Mixpo, a Facebook Marketing Partner, recently published a report entitled, “The State of Video Advertising.” And I probably don’t need to provide you with the following spoiler alert: The subtitle of the report is “Facebook’s Rise to Dominance.” The company surveyed over 125 U.S. agency, brand, and publisher executives to gain insight into their plans and views related to video advertising on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Vine, Google+, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other social media sites and apps.

According to eMarketer, 54 people responded to the survey. I know, I know, that’s a fairly small sample. But, let’s not quibble about that. Instead, let’s focus on the types of companies that Mixpo’s respondents represent: 17 (31.5%) work at a digital agency, 17 (31.5%) at a media agency, 15 (27.8%) at a creative agency, and 5 (9.3%) at a brand. In other words, this isn’t a particularly representative sample – unless you believe that agencies make more than nine out of 10 decisions about where to run social video advertising.

The Most Important Video Ad Metrics

So, is it really significant that three more respondents to Mixpo’s survey said they plan to run video ads on Facebook (87%) than will on YouTube (81.5%)? Well, let’s not bicker and argue over the margin of error. Instead, let’s take a hard look and what respondents to the survey said were the most important metrics that advertisers are focused on for video ads run in social.

Mixpo asked respondents to list the three metrics most important to them. Surprisingly, video video advertising metrics 2015views, a traditional video metric, was ranked the fifth most important. The top four metrics were: Engagement with interactive elements, shares, conversions, and total time spent watching videos.

According to the report: “This indicates that the expectation for a video ad run in social is to deliver more than just a video view. In fact, conversions were ranked as higher importance than a view itself. In social, video ads must work harder to satisfy advertisers than in other channels.”

So, after reviewing the report, are there any trends in the digital video marketing business, critical data, strategic insights, or tactical advice worth sharing? I probably don’t need to provide you with the following spoiler alert: When one of ReelSEO’s videologists and columnists asks a rhetorical question, you can safely assume that the correct answer is: Yes.

Trends in Digital Video Marketing 

Back in July 2014, I was the first to report that “YouTube is now bigger than Facebook in the U.S.” This was based on data for June 2014 from Compete PRO, when YouTube.com had 167.8 million unique visitors and Facebook.com had 166.5 million.

Using the same source, I took a look at the trends through March 2015. And YouTube now leads by an even larger margin. According to Compete PRO (graph below), YouTube.com had 163.7 million unique visitors in March 2015, while Facebook.com had 155.6 million.YouTube vs Facebook March 2015So, before more advertising executives jump on the Facebook video ad bandwagon, they may want to take a hard look at the website traffic trends in the U.S.

Since Premium Video Ads on Facebook were introduced in March 2014, unique visitors to Facebook.com have dropped from 169.6 million to 155.6 million in March 2015. Why did 14 million people stop using Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them?

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Auto-play is Driving Facebook's Video Success

Back in November 2014, I observed that “Facebook is shaking up the video ecosystem.” And last week, Facebook said its users now watch 4 billion videos on its service every day. Now, that’s a big number by any measure, but it’s particularly significant when you consider that it has jumped from 3 billion a day in January.

However, part of Facebook’s success in video is due to its auto-play video ads, which begin playing in user news feeds automatically with the sound muted. And Facebook counts “view” if the video is displayed in a user’s news feed for 3 seconds or more, even if the person doesn’t actually click on the video to watch with the sound turned on.

By comparison, YouTube hit 4 billion daily video views back in January 2012. Currently, YouTube says, “Every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.” And with AdWords TrueView video ads, the first 5 seconds aren’t counted. However, Mixpro’s survey found that advertising executives think “total time spent watching videos”, “engagement with interactive elements”, “shares”, and “conversions” are a more important metrics than “views”.

So, Why Are Facebook Video Ads Being Favored?

So, why does it seem like advertising executives are rooting for Facebook video ads? Is Facebook offering a 15% agency commission while YouTube doesn’t because AdWords for video is an auction-based system? That’s a question that no one wants to answer – even off-the-record.

If someone from YouTube acknowledged that agencies were rooting for Facebook video ads because they were getting a 15% commission, then he or she would be putting their relationships with agencies at risk and putting pressure on YouTube to offer a commission, too. If someone from Facebook acknowledged that agencies were getting a 15% commission, then this might imply that Facebook video ads weren’t generating measurable results. And, if someone from an agency acknowledged that he or she was getting a 15% commission from Facebook, then this might imply that the commission was more important than generating measurable results for their clients.

About the only ones left who might be willing to talk are clients, who might not be as concerned about putting their relationships with agencies or Facebook at risk or putting pressure on YouTube to offer a commission, too. If you are willing to spill the beans – off-the-record – then send me an email at greg dot jarboe at seo-pr dot com.

Of course, there are other possible explanations for why advertising executives seem to be rooting for Facebook video ads. Maybe they love to root for the underdog. Maybe they get a more intense psychological response to Facebook’s blue logo than to YouTube’s red logo. Or, maybe they missed the article by Mike Shields in The Wall Street Journal last week, which is entitled, “Facebook Video Surging, But YouTube Still Offers Advertisers More Options.”

Engagement Metrics are All That Matter

Who knows? All you can do until someone spills the beans is measure what matters most. Now, a long time ago in a video ecosystem far, far away the only metric that mattered to an advertiser was their YouTube view count. But those days are long gone – especially now that video marketers know that a Vine loop and a Facebook “video view” aren’t really comparable to a view on YouTube. That’s why even Mixpo’s small, unrepresentative sample of advertising executives ranked engagement with interactive elements, shares, conversions, and total time spent watching videos ahead of views.

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Now, Premium Video Ads on Facebook are bought and measured in a way that’s similar to how advertisers bought and measured ads on TV more than a decade ago. The ads are bought based on Targeted Gross Rating Points to reach a specific audience over a short period of time. Delivery is measured by an independent third-party, Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings, which provides a comprehensive, next-day view of your ad’s online and mobile audience in a way comparable to the Nielsen TV ratings. But that’s just a fancy way of saying that Nielsen is helping Facebook to measure views.

Even Facebook’s introduction of Video Metrics in May 2014 didn’t leapfrog over YouTube Analytics, which was introduced in November 2011, or the metrics in AdWords for video, which were revamped in December 2014.

Yes, Facebook has a metric called “clicks to play video” in addition one called “video views.” But, that’s because Facebook needs to distinguish between the number of times a person has clicked to play a video and the number of times a 15-second video ad starts playing without sound as it appears on-screen if people scroll past. So, Facebook’s “clicks to play video” is equivalent to YouTube’s “views.”

The audience retention graph in Facebook’s Page Insights looks remarkably similar to the audience retention report in YouTube Analytics, which is a more robust version of the Hot Spots feature in YouTube Insights, which was first introduced in September 2008.

Facebook’s metrics will also allow you to see the number of views that reached certain points in a video — 25%, 50%, 75%, 95% and 100%. YouTube Analytics lets you assess “Average % Viewed” and “Average View Duration” for specific videos to identify which content types are most likely to drive high watch time.

Using the “data breakdowns” feature in Facebook’s Ads Reporting, you can also learn how specific audiences responded to your video. For example, if females between 18 and 34 are a demographic you target in your campaign, the data breakdown will show the number of views you received from that demographic. But, YouTube Analytics not only provides directional insights into audience age and gender, it also let you know:

  1. Where viewers are finding your videos,
  2. How many videos each viewer consumes,
  3. How many fans interact with your videos and share them,
  4. What causes people to subscribe to your channel, and
  5. How effective your annotations or cards are at driving conversions.

In other words, you will need to pay very close attention to metrics beyond views if you want to evaluate video advertising on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Vine, Google+, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other social media sites and apps. Or, as W. Edward Deming once said, “In God we trust; all others must bring data.”