Facebook Video v YouTube video – one of these is not like the other one

  • Date 25th August 2015
Facebook Video v YouTube video – one of these is not like the other one


Tech and Finance titles have been breathlessly trumpeting the rise of video on Facebook, with a David versus Goliath narrative pitting Facebook as a social disrupter versus the incumbent YouTube.

With native video views, which is to say videos loaded directly to Facebook, growing to 3 billion a day in the last quarter, from 1 billion last year, Facebook has been hard at work rolling out new advertising formats to capitalise on video content.

On the face of things, Facebook is giving YouTube stiff competition, with 3 billions daily views versus Youtube’s 8 billion. Market analysts are now predicting when, not if, Facebook will exceed Youtube as the hub of video online.

A large part of this growth has been driven by changes to the Facebook newsfeed algorithm. Users & brands who load video natively, rather than linking to an external site, are rewarded with better post reach.

This change that has largely been accepted by brands and agencies. For independent content creators however this change has been highly controversial as it has seen them lose both traffic and revenue thanks to the lack of being able to either to monetise their content on Facebook or direct to other content. But the bigger elephant in the room, at least as far as the meteoric rise of Facebook views goes, is the age-old problem of apples and oranges.

Apples & Oranges - Metric Definitions

What we have here is a failure to communicate. A Facebook view is not the same as a YouTube view and few have called it out.

Youtube classifies a view as 12 seconds or longer for organic content and 30 seconds for advertising.

 Facebook classifies a view as a video playing without any kind of user initiation*, for three seconds or longer.

Given Youtube is the incumbent, you’d expect that Facebook would follow the same metric but, for whatever reason, they don’t.


Online video holds massive promise for brands, but video used for either content marketing or straight advertising, needs to measurably add value to the bottom line of your business.

If seeding content to spread organically is your focus, keep the different metric definitions in mind. Just because one platform has more ‘views’ doesn’t mean people have been exposed to your content or engaged with it in a meaningful way.

If online video is an advertising channel or if you pay to expand the reach of content across both Facebook and Youtube, don’t forget that you probably aren’t getting apples for apples.

*This in itself has become a huge topic of debate in the wake of the tragedy of the Virginia reporters shot dead live on film and viewed unwittingly by thousands via Facebook Autoplay

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