Is YouTube Really Bigger Than Facebook? The Numbers Say Yes

Is YouTube Really Bigger Than Facebook? The Numbers Say Yes

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Two weeks ago, I wrote a column entitled, “YouTube is Now Bigger than Facebook in the U.S.” But at last week’s Video Marketing Summit, I ran into some marketers, brands, retailers and storytellers who still found it hard to believe that YouTube has just passed Facebook and is now the largest social media site.

So, let’s go back to the original data that I cited: Compete PRO. The Compete panel is the largest of its kind in the industry, combining the online behaviors of millions consumers across the United States. The large size provides the granularity needed to uncover deeper consumer behavioral insights and engagement opportunities that are impossible with small panels.

Social Media and Unique Visits

And according to Compete PRO, had 167,848,349 unique visitors in June 2014, up slightly from 167,737,934 in May. Meanwhile, had 166,497,314 unique visitors in June 2014, down slightly from 168,320,857 in May. (It’s also worth noting that had 48,203,344 unique visitors in June, up slightly from 48,076,625 in May.)

I illustrated this with a PowerPoint chart that showed only the June 2014 data for these social media sites. Perhaps this explains why people still find it hard to believe that YouTube has passed Facebook in the U.S. So, examine the chart below, which shows just how close YouTube has been to Facebook over the past two years – even before the lines crossed in June – the most recent month for which data is available.

Compete PRO Facebook vs Youtube

And, yes, YouTube briefly passed Facebook by about 50,000 unique visitors back in November 2013, before Facebook bounced back the following month. But YouTube’s lead in June was almost 1.4 million. So, Facebook may not bounce back as easily when the July 2014 data is published in a couple of weeks.

Second Opinions on YouTube vs Facebook

What a second opinion? According to Quantcast, had 138,991,062 monthly uniques between May 31 and June 29, 2014. Meanwhile, had 180,309,305 monthly uniques during that timeframe. That’s a much bigger lead for YouTube than Compete PRO reports. (Again, it’s worth noting that had 86,590,570 monthly uniques during that timeframe.)

What ever happened to equal time for opposing views? Well, let’s look at Alexa, which says ranks #2 in the United States. It also says ranks #3. Okay, so Facebook is still ahead using this methodology, but not by much. (In case you’re curious, Twitter ranks #7.)

What Should Marketers Do With This Data?

The real issue is what should internet marketers and video content producers do with this data?

First, you should realize that comScore and Nielsen, which both tuck Google and YouTube together as Google Sites for reporting purposes, have created a significant blind spot: YouTube disappears from their lists of top websites. This is why some people are still surprised to learn that YouTube is the second largest search engine. This also explains why even more people were surprised to read that YouTube had passed Facebook to become the largest social media site in the U.S.

Second, you should recognize that this blind spot for others gives you a short-term competitive advantage. While many marketers, brands, retailers and storytellers are overlooking YouTube altogether or narrowly focusing their social media marketing and content marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter instead, you have a chance to seize the high ground. And it’s well worth remembering that:

  • 500 years of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook a day.
  • 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter a minute.

Third, YouTube videos can have a much bigger impact on users’ emotions than Facebook posts can.

The Impact of TrueView Advertising on Consumers

According to YouTube Insights for January 2014, YouTube TrueView ads:

  • Are 76% more likely to drive a relevant web or YouTube search.
  • Are 3x more likely to drive a relevant search on YouTube.
  • Generate 74% lift in those visiting the advertiser’s site.
  • Are 10x more likely to drive engagement on the advertiser’s YouTube channel.

According to YouTube Insights for Q1 2014, YouTube masthead ads drive even more significant engagement. Exposure to YouTube masthead resulted in:

  • 71% of campaigns had significant search lift.
  • 4x increase in subsequent (relevant) search activity vs. non-exposed.
  • 79% of campaigns had significant lift in watching advertiser’s videos.
  • 13x increase in subsequent watching of advertiser’s videos on YouTube vs. non-exposed.

The Facebook Experiment that Stirred up a Hornet’s Nest

Compare and contrast that to Facebook. Yes, I’ve read Vindu Goel’s story in The New York Times, which was entitled, “Facebook Tinkers With Users’ Emotions in News Feed Experiment, Stirring Outcry.” But, I’ve also read the post by Rich Morin, Senior Editor at the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, which is entitled, “Facebook’s experiment causes a lot of fuss for little result.”

Morin says, “The controversy over what these researchers did may be overshadowing other important discussions, specifically conversations about what they really found – not much, actually – and the right and wrong way to think about and report findings based on statistical analyses of big data.”

He adds, “Consider the findings of the Facebook study in which they varied how many positive and negative posts from friends test subjects were allowed to see. Posts were determined to be positive or negative if they contained a single positive or negative word. Then, the test subject’s own use of positive and negative words in their status updates was monitored for a week. In all, test subjects posted a total 122 million words, four million of which were positive and 1.8 million negative.”

Morin concludes, “As reported by the authors, the number of negative words used in status updates increased, on average, by 0.04% when their friends’ positive posts in news feeds were reduced. That means only about four more negative words for every 10,000 written by these study participants. At the same time, the number of positive words decreased by only 0.1%, or about one less word for every 1,000 words written.”


Now, I think Facebook’s experiment on its users was unethical. They did not directly inform those in the study that they were going to be used as human lab rats. But, I wouldn’t describe their results as “emotional contagion.”

So, here’s an important safety tip for internet marketers and video content producers: You can use the fact that YouTube has passed Facebook in unique users as an attention getter in your next meeting or webinar. But, then tell the executives or clients in the room or online that their competitors will also discover this blind spot sooner or later. And for those who hesitate to move their marketing budget out of Facebook and into YouTube quickly, remind them that a YouTube video has significantly more impact than a Facebook post. That’s why 500 years of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook a day


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