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What consumers share on Facebook -- and why

What consumers share on Facebook -- and why Doug Schumacher

As more and more marketing dollars pour into Facebook, it only makes sense that there will be increasing curiosity and scrutiny in how those pages work to influence readers.


Facebook's announcements last month make it clear the social media giant is ushering businesses into a content marketing world. And in that world, knowing what type of content is most effective is paramount.


For anyone interested in analyzing what types of content drive what types of engagement, there isn't a much better place to look than Facebook. It offers the richest mix of content types, combined with clearly defined interactions, or engagements -- all of which can be tracked with unprecedented access to information.


I've taken a look at some numbers around Facebook content and what kind is the most shared, and have found an interesting correlation: Video and photo posts are far more likely to be shared than status updates or links.



The analysis took into account seven consumer based industries, with posts from a total of 42 large business pages analyzed over a three month period. For 80 percent of the pages, video is the most shared media type. On 95 percent of the pages, video is the first or second most shared media type.


As you can see in the following chart, across the industries analyzed, videos drive sharing 375 percent better that status updates.




Engagement types per media type
Facebook data by Zuum
All data taken from posts between Dec 1, 2011 and Feb 29, 2012


As you can see, photos also correlate closely to sharing. On 78 percent of pages, photos were the first or second most shared media type.


Why the correlation between sharing and richer content types?





One reason might be if there was a heavy skew in the volume of posts for different media types. However, we can see in the following chart that that's not really the case. There are some differences, but not uniformly relative to the sharing data.



Media type usage


Another factor to consider is Edgerank favoring certain types of posts. With Facebook keeping that algorithm under lock and key, it's certainly a possibility. Even so, marketers would still compete under whatever algorithm Facebook puts out there, so the relative value of the data wouldn't change.


Most likely is that photos and videos have a perceived value that a status update, and even a link, doesn't carry; a certain tangible quality that you're sending to someone. And of course, video has more perceived heft, content-wise, and makes sense that it would have greater perceived value.


Something else to keep in mind is that pages using third party posting tools have an altered sharing button next to the content they post. Normally, the share button is lined up with the like and comment button. But when a third party posting tool is used, it moves up into the post content area.



Whether or not that makes it more or less likely to be shared could be debated, but keep in mind those pages have changed the user interface for engaging, and changes like that will often impact any related actions.


Not all engagements are created equal


Lately there's been a growing discussion online about the related value of different engagement types. Just looking at the three main engagement types on a Facebook post -- a "like," comment, or share -- given how different each is in terms of the user's level of endorsement, it stands to reason that the resulting impact would be different, as well.


Most people would probably agree that getting a fan to take something you posted and turn and repost that to their most trusted network, essentially endorsing your company by telling them to read your post, would have a bigger impact for the brand than if they simply "liked" your post, or even commented on it.


Sharing is very much at the core of what companies would like brand influentials to do: Spread brand endorsements about the company to their personal network, social network or otherwise.


What that difference in value is between a "like" and a share could be another article or ten, but the point is, there's a difference. So it makes sense to try to understand the factors that cause the higher levels of brand ambassadorship.


Examples of posts with high sharing


So what do posts with high sharing value look like? In the following chart, you can see a list of the most shared posts for each of the seven industries we've analyzed.



Most shared posts for each industry


Note that on those most shared posts, shares are often 30 to 50 percent of overall engagements.


Also, you can see the prominence of photos and videos in these posts. The only one that isn't is the Mayo Clinic post, and medical breakthroughs really should need a photo or video to resonate.


You can also see that a lot of these posts are rather long, certainly relative to many Facebook posts. This suggests that people are interested in more than just simple, lightweight posting from brands. In fact, the added length on these could also be associated with perceived importance, further inspiring sharing.



What can marketers learn from this


Perhaps the best news in all of this is that there is indeed something that correlates strongly with sharing. For brands that want to drive sharing, and I think a lot of them will, then being able to identify behaviors or trends that influence sharing is of very real value. It simply helps you pursue your goals with more precision and accuracy.


So if a brand wants to increase the rate at which fans share their content, what should they do? The obvious thing is, post more of the richer media types -- videos and photos. Of course, a lot of brands will struggle to post those types of content due to the added complexity. There are several ways brands can address that issue.


One is to take a comprehensive inventory of your visual assets. You may have more than you think, especially if you're a franchise property. You may already have a library of high-quality assets. Sometimes even a simple image just needs the right introductory headline to get people liking, commenting, and especially sharing.


Another consideration is content curation. Posting content from some other source can be an economical way to deliver content of high engagement value on your page, while also keeping your costs to a minimum. Where you source this information depends greatly on the industry you're in. Location-based content can also be very helpful, but again, needs to be selected accordingly.


Lastly, but certainly not least, you can use the single greatest content development asset your company has: Your employees. Two things have changed greatly in the past five years. One is that the most popular phone model in the world is perfectly suitable for many social media posts even from corporations (as are a lot of the non-Apple phones); the other is that, due to the popularity of camera phones and the apps, there are a lot more people out there capable of taking very good pictures. That's a lot to be leveraged.


Good content is also about being unique and distinct. To that point, in most industries there are also examples of status updates and links that drove a good level of sharing. Look at the following chart for the most shared status updates in the QSR category. Good content is ultimately about being fresh and relevant. The media type is just the format.



Shared status posts in QSR category


No matter what industry you're in, you should be able to find posts that drive high engagement, based on a number of different parameters -- from media type to subject matter to specific times of the year.


To some brands, Facebook can seem like the world's largest focus group ever assembled. By closely analyzing what works and what doesn't, those brands will simply know their target audience better, by knowing what interests them.


The future of advertising according to Facebook is a content marketing world: Knowing the finer details of what triggers your audience to engage will be a large factor in how well your page performs.


Doug Schumacher is the co-founder of Facebook content strategy tool Zuum.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


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Doug Schumacher is the co-founder of social media content strategy tool Zuum. Zuum reveals a number of key insights into what type of social media content will generate maximum impact for a given industry. His interactive career began in 1996...

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Comments

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Commenter: Nick Stamoulis

2012, April 20

"What that difference in value is between a "like" and a share could be another article or ten, but the point is, there's a difference. "

Great point! In my opinion, getting Likes and Fans isn't nearly as important as getting a piece of content shared. Having someone like your page and then never return doesn't do much. Sharing your content shows they are engaged and interested.