16 Takeaways From a Year of
FRACTL’S 2016 ROUNDUP OF INDUSTRY RESEARCH ON CONTENT STRATEGY,
INFLUENCER OUTREACH, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND VIRAL MARKETING
Marketers live and breathe data. Without them, we
wouldn’t be able to plan campaigns, vet our ideas, and
revisit our efforts to gauge success.
Over the past year, we produced 23 research-based
campaigns that explored various topics and pending
questions in our industry. We also earned more than 340
placements and nearly 34,000 social shares from our
So as 2016 ends, we wanted to share 16 stats that caught
our eye and offer some insight into what our industry can
expect in 2017.
New and increasingly
sophisticated tools are emerging
that will allow us to uncover
hidden aspects of data that we
were never able to see.
The Future of Data Journalism
A timeline and candid conversations with seven data-driven content
creators reveal their creative processes, sources for inspiration, and
the future of data journalism.
Data-driven journalism has been around since the 1800s, but the past
few decades have seen an explosion in data-driven content.
Regardless of the process or idea, data-driven content is a trend that’s
here to stay. Innovating new ways to collect and present the data and
finding new sources of inspiration are key to staying ahead.
Content marketing teams need
strategists with an array of
technical and creative skills, no
Today’s Hybrid Content Marketer
Collecting 3,300 job listings on Indeed.com specific to content
marketing revealed the current job landscape and the top 10 skills
recruiters look for in their ideal applicants.
Job seekers must demonstrate a hybrid skill set to remain competitive
in the current job market. Today’s content marketer must be part
technician, part artist and well-versed in SEO, coding, writing, and
Experience trumps traditional higher education qualifications, but
opportunities to sharpen skills like coding or writing are widely
accessible now through mass open online courses.
Top retail giants like Amazon
and Apple are devoting more
money to search than any
Battle for the Online Consumer
After turning to The List to collect the amounts different companies
allocate to their marketing budgets, we used SEMrush to compare how
each brand performs in search rankings.
Amazon and Apple spent upward of 85% of their budget exclusively on
online search spending, which paid off: The total online traffic for
Amazon and Apple exceeded that of the other 18 retailers combined.
What can we learn from the marketing budget of Amazon and other
top retailers? Although many factors contribute to a company’s
success or failure online, search spending is also most closely tied to
a company’s organic website traffic – and it’s the preferred tactic for
some of retail’s biggest name.
Nearly 52% of high-authority links
will receive zero social
Lessons From Building 26,000 Links
Over the course of a few years and few hundred campaigns, we’ve
earned 26,000 links. We looked at the related data for insights on how
publishers use our content.
Our analysis confirms the findings of similar analyses; most links will
get zero social shares. In fact, on average, the top-performing link for
an average campaign will see 63% of the total campaign social
Your content strategy should include a strong promotion strategy that
focuses on building high-quality links with authoritative publishers and
encouraging social traction with high-engagement publishers.
It only takes one big media
placement to generate a lasting
increase in press coverage.
The Impact of PR Wins and Fails
We pulled new stories about seven companies between February 2015,
and February 2016, to understand the impact of major media coverage
on press mentions, organic traffic, and backlinks.
Our data indicate that an initial feature for a brand can increase media
coverage over a long period. Gravity Payments, for instance,
announced that its CEO would be cutting his salary to implement a
minimum staff salary of $70K back in April 2015, and the brand has
seen coverage as recently as August 2016, regarding the business
impacts of the move.
Although this type of brand coverage is rare, the good news is that
even on a smaller scale, top-tier press coverage can yield short- and
long-term benefits for any brand.
More than 50% of all non-like
reactions on Facebook are
Publishers’ Audiences Reactions on Facebook
We looked at the top three posts for eight news sites – CNN, Fox
News, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall
Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Yahoo News – over a
two-day period to discover how their audiences use the newer
Overall, people tend to prefer the positive on Facebook. We found that
users love to “love” posts: More than 50% of all non-like reactions
were “loves” while “angry” and “sad” – the only two negative emotions
– were the least used non-like reactions.
Not all audiences react the same across publishers, so your
promotions team should keep this in mind when deciding which
publishers to target for your content.
By far, Facebook sees the most
social engagement across
platforms — 9 out of 10 shares.
3 Billion Social Shares
An analysis of 1 million of the most shared articles from the first half
of 2016 revealed the top social platforms for engagement and most
shared publishers on the internet.
Facebook now accounts for 90% of social engagements online, a 10%
increase from 2014. At the same time, more publishers are creating
shareworthy content; there are niche publications with loyal and highly
engaged audiences. While the total number of shares from 1 million
articles rose from 2.7 to 3.0 billion, viral publishers and losing their
share of shares while mainstream news and niche publishers are
Besides boosting up your Facebook presence, take time to better
understand the sharing habits of your audience to influence a more
niche content strategy.http://www.frac.tl/research/threebillionshares
Millennial men share content the
least on Facebook.
Sharing Habits of the Average Facebook User
In April 2016, we surveyed 2,000 people about what they share on
Facebook to get a better understanding of content that’s primed for
Shareable content varies by age and gender. Men, for instance, are 8
percent more likely to share political content and satirical news than
women while millennials are the least likely to share political content.
With nearly 60% of Facebook users logging onto the platform more
than once a day, there’s a huge potential audience for your content on
the platform. To see the best results, though, marketers need to
understand not everyone shares the same content, so plan
Nearly 50% of Facebook users
share content they believe their
friends will find entertaining.
Facebook Sharing Motivations
We surveyed 2,000 people to answer one simple question: What do
people share on Facebook and why?
Although social sharing habits can vary significantly – women, for
instance, are 13% more likely than men to share something that will
elicit an emotional response from their friends – nearly 50% of
respondents agree that the primary reason they share content on
Facebook is to entertain.
There are pronounced differences between genders and generations in
why we share on Facebook, so marketers would be wise to identify
target audiences before producing content.
Instead of focusing on word
count, drive engagement with
content that’s emotional, useful,
Perfect Length for Viral Content
What’s the anatomy of viral content? Our analysis of the top 100
BuzzFeed articles found the perfect length depends on the topic.
Articles on travel, books and media, and current events hovered around
900 words while topics like physical health only averaged 349 words.
While our attention spans have shortened to that of a goldfish, and we
crave snackable content like the bite-sized listicles on BuzzFeed, not all
viral content is short or image-heavy.
Viral content will often gain
exposure across borders, so
material must appeal to
international audiences and
Mapping Viral Content
To track how a viral campaign can spread around the world in a matter
of days, we tracked the journey of one of our most successful content
campaigns – 1,300 media mentions and 105,000 social shares.
After BuzzFeed first published this project, it spread to top-tier
publications in 25 countries and 20 U.S. states in just nine days.
Truly viral content has global appeal. If you’re aiming to create a broad
awareness campaign, keep elements in mind that will appeal to a
global audience and evoke universal emotions.
More than 50% of
marketing campaigns include
some sort of comparison or
What We Learned From 300+ Campaigns
A sample of 345 of our own campaigns that launched between 2013
and 2016 gave us a closer look at the relationship between the number
of placements and the content’s topic, visual assets, and formatting.
Content that earned the most links shared four characteristics: It was
highly emotional, generated broad appeal, offered a comparison, and
tied in a pop culture theme.
Aside from links, emotional resonance is a key ingredient for also
earning a ton of shares. Our campaigns that received more than
20,000 social shares were 8x more likely to include a strong
emotional hook than campaigns that received fewer than 1,000 shares.
While the number of media
placements and social shares
vary by vertical, every industry
can create viral content.
Content Strategy & Benchmarks, by Vertical
An internal audit of nearly 350 client campaigns identified the
performance benchmarks, broken down by vertical. Further analysis
determined the factors that helped each vertical receive the most
While the average campaign received 90 placements and nearly 12,000
social shares, the average for each vertical varied drastically.
Take variables like your brand’s vertical and campaign’s scope into
account when setting performance benchmarks, otherwise you’ll be
comparing apples with oranges. Both traditional and perceived virality
are attainable in any industry, but the strategy and metrics for success
Viral content should be simple,
unexpected, concrete, credible,
emotional. And it should tell
Decoding Successful Content
In their book, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”
Chip and Dan Heath outline six components of compelling ideas:
Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and stories.
These three campaigns prove that the Heath brothers are on to
something: In total, 2,300 writers covered these projects, and more
than 140,000 social media users shared them.
Successful content makes you feel something. It’s content that sticks
with you, so much so that you want to share it with your friends. These
six principles prove that it’s possible to consistently produce effective
wok, and marketers should reference them to elevate future
The top 10 emotional
responses to viral content are
Emotions Behind Viral Content
We asked 400 people to record their emotional responses to 100 of the
top images from Reddit’s r/pics community. We then used the
Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance (PAD) emotional state model to
understand how additional emotional components beyond individual
emotions contribute to high levels of sharing and engagement
The 10 most common emotions reported by our survey participants
were positive, with happiness, surprise, and admiration being the top
three emotions. With the PAD model, we identified high levels of
arousal and dominance as a viral content trigger since the
accompanying emotions were either all positive or a combination of
positive emotions plus surprise.
Feel-good content is primed for social sharing, but our research
indicates that an element of surprise can also help magnify positive
feelings and amplify social shares.http://www.frac.tl/research/viral-emotions-study-2
Influencers with the most
followers aren’t necessarily the
Researchers at USC recently uncovered a social media phenomenon
known as the Majority Illusion, which happens when certain members
within a social network give the appearance that an idea, opinion, or
product is more popular than it is. We created an interactive graphic to
see what this looks like in action.
There are two types of influencers who can help your brand mimic
Majority Illusion: Niche influencers and those who have cross-vertical
Remember that timing is also crucial. The more influencers you can
get pushing your content at the same time, the better your chances for
creating the Majority Illusion.