5 quick things about what goes viral on YouTube vs. Facebook

October 3, 2018

Written by NewsWhip
YouTube Facebook

Video is hot, hot, hot. How do you make video content that’s a smashing hit across YouTube and Facebook? We look at the key differences. 

As we noted in our updated Facebook Algorithm guide, video content is still the premier format for native platforms.

Facebook video drives over 800 billion average daily views, and those users are five times more likely to watch video daily on mobile vs. on a desktop.

Meanwhile, YouTube attracts about 1/3 of users on the internet. There are 30+ million active daily users on YouTube. The average viewing session 40 minutes, up 50 percent year-over-year. According to surveys, YouTube is an essential part of how Gen Z audiences consume media.

Using NewsWhip Spike, we looked at top performing videos across YouTube and Facebook. In Spike, you can now watch YouTube trending videos, side-by-side with trending panels for Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and web content.

Here are five things to know about what goes viral on YouTube vs. Facebook. 

The video source

A quick note before we dive fully in. The top videos on YouTube tend to be, without fail, music videos, new songs, or movie trailers.

This could be due to YouTube’s status as the repository for video content. Users expect to find the latest videos in the entertainment industry.

For example, the top video of the last month in our database was Eminem’s KILLSHOT, driving 3.7 million likes and 580,000 comments.

In our top ten liked videos for September, seven were music videos and one was a movie trailer.

Episodic vs. digestible

A lot of this comes down to the ways that audiences expect to spend their time on Facebook vs. YouTube.
On Facebook, users might stumble across a compelling video in their news feed. It’s traditionally been about what pops out at you:

Thrillist news feed
Meanwhile, on YouTube, users are in the driver’s seat. They’re choosing what videos to watch, at least initially.

This may change with Facebook Watch. We’re already seeing the lengths of top videos increase.

Historically, Facebook may have prioritized shorter videos, as people were more likely to spare time for a quick, digestible clip. On YouTube, the “watch time” was the key metric for the platform’s algorithm, and so longer videos tended to perform better.

Facebook has been described as a megaphone, the videos pushing content towards the audience. YouTube has been called a magnet, pulling viewers in.

Characters vs. captions

The top YouTube videos (after the music videos and movie trailers) tend to be from famous YouTube influencers.

These are influencers that have a loyal following, and they’re a character that their viewers follow along with through each video. They’re often candid and let their personality come through in their videos.

For example, two of the top ten videos in our analysis came from the YouTuber, Shane Dawson. Shane has been a prominent YouTuber for ten years, letting fans keep up with his life.

This is something we see across niches, whether comedy, music, beauty tutorials, tech reviews, or really any subject. They share their lives – whether they’re adopting a new pet, or going through a break-up.

On Facebook, the videos are a bit more third-person, generally. The ubiquitous short-form videos use captions so that users scrolling through the news feed can understand them wherever they are.

CBS News Facebook video
On Facebook, the characters are the subjects of the videos. The videos are still quite emotional oftentimes but generally comes down to a heartwarming, provocative, or funny story or clip.

Textbook vs. checklist

As we’ve mentioned many times, how-tos tend to perform very well across the web and native platforms. They’re evergreen and actionable, lending themselves to being shared and commented on.

how to video, crafts
This video from 5-Minute Crafts, drove 33 million views and nearly 500,000 shares.

BuzzFeed Tasty was even proclaimed one of the most popular Facebook Pages for its digestible recipe videos, which have been replicated many times since. Since then, other how-tos have been commonplace in our rankings, for recipes, for crafts, and other life hacks.

Guides do well on YouTube as well, though, there are some differences.

On Facebook, guides are short and snappy, much more of a checklist. On YouTube, guides are much more prescriptive, and again, longer.

Viewers tune in for step-by-step instructions on beauty looks, or watch in-depth explainers about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Branded vs. Brand Allergic

We’ve said it time and time again, social users have rejected traditional advertising methods. But, that doesn’t mean they’re not amenable to learning more when a product has value for them personally, or entertains them, or sponsors their favorite influencer.

This especially rings true on YouTube. The top influencers’ videos are pretty consistently sponsored, and there’s a whole genre for “unboxing” or “haul” videos, where YouTubers show off products.

It’s a bit of a different scenario on Facebook. Branded videos are much fewer. However, we do see some product-focused videos, however, these are framed in a different way.

The top product-focused videos tend to be videos about either futuristic inventions or new life-hacking products.

Cheddar used this format to grow its social media distribution substantially, and it’s a content trend that works across other platforms like LinkedIn. Others like Thrillist and INSIDER have performed well with this format.

When we ranked by comments, we did notice Birchbox had one of the most commented videos for the month on Facebook, a Live Video giveaway.

Facebook vs. YouTube 

Video is still the top format, but how you successfully create it varies platform by platform.

For example, Blossom and 5-Minute Crafts, which are both successful Facebook video creators, saw their most liked videos on YouTube differ from their most likes videos on Facebook.

5-Minute Crafts’ top liked video on Facebook in September was 3 minutes long (the artistic paint example from earlier), while its top liked video on YouTube was 13 minutes long.

Some publishers create entirely different offerings for the channels. For example, BuzzFeed’s top video on Facebook in September was about a storybook amusement park, meanwhile, on YouTube, it was a video of celeb Noah Centineo playing with puppies.

How can you keep on top of the latest trends in social videos? NewsWhip Spike’s dashboards can give you a look at a glance.

For more, check out our Facebook Algorithm guide here, ahead of 2019.

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