absorbing the message. YouTube views, however, are calculated by percentage of video watched. Its system also filters out “fake views”, such as multiple views from a single IP, or any views other than legitimate playbacks (this constitutes the temporary view-freeze at 301).
Engagement & Sharing
Are people watching your video because they want to? Are they commenting and/or reacting? If engagement is the metric you hold most dear (as many do), the choice is not so clear.
The way YouTube works inherently means that, in general, people searched your video or video category (e.g. “cat video”) in order to watch it, making that view intentional and implying engagement. Facebook’s auto-play feature means the view was not necessarily user-initiated, and that their experience with the video was more passive.
YouTube’s “YouTuber” phenomenon also drives the audience’s engagement. Young YouTube stars draw in enormous, enthusiastic and (typically) young audiences who follow the star’s channel and other social media platforms.
On the other hand, Facebook has the edge over YouTube when it comes to targeting. With its wealth of demographic data and personal information (such as interests), Facebook can reach exactly the audience you’d like your video to reach and that would be interested in your content. YouTube also targets, but it mainly relies on cookies, which is not as accurate as interest targeting (source). Facebook’s personal nature also makes it more likely, according to research by Socialbakers, for users to interact, share, and discuss the video with their friends. YouTube plays host mostly to crowds of strangers.
Does your video actually lead your audience to make a purchase/visit your site/follow your call to action? You can entertain your audience no matter where you place your video, but when it comes to actually converting, who wins?
Well, unfortunately, there is no single clear answer. According to a 2014 Aol Platform study, “YouTube is the clear winner in introducing new products and helping consumers make their purchasing decisions,” citing “YouTube’s own search volume and preferential positioning on Google’s result” as the reason.
Shopify’s research, however, provides a different answer, stating that Facebook is the primary social media platform for driving sales.
This is due to the fact that unlike YouTube, which relies on video content to convert, Facebook’s conversion rate includes video as well as its many other commercial features (links, suggested pages, Facebook ads).
So finally, what do you do with all of this information? Is one platform conclusively better than the other?
The answer, (get ready to roll your eyes), is: it depends. If your focus is on a global audience, chances are YouTube is the better choice for your marketing video. If targeting is essential to your process, Facebook has better options. Looking for an audience more suited to longer videos? YouTube. Are shares and comments more important to you than view count? Facebook.
Want it all? Consider posting on both!
Have you made your decision between Facebook and YouTube? What was your reason? We’d love to hear it.