For a long time, Facebook was the most visited social network, but it has actually been overtaken by another. In fact, this isn’t even a recent development. Facebook was first passed over a year ago! So which network is it? Most people wouldn’t be surprised to hear the answer, yet probably wouldn’t have guessed it either. Why? Because while we’re all well acquainted with the platform, many still don’t think of it as being a social network.

The answer? YouTube.

The Numbers

According to Compete PRO, YouTube first passed Facebook in June 2014 with 167,848,349 unique visitors compared to 166,497,314 for Facebook. While Facebook recovered in the following two months, YouTube took the lead again in September and hasn’t looked back since. In fact, the gap is only widening. In May 2015, YouTube had roughly 9 million more unique visitors than Facebook.

Interestingly enough, YouTube hasn’t extended the gap by increasing its monthly unique visitors – that number is actually declining. The monthly unique visitors for Facebook, however, are simply declining at a much faster rate.

The Social Case for YouTube

Now, all of the numbers are null and void if YouTube isn’t actually a social network. I mean, I’m sure Google has more monthly unique visitors than Facebook too. Big deal. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a social network. So is YouTube in fact a social network? Most definitely.

Perhaps you haven’t thought of YouTube in that way before, but let’s take a look at some of the functionality found on YouTube:

  • Creating a user profile
  • Uploading your own content (videos)
  • Sharing videos
  • Liking videos (or disliking!)
  • Commenting on videos
  • Liking comments (or disliking!)
  • Tagging users in your comments
  • Subscribing to channels (similar to following a user)

I mean, if that’s not social, then I don’t know what is. Just look at the stats of the all-time most viewed YouTube video below, Gangnam Style:

YouTube Engagement

In addition to its 2.3 billion views (yes, billion), it boasts nearly 10 million likes and 5 million comments. Twitter bird icon And notice that conspicuous red “Subscribe” button? And this all for a music video in a language that most viewers don’t even understand. Yeah, I’d say YouTube is pretty social.

The Volume of Traffic Vs. Quality of Traffic

If we accept the premise that YouTube is the most visited social network, it naturally leads to the question, “so what?” What does that actually mean for a website owner? There are two main factors to consider: 1) the volume of traffic YouTube sends to your website and 2) the quality of traffic that YouTube sends to your website.

Volume: You might guess that the social network with the most visitors coming in would naturally be sending the most visitors to other websites. In reality, however, the opposite is true. Surprisingly for all its visitors, YouTube is only responsible for driving 0.01% of overall traffic to websites. Facebook, on the other hand, is the largest social referrer, driving a whopping 24.63% of overall traffic.

Quality: YouTube’s referral traffic does possess one redeeming quality, however, and that is its quality. In fact YouTube referral traffic boasts the most pages per visit (2.99), longest visit duration (228s), and lowest bounce rate (43.2%) of all social networks. While the quality of Facebook’s referral traffic isn’t bad, it pales in comparison to YouTube and falls in the middle of the pack of social networks.

The Implications

You’re not going to get a lot of traffic coming from YouTube even though it’s high quality traffic. So don’t just abandon the Facebook ship because YouTube is pulling in more visitors now. Ideally, develop a strong social presence on both networks since they both have their own strengths and different demographics.

If you have a service or product that revolves around any kind of “how to” question, YouTube is an especially great platform for your business since many people now use YouTube to learn new skills – like fixing a car, writing a program, or learning a language. Capturing the trust and interest of your target audience on YouTube will push high quality traffic to your website to help you grow your business.

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14 Comments

  • Maria Williams, July 28, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

    I remembered when Facebook was one of the top social network. You can do so many things on youtube and I like it mostly for the how to or DIY videos.

  • Caz*, July 28, 2015 @ 9:18 pm

    Facebook still is a top social network, but like many other networks, it has trouble with aging. The younger generation doesn’t want to be advertised to, sold to, or informed outside of anything they themselves find or look for. YouTube is consider the 2nd largest SEARCH engine in the world because of how engaging it is as a site, but has less referral traffic because the point of the site isn’t to optimize a click through so much as keep someone watching.

  • Maria Williams, July 29, 2015 @ 9:52 am

    so true Caz .. I think older generations like facebook the most because it’s easy to navigate. less things to worry about and Google+ nd Youtube so far has tons of things that it can help you personal as well with your social life.

  • Andrew Williams, July 29, 2015 @ 10:09 am

    This article has some helpful information that I did not know. It should definitely be something that businesses should be exploring. New videos for a company can be found on youtube and help bring some quality referrals. If you your business is out there on all the major social media outlets you are going to have the best chance of bringing new business that normally would not have found you.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, July 30, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

    Yeah DIY videos are huge on YouTube, and something most businesses should take advantage of. I think there are probably very few businesses that couldn’t find a DIY video relevant to their industry that they could create.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, July 30, 2015 @ 2:33 pm

    I think this sums up the lack of referral traffic pretty well, but also begs the question – are businesses doing a poor job of getting people to click through to their website? That’s probably a part of it, and seems to indicated there’s a large opportunity there. I also wonder that if this persists for long enough if less businesses and advertisers will care about being on YouTube if they don’t think they’re going to get much out of it.

  • Maria Williams, July 30, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

    that’s true . I like to see the dentist videos because I want to know how the procedures are going to be and the plumber ones ! those are a big ones !

  • Steven Spencer, July 31, 2015 @ 11:08 am

    I used to work for a company that actively produced YouTube content as a permanent part of their Social Media Marketing strategy.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, July 31, 2015 @ 3:56 pm

    That’s a smart marketing strategy right there.

  • TJ Mitchell, August 6, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

    What a unique perspective. I wouldn’t have thought of youtube as a social media site initially but you certainly make a valid argument. Also, it can’t hurt your SEO to use a Google product!

  • Jamison Michael Furr, August 7, 2015 @ 2:57 pm

    Thanks @Spartan117Echo:disqus! And yeah, as Caz pointed out, YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine as well, so the power of Google is strong in YouTube.

  • TJ Mitchell, August 10, 2015 @ 10:58 am

    I don’t know if there’s a ton of data to support it but it sure seems like sites that have embedded YouTube videos seem to rank better. I’m not sure exactly the connection but it seems to help their SEO as well.

  • Jamison Michael Furr, August 10, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

    That’s interesting – I hadn’t heard that before! As you said, it sounds like there isn’t hard data on it yet, but it’s an interesting correlation for now anyway. Would make for a cool study!

  • Tonya Davis, October 13, 2015 @ 8:46 am

    Even if you are a dentist or lawyer, you can something to make a video about. Like “How to properly brush”, for example. The more social media networks you are on, the more likely you are to be found, or to “go viral”. Especially since YouTube is the second largest Search Engine, why wouldn’t you want to be on there?

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