The prevalence of video as a source of entertainment, news and communication in today’s world is undeniable. In fact, one third of all online activity is spent watching videos. So naturally, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter are all dedicating massive resources towards improving their video capabilities in the hopes of becoming the all-encompassing video platform for both consumers and advertisers. But in order to attract a consumer audience, these major platforms also need original, enticing content that offers a method for engagement. While the tech titans are making major moves when it comes to video capabilities (seems like there’s a new feature added every day), each one has been maturing at a different pace in terms of creation and customization, delivery and uploading, and feed discovery. While their levels of maturity are constantly evolving, a hierarchy has begun to take form in terms of which platform dominates certain stages of the video lifecycle.
Creation & Customization
As discussed in my “The Livestreaming Arms Race” post, Snapchat is the go-to platform for creating and sharing customized video. Its filters, geotags, emojis, annotations, etc. lead millions to create, edit and share content on a daily basis. Snapchat has capitalized on the “selfie-centric” and “now” phenomenon and gives consumers the ability to showcase what they are doing, with who and where within seconds, inherently driving engagement and viewership.
Unlike the other tech titans, Snapchat has been successful because it is the one stop shop: you create, edit and personalize your content then distribute within seconds. It’s evident that the other tech titans are working to mimic Snapchat’s personalization and fulfill people’s voyeuristic tendencies, just look at Instagram’s new Stories feature which is nearly identical to Snapchat. The feature allows users to post ephemeral videos/pictures that only last 24 hours. Yet, evidently it’s not working for Instagram, as the average number of Instagram posts is declining, and the average consumption of video alone Snapchat has increased to 10 billion views a day. Instagram, like the other tech titans, recognizes it will most likely never beat Snapchat at its own game, so instead it should focus its efforts on the other keys to success: content delivery and feed discovery.
Delivery & Uploading
YouTube, arguably the first name that comes to mind for video, is the industry leader in content delivery and uploading video on a massive scale. YouTube supersedes the other tech titans with the lowest load times, even when you fast forward and rewind, which is critical for today’s “need it now” consumer. If a video doesn’t load within seconds or buffers mid-view, consumers will disengage and exit, consequently lowering viewership. While the other social platforms recognize the correlation between fast delivery/uploading times and viewership, they have been unable to keep up with YouTube’s pace.
If someone is looking for a makeup tutorial or how-to video, they go to YouTube’s seemingly endless database of videos and find what they’re looking for within seconds. That is YouTube’s unwavering claim to fame, which no platform can infringe upon.
Once a video is created, customized and uploaded, in the end it doesn’t matter how good it might be—it needs to be discoverable. For the most part, all of the tech titans are masters in their own right on feed discovery especially since they also serve as the creation platform. Facebook is constantly changing its algorithm to reflect users’ behavior, YouTube’s homepage only shows relevant videos based on users’ search history and Instagram even altered its feed to show “the moments you most care about.” Yet, the only one that solely serves as a distributor is Twitter. Unless it’s exclusively text, Twitter’s video content is created on other sites and applications, and the platform only serves as a means to an end. Unfortunately, its once popular app Vine has lost the vast majority of its users to Snapchat and Instagram, leaving Twitter empty handed in the creation world. In fact, Twitter users, more times than not, use the platform to share their Instagrams, Snapchats and Facebook posts.
The Video Hierarchy as it Stands…For Now
As it stands today, Snapchat is leading the hierarchy as the creation platform and will only continue to improve its distribution. Although Instagram is behind Snapchat in terms of creation and customization, it’s not far behind and has been making recent strides to close that gap. The visual below encapsulates just how each component of the hierarchy is critical to driving engagement and viewership, and how each platform stacks up. Fortunately, for all of the tech titans, this is one hierarchy that can and will shift for years to come.