Clash of the Titans: The fight for online video is on!

Youtube has long been the king of video marketing but Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms are starting to eye up that slice of the pie. Last year Facebook made video more prominent by making videos auto-play in users News Feeds and this spring Twitter has launched the app Periscope which allows users to broadcast live video to their followers from anywhere in the world.

Marketers’ are starting to take note - people are now watching videos uploaded directly to Facebook one billion times per day. Some people think that as Facebook ramps up its plan to lure brands to place video ads onto it’s site, that it could even start to threaten YouTube, which has been the dominant online video space for almost a decade.

Facebook vs. Youtube

Currently Youtube users often promote their programming via Facebook and Twitter but prefer people to watch the videos on YouTube and other platforms where they can make money through ad sales more easily. Facebook is now hoping to encourage users to upload videos directly to their site rather than through a third-party link.  

What is Facebook video offering that Youtube isn't?

First of all the auto-play feature means that Facebook’s view metrics automatically lean in the social network’s favor. With auto-play the video only has to be seen for three seconds to count as a ‘view’ compared to Youtube where a video must be watched “many times longer” to count as a view (according to a Google Spokesperson). Facebook can also capitalise on the massive collection of user data, which can allow marketers to target the people that will be most receptive to them. Facebook’s pitch to marketers is that this allows them to deliver personalised messages using the power of video. Further more users have noticed that Facebook is now giving preference to it’s own videos over Youtube ones (i.e Facebook videos are the only ones that autoplay, and appear as larger posts in the News Feed.)

So is it delivering results?

Over this last Christmas season Facebook partnered with fashion design brands such as Kate Spade and retailer Gap to develop targeted video ads that played automatically in users’ feeds. The Kate Spade spot, a two-and-half minute short starring Anna Kendrick, gained 1.8 million views and 49,000 likes, comments and shares since launching in November. A YouTube version of the commercial released the same day had about 150,000 views.

And, videos also give Facebook another key data point it can use to try to capture its users’ intent. Kate Spade was able to serve ads for certain products featured in the Anna Kendrick commercial specifically to users who saw the video. This targeted approach must be very appealing to certain marketers and businesses. And it’s not just targeted marketing but also the engagement Facebook offers which appeals to marketers as well. And according to Mixpo it looks like marketers are taking video promotion seriously with many marketers planning to incorporate video advertising on Facebook AND Youtube this year.

Facebook overtaking Google

It's only the first round...

While Facebook is making in-roads to the video market, it seems it’s got a long way to go until it really steps on YouTubes toes. According to Unruly an analysis of 10 Christmas ad campaigns found that the commercials earned 13 million views on Facebook, but about 32 million on YouTube. The YouTube versions of the videos were also shared more, gaining 630,000 shares compared to 530,000 shares for the Facebook versions. And in terms of actual use, YouTube is still top-dog —the video site had 4 billion views per day back in 2012, compared to Facebook’s current 1 billion (YouTube no longer regularly disclose overall view counts, but says that the number of hours watched by people is up 50% year by year). In addition, compared to Facebook’s videos, YouTube videos are easier to find weeks or months after they’ve been posted, and they’re also easier to embed on websites or other social networks. Most importantly, YouTube is still the world’s second largest search engine behind Google.

But it looks like Facebook’s ambitions are still in the early stages.  It appears Facebook and other web video contenders like Vessel and Yahoo are also exploring the idea of poaching Youtube stars to get them to make Facebook exclusive content. Although according to many Youtubers, they aren’t tempted to make the leap just yet!

What's next?

In all probability brands and video aficionados will continue to experiment on both sites, as each offers a different viewing experience. But with choice for video promotion expanding across the social networks, it’s now more important than ever for organisations to be thinking about using video in their marketing and communications strategy to capitalise on the growing online video trend.

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