Social network Facebook is further encroaching on YouTube’s online video-sharing territory with the addition of a view counter and improved metrics for its native video format.
An update will start rolling out to Facebook users this week that will display how many views a video has received. These view counters will help Facebook push popular videos and aid discovery of trending content on the social network.
In refining its video platform, Facebook has also improved video ranking in the news feed in order to direct users to video content that has been deemed relevant or interesting to them.
Another feature is being tested on mobile that will help users discover new content by suggesting related videos after a video has been played.
Auto-play by numbers
According to Fidji Simo, product management director of video at Facebook, growth in video views exceeded 50pc from May through July of this year and, since June, there has been an average of more than 1bn video views on Facebook each day, 65pc of which are happening on mobile devices.
While figures breaching the 1bn milestone will have content creators, publishers and advertisers salivating like Pavlov’s dog to get a taste of that audience, it’s important to dine on them with a pinch of auto-play-flavoured salt.
Facebook first began trialling auto-play videos in the news feed on desktop and mobile last year, but it has been a slow roll out since then and the reality of the effect of this new feature on users’ data plans has only come to the fore of late.
Auto-play is now live and activated by default for users across the US and in many countries around the world, and it’s up to those users who want to keep a tighter rein on their data usage to switch it to Wi-Fi only or turn it off completely.
Facebook’s favourable video stats might also have been lifted by the 17m ice bucket challenge videos that have been shared on the platform up to 1 September.
On the left, a view counter is displayed beneath a Facebook video while, on the right, related videos pop up after a video has been viewed
The social factor
Regardless of what it took to get Facebook’s video views over the 1bn-per-day mark, there’s no argument against its prominence as a video platform and strong contender to the crown worn by YouTube.
Not only is it a video publisher in its own right, but Facebook is critical as a social mechanism to drive viral content, as noted by The New York Times.
Last week, Beyoncé treated fans to a behind-the-scenes look at her MTV Video Music Awards performance with a video posted to both YouTube and Facebook. In four hours, the video had racked up 2.4m views on Facebook, reaching just a few thousand on YouTube in the same time – a disparity attributed to the ability of Facebook viewers to instantly share what they have just watched.
Better metrics for publishers
The addition of view counters will be most useful to content publishers, who will no longer have to rely solely on likes and shares for metrics.
Facebook has already started to deliver more detailed video analytics for publishers, as well as tools to enhance audience engagement, such as the ability for page owners to add a call to action to the end of their videos.
For those that are keeping track, video views on Facebook will account for any video watched for at least three seconds and will include content delivered via auto-play.
More clarity on engagement will be provided by a ‘clicks to play’ metric that will register users who have actively clicked to play a video.
With these changes to encourage more video uploads, views and sharing on Facebook, the platform is set to get even stronger, while the US$500m acquisition of video-advertising firm LiveRail suggests it won’t be long before this content is a chief revenue-earner for the world’s biggest social network.