A successful social media strategy is about more than just numbers, but sometimes metrics are necessary in order to effectively drive campaigns. Audience reaction heavily influences content strategies; if something about your video isn’t resonating with your fans, you’ll know by the way they interact with it.

An important metric for YouTube creators to be aware of is how many people are watching your videos. However, this wasn’t always the easiest piece of data to track as YouTube analytics have been slightly ambiguous regarding watch counts. This all changed last month when the company added real-time reporting to its analytics dashboard.

What Does This Mean for Content Creators?

YouTube takes dozens of signals into account for ranking videos. The number of subscribers watching your videos is among the most important. The new real-time reporting feature provides you with a minute-by-minute look at how many people are watching your videos.

Although we’re unsure how timing impacts ranking — there might not be a major difference between a view immediately after uploading and one that happens two hours later — knowing when fans are clicking play could be valuable to your strategy moving forward.

For example, if you choose to upload videos at 10 pm, but views don’t pick up until 11 am the following day, then you might adjust publish times based on the habits of your viewers. Since this data is meant to provide general guidance on potential view activity, this will have an impact on your promotion strategy as well.

How Real-Time Reporting Works

When logged in, the default real-time report shows estimated views data for your last five published videos. You will see two graphs for every video: hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute. The first is available for a sliding window of two days (the last 48 hours) and the second is available for a sliding window of one hour (the last 60 minutes). Both graphs refer to the local time zone of the viewer as determined by the computer’s setting.

YouTube did note that there’s a latency of a few minutes between the occurrence of the view and its display in the report. The “current” hour bar is highlighted to stress that the hour is still incomplete. The downside is that your real-time report doesn’t support filtering or further customization of data. This means that the geographic filter, data picker, comparison, and download functionalities are disabled in the interface.

Data Availability

Real-time data is available on a per-video basis, meaning that it can’t be aggregated. When selecting different content entities, it’ll be displayed as follows:

  • Channel
  • Content Owner
  • Groups

When looking at Channel level data, you’ll see the last five published videos. The vertical view count axis is aligned for all videos on one page to make comparisons easier. Similarly, YouTube displays the last five published videos of Channels belonging to the content owner. In order to see all the associated real-time data, content owners must select the “All partner uploaded” option from the drop-down list. For groups containing more than five videos, as well as assets like playlists and shows, real-time data is not available at this time.

Other Metrics to Watch

As tempting as it is to base your success on view count, it’s not the only important metric that contributes to your Channel’s success. Here are a couple of other YouTube metrics that you should be watching.

Watch Time

Another important signal that YouTube takes into consideration when ranking videos is watch time. If viewers are watching more videos, it signals that they’re happy with the content they’ve found and that creators are attracting more engaged audiences. Not only does the fact that someone clicked play matter, but the duration of that view as well.

This doesn’t mean that you should be creating shorter videos. Although high retention is a good indication of engagement, YouTube is actually looking for how a video contributes to a longer viewing session on the platform. Your video isn’t more likely to be seen just because it’s shorter. The best way to be successful here is to make videos that people want to watch.

Subscriber Engagement

Knowing how viewers behave after watching your videos is just as important as getting them to watch in the first place. Those actions — whether they be shares, likes, or comments — will extend the reach of your video, which in turn will impact watch time.

What drives watch time? Is it tweets? Comments? Your replies to those comments? It’s impossible to say that just one type of engagement is the key to success. After all, everyone will react differently to your content. That said, you’ll want to closely monitor viewer behavior and recognize trends. If tutorial videos are eliciting more shares than your behind-the-scenes videos, you might consider adding more of the former to your content line-up.

Use YouTube analytics to better understand what your audience wants to watch. More time watching means a more engaged audience and ultimately more of whatever your end goal is, be it revenue or site traffic. And to further optimize your content for exposure, take a look at our video SEO tips.