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Battle of Video: Facebook vs. YouTube Ads

Video may have killed the radio star, but it has ad executives feeling more alive than ever. Can they be blamed? Online video is watched by 78% of people every week and 55% every day.

In fact, according to HighQ, just including the word “video” in an email subject line “boosts open rates by 19%.” The all-powerful video has been shown to not only attract large audiences, it also engages them, makes them feel, and act on those feelings.

Most marketers are aware of video’s power. The question is not whether one should make video content or not, but rather where that content should live.

YouTube used to be the #1 home for video, with over a billion users and an expanding group of creators with large audiences and followings. Its success grew to the point that YouTube became the second biggest search engine after Google. But 2014 brought a power shift. Facebook Page owners, for the first time, were uploading more videos directly to Facebook instead of sharing from YouTube. Facebook’s share of the video market has been growing ever since, forcing marketers to reconsider where to publish videos.

Before making a decision, it is important to define the criteria or metrics of video success, and weigh them against the characteristics of each platform.

What Are Facebook Video Ads?

As you likely suspected, Facebook video ads are Facebook advertisements in the format of videos.

Instead of writing out a blurb of text and/or uploading an image, you’ll need to either create a video in-house, work with a videographer to create one, or use an already existing video to upload to Facebook’s native video player.

From there you’ll be able to customize the video description, thumbnail, budget, and audience you serve the ad to.

Reasons to Run Facebook Video Ads

Facebook video ads are the best way to ensure people remember your brand and come back to your site. Video isn’t just trending on Facebook, it’s a strategy that works to engage and convert website visitors, to push leads down the funnel in email marketing campaigns, and to fuel engagement across multiple social channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Periscope (which has literally built a social network based just on live video streaming).  

There are three main reasons why Facebook Video Ads are so popular among users:
1. Users interact with live video more than other forms of content.
2. Facebook Live capitalizes on Facebook’s awesome social power.
3. Facebook favors live video over other forms of content.

Let’s take a deeper look at each of these reasons below.

Facebook Users Engage with Live Video More Than Other Forms of Content

Today, video content reigns supreme. In fact, social video generates 1,200% more shares than posts using images or text.

But that’s not all. Today, social media and the consumption of content move fast. It’s all about what’s happening now, at the moment. And, this is why Facebook Live videos see three times the engagement of traditional videos shared on the platform. Okay sure, there’s Snapchat. But, Snapchat only provides snippets of video — short-form snapshots of what’s happening.

The awesome power of Facebook Live video lies in the fact that it’s long-form, and there’s a high level of viewer involvement.

Direct Interaction With Presenters

Viewers can jump in at any time, and use Facebook reactions and comments to engage with the presenter, while also watching how other viewers are reacting. And, the result? People spend three times as long watching Facebook Live videos as they do regular ones.

Large Audience Coverage

Facebook is a giant. It was the first social network ever to surpass 1 billion users, and it’s far larger than any other social network in the world with a massive 2.8 billion users. Recent research by Statista shows that YouTube is the closest social media to Facebook with 2.29 billion users. So, comparing Facebook vs YouTube users, we can see that Facebook grants a larger outreach.

Comprehensible campaign performance 

Marketing teams don't have to puzzle over the question: "Why my videos don't bring the expected results?". Facebook offers a holistic dashboard where marketers can track the performance of each individual video campaign in real-time. 

Facebook video performance dashboard
Facebook video performance dashboard

The dashboard shows how often users viewed your videos, the engagement rate, the total number of minutes users spend viewing your videos, and many more. 

However, there's even more to explore. With the help of middleware ETL software, such as Improvado, you can combine video performance data with data from Facebook Ads, Facebook Pages, YouTube Ads, or any other marketing platform. 

ETL software streamlines information from data sources you use, cleans and normalizes data to convert it into a digestible form, and loads all insights to a real-time dashboard where you can track all your marketing progress in a single tab. For example, Improvado supports more than 300+ data sources, which can stream data to any dashboarding tools, such as Google Data Studio, Looker, Power BI, etc. 

For example, here's a video ads dashboard template we built at Improvado. 

Video ads dashboard
Click on the dashboard to learn more about it.

This dashboard template shows the number of impressions, revenue generated by your videos, click-through rate, and many other metrics.

Accelerate your marketing analytics with our video ads dashboard template

One of the most significant advantages of ETL systems is the level of data granularity it brings to analysts. Instead of deduplicating and cleaning raw data, marketing and sales analysts can dive straight into the analysis and uncover new insights previously unavailable due to a lack of cross-channel visibility.

Get a different perspective of your video marketing campaigns with Improvado
Ali Flynn
VP of Customer Relationship

Success Metrics

Number of Views

How many people are actually watching your video? The winner for sheer size of audience and view numbers is, at least for the moment, YouTube. YouTube has the largest slice of the pie when it comes to video hosting, and with over a billion active users, the views add up.

Moreover, YouTube has solidified its brand over 10 years as the primary search engine for video. When searching for a specific clip or video genre, YouTube is where the majority of people go. This holds true globally. According to YouTube’s report, 80% of its views come from outside the U.S.

That said, when it comes to desktop viewing alone, Facebook managed to surpass YouTube video views in 2014, delivering a billion more views. This could signal a turning point in this battle of giants.

Facebook vs. Google stats

Total Time Watching

Are people watching your entire video, or just the first few seconds before they move on to something else? When it comes to staying power, YouTube is the winner.

Facebook videos have been proven to be most successful when their duration is no longer than 20-40 seconds. For YouTube, that number is just under 3 minutes. Add to this the fact that an average mobile session for YouTube is 40 minutes, and one could argue that a YouTube audience is willing to pay attention to video content for longer.

From a video analytics perspective, Facebook also looks weak. Facebook counts a view as being 3 seconds or longer. With Facebook’s autoplay feature, it is entirely possible for a person who did not intend to watch your video to scroll through their news feed, stumble on the video, watch for a few seconds out of curiosity, and then scroll past it without absorbing the message. YouTube views, however, are calculated by percentage of video watched. Its system also filters out “fake views”, such as multiple views from a single IP, or any views other than legitimate playbacks (this constitutes the temporary view-freeze at 301).

Engagement & Sharing

Are people watching your video because they want to? Are they commenting and/or reacting? If engagement is the metric you hold most dear (as many do), the choice is not so clear.

The way YouTube works inherently means that, in general, people searched your video or video category (e.g. “cat video”) in order to watch it, making that view intentional and implying engagement. Facebook’s auto-play feature means the view was not necessarily user-initiated, and that their experience with the video was more passive.

The “YouTuber” phenomenon also drives the audience’s engagement. Young YouTube stars draw in enormous, enthusiastic and (typically) young audiences who follow the star’s channel and other social media platforms.

Screenshot from Youtube.com

On the other hand, Facebook has the edge over YouTube when it comes to targeting. With its wealth of demographic data and personal information (such as interests), Facebook can reach exactly the audience you’d like your video to reach and that would be interested in your content. YouTube also targets, but it mainly relies on cookies, which is not as accurate as interest targeting. Facebook’s personal nature also makes it more likely, according to research by Socialbakers, for users to interact, share, and discuss the video with their friends. YouTube plays host mostly to crowds of strangers.


Does your video actually lead your audience to make a purchase/visit your site/follow your call to action? You can entertain your audience no matter where you place your video, but when it comes to actually converting, who wins?

Well, unfortunately, there is no single clear answer. According to a 2014 Aol Platform study, “YouTube is the clear winner in introducing new products and helping consumers make their purchasing decisions,” citing “YouTube’s own search volume and preferential positioning on Google’s result” as the reason.

Shopify’s research, however, provides a different answer, stating that Facebook is the primary social media platform for driving sales.



This is due to the fact that unlike YouTube, which relies on video content to convert, Facebook’s conversion rate includes video as well as its many other commercial features (links, suggested pages, Facebook ads).

So finally, what do you do with all of this information? Is one platform conclusively better than the other?

The answer, (get ready to roll your eyes), is: it depends. If your focus is on a global audience, chances are YouTube is the better choice for your marketing video. If targeting is essential to your process, Facebook has better options. Looking for an audience more suited to longer videos? YouTube. Are shares and comments more important to you than view count? Facebook.

Want it all? Consider posting on both!

Our recommendations:

Read more about Best Facebook Ads Report Templates

Global Digital Advertising Spend by Industry in 2021

Gain deeper insights into video marketing campaigns with Improvado

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