Could Facebook’s Video Growth Steal YouTube’s Limelight?

Facebook continues to see an explosion in growth, aided by a surge in video views, according to yesterday’s earnings call. As this quarter reached a new milestone for the social media powerhouse, should YouTube be worried? 

The social network’s revenue for the first quarter of 2015 was $3.54 billion, a 42 percent increase over last year’s Q1. Though this rise came at a cost as profits for the quarter fell – $642m in Q1 2014 to $512m in the current quarter – chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was upbeat on the overall growth. Notably, mobile accounted for 73 percent of advertising revenue and 75 percent of video views.

Video has become bigger on Facebook over the last year. Though video has been a part of the platform since 2007, its algorithms only started to favor video last summer. According to the earnings call, Facebook has reached a breakthrough moment where an additional 1 billion views have been served since January, reaching 4 billion daily. More than 80,000 videos have also now been embedded on third-party websites.

These staggering numbers put Facebook on the fast track to be YouTube’s most serious competitor. Though YouTube doesn’t release its figures, the most recent statistic showed that the video-sharing platform reached 4 billion daily views in 2012, eight months after reaching 3 billion.

A December report by eMarketer found that 63 percent of U.S. advertising executives ran a video campaign with Facebook the previous year, compared to the 78 percent who did so on YouTube. However, 81.5 percent of the surveyed executives plan to run a YouTube ad this year, to Facebook’s 87 percent.

“I think what we’re seeing now is Facebook users realizing the videos they’re getting – like the movie trailers that dominate on YouTube – are largely worth watching,” says Tessa Wegert, communications director at digital agency Enlighten, noting Facebook’s subsequent push to attract exclusive video content from publishers.

“Given the perks it has to offer, namely billions of social connections that can be leveraged to distribute and popularize branded video content, YouTube has to be paying very, very close attention,” she adds.

While YouTube still dominates the video-sharing market, Facebook’s social reach is undeniably much stronger, with a monthly user base of 1.44 billion – approximately 20 percent of the planet. Google+ has less than half the number of members, the majority of whom tend to be much less active than on Facebook.

Acknowledging Facebook’s superior social reach and targeting, Hillel Scheinfeld, co-founder of video engagement platform Viewbix, points out that YouTube is ultimately a very different platform.

“The number two search engine in the world is still YouTube,” Scheinfeld says. “I don’t think you can say Facebook is going to overtake Google anytime soon because of that search capability. It’s a bit of an apple and orange comparison. If I wanted to learn how to build a deck, I’m not going to go on Facebook.”

He adds that the two companies will have their own video strategies, but they won’t necessarily overlap. It all depends on each video’s purpose.

“You won’t go on Facebook to search how to do something, but you’ll watch a video on Facebook,” Scheinfeld says. “There’s a big difference between using [YouTube] as a search tool and just seeing what videos are coming up.”

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