Facebook, already a huge distributor of Internet video, continues to roll out new ways to the social service an even more attractive outlet for video-content publishers — and, increasingly, it’s mimicking YouTube.
Since June, users have watched an average of more than 1 billion videos per day on Facebook, with video views climbing 50% from May through July of this year, according to the company. More than 65% of video views are on mobile devices.
Now, Facebook is adding a pair of YouTube-like features. In an update that will start rolling out this week, Facebook users will be able to see how many views a video on Facebook has received, something that’s been part of YouTube’s service for years. On Facebook, view counts will be shown on public videos to help people discover new, popular videos.
Another feature, which Facebook is currently testing on mobile, displays related videos after users finish watched a clip (also a longstanding YouTube capability). And Facebook also plans at some point to allow videos hosted on the service to be embeddable on more third-party sites.
The moves show that Facebook (and Twitter) are trying to evolve into more robust video platforms, even as YouTube is trying to become a more social platform.
Over all, Facebook’s goal with video is to build “a compelling offering around our partners’ content,” said Justin Osofsky, VP of media partnerships. “Things that drive engagement on Facebook are a win. Things that drive distribution to our partners’ sites are a win.”
The latest enhancements come after a series of other video upgrades by Facebook. Last year, it bowed auto-play videos (which Osofky called a “‘Harry Potter’-like experience) and this summer it improved video rankings in users’ newsfeeds aimed at displaying more videos that are relevant. In addition, Facebook added the ability to insert “call-to-action” buttons in native videos to let users click to launch an external website or app, or take another action.
The video-counts feature was requested by several partners, including Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, which wanted to track views of the “50 Shades of Grey” trailer featuring a remix of the singer’s “Crazy in Love.” “Partners want to be able to see the level of engagement and excitement in their video,” Osofsky said.
Video — specifically, short-form video — is a top priority at Facebook, according to chief Mark Zuckerberg. One of the company’s goals is to ramp up “organic” video shared by partners and users, to provide “unique types of content that you can’t get anywhere else,” he said on Facebook’s second-quarter 2014 earnings call. He cited Shakira’s thank-you video to fans when she topped 100 million “likes” on Facebook in July.
A big viral-video phenom on Facebook this summer was the ALS ice-bucket challenge meme. Between June 1 and Sept. 1, more than 17 million videos related to the ice-bucket challenge were shared to Facebook — which were viewed more than 10 billion times by more than 440 million people over that three-month period.
Media partners are also tapping in Facebook’s video to engage its billion-plus monthly users.
Discovery Channel has been using the auto-play and call-to-action features of Facebook native video for a few months, and has found that “hands down, almost in every instance the video posts outperform any other content types in terms of overall reach and engagement,” according to Derek Dodge, director of digital programming for the cable network.
For Discovery’s 2014 Shark Week programming franchise in August, the network launched the #SnuffyLives campaign (bringing back the seal that was swallowed by a shark in a promo last year). The “Snuffy Lives” video, in the seal pops out of the mouth a recently caught shark on a pier, on Discovery’s Facebook page was viewed by some 15 million people organically over the course the week.
“It changed the way we think about using Facebook,” Dodge said. “In the past we saw it as a marketing platform — now it’s more of a pure media platform. This is helping us extend our video strategy into social media.”
Showtime Networks is seeing higher engagement levels on Facebook for native video relative Twitter, according to Brian Swarth, VP and group director digital services at the premium cabler. When using Facebook’s video player, user engagement on the social service is two to three times higher than non-native video players (such as YouTube), he said.
Showtime has created a set of videos exclusively for Facebook to promote the Mayweather vs. Maidana pay-per-view fight on Sunday, Sept. 13. A few weeks ago, the cable network solicited questions from fans on its Facebook page (and via pages for both Maidana and Mayweather) — and received more than 30,000 questions. Producers then created a series of Q&A videos, with announcer Mauro Ranallo asking each boxer questions from their fans, set to hit Facebook this week. The videos will include links to the Showtime pay-per-view event page.
“Facebook continues to be interesting for us across digital marketing in general, and we’ve specifically seen a massive increase in engagement with our sports content on Facebook,” Swarth said.