What content gets the most social shares?

In my last blog post I looked at which social channels’ users share most frequently. The next obvious step is then too look at just what content gets the most shares.

TrackMaven’s Content Marketing Paradox Report analysed 2 years’ of marketing activity for 8,800 brands, including 13.8 million pieces of content across seven marketing channels with 7.2 billion combined interactions.

According to their latest research, a growing majority of professional marketing content fails to have an impact:

• Across 2013 and 2014, the output of content per brand increased by 78%, but content engagement decreased by 60%;

• On social networks, brand-generated content is seeing the lowest engagement rates now than anytime in 2013 and 2014;

• 43% of professionally-marketed blog posts receive fewer than 10 interactions.

While these results show a bleak picture, the efforts also yielded some valuable insights for marketers looking to cut through the noise with their content creation strategies.

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Their analysis shows that nearly one out of four brand-generated blog posts (23%) receives zero interactions. Even more worrying, nearly half of all professionally marketed blog posts (43%) received only 10 or fewer interactions.

But ineffective content isn’t symptomatic of blogs alone; a significant volume of brand-generated social media content also fails to garner engagement. On Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn, more than half of all posts receive fewer than 10 interactions (73%, 60%, 65%, and 68%, respectively).

Among the major social networks, Twitter has the lowest engagement threshold, with 73% of tweets receiving 10 or fewer interactions. Instagram has the highest engagement threshold; only 10% of Instagram photos and 6% of Instagram videos receive 10 or fewer interactions. Among the major social networks, Instagram also has the highest percentage of viral content, with 49% of Instagram photos and 60% of Instagram videos receiving more than 250 interactions. These results also indicate the powerful impact of sponsored content on Facebook. After Instagram, Facebook has the second-highest percentage of content with more than 250 interactions (36%).

On Facebook, sponsored content accounted for the vast majority of posts with more than 250 interactions.

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Facebook in particular has seen a huge drop in the ratio of interactions per post per 1,000 followers across 2013 and 2014, but is stabilising and slowly rising. Overall, Facebook has a significantly higher engagement ratio than LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, but nowhere near the engagement ratio of Instagram.

Instagram has a much higher engagement ratio over time relative to all other major social networks. This data confirms findings from Forrester Research, which analysed the ratio of interactions to total followers for 2,500 brand posts across seven major social networks. Forrester found that Instagram’s ratio of interactions to followers was 60 times greater than Facebook’s and 140 times greater than Twitter’s.

So looking forward, just what types of posts do get the most shares?

From June to November 2014, web-based marketing tool company BuzzStream and agency Fractl tracked 220,000 pieces of content from 10 high-engagement and 10 low-engagement businesses. By analysing how-to articles, lists, what posts, why posts, and videos, they discovered which yield strong, consistent returns and which are potential risks. They found the most shared content in the form of LISTS and WHY? posts.

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Lists

Lists are great for giving readers a concise, easy-to-understand set of ideas about a topic. This format can be as simple as a few short bullet points or a collection of gifs, or can be employed for more detailed explanations of concepts or trending stories. The list-as-article format has become so ever-present online that the term “listicle” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in August of this year. List post commonly appear as “Top 5 holiday destinations”, “Top 10 twitter tactics” and so on.

During their study period, lists earned the most shares in October, June, and September respectively. With a variance of less than 1% month-over-month, lists averaged 21K shares per month and were the most consistent in their performance. Although lists generated the most shares by volume for the news, entertainment, and travel verticals, they also yielded the highest percentage of shares in the automotive (40%), finance (24%), health (27%), and travel (32%) verticals.

Why-posts

Why-posts offer to explain things, from serious topics like technology dangers to light-hearted (or heavy-hearted) observations on toddler emotions. When employed to show the benefits of a product or service, this format can be particularly useful for conversion-driven campaigns.

The popularity of why-posts ticked up in the later months of this study, jumping from an average of 18K per month in June, July, and August to 24K per month in September, October, and November. Why-post performance varied less than 2.5% over the six-month period, making this content type the second most stable format. A strong performer in every vertical, why-posts earned the most volume of shares in the news and travel verticals and the highest percentage of shares in the lifestyle (36%) and news (23%) verticals.

“List” and “why” posts may get the most shares because these formats fit the digital reader’s habits. Both are quick and easy to read and concise. The “list” post promises to keep the reader’s eye moving to the section that most interests him or her. The “why” post promises a short explanation of a topic the reader likely searched for. How-to articles and videos received the fewest shares overall. So, bear all this in mind the next time you are creating online content for your business!