The major social networks don't agree on how to count video views; here's a rundown of the sometimes slippery metric.
As Facebook continues to rise as a video powerhouse, a key concern has also risen with it: what exactly is a video view? As it turns out, the standard of a YouTube “views” is 10 times higher than that of Facebook or Facebook-owned Instagram.
We surveyed all the major social video platforms to see what counts as a view. For Facebook and Instagram, viewing only 3 seconds of a video of any length is considered a view. For YouTube, it’s “around” 30 seconds, the service tells us. In all those cases, the overall length of a video isn’t factored in.
It’s an odd way to count at a time when for display ads there’s increasing pressure about the accuracy of view statistics. Of course, with display ads, the metric is easier to determine. They’re either seen in total or not. But with video, is only a few seconds enough?
The Media Rating Council and IAB say yes; as we reported Monday, those organizations define a video ad as viewable “when at least 50 percent of the ad’s pixels are visible on a screen for at least two consecutive seconds.”
Some advertisers and brands with short form video might think so also, especially if they are putting the key message at the beginning. Others might disagree. That’s something we’ll be talking to advertisers more about in the near future.
In the meantime, here’s the rundown of how the major players count video views:
- YouTube: The Google-owned video network counts a view after a user has watched a video for “around” 30 seconds.
- Facebook: Facebook videos automatically play without audio on users’ News Feeds. Views, which are displayed publicly, are triggered when someone watches for at least 3 seconds.
- Instagram: Facebook’s photo and video sharing network doesn’t display video view counts publicly, but the company uses the same 3-second standard to count them. Instagram video also loops automatically while a video post remains on users’ screens, so instead of total total video views, the stat Instagram sends to advertisers is views by “unique users.”
- Twitter: Unlike Facebook and YouTube, Twitter doesn’t currently serve autoplay video (although it is testing the feature for some iOS users), so a view is counted when a user clicks on a video within a tweet. Video view counts are not publicly displayed. Advertisers can view stats within the Twitter ad platform, or for organic tweets from within the analytics dashboard. [Update: A month after this post was originally published, Twitter rolled out autoplay on the desktop and iOS platforms and adjusted its view-count standards. It now counts a view after three seconds, with the wrinkle that the video needs to be 100% in view on a user’s device for at least three seconds.]
- Vine: The Twitter-owned video network autoplays looping video with a maximum length of 6 seconds. Views on the Vine network are called loops, which are publicly displayed and triggered after a user watches the entire video. Vine doesn’t sell ads.
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