Not all video views are created equal. A YouTube view is not a Facebook view is not a Twitter view is not a Snapchat view. In addition to having different contexts in which a video may be viewed, each of these platforms counts views differently, and newer video platforms like Instagram’s IGTV, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Reddit also vary in how they count views for organic videos, as broken down below.

Generally, platforms count a view within the first few seconds of a video beginning to play. However, the specific threshold for when a specific platform counts a view can vary from three seconds to less than a second. That may not seem like much, but given the public nature of view counts on many platforms and the role of views as a proxy for popularity, it can affect the perceived value of a given video or channel among audiences as well as advertisers.

To be clear, publishers, influencers and marketers have become more sophisticated in looking beyond view counts when evaluating a video’s or channel’s performance or assessing who to work with for a sponsored video campaign. Increasingly, companies are gravitating to engagement metrics, such as watch time, completion rates, comments, likes and shares, because they are better measures of a video’s impact and because platforms’ algorithms are said to prioritize metrics like watch time over views when ranking videos in people’s feeds. Additionally, there are companies like Tubular Labs and Conviva that offer tools to analyze channels and videos beyond basic view counts.

However, since view counts are often public, marketers and agencies often refer to them when researching which influencers or publishers that a brand may want to work with. “We also look at comments or likes to suss out the quality of views, but ultimately views provide the easiest initial barometer to gauge how many people we may expect to reach,” said an agency exec.

Publishers and influencers recognize that they may be initially assessed based on their videos’ view counts, which helps to explain why so many of them these days tout how many millions or billions of cross-platform video views they receive each month. First Media prefers to focus on view counts specific to individual platforms because of the differences in how views are counted, but having the total cross-platform view count “is an indication for a share of voice in social media,” said First Media CEO Guy Oranim.

Additionally, how many views a sponsored video received can affect how much money a publisher or influencer receives from a brand. Often, influencers will charge brands a flat fee for a sponsored video campaign based on criteria like how many followers they have and how many views, likes and comments their videos typically receive. However, some marketers can be concerned about betting on a video to hit its performance goals and will ask to adjust the payment structure to pay out some of that money as a video hits specific view counts. “That is becoming a little bit more prevalent,” said Nick Carreras, vp of strategic partnerships and talent relations at Bent Pixels.

Before outlining how various platforms count views, a disclaimer: Not all platforms could be included. While YouTube is included in the list below, the platform doesn’t disclose how it counts organic views because spammers could use that information to try to game its system, according to a YouTube spokesperson. Additionally, Twitch did not respond to a request for information about how it counts views, and a TikTok spokesperson stopped responding. This article will be updated if any of these platforms provide information about the view-counting methodologies in the future, as well as if any of the other platforms’ methodologies change.

Facebook
When is a video view counted? Once a video has played for 3 seconds
When is a Story video view counted? Once the Story video starts playing
Are views counted differently if a video must be clicked to start playing (e.g., if autoplay is disabled)? No
Are view counts public? Yes, for non-Story videos

Instagram
When is a feed video view counted? Once a video has played for 3 seconds
When is an IGTV video view counted? Once a video has played for 3 seconds
When is a Story video view counted? Once the Story video starts playing
Are views counted differently if a video must be clicked to start playing (e.g., if autoplay is disabled)? No
Are view counts public? Yes, for non-Story videos

LinkedIn
When is a video view counted? Once a video has played for 3 seconds
Are views counted differently if a video must be clicked to start playing (e.g., if autoplay is disabled)? No
Are view counts public? Yes

Pinterest
When is a video view counted? Once a video has played for 2 seconds while 50% in view
Are views counted differently if a video must be clicked to start playing (e.g., if autoplay is disabled)? No
Are view counts public? No

Reddit
When is a video view counted? Once the video starts playing
Are views counted differently if a video must be clicked to start playing (e.g., if autoplay is disabled)? No
Are view counts public? No

Snapchat
When is a Discover video (Show,Publisher Story or Our Story) view counted? Once the video starts playing
Are views counted differently if a video must be clicked to start playing (e.g., if autoplay is disabled)? No
Are view counts public? No

Twitter
When is a video view counted? Once a video has played for 2 seconds while 50% in view
Are views counted differently if a video must be clicked to start playing (e.g., if autoplay is disabled)? No
Are view counts public? Yes

YouTube
As mentioned above, a YouTube spokesperson said the platform doesn’t disclose how it counts organic views because spammers could use that information to try to game its system. YouTube’s reasoning for the lack of transparency may be valid, especially considering how the company frequently updates videos’ view counts to weed out illegitimate views. However, YouTube continues to post videos’ view counts publicly, and the opacity regarding how it counts views poses a challenge for media companies and marketers when evaluating it against other platforms. Compounding matters, since YouTube counts views for TrueView ads once an ad has played for at least 30 seconds, some companies may operate under the belief that the threshold applies to organic videos as well even though that is not true. “Generally speaking more transparency is always better for everybody,” said Oranim.

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