Snapchat vs. Facebook vs. YouTube: When Is a View a View?

As Facebook’s video aspirations begin to attract more attention from viewers, creators, and the press alike, the inevitable “Facebook vs. YouTube” comparisons have begun. And now that Snapchat is reporting 4 billion daily views, we’re already migrating to a “Snapchat Challenges Facebook” storyline.

Nowhere is this more contentious than the disparity between how videos are viewed on YouTube, as opposed to how they are viewed as native content on Facebook, versus how Snapchat counts views.

In the past year, Facebook has moved to increase its visibility of video to its users and in turn, to video content creators. At first, the promise was a higher rate of views if embedded directly to Facebook, as opposed to linking to an outside video source, such as YouTube. More recently, videos uploaded directly to Facebook has ensured higher visibility because it’s native to the site and therefore, provides a better user experience, as deemed by Facebook’s analysis.

This makes sense, as Facebook requires creators and brands to pay to promote and if they don’t, visibility is limited. Thus, shared YouTube content may not be reaching a maximum audience. This raises the question of what exactly constitutes a “view.”

There is, at the moment, no industry standard definition for what counts as a view. Facebook currently counts a view as “three seconds of watched video, whether the audio is turned on or not,” leading some to doubt the legitimacy of its actual spike in viewership. Meanwhile, Snapchat videos are only 10 seconds or less, leading to its counting a view as anything seen for a second or more. YouTube’s definition of what counts as a view is vaguer: views get counted at “around 30 seconds,” but that time could change based on a video’s length, suggesting the rubric varies from upload to upload.

But this isn’t an argument over competing view standards so much as it is an illustration of how advertisers and creators alike need to prepare themselves for a world where YouTube is no longer the only relevant video platform, with all the contradictory metrics that comes with it.

Rather than focusing on the differences between how views are counted, we should instead be far more concerned with how those views are monetized. Right now, there is no way to monetize on Facebook. In other words, today, Facebook’s video efforts are designed to drive value for Facebook and not creators. Snapchat has better options, charging a premium for the scarcity inherent in the impermanent nature of its videos.

The good news is that this is exactly where YouTube was at inception. Advertisers and creators didn’t mobilize to monetize YouTube until almost two years after it launched, and now there is a system in place that benefits both YouTube and its creators.

While this doesn’t exist yet for Facebook, the past dictates that it’s simply a matter of finding the avenue of application to make the monetization of that space work, whether it’s reliant on views or another factor. Furthermore, as this happens, it may force an industry definition of what counts as a view, which can only benefit Facebook and new platforms in the long run.

That’s why it’s a mistake to focus on the so-called competition between the different video platforms emerging. People are waiting to see whether Snapchat pulls ahead of Vine, Facebook ahead of YouTube, and so forth. But to creators, these are all avenues of connecting with audiences in unique ways. They each serve a purpose, and can be used for their own unique brand and creative engagement. It’s just a matter of understanding and defining how.

Homepage image via Shutterstock

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