What’s in a view? A guide to social video view counts


By   |   December 18th, 2017   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Digital Journalism

social media analytics, social media strategy

What do the view counts underneath videos on Facebook, Instagram, and now Twitter refer to? We analyse the metrics behind public social video view counts.  

Earlier this month, Twitter finally introduced public video views to videos, giving users an indication of how many other tweeters had watched the clip. It was the latest development in a confusing and often contentious area of social publishing.

Social video metrics are consistently one of the most debated and controversial of digital metrics. Prior to the phenomenon of social native video, online video view counts in the tens of millions were considered a rarity, and were usually restricted to ‘evergreen’ YouTube videos, which would frequently take months to accrue.

The first YouTube video to hit 10 million views was a version of the Pokemon theme music video, which took six months from November 2005 to May 2006 to set the new record. By contrast, in July 2017, a 97-second long ‘organisation hack’ video was proclaimed the most watched video on Facebook, with 334 million views. It had been uploaded just six weeks previously.

One of the main issues when it comes to social videos is the question of what exactly counts as ‘a view’. Practically all social platforms now autoplay videos in users’ feeds. That, coupled with the relatively tiny amount of time (sometimes just two seconds) needed to count as a view, means that there is a fair degree of skepticism and confusion about various social video metrics.

There are many video metrics available to video uploaders in their control panels, but the public ‘views’ number is what many advertisers, publishers, and other content creators will be trying to benchmark their own performance against.

Despite the controversies and confusion, however, advertisers and marketers remain bullish on social video: over two-thirds of US marketers already run video ads on Facebook, with more expenditure on other social platforms planned by many.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a quick reference guide explaining exactly what the public video metrics on different platforms are comprised of.

 

Twitter

 

Videos have been popular on Twitter for a long time, but their popularity has long been guessed by retweets and likes, rather than views. It was only this month that the public view count was included in videos, giving Twitter users a sense of how popular individual clips were.

According to Twitter Analytics documentation, the ‘total video view’ metric is calculated by the sum of “any views which are at least 50 percent in-view for 2 seconds.” That means that to count as a view, at least half of video has to be visible and playing on a user’s screen for at least two seconds.

This measurement is based on a Media Rating Council (MRC) standard which has been the source of debate between advertisers and the media industry since it was agreed in June 2014. The MRC is a US-based non-profit which provides and administers an audit system for media audience measurements.

Previously, the ‘total video view’ count referred to a video that was 100% visible on a user’s screen and playing for at least three seconds. A variety of other Twitter video metrics are available through Twitter’s API.

Twitter API video capabilities

 

Facebook

 

We’ve covered Facebook video extensively here on the NewsWhip blog. The Facebook news feed is a vast propagator of viral video content and has largely shaped an entirely new style of video communication. Fast-moving, short, subtitled and eye-catching clips are de rigueur across the platform today, accounting for the majority of many publishers’ and advertisers’ content output and audience engagement.

Video view metrics, in particular, have been a source of controversy for users on Facebook, with the platform issuing clarifications on their measurement methodology during 2016.

For now, a public view on native video counts as three seconds, or 97 percent of its total length, whichever comes first (the 97 percent rule caters for ultra-short clips that loop over and over). This count includes auto-plays, so the user does not have to click or unmute a video in order for a view to be counted.

For Live videos, a view is counted in the same way, and the total video count on expired Live videos includes viewers who watched while it was live, plus viewers who watched the archived version (for at least three seconds).

Of course, the uploader has many other ways of breaking down how people engage with individual videos, such as seeing 10-second view counts, average completion rates, and more. Facebook has a vast array of metrics available to video creators, which are used in different ways by advertisers and publishers.

 

Instagram

 

A video view on Instagram counts as at least three seconds of view time and does not count repeated loops as individual views. If a video is shared as part of a post with multiple other videos or images, view counts will not be publicly viewable. Remember that non-live Instagram videos have a maximum length of 60 seconds, so a three-second view probably counts for a bit more here than on other platforms.

A new view of a Live video is counted as soon as a new user joins the stream, regardless of how long they spend watching. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, the user takes an action on Live videos by clicking on the video, rather than it just auto-playing.

 

LinkedIn

 

LinkedIn isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of social video activity, but that’s not to say that the professional social networking platform hasn’t been immune to wider user behaviour trends in 2017.

LinkedIn made a native video upload feature available to its wider user base in August, and some publishers have been noting reasonable view rates on the platform recently. LinkedIn video ads (to a small initial test group) followed soon after. As noted on this blog previously, the type of videos likely to take off will differ to those on other platforms, due to the inherently different composition of the LinkedIn user base.

For now, LinkedIn is not publicly displaying view counts on their videos, but reports suggest that the analytics that they do make available to the uploader are a lot more granular than other platforms. According to TheNextWeb:

“LinkedIn is also adding their own spin to the video feature by sharing information about video viewers. This information includes where the viewers currently work and their job titles.”

 

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