If I told you that Facebook lies, you'd all probably shrug your shoulders and reply with an elongated, groaning "duh." Other than the moral issues, their lies genuinely hurt individuals and businesses. As photographers, it's important for us to take note of how Facebook is impacting us.
It's no secret that many of us consider Facebook to be a pretty shady and somewhat abhorrent company. The platform has been questioned about their reliance on fake news and how they've in some sense incentivized it. They've caused a great deal of damage in the political sphere too, and it doesn't seem as though Facebook is doing very much to correct these actions.
More recently, Facebook came under fire again for what seems to be an intentional and concerted effort to misrepresent engagement figures. If you're a content creator and you produce videos, then Facebook is not a great place to upload your work.
Facebook Versus YouTube
For some time now, YouTube has been the best platform to upload video content. The amount of video being uploaded to the platform every day is simply ridiculous. YouTube also generates a huge degree of income from the videos that get posted on the platform, and Facebook obviously wanted a piece of that. The key difference between Facebook and YouTube is the fact that YouTube will actually pay you, the content creator, a share of the ad revenue. The amount may not be significant for the majority of people on the platform, but it depends on the amount of engagement your content generates.
For my personal channel, the income I've been receiving from YouTube has been slowly increasing on a monthly basis. Currently, we receive somewhere in the region of about $300 per month on average. This isn't a huge amount of income, but it's still something that I'm receiving for uploading my content. Not only that, but YouTube will actively promote content that I upload if it generates enough interest.
Facebook, on the other hand, has a very different business model. What they offer instead is a platform where you can upload content so that they can generate income. There is not profit-sharing between Facebook and the content creator. To top it off, Facebook will actively limit your content from being seen unless you pay them. In this kind of environment, many people simply continued to operate on YouTube and completely ignored Facebook, because it offered no meaningful benefits. To combat this, Facebook adjusted its strategy, specifically for video content.
The thing that I always wondered about Facebook was why anyone would want to upload video content to the platform. Surely, it would be a much better idea to upload the content to YouTube and actually generate some income. I'm assuming this was a question that many other content creators asked themselves too. Facebook was seemingly aware of this problem and decided the only way to compete was to just lie about the engagement figures.
As Adam Conover (previously employed by College Humor) described in a tweet: "In order to beat YouTube, Facebook faked incredible viewership numbers, so CH pivoted to FB."
When you're on your phone and scrolling through your feed, Facebook will autoplay any videos that appear. Even if you just scroll past it, that blink of an eye moment where the video played is considered a view and described as engagement. This is obviously not true and cannot in any reasonable manner be considered engagement, but this is how Facebook lied about the figures. The massive number of views videos were receiving on Facebook was obviously very enticing for many brands and companies. The hope was that they could drive traffic back to their own websites, where they had more opportunities to generate revenue. According to a lawsuit against Facebook, the metrics may have been inflated by as much as 900%.
Why Facebook Is the Worst
If it isn't obvious enough yet, Facebook is the worst place to put up video content, because there is no upside. They receive all of the income and benefits from your content and offer nothing in return. There's very little to no income potential aside from affiliated or sponsored content/links. This is obviously not specific to the platform and can be done via YouTube far more effectively.
If you were uploading to the platform because of the "incredible" engagement, then we now know that was a complete lie. I would highly recommend YouTube over Facebook for video content.
If Facebook has indeed adjusted the way views and engagement are recorded, then the numbers should in theory be significantly lower. This means engagement is no longer a benefit on the platform; having said that, we now know it never was.
Even still, videos continue to autoplay, so my guess is that they've simply changed the duration before a view or metric is recorded. My opinion is that this is simply not enough to warrant any great effort on the platform.
Facebook is one of those websites that I reluctantly use because so many of my friends and colleagues use the platform too. It's an easy way to communicate with many of the people I know. Facebook really isn't a website for video content; it is more of a social site for people to talk and discuss things. This is why it just doesn't work, and as a company, they have to resort to using underhanded tactics just to be able to compete.
YouTube, on the other hand, is designed specifically for video content and isn't really a site where people go to socialize with their friends. It's optimized specifically for video, and unlike Facebook, seems to report engagement figures far more accurately.
Just to clarify, I don't think that we should all stop posting any and all video content to Facebook. Instead, I believe that it would be smarter to consider Facebook as merely a additional platform where videos can go up. Post content to YouTube initially and then trickle content down to Facebook as a way to drive traffic to another site. The only metric I would concentrate on would be the traffic that Facebook drives to your own websites or links. All other metrics on Facebook would be less useful in most situations.
Facebook is the worst platform to upload video content for most creatives, but that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities available. Just remember to take any metric they offer with a huge bucket of salt.