Study: How to target your online content to get the most shares

Is there a rhyme or reason to crafting viral content? Recent research points to specific sharing platforms. Are you using the right social media channels and strategies? Find out.

Sharing isn’t only about caring when it comes to how and why content gets shared online.

Although so much of a content strategy’s success depends upon which social media channel it uses, marketers have more control over how their content is received than they might think.

Data say the overall number of shares across all publishers is up to 3 billion since 2014. A recent report from Fractl and BuzzSumo analyzed that stat, along with 1 million of the internet’s most-shared articles from December 2015 to June 2016.

Want to get a piece of the action? Here’s how can marketers can adjust their strategies and emulate certain brands and publishers dominating the social media scene. From share counts to content sentiment, consider these insights—and takeaways:

Establish a presence on popular social media channels.

Despite how your marketing team approaches content distribution, it’s tough to deny that certain social media platforms tend to see more shares.

Whether or not you use Facebook, data say the platform will continue to expand—and the same goes for LinkedIn.

From the report:

  • Facebook increased its footprint to 90 percent of all shares.

  • Twitter is still a distant second, with 6 percent of total shares, which decreased from roughly 9 percent in 2014.

  • LinkedIn jumped in front of both Google+ and Pinterest, going from 2.2 percent of total shares to 2.5 percent.

  • Google+ has declined in the percentage of top articles shared on the network from just under 4.5 percent to a minuscule 0.3% of total shares.

LinkedIn’s boost comes from what Fractl’s brand relations strategist, Ashley Carlisle, attributes to “encouraging user engagement.” If you’re not using LinkedIn Pulse, or looking to influential users in your network, you might want to adjust your approach.

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Carlisle adds:

LinkedIn has seen just under 75 million of the three billion social shares thus far in 2016, which is a 13 percent increase [from] our previous 2014 report. One potential influence is LinkedIn Pulse, the network’s publishing platform that opened up to the general public in February 2014. We found the top publisher on LinkedIn is LinkedIn. Given the timeline the network’s decision to allow for more user-generated content that could be shared is a major factor when it comes to the network’s social shares.

Niche marketing can make a difference.

Many social media pros believe that there are two key approaches to distributing content online:

1. Narrow your focus, and target one primary network.

2. Target everyone, and be everywhere.

Ever heard of If you’re a soccer fan, you’re probably a frequent reader.

Are readers of that niche digital publication sharing as much as they’re reading? Fractl says yes.

Why?’s social media managers took the concept of engaging a target audience and ran with it.

Data suggest has outpaced the viral content producer Buzzfeed for total number of Facebook shares during the first six months of 2016. The site topped the chart with 9 percent of total shares on that platform.

What does that mean for you?

There’s plenty of room to improve—and expand—your niche marketing efforts. Here are three tips:

  • Distribute more content.

  • Perfect the timing of your posts.

  • Assert your position with high-quality content.

Here’s what Carlisle says:

Besides quantity, there were several other factors that led to’s surprising dominance that marketers should take note of. As a niche publisher with a targeted audience, their position and timing really drove up their total social engagement. The site has been steadily gaining momentum as an authoritative leader in their vertical, and took advantage of several major events in the world of soccer to increase their total share number. [Though] they may have a specific audience as far as interests, their geographic appeal is global and the site caters to their international audience [using] several editions.

Identify where to pitch.

Curious where to place your stories? Don’t stop shooting for a piece in The New York Times. If you’ve got an idea for a listicle, Buzzfeed is still a top contender among digital publishers with regard to share-worthy content.

“In the last two years, traditional news organizations have learned how to create viral content that people want to share rather than sites [that] focus on attracting site traffic through social shares,” the report states.

Love working with reporters and editors? Look to these powerhouse publishers if you seek to see your content soar on social media:

Keep your content positive.

To succeed with sharing, adopt the content marketing equivalent of a permanent smiley face.

Buffer’s Kevan Lee says:

The tone of your tweet, update, and post matters. Studies show that positivity in social media wins in online interactions.

Fractl data support that claim.

“Among the top 1,000 articles shared, 69 percent of them had a positive sentiment. Less than 8 percent of them were negative,” its report states.

Here’s a breakdown by platform:

  • LinkedIn has an extremely low amount of negative sentiment, at only 1 percent. That highlights how users want to maintain a professional reputation among potential and current employers and co-workers.

  • Pinterest , known for DIY, beauty and food content, champions a positive sentiment of almost 98 percent.

  • Twitter has almost double the number of articles with negative sentiment as Facebook, which boasts the most neutral articles.

According HubSpot data, Twitter users with higher follower counts have a lower percentage of negativity in their tweets compared with those with fewer followers.

No matter the platform, certain emotional combinations can make people more likely to share.

Carlisle says the top three emotional responses prone to spur viral content are happiness, surprise and admiration.

“In general, I’d definitely say positive content encourages more user engagement,” she says.

What tactics for share-worthy content have you adopted, PR Daily readers?

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