The Most Significant Events of 2023 on Social Media

By Henley Worthen · December 12, 2023

The Most Significant Events of 2023 on Social Media

At Tubular, we like to think of social media as a reflection of our global culture. What do people care about? How are we changing? Defying odds? Breaking records? Staying connected?

Come with us on a journey to revisit the stories that defined our year and, through data & insights, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how we evolved as a connected global culture in 2023.

Here are the most significant things that happened in 2023, according to social video stats.

The journey from site to social is an interconnected ecosystem of traffic and information, and 2023’s top stories exhibited five core themes that we saw on both channels. Now, Tubular’s data tells the social video story of this year’s global headlines. Watch the highlights here:

While there was plenty of news shared on social, there were also countless other big moments in 2023 that we can’t forget to look back on. 


2023 has been coined The Year of Barbie

The Barbie marketing team delivered a never-before-seen, cross-cultural marketing campaign that penetrated all industries. From Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge on HGTV to Coldstone Creamery’s signature flavor, and Barbie-licious Impala inline skates— everything the light touched was PINK!

During the Barbie movie premiere weekend, Barbie content amassed 1.2 billion TikTok views in 3 days

→ Meanwhile, the movie cross-promoted Oppenheimer’s premiere with hashtags like #barbieheimer which won 169 million views during the premier weekend.

→ Did you miss Tubular’s webinar with Mattel earlier this year? Watch the replay here.

Reality TV: “The show must go on” 

From talent contests to dating shows, Reality TV took center stage in 2023 while writers & actors negotiated with studios. Tubular’s social data indicates that YouTube views related to U.S. reality TV climbed by 55% YoY over the summer of writers’ strikes. We see that talent contest shows like America’s Got Talent perform best on Facebook while shows that feed into Hollywood drama tend to perform best where audiences can weigh in on TikTok and Instagram. 

→ The juiciest Reality TV came from the Vanderpump Rules cheating drama aka “Scandoval” which resulted in an average of 14.3 million social views per week in the month of May. 

→ The social frenzy drove show viewership, which more than doubled from season premiere to the season finale.

Video Podcasts are the New “Talk Shows”

Podcasts post clips from long episodes to repurpose content and connect with new audiences on social, enticing them to tune into the full version. 

→ Rogan typically posts longer-form 10-15 minute clips on YouTube. 

→ In its best month, January 2023, Rogan’s podcast won 19.1 million minutes watched across YouTube & Facebook.

→ Call Her Daddy is leaning into TikTok with short-form clips to showcase mega guests on the pod.

→ Call Her Daddy’s media group, Unwell, recently brought on one of TikTok’s biggest influencers, Alix Earle, to run her own podcast called Hot Mess. 

Ms. Rachel takes center stage for kids’ entertainment

→ In July 2023, her Toddler Learning audience grew by 34%, likely powered by kids being out of school. Her Minutes Watched on YouTube and Facebook hit 5.7 billion, almost 2x more than any other individual U.S. account rivaling some of the longest-standing creators in this category.

→ Ms. Rachel focuses on posting longer, quality videos rather than posting a high quantity of videos.


March Madness & Women’s World Cup

Women’s March Madness saw record-breaking TV audiences for the women’s bracket, along with an impressive increase in social views, which escalated by 5x year-over-year across social platforms.

“It is actually terrible business if you are not tuning in. You are missing out on a large cultural moment. The bottom line is that equality is actually good for business, that is something special that the women’s game has and this is the premier women’s sporting event in the world bar none and this is a paradigm shift globally, not just in the U.S.” 

Megan Rapinoe, US Soccer Player

In 2022, women’s soccer amounted to 610 million U.S. YouTube views.

In 2023, that number more than doubled to 1.4 billion views as of December 11th.

Rihanna Won the 2023 Super Bowl

During her Super Bowl halftime performance, Riri showcased one of her Fenty Beauty products.

Fenty-related TikTok viewership surged by +278% over the major football weekend. 

NFL social viewers visiting grew by 197% in the month following the game.

NFL visitors continued to visit the Fenty Beauty website long after Super Bowl buzz quieted on social, meaning that Rihanna’s halftime product promo had a lasting and memorable effect.

But Riri wasn’t the only female powerhouse helping women infiltrate the traditionally male audience of football…

Swift had a momentous year. Her Eras Tour became the highest-grossing global tour in history and the tour was brought to the silver screen for those who couldn’t afford her exorbitant ticket prices. She was also named Time’s Person of the Year 2023. Besides her own wild success, she has had quite the effect on football viewership as fans tune in to watch her cheer on her new NFL boyfriend.

→ Since she started dating footballer Travis Kelce, the NFL’s female audience has increased by 29.4% across Facebook & YouTube.

→ From June to October of 2023, Swift’s TikTok audience that also watches NFL videos rose from 2% to 15%.


Throwback music of 2023

Younger audiences use social platforms and music editing tools to breathe new life into old songs. Like the viral success of “Makeba” by Jain that was stuck in our heads all year long.


I’d say we’re pretty much in sync, right? 😅 Spot the differences and let me know in the comments. #teamfaffapix #makeba #song #dance #trend

♬ Makeba – Jain

Comeback Song of the Year: “Makeba” by Jain

Originally posted in 2016 with little success, Makeba became one of the top charted songs of 2023 thanks to social video

→ In H1 2023, 679k videos used the song on TikTok

→ Amounting to 32.6 billion views

→ The original YouTube video has mirrored that success with 261 million views and 2.9 million engagements.

When Matthew Perry passed, Friends nostalgia spread like a social media wildfire.

→ Viewership about Perry peaked on October 30th, the Monday following his death. Tubular uncovered over 3 billion views across social platforms.

On TikTok, an acoustic version of the Friends theme song, “I’ll Be There For You” was released in August by Yan Escote with very little initial success. That is, until October 28th when the beloved Friends character was reported dead in his home.

The acoustic Friends theme song was picked up by TikTokers and used as the background for many videos commemorating different interviews and scenes from Friends where Perry can be seen laughing and hugging his cast mates. 

→ Since the actor’s death (just under two months ago), the song has accumulated 114.6M views across 3.3k TikTok uploads.

McDonald’s Grimace Trends on TikTok

Before 2023, Grimace was just a friendly, somewhat forgotten, friend of ole’ Ronald McDonald, but this year, the McDonald’s character was back with a vengeance with a new “Grimace birthday shake” horror trend.

→ The Grimace trend racked up over 1.2B views in June across platforms since the milkshake made the menu.

→ The most viewed TikTok video garnered over 33M views alone.

While McDonald’s may not have been expecting the horror trend on social, the fast food brand is continuing to lean into nostalgia in 2023 by launching the new retro restaurant, CosMc’s.


The Clean Girl Takeover

Clean Girl aesthetic is the hottest fashion & beauty trend of 2023, propelled by celebs and influencers alike. Sofia Richie with her slicked-back hair, minimalist makeup and elegant luxury style has been an “it girl” of this trend.

→ In November of 2022, the “clean girl aesthetic” was at a slow simmer with 61 million views on TikTok in the first week of November. But in the first week of 2023, viewership boiled over by 3X to 219M views!

De-influencing on the Rise

De-influencing picked up steam this year after several influencer uh-oh’s caused audiences and consumers to question influencer motives and the cult-loved products circulating social platforms. 

Remember when Tarte flew a slew of famous beauty influencers to Dubai on business class on an over-the-top luxury vacation – and audiences were actually turned off by exorbitant lavishness? 

Or when beauty influencer Mikayla Nogueira was accused of applying false lashes for a mascara product review? 

Thanks to these not-so-authentic mishaps, de-influencing became a popular trend at the beginning of 2023. Many smaller influencers were posting to social telling audiences what NOT to buy, and often offering cheaper dupes

In the first 90 days of 2023, de-influencing content garnered 332M views and 35.5M engagements on TikTok.

It’s time to say goodbye to the myriad of social trends that defined 2023, as the social landscape will continue to evolve and reflect the ever-changing state of human culture.

This year brought unprecedented success to female powerhouses in entertainment & sports, while also throwing back to classic trends from the 90s and early 2000s —before influencers even existed. The resurgence of familiar aesthetics, sounds, and cultural touchstones offers a comforting escape from the chaos of the present.

Amidst it all, the quest for authenticity in a filtered, AI world proved to be a driving force in the Creator Economy. Those who embraced vulnerability and genuine connections with their audiences thrived, emphasizing the importance of maintaining our humanity.

As we look forward to 2024, the only constant we can be certain of in this online world is change. New trends will arise, new platforms will launch, and these digital factors will affect the tapestry of our world. With the upcoming US Presidential Election, the Paris Olympics, and other global events. it will be crucial to understand how social media is influencing audiences and beliefs. Stay tuned into Tubular, where we will forecast all of 2024’s hottest trends and keep you up to date on audience behaviors.

See you next year!

All data as of 12/10/23 unless otherwise noted.

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