Planning your content strategy for 2015? Here’s some good news: You don’t need a crystal ball to predict which formats (or content types) will help you meet your social media benchmarks. BuzzStream and Fractl have crunched the numbers to figure out which content types earn most shares, the formats that are evergreen for social sharing, and the monthly patterns that highlight content format risks – and rewards .
Using BuzzSumo, we tracked 220,000 pieces of content from 10 high- and 10 low-engagement domains over the course of six months. From June to November 2014, we followed the formats that earned the most social shares in 11 verticals. By analyzing how-to articles, lists, what posts, why posts, and videos, we discovered which yield strong, consistent returns and which are potential risks.
If your brand is the conservative type, opt for lists and why posts. These formats earned the most shares over a six-month period and varied the least in their performance month-to-month.
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 ubiquitous online that the term “listicle” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in August of this year.
During our 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 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.
While it can be employed successfully for big social gains, our study found that one format in particular was simultaneously responsible for both the highest high and the lowest low in our study of content type social sharing.
What-posts typically ask a question or describe an insight in the headline, as in the case of “What Career Should You Actually Have?” and “What Bartenders Actually Think of Your DrinkOrder.” These examples are high points from the world of what-posts, but be forewarned: this format also earned some staggering lows in the overall picture of social shares during our study period.
In the month of October, what-posts earned 29K shares – the highest volume of shares of any content type in any month. However, what-posts also earned the lowest percentage of shares in almost all other months. With a variance of more than 13%, this format is the most volatile of the five types we analyzed.
In addition to the 29K spike in October, what-posts also earned nearly 20% of all social shares in November. Summer performance was more lackluster, with shares averaging slightly fewer than 14K in June through September. The technology vertical favors what-posts over other formats. 26% of the most-shared tech content included “what” in the subject across our study period, and that rate jumped to 38% in November. Conversely, what-posts only earned 6% of shares in the food vertical, the lowest performance of any content format in any vertical.
Want to see more on the performance of videos and how-to articles? Download the whitepaper for more insights on Social Content Popularity.