Facebook vs YouTube: The Great Video Question

Image from http://uk.businessinsider.com/facebook-video-v-youtube-market-share-data-2014-12

I’ve been very interested to see some of the reports on Facebook video recently – including this one in Time. Most of them seem to be based on Social Bakers’ October research that shows a 50% increase in brands sharing videos on Facebook between May and July 2014. The survey also stated that Facebook is trending to surpass YouTube by the end of the year, which according to Social Bakers and Business Insider, it now has.

I’m interested because this directly relates to the pages I manage.

Facebook is far and away the most relevant of our social platforms. Partly that’s because it’s longer established than any of the others, but essentially, it’s just where our core audience is. So photos, links, text posts – they all get great engagement.

I’ve never really viewed Facebook as a place for video, though. Or at least not till recently. YouTube is the place for video, I thought – that’s where people go to watch it, after all. And if we’re bothering to create video for YouTube, and curate that channel, why would we put it on Facebook directly when we engage that Facebook audience by linking out to YouTube? Doesn’t that just mean you’re splitting your audience? Creating content that competes?

On some level I still think these things, but I’ve been testing – and, well…

A few months ago, when Facebook brought out the auto-play element that I find so irritating (and has been blamed for sky high phone bills) I thought – well, this is good for pages. Auto play is universally annoying, but it does help view counts. With Facebook you’re also putting that auto-playing video directly into a person’s News Feed. With your YouTube subscribers on the other hand, you’re relying on them having signed-up to see your video alerts. In other words, Facebook gives you a captive audience. With YouTube, your viewers need to do the work. And that’s probably fine if you have a big YouTube presence, but it doesn’t help if you’re trying to grow your channel.

So, auto-play is irritating for people but valuable for pages. Plus, our Facebook audience is larger and more engaged than on any other channel. It seems a no-brainer: to get our videos seen we should be adding them to Facebook.

It took me a while to make the switch, though. I really wanted to convert that engaged Facebook audience to help build our YouTube channel. I still do. But it’s apparent that converting one to the other is not easy. And why should it be? If your audience is in one place, deliver the content to them in that one place. It makes sense.

And yet it was only when I noticed Facebook had made videos more prominent on my page that I started to realise I was missing a trick. We had video content languishing on YouTube with a few thousand views after several months. It wasn’t  getting seen, and Facebook was not helping us grow those view counts (it doesn’t help that YouTube’s view counts can seem to take ages to catch up with themselves, either.)

So after a few weeks, I started adding videos to our pages as well as YouTube. The results were amazing. One video that had had only 5,000+ views in 8 months on YouTube gained half as many again – 2,500+ – inside three hours on Facebook. Every single video I have added in the past few months has outperformed its YouTube counterpart within a matter of days.

So on one hand I’m wondering why I didn’t do it sooner. But the flip side is that it’s hard to know how valuable those views are. The insights YouTube provides on specific videos is clearly far superior, but given Facebook is apparently out to steal YouTube’s video creator crown, how long can it be till that changes?

Plus, just as I started adding videos, good old Facebook made another change – adding call-to-action buttons direct to organic videos. That means I can direct people straight off to other owned channels, even if I’m not paying to advertise the post. And with Facebook announcing more call-to-action buttons for pages today, it’s certainly looking like they’re doing more to help digital marketers and smaller brands than previously.

Of course YouTube is still important – and the key thing missing from all this is that YouTube makes money on its videos via advertising, and you can bet that Facebook will want to do the same soon. But the past few months of experimentation have been very worth it for me. Splitting our audience? Seems like most of them are on Facebook, anyway…

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