Social video is drawing more viewers and ad dollars than ever before, but how are social video platforms balancing the volume of ads that users see? Serve too many ads, and you risk users tuning out; serve too few, and platforms can’t run a viable business.
It’s a fine balance to strike, and each of the major social video platforms is approaching the challenge in a different way. Here’s a look at how each platform is currently managing ad load:

YouTube: As the most mature video platform, YouTube serves viewers an ad roughly every seven minutes — for longer videos, this could result in the appearance of mid-roll ads. YouTube has been phasing non-skippable ads out of AdWords, so by 2017, viewers will largely be able to skip ads that aren’t relevant to them.

Facebook: The ad load on Facebook depends entirely on how the user responds to ads. If a user is likely to view a video ad, or click-through to an advertiser’s website, Facebook’s algorithm will serve them more video ads that are geared toward that action. Likewise, if users rarely engage with video ads, they’ll see a variety of other ad formats.

Instagram: Instagram launched video ads in October 2014, and has been closely monitoring user behavior to see how users respond to in-feed videos. Currently, the photo and video app displays more ads to active users. Instagram’s ad load still trails Facebook’s, but ad impressions on Instagram have been rapidly increasing.

Twitter: After a 2015 increase, ads make up one out every 20 tweets in a user’s feed, compared to one ad every 25-30 tweets in years prior. In addition, skippable pre-roll ads appear before all video content published by members of Twitter’s Amplify ad program.

Snapchat. Snapchat’s advertising platform is the youngest in the social video ecosystem, and its ad load remains light. Users see three ads per day — once each in the morning, afternoon, and evening — served between friends’ Stories. Advertisers are eager to reach the platform’s millennial and Gen Z audience, so as Snapchat’s ad formats mature, we expect the ad load to only increase.

Social video platforms are committed to optimizing ad load while keeping the user experience paramount — but on the open web, it’s another story. According to the IAB, of those who use ad blockers, the chief complaint was against ads that block visible content, followed by non-skippable ads. Social video platforms typically allow users to skip or scroll past ads, and are also optimized for mobile, which is often not the case on the open web.
To find the ideal mix of ads and content, social video platforms must continue to experiment. With a balanced ad load keeping users happy, advertisers can continue to combine high-quality content with sophisticated targeting to achieve their business objectives.