Facebook is making a strong push for video marketers’ budgets this year by touting its targeting capabilities and some impressive stats for video engagement on its platform.
On Facebook’s latest earnings call, Zuckerberg and co. were vocal about the gains the company had made in video. COO Sheryl Sandberg said the number of video posts per person in the US increased 94% in one year, and that 50% of people in the US who visit Facebook daily were watching one video every day. In addition, Sandberg said Facebook now has over three billion video views a day, up from one billion views a day in September 2014. When you compare that to YouTube’s four billion views a day currently, it suddenly looks like Facebook is poised to become a serious rival for its video ad revenues.
Not so fast – while on the surface both platforms offer compelling video advertising solutions, the two platforms are being used in fundamentally different ways by consumers and advertisers.
For starters, videos on Facebook play automatically when you view them in your News Feed, so the views per day figure is more than a little inflated. To play a video on YouTube, you have to actually search for, or discover it, and then click on it to play, so its figures are a more accurate indicator of engagement.
Then there’s the nature of each social network. Facebook is comparable to a living room, with all your friends and relatives sitting in it, while YouTube is the public town square. The videos uploaded to Facebook are mostly personal, with an expectation (albeit a flimsy one) of limited exposure. When people want an audience of just their Facebook friends, they’ll upload the video directly through its platform. But if they want to reach the whole world, they’re most likely to upload it to YouTube, and link to it on Facebook.
Here’s where Facebook does make a compelling pitch to advertisers. The social network currently has over a billion users all over the world, the single largest audience for any type of media in history. Not only do advertisers get access to that audience, they can segment and target them with impressive granularity using Facebook’s ad targeting tools.
For example, The Wall Street Journal reported that luxury car brand Lexus created over 1000 unique ads for a recent campaign, each one catering to a slightly different audience segment on Facebook:
Each video is designed to promote the virtues of the Lexus NX by comparing it to objects directly relevant to a consumers’ tastes. If a user is deemed by Facebook to be an avid traveler, for example, the ad might follow a travel-related theme. (from WSJ)
One thousand unique ads might seem extreme, but it highlights the high degree of personalization that is possible on Facebook’s platform.
However, auto-playing video content is a huge drain on bandwidth, and in a world where 65% of Facebook’s video views occur on mobile, the auto-play feature is taxing users’ data plans. Although auto-play can be disabled on mobile devices, not all users knows this is possible. Zuckerberg addressed the problem on the earnings call, saying the company was figuring out how to deliver content according to users’ data capacity:
“When someone uploads a video to Facebook directly we can optimize how it delivers right. So we can make it autoplay. We can find the right quality and bit rate to send down to the person based on their connection overtime. And optimize all kinds of different things.”
Facebook also recently rolled out Facebook Lite, a stripped down version of its app, designed to work on the lower-end Android devices and slower internet speeds available to users in developing countries.
Not all video features require marketers to pay ad premiums. For videos uploaded through Facebook Pages, the platform allows the free addition of call-to-action buttons. These can be shown at the end of a video, encouraging further engagement from the user. Current button options include “Show Now,” “Book Now,” “Learn More,” “Sign Up,” “Download,” “Watch More.” This is especially useful for B2B marketers, who don’t always have the biggest budgets and are better off reaching niche audiences through their Facebook Pages, showcasing their products in a video.
Finally, last year Facebook launched Audience Network, an ad platform that allows advertisers to extend their reach outside Facebook. By using Facebook’s audience targeting tools companies can place ads within other apps. That’s not just an opportunity for the advertiser, it’s a money maker for app developers.