red or blue pill

Weighing the pros and cons of Facebook, YouTube, or other sites on the Web is a helpful way to determine how to best allocate ad spend for video content. 

With online video ad spending set to approach $10 billion in the U.S. in 2016, social networks seek to capture an increasing share of those marketing dollars. While giants like YouTube and Facebook offer many great benefits, it is important to remember that the word social describes a kind of engagement – not just a type of website. Limiting a video campaign to walled-off communities on social networks can yield some surprising cons, along with the obvious pros.

Here are some of the top benefits of YouTube and Facebook advertising:


1. Reach

A subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet and considered online video royalty, YouTube offers a truly global footprint and a level of access that very few other platforms can match. More than a billion people are on the platform, and countless people use it to learn, communicate, and waste time watching goofy cat videos.


YouTube ads can be extended to the Google Display Network, affording advertisers with access to Google’s network of two million blogs for an even more massive reach.

Likewise, Facebook offers incredible reach. The social network logged a billion users  on its site in a single day this past summer. Its reach is even more expansive, if you include Facebook-owned Instagram, which is a great place to reach millennials.

2. Time spent on platform

Overall, the time spent on YouTube is high compared to competitors, which is great for advertisers looking to drive more attention to ads. On mobile specifically, YouTube reports the average session time is over 40 minutes.

Time spent per unique user on Facebook is also absolutely incredible. Facebook’s (Read more...) than 1.44 billion monthly active users around the world spend an average of 20 or more minutes per day on the site, accounting for nearly 20 percent of all time online.

3. Cost

Since YouTube doesn’t charge an advertiser for the first five seconds, viewers have the option to watch an ad or else the placement is free. In addition, Facebook also offers very inexpensive cost per view ads.

facebook-savings-flickr-9515968133_503b8c6d2e_zSource: Flickr

While there are some clear pros to advertising on Facebook or YouTube, marketers should consider other key measures like shares and completion rates when assessing social engagement as this can be higher on the open Web.

There are several drawbacks that advertisers must consider before investing in these social media giants:


1. Lack of customization and verification

One limitation with YouTube is that the site doesn’t allow for customization. YouTube doesn’t support elements that increase branding and engagement, such as a brand bar with a logo or a strong call to action that you can incorporate into the video player. Both tactics boost interaction anywhere from 200 percent to 500 percent.

Another con is that YouTube doesn’t let you implement third-party custom tags for independent tracking and measurement. As a result, if you want to get a sense of how your campaign went, you have to rely on Alphabet, which is mum about its methods for audience targeting and measurements.

Meanwhile, Facebook counts just three seconds as a view. With the majority of Facebook’s videos mostly on auto-play, it is likely that viewers are not giving this content their full attention.

2. Uncertain or limited options for context

If your top goal is having future prospects see just how many people have viewed your video with YouTube’s famous YouTube Counter, then YouTube may be for you. Though there’s a downside for advertisers; there is no way to know if your ad is going to show up near something transcendent and inspirational, or next to another cat video that has no contextual link to your brand.

On Facebook, the lack of options may be of consideration, since Facebook’s video ads appear only in the News Feed. However, when you reach outside the confines of walled-off communities, the options for placement and context are as limitless as the Web itself.

3. Targeting isn’t as exact as you might want it to be

Effective online video campaigns reach their audiences where consumers are most likely to be receptive to the ad’s message. This can be difficult on YouTube, as the platform relies on users to tag the categories of their own videos. For example, a user may upload a video of a talking dog and categorize it as news, even though others might not consider this content as such.

puppy video ad example

The challenge with targeting on Facebook is that its environment is not always conducive to the right context for ads. Users log on Facebook primarily to connect with their friends and family. While this context might be great for sharing baby pictures and vacation photos, when it comes to advertising, engagement can fall short. A more effective way to reach an audience is to target a contextually relevant site where users are already engaged with a subject matter related to the content of the video ad.

The bottom line

As online video continues to rise in prominence and capture a greater share of overall advertising spends, marketers need to consider the full picture when comparing the benefits of sites like YouTube and Facebook, along with the open Web. Depending on what you’re trying to do, YouTube and Facebook might make a lot of sense for your ad campaign. When it comes to customization, verification, placement and targeting, however, if you’re looking to take full advantage of all of the tools available to marketers in 2016 and beyond, consider the benefits of the open Web as well.

James Brooks Jr

James G. Brooks is the founder and chief executive of GlassView, a mission-driven video platform set out to change the way advertisers reach top influencers and get their videos watched, engaged with, and shared.

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