April 19, 2017
GUEST: Watch Out YouTube: The War for Online Video Dollars is Heating Up!
By Amanda Bell

Make Some New Friends: Why YouTube Isn’t the Only Place for Video Anymore

There was a time not too long ago when “YouTube” was synonymous with online video the way Kleenex is with facial tissues and Coke is with soda.

As more mainstream advertisers flock to social video, the market is poised to double this year. However, YouTube’s latest brand safety issues – some 250 advertisers have pulled out from the platform because their ads have appeared next to objectionable content – has shed light on some alternatives. Chief among them is Facebook, whose reach has hit a near-parity with YouTube. In addition, Snapchat is giving Facebook a run for its money as well. Last April, Snapchat claimed it was serving 8 billion video views a day, the same amount as Facebook. 

All of this means that while there may be more options than ever when it comes to serving video online, there still aren’t very many options. Still, advertisers have more levers to pull than before. A coherent strategy will involve at least one platform and possibly four or more. Here’s an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the main platforms:

Facebook is a viral launchpad, but isn’t great for long tail

Facebook’s reach of 1.86 billion monthly active users makes any new offerings a major consideration for advertisers. Last year, Facebook announced that people watch 100 million hours a day of video on the social network. That’s roughly one-sixth the amount on YouTube. Because Facebook’s News Feed circulates timely content that users are likely to find interesting, the platform is better for launching videos and giving them a shot at going viral. That said, advertisers can have a tough time figuring out what’s actually working on Facebook. Facebook counts three seconds as a view versus 30 seconds for YouTube. Facebook has also been caught overestimating consumers’ time-spent watching video by as much as 80%.

Recommendation: Go heavy on Facebook placement for the first week or two and then ease off.

YouTube’s still the king, but brand safety doubts abound

YouTube complements Facebook in several ways. Facebook’s search function is lacking, for instance, so if a video is going viral, users will go to YouTube to search for it. YouTube is also the destination for long tail content like DIY videos that aren’t designed to go viral. As mentioned, YouTube is currently in the thick of a crisis over brand safety. For that reason, marketers might want to pull their content until the company sorts this issue out.

Recommendation: Use YouTube for long tail content and for videos in general after the first two weeks. But if brand safety is an issue, you may want to wait.

Snapchat’s good to reach Millennials, but not essential for everyone

Snapchat’s video views and its stronghold with young consumers makes it a required destination for any brand seeking to woo consumers under 30. Snapchat is very different from YouTube and Facebook though. Videos are under 10 seconds and the company encourages advertisers to use the vertical format (most videos are still created for horizontal viewing.) Snapchat is also fairly expensive – placements can cost as much as $55 for 1,000 viewers – but the company cut its asking prices last year after advertisers balked.

Recommendation: Use Snapchat if you’re trying to reach a young demo. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth the cost.

Instagram’s good for fashion brands, but not everyone needs to be on it

Instagram combines many of the features of Snapchat and Facebook. Like the former, it is primarily a visual medium that’s optimized for mobile. Like the latter, its News Feed is based on a “what’s interesting to you” algorithm instead of chronology.  As it was developed as an image sharing app, Instagram is built to share aesthetic, not information. Videos are capped at one minute, (a bump up from 15 seconds a year ago) to allow storytelling but keeping viewers engaged.

Recommendation: Use Instagram if your brand is adept at posting highly visual content. Fashion and beauty brands in particular thrive on this platform.

Contextual placements

There are other places to post video as well, most notably Twitter. But for now, these are the main formats where brands can look to gain traction on their video campaigns. Alternative options are to work with publishers to ensure strong contextual placements. Going that route gives brands the opportunity to use formats like outstream ads that aren’t available via YouTube.

The market is constantly evolving, so what’s true today may not be in a few months. In particular, the rise of live-streamed video could potentially shake up the market. For the moment though, there are really only two indispensable social networks for video – YouTube and Facebook. Will that still be the case in a year or so? Stay tuned. 

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