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Why Posting YouTube Videos On Facebook Sucks



Facebook vs Google

Photo credit: Anna Rettberg

If you manage a Facebook Page or are a big content sharer like me, you know that posting YouTube videos on Facebook sucks. If you haven’t figured out by now, Facebook and Google (Google owns YouTube) are not best friends. So, when you create an amazing video, upload it to YouTube, and are ready to share it with the network you’ve painstakingly built on Facebook… be prepared for a lackluster response. No, it’s not because Facebook limits who sees your newsfeed now (although they do, kind of), it’s because of the way Facebook displays YouTube videos.

**Update: It’s not just YouTube videos, it’s pretty much any content hosted outside of Facebook and shared (tumblr, your website, other video platforms, news sites, etc). Check out Aaron’s comment below with another example.

Let’s take a look at an example of a video uploaded directly to Facebook and shared versus a YouTube video link shared. 

Facebook and YouTube Video

Completely ignore the content of these two videos and look at them from an aesthetic point of view only. 99 out of 100 human beings would absolutely click the large video thumbnail on the left way before the tiny thumbnail on the right. If you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you’d see the large thumbnail way before the smaller one. For the record, the Facebook thumbnail is about six times larger than the thumbnail provided for YouTube. And let’s not even get started on the fact that half the time Facebook doesn’t even want to show a thumbnail for a YouTube video altogether.

(Thanks for the example Sean!)

So, obviously Facebook wants to display content uploaded to their platform in a more attractive way. But what’s even worse, is this comparison:

Facebook Newsfeed Ad vs YouTube Video

You’re looking at two items in the Facebook Newsfeed. The item on the left is a company I don’t currently “Like” (nothing against 20Jeans), and is a “Sponsored” post that Facebook placed in my Newsfeed. On the right is a YouTube video my friend Sam shared. Honestly, Sam’s post looks more like an advertisement than the actual advertisement does! The thumbnail is about 2.5 larger in the advertisement and the white space around the thumbnail makes it stand out a bit more in the Newsfeed. *Just FYI, whether it’s a personal profile or a business page, a shared YouTube video formats the same way in the Newsfeed.

What’s interesting to me is that most other media platforms (magazine, radio, TV, etc) typically make the content look better and give space for advertisers. Kind of like what Facebook does in the right column with standard Facebook ads. However, it’s blatantly obvious that Facebook wants you to see their ads and doesn’t want you to see YouTube videos. Another thing to note, where’s the play button on the YouTube video? In the Newsfeed Facebook strips the play button from the thumbnail, but on your page they leave it. Odd.

With that being said, what can you do? Well, besides pressing the dreaded “Boost” (or is it “Promote”) button on all of your posts, you can use interesting screenshots for you YouTube videos with a link in the status description. Here’s an example:

Post a Screenshot of a YouTube Video on Facebook

The inherent design of Facebook is geared towards the sharing of photos. Just look at the screenshot above comparing the same exact content shared as a photo with a link and just the YouTube video itself. Not only is the photo about eight times bigger, you can show a lot more visual information which will hopefully attract people to watch.

What’s the worst thing that happens by only posting the photo? Someone clicks on it and realizes it’s not an actual video. Hopefully if they’ve invested a click and are interested they click to the link you’ve included in the photo post description. Another bonus to sharing the photo is you get to pick what photo you share! With just sharing the YouTube link, your only thumbnail option is whatever comes with the video through YouTube. You can make the photo whatever you want and hope to attract more eyeballs and interaction.

*As another point of comparison: In the hour the above photo was posted it “reached” 365 people. The YouTube video only “reached” 654 people in 24 hours. There could be a lot of factors that go into this (like timing of the post, description, etc), but that’s enough for me to almost always want to post a photo with a link to the YouTube video.

As Brian Solis mentions in the article I linked above and here, Facebook has it’s own SEO game, just like Google does. You need interaction and engagement for more of your posts to be seen by your friends/fans on Facebook. In my mind, captivating and interesting photos with well written descriptions are the way to do that. Unless it’s of extreme importance, I wouldn’t waste money on the Boost/Promote button. Yes, you can pay for more people to see that post, but if the post isn’t any good, it’s not going to help your cause.

And because I mentioned SEO, you might be asking “Should I upload my videos to Facebook instead of YouTube?” My answer is no. You aren’t going to get organic traffic to your video if it’s uploaded to Facebook. This goes back to the Facebook vs Google battle. Google has no interest in showing Facebook videos in its search results. A well titled, tagged, and description on a YouTube video has much better SEO implications.

Food for thought the next time you want to share a YouTube video on Facebook. 

  • Anthony

    Can’t really blame Facebook for promoting what they want to…it’s their platform after all. More than anything else, I blame the users. Facebook was fun 2 years ago, but increasingly, they’re trying to build a revenue model that works. Google+ is better, but for some reason, it just hasn’t caught on yet. I personally feel that in another year or two, Facebook will have lost a good chunk of it’s users. People are getting tired of all their tweaks.

    • http://jasonsadler.com/ Jason HeadsetsDotCom

      I do agree that Facebook can do what they want, but if you make the platform great and people want to use it, it helps your revenue go up. If you limit the platform, especially people sharing content from other platforms, you’re going to push people to other platforms (like G+). I do agree with you, and have said for a few years, Facebook is on it’s way down. It’s only a matter of time.

  • http://www.starpulp.com/ Stacey

    Yes! Great post and comparisons.

    • http://jasonsadler.com/ Jason HeadsetsDotCom

      Thanks Stacey, glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://aaroncouch.me/ Aaron Couch

    You know, Jason, even though I read this article this morning, it just occurred to me that Facebook is likely doing this to more websites/services than just YouTube.

    And I actually did this same test, without realizing it. I blogged about what Ashton Kutcher’s speech was at the Teen Choice Awards and included a great big photo of him. I actually made the Tumblr blog post as a photo with a description, instead of choosing it as a “text” post with the intent that it would post a large photo to Facebook and grab people’s attention.

    The result? Zero likes/comments and it looked horrendous. The photo was a tiny square. So the next day, I took the very same photo and posted it to Facebook with a description and link… sure enough, 9 comments and a bunch of links…

    In addition the any blogged videos aren’t playable on Facebook and look identical to an image. In fact, there’s no real obvious link to click to take you to the blog post — most people probably think that’s all it is. And text posts only have the title with no description or photos, and quotes definitely don’t meet their potential either.

    It’s frustrating really. It’s like they’re TRYING to make it look bad. Why?

    Anyway, I attached an image of the comparison.

    • http://jasonsadler.com/ Jason HeadsetsDotCom

      I didn’t even think to mention this in the post, but you are totally correct Aaron. It’s not just YouTube videos, it’s pretty much any link outside of direct content upload to Facebook. And I love that you took the time to do a little experiment of your own. What Facebook doesn’t realize is that you can’t force everyone to only upload and share Facebook content, that’s not the name of the game. In fact, that’s why traditional media companies are struggling so much. They create these boxes and try to keep people in them. Google+ is doing a good job of not forcing people to stay in their own box.

      • http://aaroncouch.me/ Aaron Couch

        That’s exactly right, Jason. And that’s why I despise media so much in general. People aren’t computers or robots. Our minds don’t function that way. We aren’t just a number. We aren’t just a username. There’s a personality, a name and a soul behind each person’s face. And eventually, if companies, organizations and services don’t figure that out and integrate that perspective into their mission and objective, they’ll fail. They might have a short time boost and perhaps even influence their area significantly, but they won’t be a long-lasting, well-liked company, which I feel is what a business should strive for.

        P.S. I made a couple quick edits for some grammatical errors that glared at me with evil cat eyes as I reread my first comment, so I think DISQUS is going to make you moderate it again.

        • http://jasonsadler.com/ Jason HeadsetsDotCom

          Approved the comment, thanks for letting me know and for taking the time to add some valuable info!

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