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Social Media’s Biggest Hits of 2019

Can you guess the most viewed videos across social media this year?

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Last week, YouTube published its annual round up of the most popular videos on its platform, switching its usual focus from the amount of views these collected, to focus on the most liked videos on the platform in 2019.

So who actually made the top viewed list this year on YouTube? And what about the other social video platforms?

Pex compiled the list of the top videos published in 2019 on the four largest social video platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. We ranked these videos by views, while also gathering data on the engagement they garnered (likes, shares, comments).

The results have some intriguing twists and turns, demonstrating how social video is changing and maturing, while also perhaps remaining less predictable than analysts might have you think.

YouTube: The world is watching (music videos)

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YouTubers may capture a lot of off-platform attention, but music videos have long been the heart of YouTube. This year was no different, with music videos making up 80% of the top videos overall. Perhaps this music dominant list is why YouTube changed its annual ‘Rewind’ top 10 lists to rank on likes instead of views. While marketed as a platform to “Broadcast Yourself,” YouTube is in large part a music streaming site.

The remaining top videos are children’s content (one involves secretive sugar ingestion by a kid named Johnny) or entertainment (a Hindi-language comedy video that tickled millions).

If we look closely at those music videos, we see that Latin, K-pop, and Indian pop outweigh the English-language pop videos by far — yes, even Billie Eilish. But Billie, BlackPink, and BTS suggest that views aren’t everything; their fans are highly engaged, commenting and liking at a furious rate.

Facebook: Tips and tricks

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Looking back on 2018, the top viewed videos on Facebook were wildly diverse in subject, a grab bag of vaguely general interest content from all over. This year’s list suggests the viewing habits on the platform have settled in considerably, finding a clear content groove. The overwhelming majority of the top videos on Facebook show that one weird life hack or a silly prank is a complement to the more friends-and-family lifestyle direction Facebook has publicly declared.

Instagram: Should we just call it Jennergram?

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People really like watching Kylie Jenner’s videos. A LOT. She occupied 6 of the Top 10 videos on Instagram* this year and dominated the talk on the site as well, as all of her videos demonstrated a high level of likes and responses. The Jenner domination on Instagram hints at the power of influencers on the platform, in particular well-heeled, long-standing influencer powerhouses like the Jenner/Kardashians. One exception: the notorious E.G.G., whose feud with Kylie left its mark on 2019.

Twitter: Brands are big (but don’t get big engagement)

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Brands won / acquired most of the top spots for Twitter’s top videos, with videos by major consumer companies and media brands (Apple, HBO, Coke, Amazon) racking up views on the platform.

Other content got people talking and sharing more, however: entertainment (Mariah Carey, America’s Got Talent) and politics (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Trump) led to orders of magnitude more engagement through likes and retweets. This suggests that paying for spots to post on Twitter might lead to high eyeball counts, but doesn’t necessarily lead to deeper engagement.

Going viral in 2019

One major insight we can glean from year’s top videos is that no video made it to the top lists on more than one platform. This reflects the fact that “going viral” and acquiring a lot of views, does not mean winning across all social media. Each platform and its community seem to support a distinct flavor of content.

It also highlights that YouTube still reigns supreme for video. Ronaldo and Kylie may wear the video content crowns on Instagram, but with “only” 50 million views, their top videos barely qualify them as jesters in Daddy Yankee’s Con Calma YouTube court. As the role of video continues to grow on more and more platforms, the playing field may balance with time.

Perhaps Ronaldo or Kylie will have the last laugh in the end.

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*For Instagram and Twitter, the top charts published here include only verified accounts, as the views on both platforms’ top content overall [possibly] remain to be cleansed from bots.