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YouTube Versus Facebook: Understanding Different Video Distribution Strategies

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While it may not need the backdrop of a full Hollywood film studio, branded video content is still a major investment. They’re time-consuming and require a higher caliber of production resources along with involvement from producers, directors, and editors. Whereas a blog post may have a budget of a couple hundred dollars, the average cost of a video that’s only a few minutes long can vary anywhere from $1,000 to half a million and upwards, depending on budget, campaign, and scope.

With this much budget on the line, every content marketer knows how important it is to measure the results of their efforts, but knowing exactly which metrics to focus on can be perplexing. Video strategy is not merely a matter of volume or view count.

I sat down with Ryan Mei, an insights manager who formerly worked on the video growth analytics team at BuzzFeed and the analytics and insights team at Red Bull Media House, to better understand which social media metrics are key when creating video for distributed platforms, particularly YouTube and Facebook. We examined the best techniques for marketers interested in distributing video on these two powerful platforms and discussed ways to analyze video content for success in each space.

Metrics for YouTube Videos

Getting results on YouTube comes down to growing a healthy and robust content hub where each video contributes to your brand’s overall user experience. Despite its original reputation for “viral,” one-off video sensations, success within the current YouTube landscape comes through offering audiences frequent, episodic updates.

The three most important metrics for videos you distribute on YouTube are:

  • Video Views: Video views per individual video asset. The more views, the higher you rank.
  • Watch Time: Watch time per individual video asset. The longer someone watches your video, the better.
  • Page Health: The aggregate of all the videos and how they contribute to the page.

Let’s say you have five videos on the page, and publish one per week. The most recent video typically has the most views, but the previous videos will continue to contribute to the health of the page, as people actively discover related older content suggested by YouTube.

In terms of page health, for any given month, a new piece of content may only contribute to 40 to 50 percent of overall views on the page. The remaining 50 percent of views are typically a collection from already existing videos hosted on the channel.

prepping for video shoot

Image attribution: William Bayreuther

Once you’ve established a prominent YouTube presence and started publishing video content at a regular cadence, the next step is to analyze trends in your overall video performance on both an immediate and extended timeline.

According to Mei, the first seven days after initial upload is a very good cutoff to measure how strong a piece of content is, and whether you’ll get a return. If a video has a strong launch in terms of engagement, the amount of views and watch time tends to reap compound rewards. These figures could double or even quadruple within 12 months.

Marketers should track video views and watch time in monthly intervals, as well as break these metrics down into even more specific sub-metrics to get a fuller idea of watcher behavior. Within watch time, video completion rate is useful to help identify user engagement. So let’s say a four-minute video gets a few thousand views. People are really engaged if 50 percent watch it at least halfway through. If at least half of your total viewership watch at least two minutes before breaking their attention, the brand may take that as an indicator to spin the video into a series.

Is there a certain timestamp where a large percentage of viewers clicked out of watching? Learn what content stimulates your audiences’ interests and tweak the way you deliver your message to meet their needs. Brands need to create hooks for your audience to continue to watch the video. Someone clicking and watching the video for five seconds won’t help with your watch time. There needs to be an initial hook, then the “money shot,” or the most compelling, glamorous visual at around the midway point of the video to keep viewers’ attention till the last moment.

Metrics for Facebook Videos

The algorithms for Facebook versus YouTube are very different. Whereas long-form videos perform better on YouTube, Facebook favors short-form content. The sweet spot? Ninety seconds. That’s because Facebook will only allow ads on videos that are longer than a minute and a half. “And Facebook favors videos with ads it can make money off of,” says Mei.

Whereas watch time and views are both key metrics for videos on Facebook, watch time is prioritized over views. The reasoning behind that is that videos on Facebook are being pushed to the audience, instead of someone actively searching for a specific video. Since someone could randomly click on a video and not engage, watch time is a stronger indicator of user engagement, and in turn indicates the strength of a video.

Facebook’s snackable video approach also makes it a perfect platform to repurpose some of your brand’s existing video assets. Consider taking videos created for YouTube and breaking them down into smaller chunks or re-editing them to show just the highlights of the full piece.

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One way to track video performance on Facebook is to benchmark against your own videos on the page, specifically identifying what has worked from the top 10 percent of your videos. For example, if you published 20 pieces of content in last three months, you would want to isolate the top two either in terms of watch time or views, then deep dive with your content creator to analyze what worked in those videos that allowed their performance to rise above the rest.

mobile video platform

Image attribution: Angelo Pantazis

It could be the idea, the structure, the quality, the personality in the video, or a combination of factors. It’s a good practice to use the 90th percentile as a benchmark to learn from, and then set a plan to improve each element by testing different iterations.

And in Mei’s experience, if a video on Facebook doesn’t perform well after 24 hours, all attention around it tends to die out quickly. For almost all videos on Facebook, by seven days after the initial publishing, they tend to completely disappear from the feed.

YouTube and Facebook Serve Different Video Goals

When evaluating the kind of video you want to make and the message you want to tell, consider how the platform will complement your brand’s overall strategy and story.

Video consumed on YouTube is an active user experience. Since YouTube videos are essentially evergreen, you have a much better ROI for your branded videos. Conversely, video consumed on Facebook is a passive user experience. If you’re a new brand and still looking to use content as a tool to build awareness, start with Facebook. You need to push out content on both platforms, but adjust the video length accordingly.

By gaining an understanding of these social media metrics and how YouTube and Facebook play into one another within your larger distribution strategy, you can figure out the best approach for producing branded videos. In turn, you’ll net the greatest gain from your spend.

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Featured image attribution: Kushagra Kevat

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Jackie Lam is a money writer and content marketer who's worked with both Fortune 500 financial companies and clients in the fintech space such as Chase, Discover, KeyBank, Fidelity, SoFi, Acorns, Simple Finance, and Swell Investing. Her work has appeared in outlets such as GOOD, Business Insider, and Forbes. She blogs at HeyFreelancer.com and tweets about her many projects at @heyfreelancerco. In her free time she likes to help cultivate community for freelancers, write fiction, and volunteer feeding the homeless.

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