There’s been a lot of hub bub lately about Facebook and the amount of video they’re serving up. In it’s first quarter earnings call, Facebook announced that it now serves up four billion video views to its user base every single day. That’s up from three billion in January and one billion just a few months back in September. Of those four billion views, 75 percent come from mobile devices. Reputable news organizations have taken that ‘four billion video views every day stat’ and run with it as the tale of how Facebook is supplanting YouTube as the go to destination for video.
Does that explosive growth seem a bit, I don’t know, unbelievable. Well it is. So where is Facebook getting all of these views from? In a word: Auto-play.
The next time you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and you pass by a video but it starts playing automatically with the sound muted, that’s auto-play in action. Unless you manually choose to shut auto-play off in your settings, it is on by default. Facebook counts it as a “view” if the video is displayed in your news feed for 3 seconds or more. Even if you don’t ever click on the video to watch it with the sound turned on. According to Facebook, it’s a view.
So if you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and sneeze requiring you to jump up and grab a tissue; whatever video was on screen counts as a view. If you open Facebook at lunch with your soup but realize you forgot the spoon; that’s a view too. And if you’re browsing your feed when you get called away to an impromptu meeting…well, you get the picture. By contrast most views on YouTube (other than embeds where auto-play is enabled) only count after the video is clicked to play and remains playing for at least five seconds.
What’s really important here is that you are tracking your actionable metrics, because that’s all that really matters. You need to prove marketing impact for all your video advertising. A video view on Facebook is completely passive and useless. What you really need to be tracking is the “clicks to play video” metric. With this the viewer is interacting with your content to click play. They made a choice to click play and watch your video. Another is if the viewer clicks on your call-to-action link at the end of the video. These are the engagement metrics that matter and you should be measuring.
Do I think video advertising on Facebook is a crock? Absolutely not. Don’t misunderstand me here. Facebook can be a great place to engage your audience and reach a broader group of people through audience targeted video ads. Facebook should definitely be part of your social video marketing strategy; along with YouTube. You just shouldn’t be counting what Facebook classifies as a “view” as an important metric. Comparing views on Facebook and YouTube is like comparing apples and oranges.
Until Facebook makes a correction to how it classifies a “view” within its video advertising platform, you’ll just have to live with this bloated but incorrect view number. Or, if you need to pump up your ego you can just keep scrolling up and down past your video in the timeline every few seconds or so and watch your inflated view count rack up.