Debunking Facebook Video Viewcounts

There has been a lot of press in the past few weeks about the prominence of video content on Facebook, and many video creators have been asking whether or not they should be uploading videos directly to Facebook. Many people are finding that their videos on Facebook get much higher view counts than the same video on YouTube when they upload it to both platforms. While Facebook is a very important platform, Facebook views and YouTube views are very different so let’s take a closer look at both.



These two graphs show the same video’s performance on Facebook and YouTube. Notice that only 20% of Facebook users watch past the first 30 seconds of the video, while on YouTube that same 20% stays tuned in until the last 10 seconds. The average view duration on Facebook is 53 seconds, compared to 3 minutes and 4 seconds on YouTube.

YouTube has the obvious benefit of allowing you to earn money from your videos, as well as the ability to create playlists, include annotations, and build a subscriber base that will continually return to watch your new videos. Each video on Facebook must be 20 minutes or less, so if you create long-form content this will not be your primary video destination. On the other hand, Facebook can allow fans to easily share video content with viewers you may not otherwise be able to reach, and is arguably a better place to foster conversations around your videos. Facebook also has the advantage of letting you see the actual names and identities of people that are interacting with your video content, whereas YouTube just displays the viewer’s username (which is rarely their actual legal name).

Facebook counts a “view” anytime a video plays for 3 or more seconds – so anytime a user scrolls through her news feed and a video automatically plays for 3 seconds, that’s counted as a view. Most of the people that come across your video on Facebook did not search for it or ask to see it, but instead it appeared as one of dozens of posts that are automatically displayed in their news feed. While this causes your video posts to appear very popular, what you’ll almost always find is that very few people are watching the majority of your videos on Facebook. The Facebook news feed is an extremely “noisy” place because it’s flooded with so much content, and most users are not going to spend more than a few seconds looking at a specific post before they move on to the next one.

YouTube, on the other hand, strongly favors videos that keep viewers watching for longer periods of time. Because of this, they’ve historically avoided autoplay features and do not allow you to earn ad revenue on a view that was not initiated by the user. YouTube rewards your channel and videos for demonstrating that viewers watch a substantial portion of the video, and penalizes videos that show a track record of losing viewers quickly. Their algorithms are geared towards finding videos that viewers actually watch – not towards videos that show inflated view counts but quickly lose viewers after they click play.

To find out just how much of your Facebook video is being watched, go to the Insights tab of your Facebook page and click on any video post. Unless your video is extremely short, you’ll probably find that most people watch less than 25% of the video (and sometimes, much less than that). If this is not the case, your videos are doing great on Facebook and you should probably continue to use it as a promotional tool. However, if people aren’t watching a decent percentage of your video posts then you should reconsider your strategy.

It may be a smarter move to just upload short clips or teasers of your videos to Facebook (and Instagram, for that matter). That way you still have the opportunity to reach people on Facebook and you can capture their attention more effectively with quick, to-the-point video clips that drive those viewers to your YouTube channel. Once those viewers are on YouTube you have the opportunity to convert them to subscribers and introduce them to much more content – in an environment created specifically and exclusively for watching videos.