How Social Video Helped Cecil the Lion: Jimmy Kimmel Plea Raises Nearly $1M

By now, many of you will already have seen a version of the video entitled, “Jimmy Kimmel on the Killing of Cecil the Lion.” If you haven’t, then here’s the text version in 25-words or less: Jimmy shares his thoughts on the Minnesota dentist who illegally killed a lion who was a local favorite in Zimbabwe.

You may have watched the Facebook version of “Jimmy Kimmel on the Killing of Cecil the Lion,” which was also uploaded on July 29. Or you may have watched the YouTube video (since removed).

That’s right, there are two virtually identical versions of the video. This enables us to compare the data for the views and engagement that each video got on YouTube and Facebook.

Cecil the Lion: Kimmel on Facebook & YouTube

Let’s start with the YouTube version. According to Tubular, Kimmel’s YouTube upload generated 7.9 million views and 381,000 engagements, or an engagement rate of 4.7%. But by comparison, the native Facebook upload attracted 9.5 million views and 355,000 engagements, or an engagement rate of 3.7%.

jimmy kimmel cecil the lion facebook vs youtube

Jimmy Kimmel ‘The Killing of Cecil the Lion’. Video uploads to YouTube and Facebook July 2015 (Data via Tubular)

Now, we all know that comparing YouTube “views” and Facebook “views” is like comparing apples and oranges. According to YouTube: “A view is a user-initiated watch of a video where the primary purpose is to watch the video; this means that a real human being wishes to see a video, chooses which video to watch, and then acts on that choice.” And according to Facebook: “A ‘video view’ is defined as a view of three seconds or more and will appear for all videos, including those that come to life as people scroll through News Feed.”

A more comparable metric is Facebook’s “clicks to play video.” These register after a person has clicked to play a video and it has started on Facebook. But this video metric is only available in Page Insights to the Facebook page owner; it isn’t public.

However, I would argue that comparing YouTube “engagements” and Facebook “engagements” is a lot closer to comparing apples to apples. The YouTube version of the video got 282,000 of its engagements on Facebook (171,000 likes, 67,000 shares, and 43,000 comments), 82,000 of its engagements on YouTube (66,000 likes and 16,000 comments), and 16,000 of its engagements on Twitter (16,000 tweets). By comparison, the Facebook version of the video got all 355,000 of its engagements on Facebook (136,000 likes, 207,000 shares, and 12,000 comments).

Kimmel’s Donation Plea Helps Raise Nearly $1M

Now, who benefits from getting more views and engagement from this multi-channel video strategy? Well, Jimmy obviously, but also the Oxford, UK based Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCru), an academic unit that tracks lion behavior in Africa, and who Kimmel urged viewers to donate to.

To date, contributions received by WildCru in regards to Cecil have topped £550,000 ($860,120). 12,000 donors have offered monetary support for the research, and although these numbers haven’t been broken down by country or region, we can safely assume that Kimmel’s uploads to YouTube and Facebook may have bumped those donor numbers considerably, particularly to viewers outside the U.S. who wouldn’t have had access to the original broadcast on the ABC network.

Multi-Platform Video Strategy for Long-term Gain

cecil the lion videos facebook youtube

Video uploads to Facebook and YouTube regarding ‘Cecil the Lion’ between 07/29/15 and 08/04/15 (Data via Tubular.

In the last 7 days, videos relating to ‘Cecil the Lion’ have generated a total of 43.7 million views across Facebook and YouTube, with most day 1-3 views and engagement for the topic occurring on Facebook. Views on YouTube spiked on July 30th, but continue steadily to today. Kimmel’s broadcast plea was the most viewed on either platform.

With only a week’s data available, we are still in peak-time as far as interest in the subject goes. But we know already know that native Facebook video uploads do extremely well in the first few hours after publication, while YouTube uploads have a slower burn but a longer engagement period.

Well, if I were you, I’d follow the lead of Jimmy Kimmel Live and upload versions of my videos to both YouTube and Facebook. Video marketing isn’t an A/B test or a horse race with just one winner. Publishing to both platforms is a way to get significantly more people to watch and engage with your content for a relatively small, incremental increase in time and effort. So, all of this indicates a multi-channel video strategy can double your impact, although it’s tragic that it took the killing of a lion in Zimbabwe by a dentist from Minnesota to illustrate that point.