Facebook has been pushing hard to dislodge YouTube as the king of social video in 2014 and so far it’s made excellent headway.

And for the cynics among you - yes, a lot of it has to do with autoplay videos.

According to comScore, in August Facebook achieved a billion more desktop video views than YouTube, though that obviously fails to take into account mobile views.

So how has it achieved this? At Le Web today Facebook’s product director in charge of video, Fidji Simo, discussed the network’s strategy in this area.

(Click to enlarge)

The obvious question is whether the blue giant can continue to eat into YouTube’s marketshare at such a rapid rate.

Simo said that Facebook users get through 1bn video views every day, a number that has grown 15% since March.

This rate of growth is attributed to the popularity of mobile video and the ease with which users can create and upload video content using a smartphone.

Facebook has also made changes to the newsfeed algorithm to better target users who enjoy watching videos.

So it’s become a self-fulfilling loop – users that like videos are shown more video content, which helps drive the popularity of this type of content on Facebook.

It obviously works in the opposite direction as well, so if you consistently ignore all the spammy autoplay content then you’ll start to see less of it.

Built for discovery

Underpinning Facebook’s video strategy is the goal of driving content discovery.

According to Simo:

We built the product for ease of discovery. Our DNA is about putting content in front of people that they may not know about and letting them discover it.

That's why it was important to autoplay all video content in the newsfeed.

The ‘play’ button is a big barrier to discovery as people have to choose to watch a clip based on the title and one preview image.

Autoplay gives videos a better chance of grabbing a user’s attention and encouraging them to watch more.

Working with content creators

Google has recently been actively trying to prevent Facebook from stealing its most valued content creators by providing cash advances on new content that people otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to produce.

These vloggers are massively popular on YouTube and are very important to the platform’s success.

Simo said that Facebook's sales pitch is that it can offer a huge amount of exposure and the chance to build an engaged audience.

The network has been working closely with content creators to show them what type of content works on its platform and develop best practices, such as tailoring short-form content for mobile.

However YouTube has one major advantage over Facebook – ad dollars.

Currently Facebook hopes that content creators will be sold on the idea of building a brand on its platform without any direct way of monetising the audience.

Brand pages are able to add a CTA to their video content linking back to their own site, but this is a huge barrier to conversion.

And Facebook ads on videos aren’t going to arrive any time soon. Simo said her team was "more focused on improving the user experience."

During the Q&A Simo also mentioned that Facebook wasn’t planning to develop a Snapchat-style video product and that her team was working to improve relevant video recommendations in the newsfeed.

All of this, of course, ties into the overall strategy of content discovery.

David Moth

Published 9 December, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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