Over the last two years, Facebook has made huge strides forward with its video services, leading many people to question whether it’s becoming a strong competitor against the reigning video champion, YouTube. With over 1.6 billion active Facebook users worldwide, and a reported 8 billion video views a day, how could they not wonder? TenEighty chats with Jazza John, Myles Dyer, Hayden Hillier-Smith, and Ben Phillips about the benefits and disadvantages of the two platforms, and the differences between them.
At their cores, there are many similarities between YouTube and Facebook Video. Both are video platforms that make sharing and interacting with other fans and the creators themselves possible. As of last year, a user has the ability to embed a video from both platforms on a third-party site as a part of an article or blog post. And, on both YouTube and Facebook, creators receive 55% of the revenue acquired from advertisements (although the types of ads do differ, as Fortune explains).
But there are also obvious disparities between the two platforms. For example, MarketingLand highlights the difference between “intent” and “discovery”. On YouTube, users search for things they’re interested in, which creates “their own personalised viewing experience”, enhanced by the user building their own subscription boxes in which they curate the type of content they want to keep up to date with. In contrast, Facebook “curates videos for its users” based on the site’s algorithms, cookies, and what friends are sharing into the user’s feed. While they can search out videos from specific creators, the majority of Facebook users’ experiences come through friends sharing videos alongside statuses and photos.
Jazza John, who uploads videos to YouTube and Facebook, disagrees with that assessment. “My news feed is mainly populated by posts from pages that I’ve liked, which is similar to the sub box on YouTube and the posts that my friends are engaging with,” he says. “Though we will always have comments on YouTube, Facebook is a lot more social. The only time I’m ever aware of my cookies being used is when I’m fed an advert or a boosted post.”
Facebook’s “autoplay” feature is another huge difference between the two video platforms. On YouTube, the user must click on a video and stay on it for 30 seconds for it to count as a view. On Facebook, however, autoplay starts the videos automatically as users scroll past them, and a view is counted after three seconds. How does this affect the creator?
“Due to Facebook’s autoplay functionality, you need to make those first three seconds especially count, with strong visuals and text for grabbing audio-free viewers who may be scrolling down a timeline past your video,” says Myles Dyer, who is known as part of the first generation of YouTubers. Myles began experimenting with Facebook Video in 2014 after he realised the incredible reach the platform could have. “Whereas for YouTube,” he continues, “you may put a lot more thought into the onward journey.”
“Viewers go to YouTube with the sole intention of watching video, whereas video is only part of the Facebook experience…”
Jazza mirrors these thoughts, comparing a marketing tactic between the two. “For YouTube, the first thing that makes you click on a video and watch it is the thumbnail and the title,” he says. “Titles and thumbnails are important [on Facebook], but I don’t think they are nearly as pivotal to a video’s success as they are on YouTube.”
“Viewers go to YouTube with the sole intention of watching video, whereas on Facebook, video is only part of their user experience,” explains Myles. “The way I’ve always explained the difference between the two platforms in terms of viewership is that YouTube is one for building a core audience, whereas Facebook is one for obtaining reach. I wouldn’t say this has impacted the type of content I have made overall, but it definitely means one version for each platform.”
Hayden Hillier-Smith previously worked as a senior editor at Jungle Creations, where he helped the brand network accumulate over 100 million views on Facebook in six months across 20 original accounts. He believes the key benefit of YouTube is engagement, but it doesn’t come easily. “YouTube has recently built itself as a website where you would need to commit significant time,” says Hayden. “Many audiences now treat the website as they would Netflix; they have actively decided to go onto the website and find specific content, most likely from subscriptions, to keep them entertained. They have committed to ‘shows’ that they enjoy.
“Content should be made for all video platforms, and the presentation of that content will be entirely different depending on where it is hosted…”
“However, this does also have another side,” he continues. “Less individual content is being consumed because commitments to specific creators are more valuable for both the audience and Google. To begin your web content career on YouTube is a very demanding task, and new developing video-hosting websites may give you a better advantage.”
Case in point: Ben Phillips. Ben is a 22-year-old from Cardiff who initially rose to fame through his popular Vines in 2014. After gaining a substantial following, Ben decided to try his hand at longer-form content, and took the unconventional route by bringing his audience to Facebook instead of YouTube. “When I did that, a lot of people said to me, ‘Ben, why are doing that? Facebook is so out!’” he recalls. “And I said, ‘No, it’s not out. It’s just that no-one is really paying attention to it.”
Fast-forward two years, and Ben now boasts an impressive 8.2 million followers on his Facebook page. So, what’s the key to his success? “Don’t stop posting, is the key – a minimum of three to four times a week,” he says. “Sometimes you’ve got to feed the beast and jump on a hashtag, other times you’ve got to ignore it and keep going with your own content so people are like, ‘This is refreshing because everyone’s talking about this [other] subject right now’.”
“On Facebook Video, we’re helping each other and holding hands throughout this journey…”
With more and more people building their brands on Facebook, a community is starting to emerge that seems to mirror that of YouTube’s years ago. Although big business and heavy-duty advertisers are seeking out Facebook creators, the competition now infamous on YouTube is yet to reach its peak on Facebook. “Everyone is so supportive,” explains Ben, “so when a page hits one million, we’re all like, ‘Oh my gosh, you did it!’ Actually, even the first 100,000, people are congratulating you. On YouTube, there is a lot of competition and groups, [whereas] Facebook is one big family at the moment and it’s something we’ve been nurturing for a while.”
One example of that supportive environment within the community of Facebook creators is the “share circle”, which is used to promote smaller and newer pages. “It’s very active and all about getting influencers with two followers and turning that into 2 million,” says Ben, “or taking the 2 million and turning it into 20 million. We’re helping each other and holding hands throughout this journey.”
But Ben’s content isn’t limited to just Vine and Facebook. After building his brand, he has begun to upload to content to YouTube as well – and more and more creators are beginning to follow suit. He explains that the decision was really a no-brainer, in that he wants to capture as many demographics as he possibly can. “Why are TV and radio still going? Obviously because someone is paying attention to it. You don’t put your eggs in one basket.”
“YouTube is the platform for building a core audience, whereas Facebook is one for obtaining reach…”
With videos playing automatically instead of by choice, one might assume that audience retention rate is better on Facebook because its videos will grab your attention. And, by extension, more retention means more interaction, right? Yes and no.
Jazza, who has built his core audience on YouTube, admits that there are some disadvantages to YouTube that Facebook has improved upon. For one, if a user wants to share a video from YouTube, they have to do it on another social media site by linking to or embedding the video; you can’t share YouTube videos on YouTube. Facebook, on the other hand, has the option to share to your personal page right under the video itself, which in turn exposes the video to all of your Facebook friends who may not have known of that creator previously. So what does that mean for viewership?
“I have nearly 20,000 subscribers on YouTube, and an average video will get seen by between 5% and 15% of that audience,” explains Jazza. “With Facebook, I have just over 700 likes, but posts will rarely reach fewer than 50% of that audiences, and because Facebook favours video, I get many times more reach than my relatively small audience. On Facebook I also seem to be reaching an audience that isn’t trawling through their YouTube sub box at the end of the day to get caught up, and that has certainly diversified my audience there.”
With more reach on Facebook video than YouTube, it’s no wonder that businesses are becoming more interested in taking advantage of this platform. “Facebook Video as a new advertising platform for brands – that sounds very tasty, and everyone and their mums want to get a piece of that pie,” explains Hayden. “My experience in both markets tells me this will not be permanent, because clients currently think that eyeballs have more value than engagement. Clients need to understand the value of convergence. Content should be made for all video platforms, and the presentation of that content will be entirely different depending on where it is hosted. That then will be a very powerful campaign.”
“YouTube is not doomed, but it does have to accept that it’s no longer alone…”
One of the biggest issues on YouTube is the etiquette in the comment section. The way accounts are set up allows users a certain amount of anonymity if they’re not uploading videos. This isn’t as much of a problem on Facebook, which is built first and foremost around real identities.
“I’ve found people less likely to leave abusive comments, because their comment is linked to their real-life Facebook profile,” says Jazza. “And when I do get abusive comments, I simply go to their profile, take a screenshot, and then reply to them, giving them a chance to retract their threat or abuse before I report them. This works a lot better for me than simply blocking users, and it means I can cultivate a much more respectful comments section than on YouTube.”
So, with pros and cons to both sites, is one platform clearly superior to the other? Hayden suggests that we don’t have to view it in that way. “It’s a common misconception to think that the internet can only have one major video platform. Yes, Facebook has certainly made its place in the web video market, but the direction and attitude of consumption means it is not a replacement for YouTube. Overall, YouTube is not doomed, not at all. But it does have to accept they are no longer alone.
“I used to identify as a YouTube creator, but as the industry developed it was wise to say I’m a web content creator. To maintain maximum reach, content that you create should now be hosted everywhere!”
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