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Video views on social media aren’t what you think they are

There’s a very good reason why your video views are so much higher on TikTok than anywhere else. And it’s not just because so many people watch so many videos on TikTok.

Every platform has its way of counting video views. So here’s a quick guide to how each social network measures your video views so that you can decide for yourself if shifting all your focus to one platform is really just creating yourself a house of cards.

Facebook

The big blue daddy of them all isn’t based solely on video. It’s a big network of multiple features. Image galleries, comprehensive profiles, business pages, groups of all shapes and sizes, gaming and yes – videos.

Facebook measures videos in terms of 3-second views. And all videos automatically start playing when you reach them.

Interestingly, though, the video doesn’t have to be 100% within the user’s viewing window at the time. Those three seconds could be counted even if the video is on it’s way out of the screen – or even completely out of it.

Though to be honest, it takes a lot less than 3 seconds to swipe or scroll up on your phone, so three seconds is a lot longer than it may seem when it comes to a video in the feed.

That means that the video with autoplay, then not count as a “view” until three seconds have passed.

Although the ads platform can be used to target ads to people who have viewed as little as 1 second of a video as well.

Instagram

Although the Insta of the current era is very much all about short-form videos in the form of Reels, it started life as a check-in app for lovers of Bourbon whiskey. That didn’t last long, and soon it had pivoted to be a photo-sharing app with some cool filter features.

Now owned by Meta (Facebook) it measures video view the same way as Facebook does – in 3-second lots. And like its sister app, all videos automatically start playing as you reach them on the feed or in stories.

Just like Facebook, it also counts that three seconds regardless if you are scrolling past the video, so if the video is still within a partial view of what you can see on your screen, it’s being measured as a view.

Twitter

The bird also seems to have bought into the Facebook style of measurement with 3-seconds being regarded as a view – however, Twitter are a little more strict on how that 3-seconds works.

The view must be 100% within your view for three seconds to count as a view.

That feels a little more honest and realistic.

Pinterest

This isn’t such a big deal as video isn’t perhaps as important on Pinterest as it is on other platforms.

But, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, 3-seconds is what counts as a view.

It’s also worth noting that videos do NOT automatically start playing on Pinterest – perhaps in recognition that video isn’t really the point of this platform.

YouTube

As expected from a platform that is more about longer format videos that shorter, YouTube measures a view a little differently.

Some say it’s 30-seconds where the video is longer than 30 seconds. But YouTube describes things a little differently.

They see a view as something initiated by a user (ie; they navigate to the video page and let the video play) and this then triggers YouTube to “despam” the view – to verify that the view was from one person on one single device.

It judges artificial views like this:

  • Views, reloaded: This is the classic case of a single user constantly refreshing the video to bring those numbers up.
  • Viruses: If a video looks like malware — software designed to harm your computer, server, or network — it gets deleted.
  • Website autoplay: If the video is set up to autoplay on a website, that doesn’t count as a view.

So while watching your own video once or twice will count as views, anything more than that will trigger your views as spammy and be ignored.

TikTok

And now for the wonderchild of social media. Bytedance have a seriously huge hit on their hands. But the way they measure a video “view” is a little sneaky.

TikTok videos automatically play whether you want them to or not. That’s the same as almost all the others on this list.

The difference is that on TikTok, the very second your video starts to play, it’s counted as a view. If the video autoplays or loops, or a viewer or even you come back to watch it multiple times, those all count as new views.

So you could essentially just sit there with 3 devices continually watching your video again and again and again and those views would be seen as legitimate by TikTok.

The trouble with measuring views

This is quite misleading since every other platform has been forced by their users, advertisers and authorities to be a lot more regulated with the way they measure views.

So while you may have 1000 views on Instagram, and 3000 views on TikTok, remember that Instagram views are at least 3 seconds. TikTok is only 1. So we’re not comparing apples with apples here, despite it being so “now” to be hacking on reach on other platforms while we award our love and affection to TikTok.

The fact is that views aren’t measured the same across the platforms, so views may not be a good way to compare how your videos are going.

But measuring via engagement isn’t particularly helpful either.

The structure of endless scrolling feeds encourages consumption of video, but not the engagements that we’re used to on social media. I regularly see TikTok videos with 2 million views, yet only a handful of comments or reactions. And then see a LinkedIn video with less than 100 views have more comments and reactions.

The infinity scroll feed doesn’t lend itself well to engagement beyond views.

My own measurement of how a video perform is based upon not one video, but a month of video content.

I then see what enquiries, leads, questions and conversions come from those posts based on the date the enquiries came in and correlating that with when the enquiries and leads came in. As I only have a limited capacity to take on clients, it’s pretty easy to measure and attribute what is generating these leads.

The lesson here is that views just aren’t always views in the way that you’re thinking they are. Know how each platform treats them and then form a more balanced view of where your leads and sales are coming from – rather than becoming bewitched with big numbers.


Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Meta Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Meta Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.

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