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16 Takeaways From a Year of Marketing Research


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Over the past year, we produced 23 research-based campaigns that explored content strategy, influencer marketing, outreach, social media, and viral content. Here's what we learned.

Published in: Marketing

16 Takeaways From a Year of Marketing Research

  2. 2. Data-Driven Industry Insights 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 findings. 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.
  3. 3. New and increasingly sophisticated tools are emerging that will allow us to uncover hidden aspects of data that we were never able to see. #16
  4. 4. The Future of Data Journalism Research Brief A timeline and candid conversations with seven data-driven content creators reveal their creative processes, sources for inspiration, and the future of data journalism. Findings Data-driven journalism has been around since the 1800s, but the past few decades have seen an explosion in data-driven content. Takeaways 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.
  5. 5. Content marketing teams need strategists with an array of technical and creative skills, no MBA required. #15
  6. 6. Today’s Hybrid Content Marketer Research Brief Collecting 3,300 job listings on specific to content marketing revealed the current job landscape and the top 10 skills recruiters look for in their ideal applicants. Findings 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 marketing strategy. Takeaways Experience trumps traditional higher education qualifications, but opportunities to sharpen skills like coding or writing are widely accessible now through mass open online courses.
  7. 7. Top retail giants like Amazon and Apple are devoting more money to search than any other tactic. #14
  8. 8. Battle for the Online Consumer Research Brief 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. Findings 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. Takeaways 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.
  9. 9. Nearly 52% of high-authority links will receive zero social engagements. #13
  10. 10. Lessons From Building 26,000 Links Research Brief 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. Findings 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 engagement. Takeaways 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.
  11. 11. It only takes one big media placement to generate a lasting increase in press coverage. #12
  12. 12. The Impact of PR Wins and Fails Research Brief 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. Findings 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. Takeaways 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.
  13. 13. More than 50% of all non-like reactions on Facebook are “Love.” #11
  14. 14. Publishers’ Audiences Reactions on Facebook Research Brief 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 Facebook reactions. Findings 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. Takeaways 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.
  15. 15. By far, Facebook sees the most social engagement across platforms — 9 out of 10 shares. #10
  16. 16. 3 Billion Social Shares Research Brief 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. Findings 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 gaining shares. Takeaways Besides boosting up your Facebook presence, take time to better understand the sharing habits of your audience to influence a more niche content strategy.
  17. 17. Millennial men share content the least on Facebook. #9
  18. 18. Sharing Habits of the Average Facebook User Research Brief 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 engagement. Findings 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. Takeaways 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 accordingly.
  19. 19. Nearly 50% of Facebook users share content they believe their friends will find entertaining. #8
  20. 20. Facebook Sharing Motivations Research Brief We surveyed 2,000 people to answer one simple question: What do people share on Facebook and why? Findings 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. Takeaways 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.
  21. 21. Instead of focusing on word count, drive engagement with content that’s emotional, useful, or unique. #7
  22. 22. Perfect Length for Viral Content Research Brief What’s the anatomy of viral content? Our analysis of the top 100 BuzzFeed articles found the perfect length depends on the topic. Findings Articles on travel, books and media, and current events hovered around 900 words while topics like physical health only averaged 349 words. Takeaways 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.
  23. 23. Viral content will often gain exposure across borders, so material must appeal to international audiences and universal emotions. #6
  24. 24. Mapping Viral Content Research Brief 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. Findings After BuzzFeed first published this project, it spread to top-tier publications in 25 countries and 20 U.S. states in just nine days. Takeaways 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.
  25. 25. More than 50% of high-performing content marketing campaigns include some sort of comparison or ranking. #5
  26. 26. What We Learned From 300+ Campaigns Research Brief 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. Findings 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. Takeaways 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.
  27. 27. While the number of media placements and social shares vary by vertical, every industry can create viral content. #4
  28. 28. Content Strategy & Benchmarks, by Vertical Research Brief 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 engagement. Findings While the average campaign received 90 placements and nearly 12,000 social shares, the average for each vertical varied drastically. Takeaways 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 will differ.
  29. 29. Viral content should be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional. And it should tell stories. #3
  30. 30. Decoding Successful Content Research Brief 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. Findings 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. Takeaways 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 campaigns.
  31. 31. The top 10 emotional responses to viral content are overwhelmingly positive. #2
  32. 32. Emotions Behind Viral Content Research Brief 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 Findings 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. Takeaways 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.
  33. 33. Influencers with the most followers aren’t necessarily the most influential. #1
  34. 34. Majority Illusion Research Brief 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. Findings There are two types of influencers who can help your brand mimic Majority Illusion: Niche influencers and those who have cross-vertical connections. Takeaways 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.
  35. 35. We leverage the science behind great content. OUR MISSION To produce the most engaging and emotional experiences on the web. | © 2016 Fractl, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Fractl is a full-service digital marketing agency that specializes in content marketing, social media, and lead generation with a focus on the high impact of viral content marketing as it relates to SEO, rankings, and online growth. Find out how our superior results can increase your bottom line today.