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Video Showdown: Facebook vs. YouTube

Taking a closer look at the rise of Facebook’s native video player and how it challenges YouTube.

There was a time when it was hard to imagine anyone unseating YouTube as the king of online video. While it’s not quite time to declare a new champion, it’s no longer unfathomable that someone will be up to the challenge, and it’s looking like that “someone” will be Facebook.

In 2014 we have seen a significant change on how users chose to both view and post videos. Here is a quick snapshot of change in worldwide Unique Desktop Video Viewers and what service they use to view it:


Companies like Buzzfeed and WestJet have been weaning off posting their videos to Facebook via YouTube and opting to use the platforms built in software instead. Facebook video is optimized for the platform, with features like autoplay, making it easier for users to view the content and for publishers to get it to play on screen. The process of sharing and distributing content is also more intuitive on the native platform. 


As you can see, at least on Facebook, the native player is already gaining the edge over YouTube because of its built in capabilities. It makes sense from a metrics perspective too, allowing you to gather all of the information in one place (not go to views to YouTube and engagement to Facebook and YouTube). Facebook is making it easier to track analytics on your video.

However, this is also where the differences come in. YouTube only registers a “unique view” when a user actively clicks “play” and only registers one view per unique connection. Facebook on the other hand counts any video that played for 3 seconds as a view and duplicates the count if a user later returns to view the content again. The stat can be deceiving since users pause while scrolling through their feed, allowing for the video to play.

What does this mean for my brand? As always all of these stats are pointless unless we can apply them to your brand and make them work for you.

What this is means is that YouTube is still more valuable to your brand overall. It keeps better metrics about user engagement and actively pushes content. Customers viewing your content on YouTube are more valuable because they are engaged and present; they are interested in the content (at least initially).

YouTube also stretches the shelf-life of your content. If you miss a video in your Facebook feed, odds are you are not going to come back to it. YouTube on the other hand maintains a library, allowing users to return to content.

However, if you post primarily to Facebook, you should start using the built-in media player on the platform. An array of handy features like autoplay helps you get your content in front of more eyeballs reduces the number of interactions required to view the video, especially on mobile.

As Facebook finds itself at the intersection of social media and mobile, they are quick to introduce features that make mobile experience more convenient and streamlined for both users and advertisers. The analytics and statistics in Facebook video views increase makes it a no-brainer for brands to start posting their content to the platform using the built-in player.