The digital landscape is developing at an incredible pace and has been for some time. We’ve witnessed major shifts over the last two years in just about every facet of online video, but particularly in video consumption habits. With the introduction of mobile-first platforms like Vine and Snapchat, YouTube is no longer the go-to destination for online video. Similarly, the days of the lone blockbuster online video have been and gone; now, watercooler moments and massive viral spreads are becoming more and more common. Historically these hits all belonged to YouTube, but now the rapid shift to mobile video has left the Google platform a little out in the cold.
Over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and that’s from a service where video engagement is likely on the decline. In fact, according to the WSJ, YouTube isn’t making Google any money. The engagement drop is partly thanks to Facebook, who recorded some impressive video stats in 2014, including the fact that 65% of all Facebook Video views are now taking place on mobile. 2015 is set to be the year that YouTube either steps up or steps aside. The opportunities of the online video market have become so apparent recently that Twitter, already the owner of a uber-popular video service, Vine, has just launched its own native video product in an attempt to grab a slice of the lucrative video market.
Whilst the numbers associated with YouTube are still mammoth, consumers’ interaction with the service have fundamentally changed. Following in the footsteps of parent company Google, YouTube has become the search engine for video. Viewing statistics continue to soar on YouTube, but more active forms of audience engagement, the kinds that get brands excited, are on the decrease. Users are simply sharing fewer YouTube videos across their social networks.
This is where Facebook Video hits hard. The platform makes content super shareable but in an entirely new way. When a user engages with a video be it by liking, commenting or sharing within a feed, the content is shown to a selection of the engaging user’s friends, rapidly boosting the viral spread of a video. This is an area YouTube really can’t compete in. YouTube is now predominantly a search destination and there’s plenty of real life evidence of this. Here’s just one example:
The Super Bowl, advertising’s biggest annual event, has just been and gone. Here advertisers pay north of $4.5M for a single 30-second ad slot. Whilst most ad spend goes on the aired TV spot, increasingly the exciting bit of the campaign is the social buzz online. What’s made this battle so exciting – besides the ad’s availability on YouTube, is the fact that these spots are shared across the social web, in many cases before the day of the Super Bowl. Nearly all advertisers this year decided that the aired TV spot would NOT act as the ad unveiling.
The days of water-cooler chats on Monday morning after game day are not over, but they’ve changed. Conversation sets alight as soon as the ad drops online. Links to the most popular videos pepper Twitter, Facebook and social feeds – everyone having their say on brand’s controversial, emotional and sometimes even hilarious ads. However, the rise of Facebook Video ads another layer. No longer do videos have to make their way to Facebook, after first being discovered on YouTube. They are now born on Facebook.
Takes this year’s big spot, Budweiser’s #BestBuds ad, launched on YouTube and for the first time on Facebook Video. Though it was the bookies’ early favourite to ‘win’ the ad battle, the numbers that follow may still surprise you.
Just 48 hours after launch, the YouTube instance of the spot had amassed 234,000 shares. That’s impressive by any video standards. However, the Facebook’s video player had attracted an astounding 899,000 shares over the same time period. That’s a difference of a hefty 285%.
This is what I alluded to before – YouTube has now become a video search engine while Facebook is the social hub for 1.3 Billion active users. With the sheer scale of YouTube videos now being uploaded per minute, it’s not hard to see why discovering good content organically by simply visiting YouTube.com has become such a challenge. You heavily rely on word of mouth, a link on an alternative social media platform or a reference to a YouTube video online. In other words, the very factors that Facebook thrives on.
But why are they sharing at such an astronomical rate? Surely it doesn’t matter where the video originates from. Simply, Facebook makes it easy to share a video in its native format. Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm develops rapidly and currently weights video engagement very highly. Any engagement you make with a video, whether it’s a ‘like’, comment or share counts as a positive interaction for Facebook and a good indicator that you and your friends want to see more videos like this.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of YouTube as a video service. I spend hours on there every week, it’s part of my job. Before I get too carried away and put YouTube, a platform with over 1 billion users on the digital shelf, let’s look at other reasons things might not be looking so peachy for the video platform.
There are real overheads to successful YouTube hits. And when I say hits, I mean ‘HITS’ or many millions, not videos that get reported in the news with a few hundred thousand views. Brands looking for cut-through have to spend big to stand a chance. While it’s an awesome place to build a brand, it’s also a horrible place to build a business. If you’re a successful content creator on YouTube, they take a whopping cut of your success. On the other side, if you’re an advertiser it can be very expensive to reach a large, relevant audience. Whilst the likes of Old Spice Man, Poo-Pourri and Dollar Shave Club have had huge brand awareness success using the service, global brands have spent spectacular sums to try and replicate these fortunate brands. Times have changed. To capture attention in this rapidly developing market, video advertising requires a new approach. Now more than ever.
Rather than honing in on YouTube, your effort and attention is much better spent diversified across Facebook Video, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat and the Open Web, in general. After all, YouTube only equates to roughly 25% of video views online, leaving 75% up for grabs on the Open Web.
Furthermore, brands should consider shifting to metrics like ‘minutes watched’ or ‘shares’ as superior measures of branded video success. Many large publishers are already analysing these sorts of metrics as part of their own content development.
YouTube is a platform that lives and dies on one key metric, views. Whilst this has sufficed over the last decade, questions now have to be asked, especially when you can buy views online as easily as buying a new book from Amazon. As a result, both advertisers and viewers have become disillusioned with the efficacy of this metric as a total measure of success. Without accurate figures on broader engagement, a platform begins to stagnate. All that awaits in this current scenario is a whole load of lacklustre content, being promoted desperately by brands looking for attention – and that’s bad news for everyone.