Photo Courtesy the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

This week’s post is inspired by a question on the Libraries and Social Media Facebook page. A library staff member asked this: “We’re being asked to track the virtual ‘butts in seats’ numbers for each of our programs and also how many views each get in the first hour. I can’t for the life of me find that in insights.”

Analytics on views for videos, both live and pre-recorded, are measured differently by each platform. So, tracking actual attendance can be confusing and time intensive. But it is valuable data.

I have done some research this week to find updated information about how to track video views on the platforms where most libraries are posting video and doing live stream programming: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Special note: Libraries are also using Instagram for live streaming and video views. However, analytics for videos on Instagram are nearly impossible to track. My advice is limited by that fact.

What counts as attendance?

Before you begin analyzing video views on any platform, you’ll want to establish what will count as attendance to a virtual programming. It may be easiest to align your library’s definition of what counts as video attendance with the way each platform measures a video view.

Most platforms based their metrics on someone viewing a very short portion of your video, not the whole thing. That sounds like good news. But, like an email open rate or a social media follower count, the simple video view is vanity metrics. We want our videos to impact our community. We need to push our definition of video program attendance into deeper territory.

You’ll also want to consider whether your library will use a different metric to measure the number of people who attend a live stream virtual program versus a pre-recorded video. My recommendation is to track both numbers separately. This will give you a sense of whether your followers prefer live streaming over pre-recorded video.

When you live stream, you can see right away how many people are “attending” your event. When you finish your live stream on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll have the option of saving your video to your device. Always do that.

Then, you’ll be asked if you want to upload your live stream recording to the platform for on-demand views. You should do that too!

As soon as you end your live stream, Facebook and Instagram both tell you right away the number of people who viewed your live stream. Then you’ll need to decide how often you check the on-demand views of your live stream. You’ll also need to decide how long will you track the on-demand views on each live stream recording.

Make these decisions now so you can consistently report the attendance and compare metrics on videos to see which ones perform best. If you have one type of video program that does well, you should offer more of that!

Once you decide what will count as attendance by one person on each platform, you’re ready to start recording your views. If you are using a social media scheduling platform, this will be easy. Most scheduling platforms have a video performance section that will help you analyze your views. If you can’t find it, go to the “Help” section of your platform. You should also check your scheduling platforms help section to get more information about how they gather those metrics.

If you don’t have a social media scheduling platform, you’ll check the video views on each platform. Here’s how to do that.

Facebook: Go to your library’s page. At the top, under the general Facebook search bar, you’ll see “Insights.” Click on that. Then scroll down the menu on the left side of the page until you see “Videos.” Click on that.

Instagram: You can see how many people viewed your live stream after it’s finished. If you post your live stream to your stories, you can see how many people viewed it. Be sure to check it before the end of your 24 hour period, because it will disappear! If you upload a video to IGTV, you can see how many people viewed the video, but there are no further analytics. You cannot track video views for videos posted to your normal Instagram feed.

Twitter: Go to Google and type “Twitter Analytics.” If you are logged into your library’s Twitter account, the URL will automatically populate with your library’s analytics. At the top of the page, to the right of the Twitter logo, you’ll see the word “More” and a drop-down menu. Click on the arrow to find “Videos.”

YouTube: Go to your channel. Click on YouTube Studio, then Video Analytics.

Side note: You can see my latest book review did not do very well on YouTube. I am comforted by the fact that it was gangbusters on Facebook. And that’s a lesson too. Different videos will work better on different platforms. You’ll learn how to pair a video to a platform by tracking video analytics.

The top three video metrics to track

#1-Video Views

Facebook and Instagram: a view is counted anytime someone watches your video for at least three seconds.

Twitter: a view counts if someone watches at least two seconds. Additionally, at least 50 percent of the tweeted video must be visible on screen to be registered as viewed. This rule is to account for the auto-play function.

YouTube: a view is counted anytime someone watches your video for at least 30 seconds.

#2-Watch Time

Facebook reports this metric in insights and calls it “minutes viewed.”

Instagram, as far as I can tell at this writing, does not report watch time. (BOO!)

Twitter reports minutes watched under the “video details” of every video you publish on the site. In addition, they have a cool graph that tells you how long the average viewer watches your video. This is reported in quarter percentages. You’ll also get the completion rate, or the percentage of viewers who watched your video from start to finish.

YouTube will tell you the average total watch time for every video you create.

Let’s say you post a 10-minute video on YouTube. You might have 500 views, which means 500 people watched at least the first 30 seconds. Then you’ll have an average watch time of say, 5:33, which means most people watched at least five minutes and 33 seconds of your video.

YouTube prioritizes videos with high watch times in its viewing suggestion algorithm.

I can tell you from my own experience posting The Library Marketing Show to YouTube each week that it’s rare for someone to watch an entire video from start to finish. I challenge myself every week to improve my watch time.


As always, you want to record likes, comments, and shares of your videos, as you would with other social media posts. These metrics can tell you how many people were compelled to act based on your video. You can help boost these numbers by actively asking your viewers to like, comment, and share.

Shares are the most important engagement metric, because that means someone liked your online program so much, they wanted their friends and family to enjoy it too.

You might also want to read these⬇️

Videos Can Reach Library Users at Home Now and in the Future. Here’s Your Starter Kit.

The New Guide to Library Marketing Social Media for 2020! Part Four: Maximizing YouTube for Video Plus What About Tumblr, Snapchat, and TikTok?

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