Twitter's and YouTube's Trends of 2009 Couldn't Differ More

Twitter trends

Slightly prematurely, both YouTube and Twitter have released the list of top trends on the two services in 2009. The lists overlap in one or two places, but in general they're as different from each other as chalk and cheese.

Twitter really only shot to fame this year, whereas YouTube feels as old as dirt...but that's not the reason for the difference in trends. Check them out: Twitter's version is at the top of the page, revealed by Twitter's Chief Scientist (what a job title!) Abdur Chowdhury. According to Abdur, of all the phrases that popped up in the analytics, "one topic surfaced repeatedly. Twitter users found the Iranian elections the most engaging topic of the year." Not surprising really, since the Iranian elections and the authorities' backlash afterwards was one of the biggest events on the globe this year.

Given that the photos and videos of those terrible events swept around the world, it's a little surprising to glance down YouTube's list and not find the words "Iran," "Election," or "Iranian" at the top of any month's searches. Here's the full list of terms, broken down into the top phrase for each month:

  • January: inauguration
  • February: christian bale
  • March: the climb
  • April: susan boyle
  • May: pacquiao vs hatton
  • June: Michael Jackson thriller
  • July: michael jackson
  • August: usain bolt
  • September: kanye west
  • October: paranormal activity
  • November: bad romance
  • December: tiger woods

Music and celebs feature highly on YouTube's list—it's where we go for music video on demand (good news for the many burgeoning Web-streaming TV channels there), and that's actually where Twitter and YouTube have very common ground: The hashtag #musicmonday was Twitter's top search phrase.

Now, for sure the "fastest rising" search parameter may not necessarily be a measure of the popularity of search terms in the same way Twitter calculates things. But you'd expect Iran to pop up at least once in YouTube's list, wouldn't you? Particularly when you remember the most shocking video from the event—the death on camera of young Neda. But nope—it was Michael Jackson's departure from this world that captured YouTubers in June, and July too.

And there's the difference: Though YouTube is almost a video social network, it's really a very different beast to "lifecasting" social net Twitter. Twitter is turning into a tool for spreading information, videos and imagery of topical stuff—hence Michael Jackson's in Twitter's list too—but it's being exploited in a far more serious manner than the frivolity of YouTube.

[Via blog.Twitter,]

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  • David Rosen

    I agree with the Apples to Oranges comparison, but it was valuable to point out the distinctions. Thank you.

    The implications are that there may be two distinct purposes for Twitter and You Tube. Twitter is more of an outbound news/thought feed for users to share their perspectives on topics of importance and news. You Tube, for the most part is to share more comedy in life through movies and some breaking news. It would be interesting to assess the percentage of newsworthy or business type videos versus entertainment content on You tube.

  • David Lyman

    I knew we were in trouble when you described the Iranian election as "one of the biggest events on the globe this year." By what measure? Maybe it SHOULD be, but in terms of people discussing it, it couldn't hold a candle to Michael Jackson's death. Or Tiger Woods' infidelities. Get a grip. And get an understanding of who the people are who reside beyond your office.

  • Aly-Khan Satchu

    The Twitter Trends and the fact that #Iranelection and #Iran rank so high confirm a Flatter World and thats a very c21st Phenomenon.

    Aly-Khan Satchu

  • Lars Torres

    In addition to the category/search results, don't we have to look at audience/traffic of the sites, and then compare within them? Agree with Nick's conclusion.

  • Dan Ryan

    This is pretty poor journalism. How many people do you think took video of the Iranian protests and survived? Twitter is a popular fad, but it's hard to take their limited character posts too seriously.It will never eclipse the Facebook status updates for that casual content. Youtube is a totally different animal. Any of the videos in the viral video chart will have reached millions more than the most retweeted post on twitter.

  • Tyler Moore

    I completely agree, Nick. The author simply took what was handed out by each of the sites and passed it along as if it were the straight dope. It would appear clear that Twitter is much more focused on being taken seriously in terms of the content whereas YouTube simply shot out a simple, single term for each month. Maybe Neda was right behind Michael Jackson or was fifteen behind it? We don't know, but simply re-tweeting what the sites put out for press and saying it's an analysis is absurd.

  • Nick DiGiacomo

    You've made a classic "apples to oranges" comparison mistake. The monthly YouTube results you cite sum over all sorts of categories - news, people, music, etc. - while the Twitter results are broken out by category. If you filter YouTube by "news" you'll see topics similar to the Twitter trends. Similarly, if you sum up all the Twitter topics and just look at them by monthly popularity, you'll see the "non-serious" stuff dominating just like on YouTube.
    There is just no credible evidence - numerical or anecdotal - to support your conclusion that Twitter users are more "serious" than YouTube users. Remember how Michael Jackson wiped Iran off the map in terms of intensity of tweets and re-tweets?? If you want serious, go to NPR or NYT - but don't kid yourself about Twitter.