Engagement: Video on Facebook vs Youtube

Today as I recharge batteries and pack the pelican case for a night shoot I decided I’d take some time to share a post on video playback platforms and social media analytics.

I don’t know about you, but every time I open Facebook at least a dozen videos start to play as I scroll past looking for something to read. The immense amount of video that is natively embedded on Facebook now is mind blowing. In the past, the ability to play a Youtube video directly in your Facebook feed seemed like a feet of technology, now we can almost skip Youtube altogether and publish straight to Facebook. My question here is: should we?

With some of our clients we have seen some pretty impressive engagement numbers coming out of video natively uploaded to Facebook. It seems, like directly uploading photos, that uploading video directly to Facebook gives any post a stronger push than sharing a Youtube video or a link to a third party site hosting the video. I would argue that Facebook does a nice job of masking the actual amount of engagement that you get out of videos uploaded directly. As an example I want to look at two videos that went moderately viral for one client. First is a video that was uploaded to Youtube in 2014, the second is a video uploaded to Facebook directly in early 2015. Both have aggregate views of ~65k. A big enough viewership to provide some interesting numbers, but not huge.

First we want to look at total views this is the most obvious way to look at the numbers. Both videos have around 65k views, the Youtube video accrued its total views over the period of one year, with a strong showing out of the gate when it was uploaded (February 2014) and then a spike when it was picked up by a blog later in the year.

Video 1 - Youtube Views

The second video, the one uploaded directly to Facebook, has only been live for about a week and according to Facebook it has had a total of 69K views and change in total. However, the trick with Facebook is that it autoplays as a visitor scrolls through their timeline, that means you receive a data point for every time it autoplays, even if the user scrolls right past it. So, if we want to compare apples to apples we should probably look at the number of ‘Click to Play’ data points rather than the autoplay. Here we see that we have actually only had a little less than 7k plays from ‘Click to Play’.

Video 2 - Facebook Uploaded Video Viewer numbers

Video 2 – Facebook Uploaded Video Viewer numbers


The next thing we should look at is audience retention: if you are a marketer, or a brand trying to get your message out you want people to watch through the whole video to get the entire message. If the user drops off after fifteen seconds and misses the denouement of the story you might as well count that viewer as a loss. On the Youtube uploaded video we are already guaranteed that the user will be more engaged as they have taken the agency to click on the video to play it back, whereas the Facebook uploaded video will autoplay. For comparison lets look at the audience retention rate for the Youtube video:
Video 1 audience retention

This is pretty good, we have a video lasting 2:25 with an overall average retention at 2:02 minutes, even at the very end of the video we have 67% of the viewers still watching. That means we could safely place a messaging point somewhere in the first 45 seconds and be assured that at least 88% of the viewers will take it in. If we compare this with the Facebook uploaded video we have two separate viewer retention rates to look at, auto-play and click-to-play rates.

Video 2 audience retention

Not surprisingly we see that the auto-play retention rate plummets within the first few seconds. Exactly as what was noted above, these are the people who see the video auto-play and scroll right past it. In spite of that these numbers are counted in the overall views posted to the Facebook analytics. Now have a look at the click-to-play retention rate, it bears a much closer resemblance to the Youtube video. A nice slow decrease and even a similar retention rate the end, ~63%. However, if we look at the 30-45 second retention rate we are down 10-20 points behind Youtube ranging from 77%-68% retained between the 30-45 second time period. That means we would have needed to set up our message, and get it across in less than 20 seconds if we want to get the most out of the Facebook video. Remember too, that estimation is for the click-to-play audience only – the auto-play audience is almost a lost cause in terms of planning messaging points because they drop off at such an extreme rate. The auto-play audience is down to nearly 50% retention at only the 5-second mark – now you know why all the BuzzFeed videos on Facebook have their title and hook within the first 5-seconds of playback.

So what is the take home message? In our small analysis it appears Youtube still seems to be better at retaining consumers – and more importantly it appears to do a better job of hitting a core audience, especially if the content is marketed toward a niche demographic.

To be clear, we use a number of various video playback platforms for different clients. Everything from custom HTML5 players with video hosted on Amazon S3 to Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, Instagram etc. This article is intended to just brush the surface of some of the quirks of the Facebook video metrics, and how taking a deeper look might not be a bad idea before making your quarterly reports.

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