If you’ve been paying attention to the marketing blogosphere (I can’t believe I just used that phrase), you’ve seen a lot about Facebook video. Facebook has been touting their exponential video growth. They’re even considered a major competitor for Google’s YouTube platform.
However, dissent has been growing around Facebook video. On Monday, this dissent exploded into full-fledged revolt among content creators.
Hank Green, brother of author John Green and the co-host of the YouTube channel VlogBrothers, wrote a scathing article on Medium. Acting as a voice for the frustrations of digital video creators, he bluntly accused the social media powerhouse of “lying, cheating, and stealing.”
We’re not going to talk about all 3 of his accusations, but you do need to know something about 2 of them: cheating and lying.
First, Green’s claim that Facebook is “cheating” refers to the astronomical views Facebook is touting for native video compared to external video (i.e. a YouTube link). Green based this argument on a study by Duke University, which you can find here.
The study found there were huge gaps in engagement between native video and YouTube links that were posted on Facebook. The study actually showed that native video engagement was astronomically higher.
Native video received higher reach, more views, and increased engagement actions.
This is also to be expected. Facebook predictably gives its own product preferential treatment, but there it may just be Facebook algorithm responding to user behavior.
We can chalk this one up to nothing.
This is a much more severe allegation. Here, Green is trying to draw attention to the admittedly low bar that qualifies as a video view on Facebook.
Facebook has defined a view as three seconds. YouTube, on the other hand, counts a view after 30 seconds. This is a considerable difference between the two. Additionally, YouTube lacks autoplay and gets most of its views from direct search or clicks – leading to more purposeful actions and engagement from viewers.
Most of Facebook’s video views come from scrolling past autoplaying, muted videos.
Here, at the very least, Green has a real point. Considering their standards, and the methods they use, it’s easy to see that Facebook’s low standard is a strategy to inflate views.
Is it worth the hype?
This may not be all that surprising for those of you who have had your ears to the ground. The dissent has been happening for a while now. The Wall Street Journal even reported last week that Facebook is now giving marketers the option of charging for video views lasting at least 10 seconds.
In the end, video is still highly engaging and Facebook has a huge audience. Even if you are getting some wasted impressions, the engagement actions are still real and happening.
Already, Facebook is working to solve their low standards problem. As people become more aware of the issue, Facebook will work furiously to fix the problem and make their audience happy. I mean, that’s the only way they’ll be able to cash in on video.
That can’t be overlooked.
For now, don’t cash out your investment in YouTube. YouTube still dominates digital video, and has many powerful advertising options thanks to Google. Even if you’re relying solely on organic YouTube video views, it has mind boggling audience engagement and web traffic.