The explosive growth of video on Facebook shouldn’t really surprise anyone. A vast, incredibly active user base, combined with the most engaging content format and an increasingly effective algorithm for surfacing the latest and greatest posts within the Facebook universe, was bound to be a success.
Facebook is rapidly changing its platform to accommodate and encourage this growth, and these changes are differentiating it from other video sharing platforms in significant ways. Even though it didn’t start out as a video platform, it is increasingly acting like one. Here’s our guide to what’s different about Facebook video, and how best to optimize your videos to take full advantage of it.
Comparisons to YouTube and Facebook are rife, but there are only certain distinctions you need to pay attention to. Most of them stem from the fact that YouTube started as a primarily public video sharing platform, whereas Facebook’s origins were focused on closed sharing of social information, and not any content types in particular.
As far as differences go, there are some important technicalities to consider. Facebook has much more nuanced privacy settings, uses hashtags instead of regular tags, and doesn’t have a way to vote content down, like the thumbs down option on Youtube. Since they’ve had much more time to work on it, Youtube has a more advanced video player, complete with annotations and ads, and video playback resolution options.
When it comes to sharing, there are also a couple important gaps between these two platforms. Youtube makes it really easy to share video links or embed codes almost anywhere on the web, whereas Facebook doesn’t really make it easy to share video on sites other than Facebook, and doesn’t make it easy to use embed codes, unless you are willing to deal with messy code.
Also, Facebook supports the sharing of multiple content types, including links to pages from other websites containing video, which will display the video in the timeline if Open Graph tags on the page are formatted correctly. On the other hand, Youtube exclusively supports the sharing of native video on its platform.
Two important similarities are that both Facebook and Youtube want to keep you watching videos, and within their respective universes. To that end, both focus on native video, meaning video uploaded directly to their platform, and neither supports video iframes hosted by 3rd parties.
Another related point is that you don’t have control over the related videos that are displayed alongside your videos during and after playback on either platform. This can run counter to some goals for marketing videos, such as branding or special offers, since the adjacent videos might conflict with those aims.
Reaching Your Audience
It’s not just about the platform. You also have to consider how Facebook’s audience will discover and interact with your videos.
Facebook’s video environment is still very new, and for Facebook users, it is still primarily all about the timeline. It will be interesting to see how that evolves over time as they continue to improve the viewer experience.
For the time being, video plays silently at first in the timeline on Facebook. This is largely to provide a non-disruptive experience for the viewer. Imagine trying to sneak a peek at Facebook while at the office if videos kept blaring loudly on your computer as they appeared in the timeline. No one would ever do it.
Also, perhaps more significantly, roughly half of Facebook’s 1.5 billion users are mobile-only, meaning they never use the desktop version of the app. Video on mobile presents unique challenges, such as smaller screens, so keeping that in mind is key for creating successful content.
Putting it all Together
Based on what makes it unique as a platform, there are important takeaways for optimizing your videos for sharing on Facebook.
During the video editing phase, you’ll want to ensure your video will be appealing even if it is played without any sound or on mobile. It has to grab the attention of a viewer who is scrolling past it in their timeline, despite being surrounded by other posts competing for their attention. Make sure the first three seconds are eye-catching, since data from Facebook indicates that’s all it takes to make an impression with video, and consider implementing more text than you normally would to help guide viewers through your video.
When you are ready to share your video, there is evidence to suggest that native video gets more traction on Facebook than videos hosted by a third party. Consider uploading your video directly to Facebook in order to maximize the chances it will be discovered by users on the platform, and consequently shared.
If you have a video hosting provider you prefer to use, ensure your video landing pages include Open Graph markup so that your video will appear and be playable in the timeline when you share it. Using Open Graph tags properly will also ensure the video title and description are pulled through correctly when your video is posted on Facebook.
Since marketing tools like post-play screens and email capture are not going to work on Facebook, your best bet is to leverage the video description field to share any accompanying links or calls-to-action, rather than trying to include them in the video itself.
Finally, make sure that sharing your video on Facebook makes sense for your goals for your content. Brand awareness campaigns, or video posts intended to increase engagement amongst your fans, are both great examples of Facebook-worthy content. When you want to keep your content secure, or only share it privately with a handful of people, Facebook is probably not your best bet. Weigh your options carefully when considering the optimal way to share your content with your intended audience.
Please let us know your top tips for optimizing your videos for Facebook in the comments below!