Who wins the social video war?

Youtube and Instagram fight a war over social video. Who will win?

In September 2019, Google announced to show more key moments in videos.

Starting today you can find key moments within videos and get to the information you’re looking for faster, with help from content creators. When you search for things like how-to videos that have multiple steps, or long videos like speeches or a documentary, Search will provide links to key moments within the video, based on timestamps provided by content creators.

Since then, Google has been really pushing them.

No surprise!

Videos are the best format to explain something. Even better than images. In fact, text is the format of information that’s the hardest to consume. Sure, we all say we’re visual learners but that holds true for all humans. It’s always easier with a visual than putting the pieces together in your head from text.

Google Search is becoming more visual as a whole.

The basis for this change was laid in September 2018!

Videos can be a useful way to learn about a new topic, but it can be hard to find the most relevant videos to explore all the different facets of that topic space. Using computer vision, we’re now able to deeply understand the content of a video and help you quickly find the most useful information in a new experience called featured videos.

The big picture

Google is not the only company with an announcement around video. Last week, Instagram started indexing live streams:

The mobile Instagram Live experience has comments scrolling up through a transparent window at the bottom of the video. If you're streaming with more than one person, comments can obstruct the view, making it difficult to pay attention to the video and chat simultaneously.

With the web interface now allowing you to view Live streams, the comments are moved to a scrolling window on the side, making the bottom of your viewing experience is unobstructed. The stream doesn't appear to be any larger on the web, but the positioning of the comments alone makes it a worthwhile endeavor.

In my opinion, Instagram does this for two reasons:

  1. During the Covid lockdown, people use their phones less and their laptops more. Desktop live stories keep engagement high.
  2. Instagram has been growing organic traffic consistently and is now one of the largest sites in the world (see screenshot below). Making the product more attractive for desktop users could potentially incentivize users to click on organic results more often or make instagram.com more of a destination.

Instagram.com keyword/traffic growth according to AHREFS:

In return, Youtube recently started showing posts…

… and stories.

I found Youtube stories very engaging because they appear for keywords. Instagram shows you stories by followers, Youtube by keywords. The approach fits perfectly into each company’s parents: Google, a search engine, owns Youtube. Facebook, a social network, owns Instagram. Both play to their strengths and both have strong cards to play.

The future of search and social is video and both incumbents want their piece of the pie. The video wars are on!

The bigger picture

As I mentioned in Google is a victim of its own success, the company is under immense pressure to build strong revenue streams.

Youtube is important because it already contributes more and more to Google’s overall revenue. Showing more videos in Search is helpful and Key Moments can drive even more users from Search to Youtube.

At the same time, stories and posts might retain users for longer, increase engagement, and create more real estate for ads.

Facebook is in a similar boat with the majority of revenue coming from ads but has more room to grow than Google because it’s younger and grows faster.