Facebook’s Fabricated Video Marketing Craze

Here’s a fun experiment. Google “year of video marketing” and see how many results you get from different years.

I pulled up results from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018All on the first page. It seems that a lot of companies have been determined to push video marketing big ways over this past decade.

Except the idea that video marketing is the future and there are just oodles of money waiting to be made hasn’t worked out the way many of these companies envisioned. One of the biggest casualties of this alleged video marketing craze was the media industry. The infamous pivot to video, where media publishing companies cut staff and resources of written content to emphasize videos instead, resulting in companies losing a lot of money and people losing their jobs without the success these publishers envisioned.

Small businesses have been hit by this too and it’s something I’ve watched unfold in real time. I’m visible enough in my field where I get pitched fairly frequently by vendors, and by far one of the most recurring pitches I see is for video marketing services. Often with very hefty price tags that you would associate with slick video production and editing. Many of my own clients get these sorts of pitches from video marketing vendors on their own.

Except as I discussed in my “pivot to video” article there’s just no evidence consumers actually want more video. Both publishers and small businesses aren’t reacting to any kind of specific market need or identifying success results when it comes to what consumers respond to, especially when you consider that most users go out of their way to block commercials. There’s a reason commercial free radio, YouTube Red and platforms like Netflix have exploded in the way that they have.

While normally hot marketing trends like mobile apps, Facebook pages, or Pokemon Go are based off existing trends involving cherry-picked case studies, there was no real video marketing boom in the first place. This brings us to everybody’s favorite tech circus simply known as Facebook. Oh, Facebook, you just can’t stop giving me article material, can you?

The news broke recently that Facebook will be paying $40 million under a proposed settlement regarding a video metric lawsuit. The suit accused Facebook of massively fudging data on the time its users spent watching paid advertisements. Originally it was written that Facebook’s metrics had been overstated by between 60 and 80 percent using a groundswell of faulty metrics:

But Facebook based its video push on a quicksand of faulty metrics. Facebook popularized the “3-second video view,” or the idea of counting a video viewed if a user kept it open for 3 seconds. Facebook flogged the 3-second view for two years, inflating its video views by 60 percent to 80 percent, according to Publicis. The company apologized for misleading metricsas late as September 2016. Two months later, Facebook admitted to overcounting yet more metrics tied to advertising. There’s evidence Facebook’s advertising metrics are still out of whack: An analyst report found that Facebook is claiming to reach millions more young Americans than actually exist in the US.

That would be bad enough on its own but the actual numbers are even worse. The amended complaint accuses average viewership metrics of being inflated by some 150 to 900 percent.

I wrote in the past about how Facebook’s growth era is at an end and how the company has long since passed its peak of cultural relevance which was arguably in 2010-2012. Back then Facebook was the linchpin of social media agencies that sprung up like weeds and it arguably dictated small business marketing for an entire decade. It had a huge influence on how content is styled and delivered and how small business advertising was done.

Even so, the fact that Facebook is long past its prime doesn’t change the fact that Facebook still has huge influence. Facebook has billions of users and its actions have consequences; the truly scary part is that Facebook doesn’t even seem to realize how influential it still is. By fluffing up its video data solely because it wanted to muscle in on YouTube’s territory, Facebook unknowingly caused a cascading effect that faked an entire Internet marketing trend.

That trend subsequently badly shook the media industry and convinced a lot of people running small businesses to invest thousands of dollars in video ads that people were never going to see. Yet even after agreeing to a $40 million payout, Facebook maintains the suit is “without merit.” The company still doesn’t realize the scope of its actions. The “small business video marketing” craze was ultimately a scam derided from Facebook’s desire to compete with YouTube and it ends with lots of money lost and no real accountability.

By all means, keep using Facebook as a marketing tool if it works for you, even though at this point in 2019 Facebook is becoming so much harder that I’d argue Facebook marketing isn’t worth it unless you already have an established presence on it dating back years. Taking advantage of Facebook for your own purposes can still work, but trusting it is just begging for trouble. Personally, if tomorrow Mark Zuckerberg told me the sky is blue I’d look outside and double check.