What does Medusa — the snake-haired Gorgon monster of Greek mythology fame — have in common with Facebook’s search algorithm? Why, they’re both tools of war in the clash of titans, of course.The 1981 film, “Clash of the Titans,” is loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus, son of Zeus. The movie adaptation centers on Perseus’ fantastic quest to reach his love, Princess Andromeda. The journey pits gods against gods — each with a vested interest in who wins the love of Andromeda. Needless to say, it’s very dramatic. But today, an equally dramatic and very real clash of titans is unfolding in front of our eyes. And again, love is the motivator behind this clash. I’m speaking (obviously) about the clash between Facebook and YouTube — titans of social media — and their valiant pursuits to gain the love and affection of video marketers.
YouTube was once the obvious choice — it’s free, and the links can be embedded anywhere. But Facebook has made some significant changes that make the platform a very attractive suitor for our video hosting needs. And as marketers, we must continually reevaluate where we are hosting our video.
Eyes on the prize
When Facebook went public, its primary goal became finding ways to make marketers pay for what had been previously accomplished for free through organic reach. Ultimately, changes to search algorithms led to decreased organic reach of posted content, forcing brands to pay in order to achieve the level of reach they had once had for free. The strategy worked. But up until as recently as a year ago, Facebook’s video hosting capabilities paled in comparison to YouTube’s — you couldn’t embed Facebook videos elsewhere on the Web, and you couldn’t link to a Facebook video elsewhere on the Web without prompting the viewer to log in. In other words, if you didn’t have a Facebook account, you often couldn’t watch a Facebook-hosted video. This led marketers to continue to host the vast majority of their video on YouTube, even if the primary purpose was to share the video on Facebook. So, Facebook was essentially providing a broader audience and an associated revenue stream for YouTube.
This is where Facebook’s Medusa came in.
Facebook prepares to clash
As the old adage goes, all is fair in love and war. Thetis, goddess of the sea and mother to a second suitor of Andromeda — had many tools at her disposal to thwart the efforts of Perseus, including Medusa and a deranged squid-like sea monster called Kraken. Taking cues from Thetis on how to best clash with other titans, Facebook followed suit by recently introducing and/or updating some tools that seek to stifle YouTube’s success. They metaphorically released the Kraken. Or more accurately, three Krakens.
1. Search algorithm — Facebook has complete control over what shows up in the news feeds of users, and it’s in its best interest to make sure videos hosted on Facebook show up at a higher organic rate than other types of content. The higher the organic reach, the more views and shares, and the greater the potential to monetize video content. Only a year ago, photos had the highest organic reach of any type of content posted on Facebook. It’s no surprise that Facebook-hosted video now has the highest organic reach of any type of content — twice that of links to outside sources, which include links to YouTube videos.
2. Autoplay — The ultimate goal was to make YouTube’s video player obsolete on Facebook, and when Facebook introduced the autoplay feature, it delivered a heavy blow to YouTube, which does not offer a similar technology. Autoplay videos immediately proved to be much more engaging for users than clicking a YouTube link, making them much more attractive to marketers. To take it even further, Facebook made some not-so-subtle changes to the way YouTube videos display in a news feed. Whereas a Facebook video automatically starts playing in the full width of the news feed window, a YouTube link is now displayed as a URL with a tiny image below it — scroll through quickly, and you wouldn’t even know it’s a video.
3. Sharability — Facebook videos can now be embedded and linked to from elsewhere on the Web without prompting a viewer to log in. This is an essential step toward making Facebook video capable of competing with YouTube on grand a scale — not just on the Facebook platform.
Despite delivering a pretty big blow to YouTube’s effectiveness on Facebook, the clash is far from over. You see, Perseus survived clashes with both Medusa and Kraken. Along the way, he was delivered some pretty serious blows. Most notably, he lost his magic helmet that made him invisible (this is getting weird). But he didn’t let that stop him. Against all odds, he was able to rescue a flying horse from a swamp (not getting any less weird) with the help of a mechanical owl named Bubo (continues to get weirder … assuming the ending will be totally unexpected and outright bizarre). In the end, he made it to the Kingdom of Joppa, where he married Princess Andromeda and lived happily ever after (nevermind, that’s a stereotypically normal movie ending).
Zeus of the Internet
The point here is that Perseus always had an advantage. His father is Zeus, king of gods. He was set up for success from the get-go. If only I could tie this back to YouTube somehow. Oh yeah, YouTube is owned by Google, king of the Internet. Just as Facebook has control over what content shows up in news feeds, Google has control over what content shows up in search results. That’s an advantage that Facebook will be hard-pressed to ever compete with outside the Facebook platform.
So what does this all mean?
Don’t be afraid to two-time
Why settle on one video-hosting suitor when you can have both? Despite living in a bizarre mythical world full of snake-haired Gorgons, mechanical owls, flying horses and giant squids, apparently Andromeda felt tied to the social norm of monogamy.
Well, hear this: Monogamy plays no role in Internet marketing!
Use both platforms for their respective advantages. It does no harm to host your video on both Facebook and YouTube. When using both platforms, you’ll achieve higher organic reach and better engagement when shared on Facebook, and better SEO on Google when hosted on YouTube.