Before you start uploading your videos, you need to consider which platform - or platforms - will help you achieve your goals. In order to do that, let’s examine why.
A 2015 study by [email protected] and Tubular Labs looked into the differences between the major video platforms. Here’s what they found.
The study also looked at Instagram and Vine, but for this post, we’ll focus on YouTube and Facebook. The study doesn’t include Vimeo, but I suspect that’s because it’s a platform that differentiates itself by not having adverts, which doesn’t always make it attractive for brands. As this is an Ogilvy report, the focus is on consumers and marketing. That said, Vimeo shouldn’t be cast aside but we’ll come back to that later.
Despite these caveats, the report is helpful in understanding why and how each platform is different. Here are the headlines:
As the table shows, Facebook has more views per video, higher engagement rates, and more videos hitting the 1 million view mark than YouTube. The videos are shorter but they get more responses and the audiences are bigger.
In February 2016, Buzzfeed’s food brand Tasty racked up an astonishing 1.8 billion Facebook video views altogether, with an engagement rate of 2.7%. The publisher shows quick and easy recipes, lasting around a minute each, with no commentary or chef in sight. Out of the top 10 Facebook video publishers with the highest engagement rates, five are based on food. The remainder is split between entertainment, style and beauty, sports and news.
So if the stats for Facebook are so strong, why bother with other platforms? Well, this data only tells half a story.
Facebook counts a view after three seconds and videos play automatically in user feeds unless they’ve switched it off in the settings. They play with no sound, so an engagement is a user clicking on the video to hear the audio. It’s easier to engage and share Facebook videos, but it’s hard to measure how meaningful these interactions are.
The study also found that Facebook videos tend to have a surge in views and engagement, and then trail off quickly. In this sense, Facebook videos are ephemeral. They don’t hang around long after they’ve been initially posted, giving their videos a shorter lifespan compared to other platforms.
The key takeaway for marketers who create thought leadership content is that Facebook videos tend to be short, punchy and colourful, with snappy editing driven by titles and captions. That’s ideal for newsjacking, kick-starting a campaign, driving traffic to other longer-form content and brief video updates. But if you’re creating educational content that you want your audience to return to over a long period of time, it’s less effective.
Despite the meteoric rise of Facebook video, YouTube is still the top place to find videos. It’s a search engine rather than a news feed, which lends itself to niche communities and longer, TV-quality video content.
In contrast to Facebook and Twitter, where users are more likely to “bump into” video content on their feed, audiences go to YouTube looking for answers, specific types of content or engaging with like-minded people (or the opposite, if you’re a troll).
The implication for marketers is that videos can be longer. The YouTube channel layout means that it’s easier to organise video content by topic or interests, which allows viewers to browse content years after videos have been uploaded. There are still video trends like those found on Facebook, but it also means that factual and educational content stays around much longer than on other platforms. In digital marketing terms, this is known as “long tail” content.
To illustrate this effect, here is the analytics for the YouTube channel of one of our clients:
The videos were published in 2012, but to keep it simple I’ve taken a two year period from Q1 2014 to Q1 2016. As you can see, there is a steady rise in views across 2014, peaking at 94,000 views and exceeding 1 million minutes watched in the first quarter of 2015. The project also stopped at this time, hence the decline, but views were still being recorded despite no promotional activity.
One reason for this rolling stone effect is because YouTube is still recommending the videos to audiences with similar interests. To some extent, YouTube video content looks after itself once you have an established channel with an interested audience.
To summarise, the [email protected]/Tubular Labs study showed that while Facebook videos tend to have an early spike in views and engagement, YouTube videos have a long tail that leads to more views and engagement over a longer period of time. This will have an impact on the style and type of video that you produce, which means that you have to plan which platform is most suitable for your video at the beginning of each project.
Of course, YouTube and Facebook are not the only video players on the market. Twitter added the video autoplay feature in June 2015, making it similar to Facebook in that videos automatically start playing in user’s news feeds. It’s also dominated by mobile: 90% of Twitter video views are on phones and tablets. Twitter shares the transient nature of short video content so it suits live updates and bite-size clips.
The difference is that Twitter has a smaller reach and it has different uses. Research into social media users in the US showed that 59% used Twitter to follow breaking news compared to 31% on Facebook. That includes politics, sports, and clips from TV shows. This finding led one commentator to conclude that Twitter should “Focus on live events. People never tire of gabbing about what’s going on right now. Twitter could be the best place for that. Do it fast.”
Vimeo is another smart video platform that has no adverts and is favoured by professional filmmakers as a place to showcase their work. It has a strong user community and the films tend to be glossy, slick and higher brow than the pranks and stunts you see on YouTube and Facebook.
That’s not to say that there aren’t these types of video on Vimeo. However, from looking at the popular Staff Picks section of the site and the Vimeo on Demand service (think of it as Netflix for independent filmmakers), it’s clear who this platform is targeted at. There’s very little data available about top performing videos on Vimeo, and any best of lists are curated by their staff. Beautiful and worth watching, but no brands or marketing content are on the list.
What we do know is that it has 170 million viewers worldwide with 80% year over year global growth, so it’s a serious platform to consider. It benefits from not having adverts, but you will have to pay a small fee to embed your videos onto your website. It doesn’t have the SEO benefits of YouTube either as Google doesn’t prioritise it in results. It’s a smart choice if you plan to embed video onto your website and don’t want to lose traffic. The on-site search function is weak, though, which doesn’t help if you’re looking for maximum visibility.
All these observations point to the need to understand:
1) Which video platforms are most appropriate for your video content in terms of tone and style, and
2) Produce video content that suits how people use that platform.
It also shows that you shouldn’t always restrict your content to one platform. Sometimes a combination of video platforms is the answer, taking into account the nature of video content on each platform and how users interact with it.
To find out more about alternatives to YouTube and Facebook, read these posts: