I received an email from Social Media Examiner a few days ago that proclaimed they were abandoning Facebook video. They were stopping two of their regular Facebook video broadcasts entirely and moving a third to YouTube. When I saw this, I didn’t think much of it, but then they followed up with another email explaining why. And that was when all of my concerns about Facebook video were validated.
Some of you may recall that in 2016 Facebook made headlines when one of their top executives proclaimed that in five years, Facebook would be “all video” in one form or another.
And while I am not one to accurately predict the social media world (I didn’t think Twitter would ever take off, nor did I think Snapchat was useful for anything beside raunchy photos), I really thought that statement was a stretch. Here was my thinking:
- Facebook would have to directly compete with YouTube and, thus, Google
- The status updates we all know and love would go by the wayside
- Scrolling would no longer be a thing, or at least not as rampant as it is now
- There would have to be some sort of resolution in the “portrait vs landscape” video orientation battle that has quietly raged on for years
In fact, before even hearing that quote from Nicola Mendelson, I thought mobile video was beginning to decline in favor of photos and gifs. After all, Vine had just kicked the bucket and all of the videos that I tried uploading to Facebook were getting a fraction of the views that my traditional text posts were receiving. Yes, in 2016, I asked myself, Is Facebook video dead?
Obviously, it was not.
This statement from Mendelson seemed to kickstart video production on the social network, as live video broadcasts began to increase and users found more ways to post their videos online. What’s more, Facebook’s little sister network Instagram even added more video features to their interface, extending video post limits from 15 seconds to 60 seconds and even adding a live feature.
For awhile there, Facebook video was not dead. It was alive and kickin’.
But over the past 18 months, I have started to see a sharp decline in my Facebook video analytics. On a business page with 8,000 likes, I never received more than five live viewers of my broadcasts and my reach was between 400 and 500. Uploaded videos, while performing slightly better, were still not matching my organic posts despite outnumbering them in total engagements. For comparison’s sake, traditional organic posts often reached more than 2,000 followers.
Yet, there was one area where Facebook video was dominant: promoted posts. Ah, yes. The ole’ “pay for play” scenario. All I had to do was boost one of those video posts and I would see tens of thousands of views for pennies on the dollar ($0.02 cost per view, to be exact). But what did that even mean? Were people actually watching my videos in their entirety?
Upon further research into the post insights, I noticed about 1% of my paid reach was watching the video for more than 10 seconds. And then, just a few months later, the Facebook analytics scandal broke.
As the calendar turned to 2017, I had some issues with the “Facebook will be all video in five years” statement:
- My organic videos reached 80% fewer followers than traditional posts
- My paid video posts were almost never watched for more than 10 seconds
- All of my already poor analytics from the first two points in this list were allegedly inflated by as much as 60%
But for some reason I kept with the social network, refusing to admit that Facebook video was dead. I kept broadcasting and kept uploading, with metrics repeatedly lagging behind my regular posts.
Finally, in March I finally broke down and announced I was done with Facebook Live. I’d still upload the occasional video, but the live video was so performing so poorly that I could not rationalize the resources put into it.
Of course, I was hesitant to tell anybody, because regardless of what the stats tell us, people were convinced that Facebook was on the road to being all video in now only three years! Thankfully, Michael Stelzner and the social Media Examiner team made the proclamation that Facebook video really isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. And for that, I applaud them.
It has always been my belief that Facebook videos were best for accruing viewers over a 72-hour period. After that, numbers will plummet. Meanwhile, if you are looking for a steady diet of viewers and want to play the long game of potentially going viral, stick with YouTube.
Today, I am changing that belief to one sentence: If you want do video, post it on YouTube. That’s it.
Is Facebook video dead? Not quite. Is it the way of the future? No way.
I won’t get into the YouTube side of this discussion today, but it is the far superior video social site in almost all aspects. I probably knew that the whole time, but fell into the group-think trap which Facebook is so good at projecting.
The morale of my story today is this: follow your analytics and your instincts together, no matter what the brass are saying. I failed to do that with Facebook videos and ended up paying the price in the form of time, resources and gaudy analytics.
Go ahead and give it a shot. See how your videos perform and let me know!