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Animated Map: What America Searched for on Google, Over the Last Decade

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What America Searched for on Google, in the Last Decade

Cultural shifts come in many shapes and forms, and some are harder to measure than others.

Thankfully, Google search volume provides an easy avenue for measuring large-scale cultural trends. And because Google makes up more than 90% of all internet searches in the U.S., looking at what’s trending on Google is a great way to understand the shifting questions and interests that are captivating society at any given time.

This animated map by V1 Analytics provides an overview of the top trending Google searches in every state over the last decade. It sheds light on what types of new information, events, and stories received the most attention in the last ten years—and more generally, it shows us what the U.S. population has been thinking about.

Trending Searches versus Top Searches

Before diving into the top trends of the decade, it’s worth taking a moment to distinguish between “trending searches” and “top searches”:

  • Trending Searches: Keywords that had the largest increase in traffic, in a specific period of time
  • Top Searches: The most searched keywords in a given time frame

This video would look a lot different, and a lot less interesting, if it showed Google’s top searches. To give some perspective, here are the Top 10 Searches in the U.S. (as of 2020):

RankKeyword
#1facebook
#2youtube
#3amazon
#4gmail
#5google
#6weather
#7ebay
#8yahoo
#9walmart
#10yahoo mail

Understanding the difference between trending searches and top searches is important because it gives us insight into why certain keywords trend in some places, but not others. For instance, in March 2020, the word “coronavirus” was trending throughout a majority of the U.S., with a few exceptions—it wasn’t trending in Massachusetts, California, Texas, Nevada, or Arizona.

It’s easy to make the assumption that people in these states were not concerned about COVID-19—however, that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s important to remember that trending searches are measured by the increase of traffic, not just the overall amount of searches. Therefore, in states where it wasn’t trending, the word “coronavirus” may have already been a popular search term for a while, so the keyword didn’t see a sudden spike in interest like it did in other places.

Undivided Attention

In the last decade, there were moments when the entire country was googling the same thing. Some keyword trends lasted a day, while others lasted over a week.

Here’s a look at keywords that took over the whole U.S, and when they were trending unanimously:

Date RangeCategorySearch Term
Feb 4, 2011MusicAdele
Feb 6 - Feb 23, 2011MusicBorn This Way
Feb 28, 2011MusicBorn This Way
March 22 - Apr 1, 2011Pop CultureRebecca Black
June 12 - June 27, 2011TV & FilmGame of Thrones
Nov 9, 2012Current EventsAbortion
Jan 10 - Jan 27, 2014TV & FilmFrozen
Feb 28 - March 2, 2014ElectronicsSamsung Galaxy s5
Jan 11 - Jan 13, 2015MusicBlank Space
Feb 26 - Mar 30, 2015MusicUptown Funk
June 5, 2015Pop CultureCaitlyn Jenner
June 16 - June 19, 2015TV & FilmJurassic World
Feb 26, 2016Pop CultureDamn Daniel
June 3, 2016Pop CultureHarambe
June 20, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
June 30, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
July 6, 2016TV & FilmFinding Dory
Aug 4 - Aug 7, 2016TV & FilmSuicide Squad
Aug 24 - Sept 8, 2016Pop CultureHarambe
Sept 23 - Sept 26, 2016Pop CultureBrad Pitt
Oct 21, 2016ElectronicsGoogle Pixel
Nov 24, 2016ElectronicsGoogle Pixel
Dec 14 - Dec 20, 2016Current EventsAleppo
Jan 7 - Jan 10, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
Jan 23 - Feb 2, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
Feb 8 - Feb 12, 2017SportsSuper bowl
Feb 22 - Feb 24, 2017TV & FilmThis Is Us
March 7 - March 11, 2017ElectronicsNintendo Switch
March 21 - Apr 1, 2017TV & FilmBeauty and the Beast
May 7 - May 16, 2017Pop CultureFidget Spinner
June 17 - July 18, 2017MusicDespacito
Sept 22, 2017TV & FilmIt
Oct 13, 2017Current EventsHarvey Weinstein
Nov 3, 2017Current EventsKevin Spacey
Jan 12 - Jan 23, 2018Current EventsLogan Paul
Feb 6 - Feb 11, 2018TV & FilmAltered Carbon
March 15 - March 29, 2018Video GamesFortnite
May 4, 2018Video GamesFortnite
July 21, 2018Video GamesFortnite
Aug 5 - Aug 22, 2018Video GamesFortnite
Jan 17 - Feb 3, 2019Music7 Rings
Feb 21 - Feb 23, 2019Current EventsJussie Smollett
March 12 - March 22, 2019TV & FilmCaptain Marvel
March 27, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
March 30, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
Aug 24 - Aug 27, 2019MusicBillie Eilish
Oct 9 - Oct 29, 2019TV & FilmJoker
Nov 20 - Nov 24, 2019TV & FilmThe Mandalorian
Dec 5 - Dec 14, 2019Pop CultureBaby Yoda
Jan 15, 2020Current EventsPrince Harry
Jan 20, 2020Current EventsPrince Harry
Feb 13 - Feb 15, 2020TV & FilmJojo Rabbit
May 5 - May 14, 2020Current EventsElon Musk
June 24, 2020Current EventsBubba Wallace

It’s interesting to look at the variety of topics that dominate the population’s collective thoughts. There’s a unique mix of popular culture, entertainment, electronics, prominent figures, and public scandals.

Something else worth noting is how country-wide trends became a lot more common in the latter part of the decade—in 2019 for example, 9 keywords trended unanimously. This was more than in the entire first half of the decade.

While the secret to going viral remains a mystery, one thing remains clear—the public certainly has a broad range of interests. So really, it’s anyone’s game.

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Technology

The World’s Top 50 Influencers Across Social Media Platforms

Which influencers have the most total social media followers? We tally up follower counts across all major platforms, from Twitter to TikTok.

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Most-followed social media influencers across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch

Visualizing the World’s Top 50 Influencers

In the modern digital world, social media reach is power.

The people with the most followers on Twitter, for example, have a massive platform to spread their messages, while those with large, engaged followings on Instagram are an advertiser’s dream sponsor partner.

Social media can also be an equalizer of power. It’s true that many celebrities boast large followings across platforms, but social media has also enabled previously unknown personalities to turn YouTube or TikTok fame into veritable star power and influence.

Who has the biggest reach across the entire social media universe? Instead of looking at who has the most followers on Instagram, Twitter, or other networks, we ranked the most-followed personalities across all major platforms combined.

Who Has the Most Overall Followers on Social Media?

We parsed through hundreds of the most-followed accounts on multiple platforms to narrow down the top influencers across social media as of April 2021.

Sources include trackers of the most followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok, verified directly on site and with social media tracker Socialblade.

The results? A top 50 list of social media influencers consisting of athletes, musicians, politicians, and other personalities.

RankNameCategoryTotal FollowersBiggest Platform
#1Cristiano RonaldoSports517MInstagram
#2Justin BieberMusic455MInstagram
#3Ariana GrandeMusic429MInstagram
#4Selena GomezMusic425MInstagram
#5Taylor SwiftMusic361MInstagram
#6Dwayne JohnsonFilm & TV342MInstagram
#7Katy PerryMusic338MInstagram
#8Kylie JennerOther333MInstagram
#9RihannaMusic332MTwitter
#10Kim KardashianOther319MInstagram
#11Lionel MessiSports298MInstagram
#12NeymarSports283MInstagram
#13ShakiraMusic282MFacebook
#14Jennifer LopezMusic277MInstagram
#15BeyoncéMusic267MInstagram
#16Ellen DeGeneresFilm & TV260MInstagram
#17Miley CyrusMusic235MInstagram
#18Nicki MinajMusic232MInstagram
#19Barack ObamaPolitics221MTwitter
#20Will SmithFilm & TV217MFacebook
#21Kendall JennerOther212MInstagram
#22Demi LovatoMusic211MInstagram
#23Lady GagaMusic210MTwitter
#24Kevin HartFilm & TV201MInstagram
#25Virat KohliSports195MInstagram
#26EminemMusic194MFacebook
#27DrakeMusic192MInstagram
#28Khloé KardashianOther191MInstagram
#29Bruno MarsMusic191MFacebook
#30Chris BrownMusic187MInstagram
#31Vin DieselFilm & TV177MFacebook
#32Narendra ModiPolitics175MTwitter
#33Justin TimberlakeMusic175MTwitter
#34Billie EilishMusic171MInstagram
#35Charli D'AmelioOther169MTikTok
#36Kourtney KardashianOther165MInstagram
#37Cardi BMusic160MInstagram
#38LeBron JamesSports157MInstagram
#39AdeleMusic156MFacebook
#40Priyanka ChopraFilm & TV144MInstagram
#41Germán GarmendiaGaming143MYoutube
#42Wiz KhalifaMusic142MFacebook
#43Felix "PewDiePie" KjellbergGaming141MYoutube
#44Akshay KumarFilm & TV140MInstagram
#45Snoop DoggMusic138MInstagram
#46Deepika PadukoneFilm & TV138MInstagram
#47Britney SpearsMusic137MTwitter
#48Shawn MendesMusic136MInstagram
#49Whindersson Nunes BatistaOther135MInstagram
#50Salman KhanFilm & TV134MFacebook

Unsurprisingly, celebrities reign supreme on social media. As of April 2021, soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was the most-followed person on social media with more than 500 million total followers.

But there are other illuminating highlights, such as the global reach of music. With large and diverse fanbases, artists account for half of the top 50 largest social media followings.

Also notable is the power of Instagram, which was the biggest platform for 67% of the top 50 social media influencers. This includes hard-to-categorize celebrities like the Kardashians and Jenners, which turned reality TV and social media fame into business and media empires.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

The Most Followers on Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube

However, it’s not only celebrities that dominate social media.

Personalities that started on one social media platform and developed massive followings include TikTok’s most-followed star Charli D’Amelio and YouTubers Germán Garmendia, Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, and Whindersson Nunes Batista.

Politicians were also prominent influencers. Former U.S. President Barack Obama has the most followers on Twitter, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has more than 175 million followers across social media.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump would have also made the list with more than 140 million followers across social media before being banned from multiple platforms on January 8, 2021.

A Generational Look at Social Media Influence

While older generations have had to adapt to social media platforms, younger generations have grown up alongside them. As a measure of cultural importance, this gives Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z a rare leg-up on older generations.

Millennials, in particular, hold the lion’s share of spots in this top 50 list:

Generation# of Influencers in GenerationTop Influencer in Generation
Gen Z4Kylie Jenner
Millennial33Cristiano Ronaldo
Gen X10Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson
Baby Boomer3Ellen DeGeneres

The average age of the top 50 influencers was just over 37.

In our Generational Power Index (GPI), which measures the share of power generations hold in various categories, digital platforms were a key area where Millennials derived their power and influence. Overall, Baby Boomers—and to a lesser extent, Gen X—still run the show in most areas of society today.

Social Media Influence, Going Forward

As most fans and advertisers know, not all social media accounts and followings are homogenous.

Many influencers with relatively small followings have more consistent engagement, and are often able to demand high advertising fees as a result.

Conversely, most social media platforms are reckoning with a severe glut of fake accounts or bots that inflate follower counts, impacting everything from celebrities and politicians to personalities and businesses.

Regardless, social media has become a mainstay platform (or soapbox) for today’s cultural influencers. Billions of people turn to social media for news, engagement, recommendations, and entertainment, and new platforms are always on the rise.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the data used for this story incorrectly counted Facebook likes instead of followers for some personalities. The content has since been corrected and updated.”

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Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

Visual Capitalist’s first-ever Generational Power Index looks at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural influence in American society.

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cultural power GPI

Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

This year, our team put together Visual Capitalist’s inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI), which looks at power dynamics across generations in America.

We considered three categories in our quest to quantify power: economics, political, and cultural. And while it turns out Baby Boomers dominate when it comes to economics and political factors—cultural influence is a different story.

Here’s a look at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural power, and how this power dynamic is expected to shift in the coming years.

Generations and Power, Defined

Before we get started, it’s important to clarify which generations we’ve included in our research, along with their age and birth year ranges.

GenerationAge range (years)Birth year range
The Silent Generation76 and over1928-1945
Baby Boomers57-751946-1964
Gen X41-561965-1980
Millennials25-401981-1996
Gen Z9-241997-2012
Gen Alpha8 and below2013-present

Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:

cultural power category breakdown

With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Cultural Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.

Share of Cultural Power by Generation

Overall, we found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power, at 36%.

GenerationCultural Power Share
The Silent Generation8.8%
Baby Boomers25.1%
Gen X36.0%
Millennials23.9%
Gen Z6.1%
Gen Alpha0.00%
Total99.9%

*Note: figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, along with news media. For instance, over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 were members of Gen X.

Baby Boomers come in second place, capturing a 25% share of cultural power. They show particular dominance in traditional entertainment like books and art. For example, 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-selling books list were Baby Boomers.

However, these older generations fall short in one critical category—digital platforms.

The Dominance of Digital

Why is digital so important when it comes to cultural power? Because digital media becoming increasingly more popular than traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio).

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Time Spent on Media

In 2020, Americans spent nearly 8 hours per day consuming digital media, nearly two hours more per day than they spent with traditional media.

This divide is expected to grow even further over the next few years. With younger generations dominating the digital space, Gen X may soon lose its place as the top dog of the culture category.

Celebrity 2.0: The Social Influencer

As audiences flock to online channels, advertisers have followed suit—and they’re willing to spend good money to gain access to their target demographics.

In fact, spend on influencer marketing has steadily increased in the last five years, and it’s expected to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2021.

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Influencer Marketing Spend

This shift to social media advertising is redefining the notion of celebrity, and who reaps the financial benefits of content creation. For instance, six-year-old Vlogger Like Nastya made an estimated $7.7 million per month from her YouTube channel in 2020. And keep in mind, this estimate is purely based on YouTube revenue—it doesn’t even include corporate partnerships and/or merchandise sales.

With all these shifts occurring, culture as we know it is at a crossroads. And as we continue to move towards a digital dominant society, those who hold power in traditional realms will either adapt or pass along the torch.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

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