Here’s how the top videos vary between social platforms

By   |   June 28th, 2018   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Digital Journalism

Social Media Analytics, Facebook Analytics

Video is different on every platform, with different tactics working well for each. We looked at the data to see if we could spot any patterns in what was successful in the last week on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. 

We’ve recently taken a bit of an interest in video on social. It’s been one of the key formats of the last year and we’ve examined its growth extensively both on the blog and in our reports.

Since it’s been such a key part of social strategy, we decided to look at how some of the biggest publishers in the world have been using video, and how their tactics and success changes between different channels. To do this, we looked at video for the last week across Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to see what differences, if any, there were across the platforms.

We examined trends across the web, as well as more specifically from some of the biggest publishers in the English-speaking world with this analysis, including BBC News, NBC News, CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

General trends for video


Before looking at these publishers specifically, we looked at some general trends across the web, again looking at the most popular videos across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

For Facebook we looked at engagements, for Twitter we looked at retweets, and for YouTube videos we looked at views. We measured by engagement for Facebook and Twitter but by views for it is already quite an active decision to go to YouTube and choose to watch a video, rather than scrolling past it and passively watching as you might on either of the other two social networks.  

In general, what we learned from this exercise is that just because a video is successful on one platform does not mean it will work on another. There was some crossover between Facebook and YouTube, as we will see below. However, the vast majority of the top content was unique to the platform it was successful on.

There were exceptions to this rule, with James Corden’s segment with Paul McCartney having extreme success on both Facebook and YouTube. This shows the impact of star power, and also word of mouth. It was actually the top video twice on Facebook thanks to shares from Paul McCartney himself as well as the show’s official page.

This, however, was where similarities across platforms tended to end, as each had its own idiosyncrasies that were evident in the data.

YouTube, for example, is the place for music videos, and longer content. We already noted that YouTube is a place people go to actively search for content, and that appeared to have continued here. The top non-Late Late Show video was from FIFA, with highlights from Croatia’s win over Argentina in the World Cup garnering more than 14 million views. In fact, Fifa performed well overall, with three of the top ten being highlights packages from the tournament. Beyond that, music videos featured as did hacks and arts and crafts.

Facebook, meanwhile, had content along similar lines, but was far from being the same. There’s still a lot more of what we might call ‘viral’ videos on Facebook – that is, short packages with an easily digestible, engaging message. We saw this from publishers such as We Need This, Now This, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Beyond this, we saw the usual suspects of cute animals and how-to videos rounding out the top ten.

Twitter, meanwhile, is the platform for semi-anonymous virality. Accounts with relatively few followers often outperformed even the biggest players, to the point that we’re willing to bet that you haven’t heard of the majority of the accounts featured in our top ten. A low follower count has never been a barrier to success on Twitter, and that continues to be the case, despite the various algorithm tweaks over the years.

Videos tended to be based on comedy of some form, cute, or even in some cases the trifecta of animal videos that are both cute and funny.

Publisher video trends


For the big publishers, there was slightly more consistency in terms of the content of the videos. In terms of engagement there were clear winners here, with Fox News, NBC News, and CNN dominating the rankings.

This is hardly surprising given the ease with which any of their 24-hour news segments can be clipped. It is unsurprising that the video from the New York Times and the Washington Post struggles to keep pace, though it is perhaps a little of a surprise that BBC News also only features once in the top videos across the three platforms.

On Facebook, these videos were engaged with much less than the top videos overall. Even the top video had fewer than 100,000 engagements, where we saw that the top video overall had nearly 1.5 million for the week. On CNN and Fox News, the top stories were almost exclusively political, which is a theme we will see drawn out across all three platforms. BBC News did also feature to break the duopoly, with an environmentalism story featuring David Attenborough.

The top video from the New York Times garnered 28,000 engagements, while the top video from the Washington Post got just over 2,000 engagements on its top video for the week, showing that video is not necessarily as much as a priority for the publication as it is for others.

On Twitter, that pattern continued, with political stories dominating. The stories were not the same in terms of the content, but were thematically similar, with lots of focus on the immigration debate and other political questions. Again, the New York Times and Washington Post barely feature, with video dominated by the big players in the field.

So then, we can see that there are similarities to be drawn. Content is often repurposed by these big publishers which makes sense given the amount of video production they do generally.

In terms of a general rule, there is no guarantee of success, as different content works better for different platforms, as we saw in our general trends. However,there is always a baseline level of success that these big publishers will achieve in packaging their content into tight, shareable clips.

Want to see for yourself what videos are driving the highest engagements? Take a tour of NewsWhip Spike.

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