A Video Creator’s Guide to Facebook vs. YouTube
I originally wrote this article for Canada Media Fund’s Trends blog. The original post is found here
Facebook now boasts more video views per month than YouTube, but is it the best way for creators to get their content noticed? Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons of posting videos on either platform.
If you’re a regular Facebook user, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of native videos posted on your newsfeed. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and founder, said that video is actually a big priority for Facebook in 2015.
Experts believe Facebook is starting to really compete against YouTube. Data from comScore (see below) indicates that Facebook is surpassing YouTube in terms of desktop video views per month. With Facebook providing a default video autoplay function, it’s not surprising that the number of views has exploded.
Both services conjure up lots of debate, but there are important differences that creators should look out for when using each platform. Here’s a quick look at them.
Storytelling vs. marketing
Let’s face it, both platforms are marketing vehicles at their core. From the content to the ads that you see before, during and after videos, it’s all about building awareness of your brand, web series or personal profile.
From a pure storytelling standpoint, YouTube allows creators to build a narrative; if done well, it can help the channel and its views grow organically. Its subscribe feature also provides strong customer contact that makes fans feel like they can follow a creator’s story.
By following the tips and strategies offered on YouTube’s Playbook, creators can build up engaged audiences that come back for more.
Storytelling can be harder to create on Facebook. The social platform currently delivers videos in our feed through its sharing algorithm, enabling a higher reach for video content than images or text updates. This means self-contained pieces of content—such as Buzzfeed sketches—get lots of attention.
Facebook’s newsfeed does a good job at amplifying specific videos, but it doesn’t do so well in terms of building sustained audiences. A hit video doesn’t necessarily garner page likes or repeated viewings on a follow-up upload.
The social network has the edge over YouTube in terms of views for now, but as history teaches us, Facebook is notorious for changing the algorithm that dictates who sees the content you post. This means the current boom in the number of views could translate into diminishing returns as time goes.
Not only is YouTube the second-largest search engine, it is also owned by Google. This means you can easily find YouTube content on both YouTube and Google. In the long run, the ability to search for older content becomes extremely powerful.
With this in mind, it’s in the interest of creators to make content that is sharable and easy to find, but also that can also bubble up on future search trends.
As for Facebook, its limitations are obvious. You only see videos that appear at the top of your newsfeed. Once the hype dies down, they are lost in Facebook’s black hole of content. It’s very difficult to search and find videos posted in the past.
Compelling viewers to watch content
On YouTube, the key to making people watch is to include a thumbnail and title that grab the viewer’s attention.
On Facebook, creators have to focus on the first three seconds of content. This is due to Facebook’s default setting: native video autoplay muted content. This obviously skews the views, but it’s also something creators need to be aware of. The first seconds of muted content are what make the viewer stop, watch and share.
Creators and monetization
For the past few years YouTube has done an admiral job of encouraging creators on its platform. The revenue generated by the partner program, their studios and creator training have made huge strides to improve the platform’s content. Despite this, it’s clear that it takes years of dedication and a very lean machine to make any real money with YouTube’s partner program.
Most creators resort to asking for help from their fans directly through Kickstarter or Patreon crowdfunding drives. They also use their online clout to launch money-making apps as well as to market books.
As for Facebook, it currently offers no partner program for creators. Consequently, all revenue generated by ads during or next to video content goes to Facebook.
Facebook is currently a hotbed of video piracy more commonly known as Facebook Freebooting. It’s the practice of taking a piece of content from another platform (in this case YouTube) and uploading it to Facebook without any attribution to the creator in the hopes of getting the views—despite the fact that it doesn’t generate any revenue. It accounts for a large number of the views Facebook is boasting and it’s a major issue for content creators and owners alike.
Unlike YouTube, Facebook currently has no content ID system, which makes it extremely easy to upload pirated content. It’s important that creators be aware of this so they can be on the lookout for freebooted content and report it.
The race to the top
Statistics don’t lie. Facebook is currently winning the online video race. It’s not hard to see why with its 1.3 billion users, its very powerful social algorithm and its autoplay feature.
Despite Facebook’s growing popularity, it has many weaknesses. While it’s currently an ideal platform to post bite-sized content that relies solely on social lift, such as BuzzFeed videos, it’s also a hotbed for piracy and a poor search engine.
For now, YouTube remains the ideal platform for uploading evergreen content and growing your brand’s following and awareness, despite the fact that it’s a very crowded platform, with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, and that it is based on an inefficient social algorithm.