Twitter, YouTube look back on 2009

This week, both Twitter and YouTube released their 2009 trends list, much as Google did a few weeks back.  Unlike Google, though, these trend lists say more about the way each site is used rather than social trends.

Twitter Trends: The Iranian election was not the top story of the year in American media, but it did top Twitter’s news trends list – largely because Twitter itself was such an important tool in organizing street demonstrations.  In Entertainment, movies Paranormal Activity and District 9 ranked highly.  Both became early examples of what is being called the “Twitter effect.”  Real-time fan reviews on social networks gave both films an instant box-office boost.  (The same effect may have sapped the excitement around other top-Twitter-trenders GI Joe and Watchmen, both of which did worse than expected.

Predictably, there were other trends that lend credence to the “I’m-sitting-on-the-porch” pointlessness of Twitter when misused.  However, these examples also speak to the potential advantage of Twitter as an organizing tool – whether the goal is overthrowing an unpopular regime or flocking to a better-than-expected movie.

YouTube Trends: YouTube is interesting in that it can report two trends: the most-watched videos and the search terms.

The top viewership trends on YouTube centered around you-gotta-see-this viral sensations such as Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent and the famous wedding party entrance to the tune of Chris Brown’s “Forever.”

Top search trends, which were broken out by month, centered around news and entertainment events but weren’t always directly related.  For instance, the death of Michael Jackson led to an increase in searches for the Thriller music video.  What does this mean?  Probably that a generation that doesn’t remember the dawn of the music video era was looking for a famous short film that was frequently discussed but seldom seen.  YouTube’s slogan is “Broadcast Yourself,”  but it may as well be “Catch what you missed.”

Year in review lists are a chance to look back at the big stories of 2009, but those are common knowledge.  Digging into the trends can, however, show how people are using the online tools – and give insight on how to reach them.

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