Facebook vs. YouTube or Who will win the video war?

Facebook vs. YouTube or Who will win the video war?

Is Facebook a real threat to YouTube? Question that many different brands give me every day. I haven't put much thought into it until a week ago when I saw thisRedBull Facebook post below.

With this video post, RedBull successfully caught my attention and efficiently told a story of a new "sport" that might be interesting to me. Only after this experience I started to really think about differences between Facebook and YouTube. Success of both platforms will depend on more complex factors than you might think.

Consumer behavior. Being the second most popular destination on the web (Alexa data) Facebook is the gateway for unexpected discoveries and a quick fix for the generation addicted to instant gratification. Consuming video there is based more on random discovery than the actual purpose. YouTube, on the other hand, is used for purposeful browsing to get new entertaining/informative video content.

Brand behavior. Different user behavior influences brands too. On Facebook, you might see some big time TV ads, but usually it's a snackable content - short length video posts made in line with other brand activities on Facebook. What FB executes perfectly every time is training brands to approach advertising formats differently, in a Facebook way. And in a simple way. Even the most advanced brands (yes those with tons of videos already uploaded on YouTube) still think of YouTube as a rival for TV when it comes to advertising, therefore they choose to advertize mostly "crème de la crème" content and the long tail is left to be discovered (of course, there are exceptions). Facebook, on the other hand, is perfect to create, publish and push a "snackable" content with intense but short lifespan. Therefore, YouTube is for long-term (not necessary long form) storytelling and Facebook is for snacking. At least for now. Although, if Facebook does its job well, it will train brands to push micro-stories not only TV spots and YouTube will benefit also.

Video content hubs. Many brands already have massive video content hubs on YouTube and will continue to do so unless Facebook will significantly revamp its interface for video discovery and recommendations. YouTube is putting lots of efforts to make it a central hub for branded and non-branded video content. Great examples could be YouTube Creator Playbook and Creator Academy.

There are signs that Facebook is clearly aiming to become a video hub with early experiments like the launch of video tab, recommended videos and playlist creation feature.

However, Facebook has oneBIG OBSTACLE to provide really great video experiences. Being lean. Yes, Facebook is designed to be simple and lean and video is the different kind of beast than static brand posts or links. To make engaging video experiences you have to provide users with tons of suggestions, mix it with playlists and user historical viewing history. On YouTube, you can start with a GoPro snowboarding video and end up with an Epic Sax Guy. As someone recently wrote, "it makes YouTube the embodiment of the Internet itself".

Brand audiences. Significant differences in numbers of YouTube subscribers and Facebook Fans between major brands shows that YouTube users still don't have a strong habit of subscribing to branded channels and the ones who do are hardcore users. Most brands on Facebook already have huge followers/fans communities that make it a no-brainer decision to concentrate video efforts on Facebook. Especially when Facebook is "subsidizing" video posts with higher edge rank for video posts. However, YouTube offers almost guaranteed reach within channel subscriber base (organic distribution). This is the luxury that Facebook can't offer because of the newsfeed where multiple brands compete not only with each other but with other users too. YouTube has to push brands harder to grow their subscriber bases. Giving them one big promise of guaranteed organic reach.

Mobile mobile mobile. Mobile strategy will play a crucial role in each platform success. Facebook successfully shifted to being a mobile platform. This unlocked huge opportunities to increase usage frequency. YouTube doesn't have this privilege (addictive mobile usage), therefore mobile notifications should become a major part of YouTube strategy. With Android having a 76,6% market share worldwide (IDC data) YouTube can significantly boost their mobile efforts with more intense YouTube notifications. I'm subscribed to tons of YouTube channels but didn't get a single mobile notification about new uploads. And there were quite a few. Facebook shifted to being a mobile platform. And it's not only Facebook. Don't forget about Instagram and Snapchat. Both platforms are phenomenally successful between younger generation now becoming standards among older age groups also. Youtube should learn the rules of short video content. So far, YouTube is not prepared to be a natural part of "short videos culture". YouTube has to figure out the mobile game if it wants to stay relevant. Lack of strategy focused on mobile will have a strong impact on usage and mobile advertising revenues.

Acquisitions. Facebook acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp clearly shows its devotion to mobile experiences. Both platforms have huge video growth and: 1) cover audiences of non-Facebook users that it otherwise wouldn't be able to reach 2) make Facebook reach multiplatform among people using Facebook + Instagram or WhatApp or even all three. To cover more usage occasions, increase reach and grow usage frequency Facebook is purchasing and operating companies under house of brands principle, which is a great strategy allowing different brands to have separate strategies and fast growth independent of each other.

Personal videos. Being a mobile platform Facebook offers an instant gratification, which is the best drug for the mobile generation. This will drive growth of personal video content with people sharing stories of their everyday experiences, seeking instant approval from their friends. Videos on Facebook is the new way to share your life moments instantly, therefore it will be a platform of choice to share personal videos. I really believe that YouTube has lost this space the moment Facebook released video upload option. And these gates will be closed unless YouTube goes the Facebook or Foursquare way (as Mary Meeker calls it "internet unbundling") and creates a dedicated app or makes some significant acquisitions.

Building loyal users. YouTube is trying to play smart and take advantage of Facebook weaknesses. One of them is a limitation to join Facebook before you are 13 years old. To fill this gap YouTube released YouTube apps for kids. It is a really smart move to build the loyal user base.

Video ads impact. With 5 sec. window to catch users attention, YouTube TrueView format could be considered more impactful that Facebook video. Although, on Facebook brands could provide additional post text that could introduce video before deciding to watch and catch users attention.

Video in all purchasing funnel. Great advancements in ad tech create opportunities to integrate video communication in all purchasing funnel. And this requires far more than the basic targeting that was enough when video ads were used only for awareness. To make video communication really increase sales and drive ROI marketers have to make it precise. This means working with data. And this is where Google/YouTube has significant advantages integrating everything together: Google internal data (in-market audiences, affinity audiences etc.), Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Tag Manager and many other advertising and data gathering/management tools. Facebook is also moving fast in this direction with custom audiences, lookalikes, conversion pixels, but so far it lacks many advanced video targeting/serving capabilities.

Summary. YouTube vs. Facebook battle for content, users and advertising dollars will be probably the most interesting topic for years to come. Where Facebook is heading is clear, but the final outcome will depend on YouTube vision.