Facebook, Twitter, Snap and Pinterest are doubling down on their missions to lure influential creators away from Google, with each platform making product announcements at the conference once heralded as "YouTube Mecca".
VidCon, which held its first conference in 2010 in Los Angeles, is designed to give influencers and creators a space to come together to celebrate their success in online video. Now owned by Viacom, the event has come to be known as the place where YouTubers transcend the screen and appear in front of a live audience.
But this year, other established video platforms are invading the Mecca with shiny new products hoping to win creators, brands and ad dollars away from Google's video behemoth.
Facebook, Twitter, Snap and Pinterest all made product announcements around VidCon, currently being held in Anaheim, CA. Other platforms such as TikTok and Twitch – and YouTube itself – also have a presence at the conference.
Facebook's big play
Facebook Watch, perhaps YouTube’s biggest challenger, is trying hard to draw creators and advertisers to its platform in one fell swoop.
In a statement today (10 July), the company announced it has developed more ways for creators to monetize their content on Watch and IGTV. Facebook is now allowing creators to choose the type of ad format featured in their videoes, as well as the location it gets placed on screen.
It is also building out its creator studio to include insights from Instagram and IGTV, and expanding Brand Collabs Manager, which lets advertisers find creators for branded content partnerships.
Now Facebook is bringing performance insights to its match-making solution, showing brands engagement numbers surrounding their content.
In addition, Facebook is expanding its Fan Support program, a subscription model that allows viewers to pay creators each month for exclusive content. But as CNBC reports, Facebook will take a 30% cut from these subscriptions, less than the 12% Patreon takes from its subscribers for a similar service.
YouTube has more than 1.9 billion monthly logged-in users – a Facebook said it was chasing in June when it reported more than 720 million monthly users spent at least one minute on Watch. (Sister company Instagram is not publicizing viewership numbers of IGTV.)
While Facebook is making a strong push to reconfigure its suite to be more creator-friendly, and advertising strong user growth, Garnter senior principal analyst Andrew Marder said YouTube still leads the pack.
“YouTube is still the clear front runner in this space and their moat is pretty wide,” he said. “While they've have had all sorts of problems on the creator side, the hits on the consumer side have been much less frequent and, honestly, I suspect most consumers haven’t noticed much.
"The challenges of content have been aligned with those of other social platforms – such as bullying, hate and fake news – so YouTube isn’t standing out in consumers’ minds as a particularly bad actor.”
However, YouTube is facing possible ire from regulators over its data collection practices of children. Tuesday (9 July) the FTC reportedly began to consider disabling ads on certain YouTube channels to safeguard against privacy concerns.
Joel Beckett, chief executive officer of influencer marketing agency Outloud Group, said YouTube is still largely marketers' go-to destination, adding that VidCon is still YouTube-focused and “will continue to be for the foreseeable future as creators currently on the platform aren't going anywhere”.
“It's simply too big and no other platform can currently offer the kind of scale,” he said, adding that creators tend to pick a platform and stick with it.
One influencer bucking that trend is Baby Ariel, who Snapchat has managed to poach from IGTV as it makes its own play in video.
Snapchat also announced partnerships with big names Serena Williams and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as Ariel's fellow influencers Maddie Ziegler, Emma Chamberlain and FaZe Banks. Each will create original shows for the platform.
Meanwhile, Twitter announced the launch of Art House, a studio connecting brands with influencers, artists and editor. It's positioning the offer as a one-stop-shop to help brands and creators launch new products on the platform.
Pinterest updated its uploader interface, allowing creators to upload videos directly to the platform. It also added a video tab on business profiles to help brands group their videos in one place.
As YouTube competitors continue to build out their video offerings, OMD West managing director Albert Samuelian said the platforms that are set to succeed will allow “marketers to leverage robust data and targeting capabilities”.
Beckett said different advertisers prefer different platforms depending on their goals and materials, so, for example, Instagram would still be best for any promotion captured by a static image.
“It's easy for brands to find influencers and execute campaigns, which is why most brands have an in-house team that handles Instagram,” said Beckett. “YouTube is better when there is some degree of consumer education needed and thus would benefit from a 30-60 sponsored shout-out.”
YouTube’s foes can still hold out hope in the video space, too: Marder sees three areas where YouTube is “under attack” from competitors.
Secondly, Marder said the "value of video as an immediate back and forth” can have people looking more toward Facebook and Snapchat, whose platforms better facilitate communication among viewers.
Finally, he noted YouTube lacks integrated social sharing features, explaining that “when things 'go viral' on YouTube, they’re really going viral on other social channels",
“YouTube depends on those channels for traffic,” he said. “Consumers use Facebook and Instagram to share content in a way they can’t on YouTube.”
“Clearly YouTube is a leader in the space,” Samuelian admitted, “but the ever-changing landscape forces all of us to deeply understand the new offerings and solutions that keep our clients one step ahead."