What the Million Most-Shared Articles On Social Media Have In Common

Wonder what the million most-shared articles on social media have in common?

They’re all doing something right, obviously – and if you know a little about what’s in their secret formula, then you can whip up some of your own!

Krabby Patty Formula

Recently, Fractl and BuzzSumo teamed up on a massive project: a study of the million most-shared articles on social media.

They investigated a million articles between December 2015 and June 2016, and reached some seriously interesting conclusions about where the most sharing happens, what people share the most, and how it’s determining the most successful publishers on the web!

You can read the full study here when you have time, but for now, let’s check out what social media’s most shareable content has in common.

1 Million Most Shared Articles

Where people are sharing

Before you keep reading, take a guess at which social network people share the most content on.

Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn?

(Think about it. We’ll wait.)

The answer is Facebook – and by a HUGE margin.

In this sample of the million most-shared articles on social media, 90.2% of the sharing took place on Facebook.

For perspective, Twitter had the second highest number of shares with 6.1% – which is kind of a lot less.

[easy-tweet tweet=”In the first half of 2016, 90% of social shares happened on Facebook.”]

Not only is Facebook the network where most of the sharing happens, but it’s actually growing, too! In a similar study in 2014 (conducted by the same people), Facebook only claimed about 82% of all shares.

People are sharing on Facebook more than ever – so don’t count it out!

Sure, keeping up with the algorithm that determines who sees your updates can feel like a lot of work – but understanding it can really pay off!

In just a second, we’ll look at one business in particular that’s a powerful example of this, but first, let’s talk about why you’re more competitive right now than you might realize.

Whose stuff actually gets shared

Feel like it’s hard to stand out on social media when there are so many bigger fish out there?

(Like, who cares if Buzzfeed got a gajillion views or whatever – of course they did, they have so many followers!)

Actually, you’re more competitive on social media than you used to be.

According to this study, overall shares on social have gone up since 2014 – but the average number of shares for the top publishers are all down.

Basically, it means there’s more variety in who’s getting shared! Instead of a few bigger publishers hogging all the spotlight, more small and niche creators are getting shared, too.

If you’re a small business or a niche publisher, that’s pretty exciting news.

Not only are creators like you getting a bigger slice of the pie, but the pie itself is getting bigger, too!

Homer Pie

Speaking of big publishers getting fewer shares, though…

Facebook’s algorithm changes matter – a lot

Remember when we said that one business in particular is a really good example of how much impact Facebook’s algorithm has?

That business is Upworthy – the company that kind of made clickbait famous.

(You know, that method of writing headlines that used to be positively everywhere?)

Back in 2014, Upworthy was averaging an astonishing 60,000 shares per article.

At the end of that year, though, Facebook declared war on clickbait, introducing an algorithm change that gives those types of headlines a lot less reach. (Its commitment to ridding social media of this trend has only gotten stronger since then.)

What effect did it have, exactly?

According to this study, Upworthy now averages just over 15,000 shares per article about a fourth as many as it used to.

The point?

Keeping up with Facebook’s algorithm changes matters, and it matters big time!

Those changes determine who’s going to see your post, so it’s up to you to maintain the right kinds of posting habits.

And speaking of what people want to see…

Your tone makes a big difference

What kinds of stories do you like seeing the most on social media?



Those weird political conspiracy theories that guy from your high school keeps posting?

Fresh Prince Conspiracy

Because it turns out, the tone of a social media update is a major influence on whether or not it gets shared!

Of the top 1,000 articles shared on social, more than two-thirds had a positive tone. (Only about 7.7% had a negative one.)

Social users generally prefer positivity – and it’s actually more important on some networks than on others! On LinkedIn, for example, 88% of the top 100 articles shared had a positive sentiment. On Pinterest, 97.8 percent.

Here’s where Upworthy comes back in.

Remember how they dropped down to about 15,000 shares per article?

They still get the most shares per article online – and 100% of their top 100 articles have a positive vibe.

Alicia Keys Upworthy

Upworthy has branded itself as the go-to place for inspirational, uplifting content that emphasizes unity and empathy – and it works.

Upworthy Header

And while Upworthy has mastered the art of human interest storytelling, everyone is impacted by how emotion influences shareability.

For example, this study found that news publishers like The New York Times and BBC published the highest percentages of positive content, and also had the best sharing numbers across a variety of networks.

(In contrast, Fox News published the highest volume of negative content, and wasn’t in the top five publishers for any social network.)

This doesn’t mean that you can only post touchy-feely content – just that there are scientific reasons why people share certain things on social, and the better you understand them, the more strategic you can be with what you post!

The three major lessons

Okay, let’s recap!

There are three major takeaways from the results of this study.

  1. People share on Facebook more than ever
  2. When Facebook’s algorithm changes, you need to adapt
  3. Your tone can influence whether or not you get shares

Of course, that’s what their research found – and you can get an up-close look at their data right here, but we want to know what you think, first!

Do these findings jibe with your own experiences on social? Does it feel like the sentiment of what you post inspires sharing? Have you felt the impact of dramatic algorithm changes over the years?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Social Share

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