When Facebook reported its third quarter 2016 results, Mark Zuckerberg said, “People are creating and sharing more video, and we think it’s pretty clear that video is only going to become more important. So that’s why we're prioritizing putting video first across our family of apps, and taking steps to make it even easier for people to express themselves in richer ways.”
This represents both an opportunity and a threat to digital marketers that haven’t already mastered the art and science of uploading videos to Facebook directly. Fortunately, Mark Robertson shared some expert analysis and tips at last month’s VidSummit 2016 in a presentation entitled, “Facebook Video: Data-Driven Insights & Best Practices.”
As you may know, Mark Robertson is the Founder of ReelSEO (now TubularInsights), and he's one of the industry's leading advocates for video marketing - educating marketers, brands and publishers in strategies and best practices for video marketing, social video, and advertising.
I interviewed Robertson about his thoughts on best practices for Facebook video, covering the following topics:
- Why should marketers upload native Facebook video to their Pages?
- What are the benefits of using Facebook video vs. YouTube?
- What are some best practices for uploaded native Facebook Page videos?
- What posting schedule or frequency would you recommend for Facebook videos?
- Is metadata optimization important for Facebook video?
- Do you have any expert tips for Facebook Video?
- What's the future of Facebook video?
- Why is it important to continue to test and measure results for Facebook video?
Why should marketers upload native Facebook video to their Pages?
Mark Robertson: In short – video marketers should upload natively to Facebook because it works best, and because Facebook, a platform with the largest number of daily active users worldwide, has put significant resources into enhancing the platform to showcase and promote native video content. Although Facebook has allowed for uploading of native video for many years, they implemented several changes in mid-2014 that made native video, an incredibly popular medium for the platform.
After Facebook tested “auto-play” videos beginning in December 2013, they officially made it the default video playback experience in May of 2014. Since then, any video content uploaded to the platform, is given unique, and prominent visibility within user’s newsfeed through the automatically moving picture – admittedly modeled after the “magical images” featured in Harry Potter films’ fictional Daily Prophet Newspaper.
Secondly, Facebook, like other platforms, is constantly making algorithm adjustments. But, it’s become clear that Facebook began to reward native video posts (vs. photos, status updates, URL links – which include YouTube video links) in the algorithm a couple of years ago. Since mid-2014, there have been several studies published which indicate that natively uploaded video is one of the most-rewarded formats within Facebooks’ algorithm in terms of News Feed impressions delivered. Whether as a consequence of this preference or not, studies have also shown that video also generates more engagement than other post formats in Facebook. This is particularly true with regard to Facebook Live, for now.
Finally, it’s important to note that Facebook itself has touted their internal focus on native video content (on-demand, live, 360, VR, etc.). In their Q3-2015 Earnings call in November 2015, Mark Zuckerberg himself stated:
“Over the next few years, video is going to be some of the most engaging content online, and by continuing to innovate here, we have a chance to build the best place to watch and share videos.”
What are the benefits of using Facebook video vs. YouTube?
Mark Robertson: I think for most video content strategies, it's important to leverage both platforms. However, I also believe that it's important to understand that they are very different animals at this point in time. YouTube is a video-first destination, and is primarily a video discovery platform. YouTube provides a great environment for building video channels and for generating viewership both in the immediate term, as well as over time. Videos uploaded to YouTube vs. Facebook (for the time being) tend to continue to generate viewership long after they’re initially posted due to the nature of discovery on YouTube primarily driven via browse and search discovery methods.
For Facebook, viewership is often generated more-so from a “push” perspective. By that, I mean that in most instances, Facebook users are not searching out videos to watch on the platform, but rather, are viewing videos that they did not expect, but that were shared to them within their News Feeds.With Facebook, if your video content is compelling enough, it could potentially generate massive viewership in a very short time, due to the vast user base that resides in Facebook and the fact that any viewer/user can immediately share your video with their friends and fans inside the platform – creating viral potential. In fact, 53% of all Facebook video views are generated via shared posts.
What are some best practices for uploaded native Facebook Page videos?
Mark Robertson: Adding relevant textual metadata is, in my opinion, an important consideration and best practice for any content published digitally (video in particular). That being said, there are a couple known best practices for Facebook video, that pertain much more-so to the environment in which videos are consumed in the platform.
- 75% of all video views occur on a mobile device (consider the form factor).
- 85% of all videos are viewed (at least initially) with audio off.
With that knowledge, there are two best practices for video that I’d like to call attention to and both have more to do with the format of the video being uploaded.
Keep in mind that in a mobile experience (75% of all video views), aspect ratio matters. I did a separate study of the top 25K most-engaged Facebook videos uploaded in Q3 2016 (according to Tubular Labs data) and found the following:
- In the top 25K, only 30.9% of videos were widescreen, or 16:9 aspect ratio, while 56.3% of the top performing videos were either square (1:1 aspect ratio), or vertical videos.
- However, in taking a look at the top 1K most-engaged videos from that set, only 20.6% were 16:9, vs. more than 70% being either square, or vertical videos.
I think that the following set of images helps show one reason this may be the case. As you’ll notice in the set of images below, square and vertical videos take up much more News Feed real-estate than do widescreen videos. If your goal is to capture someone’s attention quickly (as it should be within Facebook), you’ll immediately garner more exposure in mobile with an aspect ratio taller than typical widescreen videos.
Because 85% of Facebook video views occur with sound-off, it’s important to include timed-text, so as to better tell the story and hook a viewer. This can be done in a couple different ways, and I would recommend both.
- First, you’ll notice that many successful video publishers on Facebook include text subtitles and overlays within the video itself.
- Secondly, adding closed-captions to your Facebook videos, can help. In fact, according to Facebook itself, video ads with closed captions generate 12% more video watch-time, than those without.
By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t state that the most important and obvious best practice required for success in a social platform like Facebook, is to understand, interact with, and cater to desires of the community itself.
What posting schedule or frequency would you recommend for Facebook videos?
Mark Robertson: Based off the research I’ve done, there is more upside than there is downside to increasing the frequency at which a Facebook Page owner publishes content to their page. Many popular publishers like BuzzFeed are publishing videos at a rate of 5 or more videos per day, per page. If you are concerned that this could cause post fatigue, or over-saturate your audience, pay close attention to the “negative feedback” analytics available within Facebook. If your audience is constantly hiding your video posts, or unfollowing your page, you can reduce the frequency with which you are uploading to test if that may be a cause.
While some studies suggest best days and times for posting video content (Thursdays and Fridays most often referenced), I truly believe that the best schedule is going to be one that best fits your unique audience, and their network. Therefore, rather than deciding schedule based off published, aggregated research, it’s my strong opinion that each publisher needs to deploy a proper, data-driven testing strategy in order to determine what works best for a given, often times, niche audience.
Is metadata optimization important for Facebook video?
Mark Robertson: On Facebook, it appears that video metadata (while arguably always of importance), is less important in terms of video performance, than is the format and the content of the video itself. Remember, when users are served a video in Facebook, it’s not the metadata that causes them to make a decision as to whether or not to click and watch or engage with a video. Rather, it’s whether or not the video itself caught the users’ attention and interest in the few seconds it exists when scrolling through one’s feed.
All that being said, because metadata options are available within Facebook’s video uploading process, and because I’m a passionate SEO professional, I do believe that metadata is still of importance and may be of importance more-so in the future. If Facebook enhances their internal search functionality, metadata may play a bigger role in the future. Additionally, for search engines like Google (which has been indexing more and more Facebook video URLS), metadata will be important as user signals within Facebook will be unavailable to outside search engines.
Do you have any expert tips for Facebook Video?
Mark Robertson: Here are two expert tips:
- Interact with your audience: When you post a video and someone comments or reacts to your video, be sure to interact with that user. Aside from the overall importance of being interactive in social platforms, think about the result. Each time that you like and respond to a user’s comment, you generate an additional view, and two additional interactions. If that user then returns to view your reply, you then generate yet an additional view, and perhaps interaction. This engagement can help send additional positive signals to Facebook that your video is one worth providing additional exposure to.
- Custom Thumbnails: While it’s true that most videos on Facebook are set to autoplay in the News Feed, there are many users who have opted to disable auto-play, for various reasons. In those cases, as well as for related videos, it’s still important to upload a compelling, custom thumbnail.
What's the future of Facebook video?
Mark Robertson: Live video is exploding on Facebook and will continue to grow in the future. It is a well-known fact that the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has taken a tremendous interest in live video streaming, and as such, has re-focused internal resources into building out the company’s live broadcasting offerings. I would expect to see continued push towards live video, as well as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality moving picture content formats. I believe that those who wish to succeed with Facebook video should look to embrace live video now and figure out what types of live video content resonate best with your audience. These may be live events, Ask-Me-Anythings (AMAs), Q&As, interviews, etc.
Why is it important to continue to test and measure results on Facebook?
Mark Robertson: Facebook, as most other platforms, is continually evolving. Additionally, video on Facebook is relatively new (vs. YouTube for example). Therefore, it should be expected that the features, functionality, and user experience with Facebook’s video offerings will evolve, likely quite rapidly. In order to best guarantee success, it’s critical to constantly test and evaluate the performance of your video posting strategies.
Lastly, given that Facebook is a social platform with audience interests that span genres, geographies, etc., it’s important to continually evaluate your audience and community, to determine what will resonate with them. Testing can be done through organic post-segmentation as well as via paid promotion. For testing video, I would highly recommend learning about and conducting multivariate tests using Facebook dark-posting. In all honesty – while this is especially critical for Facebook video marketing success, I see testing and measurement as a best practice that’s ever increasing in importance across the board – for all digital marketing strategies and disciplines.