Social video is the modern-day Tower of Babel. Video is not just dispersed across unique platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat — and now new video platforms like Facebook Watch and Instagram’s IGTV — but each platform offers different formats, different ways to engage, and different ways to measure performance. As a result, marketers are being challenged to rethink their video strategies and not simply cut and paste the same video across channels.
The differences across platforms are numerous. A video on YouTube will not be consumed the same way as a video on IGTV; it’s not like creating an ad for ABC and airing the same ad on NBC and CBS. Each platform even has different metrics for views: YouTube counts views at 30 seconds and Facebook counts views at 3 seconds.
The question is: How can marketers measure video performance and understand audience behavior if they’re gauged so differently across platforms? For instance, when we look at data from the most-viewed branded videos of Q3 2017, we see that almost 100% of them are on Facebook. But those views don’t tell the whole story; they must be understood in context with Facebook’s measurement system and other video platforms.
To get to the bottom of this, we analyzed performance data on tens of thousands of branded videos collected on the SimpleReach platform between September 2017 and May 2018. We found that behavior is different on these video platforms than what you might expect.
Our key findings:
Facebook videos generate high view counts on — but since a view is counted after 3 seconds, are people really watching?
When it comes to branded video — they’re not.
SimpleReach data shows that the average watch rate on organic branded Facebook videos is 25%. This means that only about a quarter of each Facebook video is actually watched. Even worse, 21% is the average watch rate for paid videos. Basically people skip over ads a lot more than videos that they come across organically, even if it’s from the same publisher. That’s not too shocking.
What’s surprising is the average YouTube watch rate on branded video — 60% — which is vastly different from the Facebook watch rates.
Going further, our data shows that the average length of YouTube videos is 202 seconds, 95 seconds for Facebook videos, and 48 seconds for Facebook ads. So if people are only watching 25% of Facebook videos, they’re spending roughly 24 seconds with the content. And if they’re watching 60% of YouTube videos, they’re spending 120 seconds with the content.
Compare this with recent research that shows the average engaged time for all branded content in 2017 to be around 70 seconds. Video on Facebook is falling short of this average engaged time while YouTube videos far exceed it.
Other research SimpleReach research also seems to show that finance brands may have figured out the secret to driving engagement from branded video. 100% of their most-viewed branded videos were published on Facebook, and the average watch time is 72 seconds while the average length is 114 seconds. Meaning viewers are watching 63% of branded finance videos on Facebook — and watching finance videos 16% longer than branded videos from other industries.
This doesn’t mean that Facebook videos are ineffective. They’re just not generating a lot of watch time. Facebook still offers massive reach and targeting capabilities. That’s why the solution isn’t to move away from Facebook, but rather to be careful about how you measure your videos — understanding that view counts aren’t always what they seem — and optimize content according to those measurements.
There’s almost no correlation between watch rate and video length on Facebook, on both organic posts and ads
It doesn’t matter if a video is 60 seconds long or 90 seconds long — a viewer will still watch roughly the same percentage of the video. The only notable correlation is that watch time is slightly longer than average for super short videos. So that 20-second video may generate longer watch times than that 5-minute video.
On YouTube, however, we see that video length matters more.
This is quantitative evidence that you shouldn’t make long branded videos for Facebook. If you can get your point across quickly, do it. Additionally, you definitely shouldn’t bury a brand message at the end of your video, since many viewers won’t make it that far. But on YouTube, you have more freedom to let a story unfold and hook the consumer in for a longer viewing experience.
This data really reflects platform behavior. People go to YouTube solely to watch and discover videos. But people go to Facebook and Instagram to connect with friends, consume images, and scroll through their feeds. These platforms aren’t build for discovery as much as in-feed consumption. That’s why Facebook and Instagram users have shorter attention spans when it comes to watching video.
Social video metrics and behaviors vary across platforms. As a result, marketers can’t just re-cut existing digital video content, plug them into new distribution channels, and expect them to be successful. Marketers have to create a distinct video strategy for each platform.
This new approach won’t just affect their video creation. It will also directly impact how they create retargeting and programmatic initiatives. After all, if marketers want to know how to reach the most valuable viewers in real-time, they’ll need to be able to pinpoint the most engaged viewers. And as our data shows, those most engaged viewers could look different for each channel.
To be clear, this isn’t to say that one video platform is more valuable than the other. Rather, it’s a stark reminder that marketers need to start understanding the idiosyncrasies of each channel and building their video strategies accordingly in order to drive the most engagement possible.