How Facebook Watch stacks up to Facebook videos and YouTube

July 26, 2018

Written by NewsWhip
Facebook Watch

As platforms and publishers try to catch and hold their audiences with longer videos, we look at a few quick things to know about Facebook Watch.

Fly-by audiences are so 2017. Audience loyalty has always been important, but for social platforms, mastering loyalty has become the holy grail.

This change is evident on Facebook, where Facebook Watch has become the platform’s latest bid to nudge users’ behaviors away from mindless news feed scrolling to intentional consumption of specific shows.
So… is it working?

To understand, we used NewsWhip’s platforms to analyze Facebook Watch shows, Facebook Pages, and YouTube content, in order to compare. 

How does Facebook Watch compare to regular Facebook content? 

We took a look at several Facebook Watch shows to understand whether they’re more, less, or equally engaging to audiences. Below, we examined INSIDER and a selection of its Facebook Pages, along with some Facebook Watch shows.

INSIDER Facebook Watch
Looking at INSIDER’s Facebook entities and their average engagements both in general and just on video content, we can see that the Facebook Watch shows are currently overperforming when compared to the regular Facebook Pages.

Even for INSIDER dessert, a Watch show, outperforms INSIDER food, a regular Facebook Page, even though the two create content within the same category. The videos, across all of the Watch pages, tend to post quirky, thumb-stopping content.

Dessert Insider Facebook Watch

In fact, for most of the non-Watch shows, their most engaging posts came from sharing content from the Facebook Watch Pages. INSIDER’s Page, INSIDER Presents, serves as a creator of Facebook Watch shows to supplement its preexisting Pages, instead of creating brand new Pages.

In truth, a Facebook Watch Page can operate just the same as a regular Facebook Page. They can post links, photos, statuses. Again, we noted that INSIDER’s Watch Pages were performing better than its regular Pages.

What about other publishers? We looked at ATTN:, Vox, and AJ+ for a few more examples.

ATTN Facebook Watch
For ATTN:, ‘We Need This’ and ‘Our Planet’ both had a higher number of average engagements for our early July analysis, 53,800 and 31,200 respectively, compared to ATTN:’s 12,100 engagements per post.

For AJ+, its main Facebook Page (9,607 average) was outperforming both ‘Direct From’ (459) and ‘Untold America’ (4,942), in terms of average engagements. The same was the case for Vox (1,288) when we compared it to Vox Borders (254).

Keep in mind, however, that these numbers don’t account for views, but for likes, shares, comments — intentional actions taken by the user. 

So how are publishers using Facebook Watch? 

As you may have noticed from the Watch shows we listed above, publishers are experimenting with Facebook Watch by creating some niche, specialized shows around certain topics.

We Need This Facebook Watch
These allow publishers to explore themes and beats more deeply. Even brands are getting in on it. NASA has some Watch shows centered around topics called “Rocket Science in 60 Seconds” and “Space to Ground“. Disney has a Watch show on Easter Eggs in its movies and shows.

Before jumping in, it’s worth considering your top performing content and looking at your engagement data, as well as what’s working generally on social media. It’s also worth determining your goals for the show.

For example, GQ has created a show called “Tattoo Tour”, which was hopefully signaled to them previously as something that would work and create deeper engagement among followers and tattoo enthusiasts.

As Facebook creates new initiatives, other publishers are creating Watch shows in different ways. Several news outlets are starting some news update shows. INSIDER again is experimenting with a Live game show, Confetti.

Anderson Cooper Full Circle Facebook Watch
Almost an evolution of Facebook Live, Watch shows can alert their audiences about upcoming episodes, like this clip from Anderson Cooper Full Circle. Even two hours before the broadcast, the post had accrued 59 comments and 11 shares.

How long are Facebook Watch videos? 

What’s the magic number of minutes for a Facebook Watch show? As we know from our recent analyses, the duration of top Facebook videos is on the rise.

For INSIDER, which is quickly churning out episodes, INSIDER’s top Watch shows tend to be between three and five minutes long. Other publishers generally aren’t publishing so frequently, with days or even weeks between episodes.

When we looked at the most recent episodes of ten other Watch Pages, they varied between just a minute long, to a half hour long.

Facebook Watch Length
“We Need This” by ATTN: was the shortest, clocking in at an average of just under two minutes. Others were quite longer, with Vox Borders, Mic Dispatch, Anderson Cooper Full Circle, and the Try Guys all averaging well over ten minutes long. 

How does Facebook Watch compare to YouTube? 

Ah, yes. How can we talk about Facebook Watch without mentioning YouTube?

How do the metrics compare with one another? At the moment, it might come down to where those audiences already exist. On preexisting YouTube channels, where followers are used to navigating to catch up on their favorite channels, it makes sense that the metrics may be higher.

When we looked back at soft news creators like BuzzFeed, we saw the Try Guys’ posts drove an average of 21,900 engagements, compared to BuzzFeed’s 3,500 engagements per post. But how do these initiatives into Facebook Watch stack up against YouTube?

Looking at the Try Guys on YouTube, we saw views, reactions, and comments were all higher than on Facebook.

Try Guys Facebook Watch
To break it down, for the top three videos on Facebook Watch, views were approximately 23 – 46 percent of what they were on YouTube. Likes/Reactions were 11 to 18 percent of what they were compared to Up/Down reactions, and Facebook comments were 15 to 38 percent of what they were on YouTube.

For another comparison, we took a look at Vox Borders, which is published on both Facebook Watch and YouTube. The two videos of Vox Borders’ second season presented some interesting findings.

Vox Borders Facebook Watch
Views were higher on Facebook, with one video reaching 1.5 million views there, vs. 773,000 on YouTube. Of course, we do have to consider that Facebook and YouTube may measure views differently (our guide here breaks it down).

YouTube Up and Down reactions outnumbered Facebook Likes and Reactions. Comments were also higher on YouTube than on Facebook.

As Facebook Watch shows cultivate returning audiences, they may begin to engage more frequently, but it’s something to monitor and dig into deeper with your own metrics, as well as the quality of the comments themselves.

(Interested in more? You can check out and compare Facebook and YouTube in NewsWhip Spike.) 

What to remember 

To summarize, here are five quick things to know about Facebook Watch:

  1. Facebook Watch shows can be used to supplement existing Facebook Pages, given their current emphasis
  2. Quality over quantity. Most publishers aren’t posting episodes every day
  3. Digital natives seem to be adapting well. The likes of INSIDER and Attn: have gone all in
  4. What already works for socially engaging content is still working. Recipies, cute animals, awe-inspiring gadgets, all carry over into engaging Facebook Watch shows
  5. Go niche and deep on topics that your audience already cares about

To explore video across Facebook, YouTube, and beyond even further, take a demo of NewsWhip Spike. 

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