6 Lessons from the Most Popular Content Marketing Articles

Steve Rayson
Steve Rayson MD of Kineo, Director BuzzSumo, Kineo, BuzzSumo, Anders Pink

Posted on May 15th 2014

6 Lessons from the Most Popular Content Marketing Articles

Content marketing is a popular topic, to put it mildly. In the last 6 months there were over 4.4m social shares that linked to over 17,500 articles about content marketing. That is an average of 250 shares per post. Here we take a look behind the headline figures to see what lessons we can learn.

Most Shared Content Marketing Articles

So is anyone standing out as the boss of content marketing about, well,.content marketing? The most shared individual articles on content marketing over the last 6 months came from a variety of sources as shown below. Nobody’s dominating, as you can see:

most popular content marketing

(Data on most shared articles from BuzzSumo, the free search tool that finds the most shared content for any topic or domain.)

The top 8 articles achieved between 6,900 and 22,000 shares each compared to the average of 250 shares per article.

Ok, so what does this tell us? We see a number of lessons for content marketers looking to extend the reach and impact of their content.

Where Should We Share? Everywhere

The most shared posts were shared widely across networks for example the top four all had significant shares on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Interestingly other articles had more Twitter shares but the top three all had a good balance of shares across all the four main networks. They all had over 2,000 shares on Google Plus for example.

If we look across all content shares for content marketing we can see that most shares took place on Twitter.

content marketing articles at their best

However, it is clear the other networks have significant potential.  The article from the Content Marketing Institute for example had a very high number of Twitter shares but was unusual in hardly being shared at all on other networks. It would suggest little effort was spent promoting this post on other networks. However, the analysis would suggest that such content can appeal across all four of the main networks and hence it is worth investing in each channel.

Lesson 1 - Share across the top four networks

LinkedIn had the lowest level of shares of the four main networks but there is evidence that content is increasingly being shared on LinkedIn, and this will increase with the relatively new blogging platform.  There are a number of cases where content was shared more on LinkedIn than on other networks. For example the last post in the list above and the post below, both received as many shares on LinkedIn as the the other networks combined.

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 17.57.31.png

The recent decision by LinkedIn to allow members to publish content on the platform will increase its popularity with content marketers. Thus the potential of Linkedin as a publishing and distribution platform must be taken seriously. It will be interesting to observe whether certain types of content become more shared on LinkedIn as the blogging platform matures.

Lesson 2 - LinkedIn has significant potential as a distribution channel

The infographic from CopyBlogger was the only content item to have a significant number of Pinterest shares with 1,169 shares. As a general observation we have seen few infographics that relate directly to content marketing. But infographics are the content type with the highest average number of shares as we can see from the breakdown of the 17,000 posts by content type below.

 

chart.png

So are content marketing experts not taking their own medicine and creating enough infographics?

Lesson 3 - Explore infographic options and share on Pinterest

The Importance of Authors

Successful content  is created by authors who have reputation and authority. It’s a virtuous circle: create insightful content, share it effectively, build a reputation, and your content will continue to be amplified through your networks (if you stay relevant and consistently insightful). If you find a useful piece of content by an author, searching for other content by that author may uncover other very relevant content. The second article on our list of most shared content marketing articles was by Courtney Seiter. Using a BuzzSumo author search I can see all the most shared content authored by Courtney shown below.

Screen shot 2014-05-12 at 20.01.45.png

As you can see, Courtney’s articles are consistently highly shared. If you want to be like her, read her headlines and see what gets shared. The first two articles here are the same content, just a different headline and site. Varying your headline style and the focus of your article can help you see what works on different sites and networks. That’s another article though.

Lesson 4: Look for other content by the well shared authors to see what works for them

Most Shared Content Sites

Most shares about content marketing linked to content from Social Media Today. The top three most shared content domains over the last 6 months were:

  • 560,902  Social Media Today
  • 449,312  Copyblogger
  • 315,276  Content Marketing Institute

The most shared top domains across all the five main social networks were as follows:

chart (1).png

There is a relationship as you might expect between the number of articles published and the total number of shares a domain receives. Social Media Today for example published more articles on content marketing than Copyblogger and this accounts in part for the higher total shares. However, whilst SMT had the highest number of total shares on Twitter, Copyblogger had the higher average shares per article.

Lesson 5 - Track what the big sites are writing about content marketing and where they are having success

More Followers Does Not Mean More Shares

What is interesting is the differences in shares between the networks. The details for Social Media Today and Copyblogger are below as an example. We can see that Social Media Today has far more shares on Twitter and LinkedIn but less on Facebook and significantly less on Google+.

shares

The number of shares on each network does not appear to have a direct relationship to the number of followers the publisher has on that network. For example, Copyblogger content received many more Google+ shares despite having only a third as many followers, 11,700 followers compared to SMT’s 35,000. This would suggest the degree of active promotion on a network and the quality of post can outweigh factors such as the number of followers.

Lesson 6 - Active promotion of content is important across all networks and potentially successful even where you have few followers

All of the data above was generated from BuzzSumo - have a search for the most shared content in your area and generate insights that will improve the engagement and reach of your content.

Steve Rayson

Steve Rayson

MD of Kineo, Director BuzzSumo, Kineo, BuzzSumo, Anders Pink

Passionate about growing businesses, social media, learning and technology. Addicted to espressos.

I am currently MD of Kineo, an elearning company and a Director of BuzzSumo, a social search tool that finds the most shared content in any topic area. I also write as a columnist for Social Media Today and Anders Pink. 

Regular G+ user at Steve Rayson

 

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Comments

Great post Steve! Do you have any stats on the click-through rate or other engagement metrics (time on page, etc) for major social networks? In our experience, social sharing doesn't necesserily equate to engagement with the content. In many cases it's done automatically without the content being read or interacted with. Any thoughts on this?

Hi Albert, thanks. The data I reviewed didn't include click through rates though other studies have looked at conversion rates. I think you make a really important point about sharing as people do not always read or engage with content before they share. However, the New York Times did a great study available here on why people share http://nytmarketing.whsites.net/mediakit/pos/

They found 5 main motivations:

- to bring valuable content to others

- to define ourselves to others (make us look good)

- to nourish and grow relationships

- self-fulfillment, enjoy getting comments & engagement

- to get the word out about causes or great brands

Thus even if they don't personally read or engage, others may, it will certainly extend reach. Sharing is generally done as a positive act - so it enhances the perceptions of content being shared. Also the more shares the greater the social signals or social proof that adds value to the content. However, the data I had didn't show that it necessarily led to more conversions but overall I think sharing is generally a very positive relfection on content and can only help enhance the author or brand.