Which Broadway musical best describes my life? Into the Woods, according to this quiz from PlayBuzz, which also includes the fact that I have a truly magical mind! How comforting for my ego! My life is a fairy tale!
PlayBuzz is at the top of the list on NewsWhip’s Facebook data from January 2015, regarding the most shared sites on that network and Twitter. Taking a look at these results, I was able to identify some key elements of success of these sites, how they are similar in some ways and different in other aspects. Finally, what I have learned from them that we can put into practice; key takeaways that will help us all moving forward. Let’s start by taking a look at Facebook:
It was no surprise to see PlayBuzz at the top of the list .Why? Because people like to play; people like fun and games. Also, according to Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 10 Million Articles Taught Us, 8 of the top 10 shared articles in an 8-month period on 2014 were quizzes. In addition to the fun element, there is a narcissistic element, according to the article. “Why quizzes? Because when we share our quiz results, it fuels our identity and ego. Others will learn more about who we are, what we value, and our tastes.”
I have to admit it, I’m part of the audience that completes and shares quizzes. The fun part is to complete the quiz and share results, but I’m aware people probably don’t care about these results. However, sharing this encourages them to play, resulting in more shares and engagement with this type of content.
Bottomline: Content that engages people because it invites them to have fun works well on Facebook. Also, this content means little if you don’t use the correct text and images to deliver the message to the audience. As a matter of fact, there is an image on each post. PlayBuzz did a fantastic job using a quote from Heinrich Heine on the text of the post, plus a captivating image with three photos of famous Broadway musicals that the typical Facebook audience can identify. Finally, I must add that this type of content is great to distract people from hard news and other type of content, which is different and entertaining. This is the case of the next two on the list: The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.
Buzzfeed also focuses on some entertaining content and finding other angles to stories so that people engage easily. They also have the famous BuzzFeed quizzes (now on a separate Facebook page), meaning this is what they have similar to PlayBuzz. Where they are different is in the fact that BuzzFeed has other types of additional content. I like what they use because it’s everyday, normal stuff that happens to normal people, like you and me. Some content will make you laugh, other may make you cry, both appealing to your emotional side and your sense of humor. If not, it will entertain you, that’s for sure. All content has a visual element on each post. Just yesterday, they posted a very emotional video about an engaged couple exploring how they will look like as they get old. Will you still love me or not?
Just like PlayBuzz, the text on the posts are very clever and invite people to want to find out more. Also, very useful, they feature lists, which we know engage people, like for example, 13 Steps to Instantly Improve your Day and 11 Reasons to Shave your Hoo-Ha. The 13 Steps post featured this headline: “Having a rough day? Follow these directions to take you from the harsh drudgery of daily existence all the way into sanity and peace of mind.” Philosophical, yet motivational and real, isn’t it? It made me open the link!
Take a look at this post. I’m sure you’ll find that fun and entertaining element right away. Social media is not only about choosing the right content, but in terms of stories, how you tell them, particularly on the text of the post.
The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post brings to the table even a mixed-themed type of content. You can visit their Facebook page and will find anything from today’s news, politics, and business to recipes, travel information, articles about American trying bizarre Russian food (brought from Buzzfeed) to Sex Toys that Will Make your Orgasm Better, with the text post: Magical Toys. Sounds like everyday stuff that even touch on some topics people don’t normally talk about? What these 3 sides intent to accomplish is to make a general audience want to stop for a second the socializing with friends on Facebook part, to learn about other stuff (most useful), while they’re entertained, which is the whole purpose of Facebook. Sounds like everyday stuff that even touch on some topics people don’t normally talk about?
What these 3 sites intent to accomplish is to make a general audience want to stop for a second the socializing with friends on Facebook part, to learn about other stuff (most useful), while they’re entertained, which is the whole purpose of Facebook.
I would say Huffington Post is the most complete in terms of themes appealing to a mixed crowd, while BuzzFeed looks for other angles and touches more on common, normal people situations. PlayBuzz, the most shared site, just features playtime content. It’s also the one with the simpler strategy: focusing on quizzes and making people want to play.
When we take a look at the results for the most shared sites on Twitter, we don’t see BuzzFeed or PlayBuzz. Yet, we see The Huffington Post, but not at the top of the list. Almost, if not all, of the top 10 sites are related to news, so maybe people are inclined to share more news on Twitter? Here is the data for Twitter:
I took a look at two of them, The New York Times and Mashable. The success of both lies in the fact that in creating their posts, they strive to give people mixed content, in the most easy to digest and straight to the point way.
The New York Times
While The New York Times uses a more serious voice and features more hard news, it still provides some entertaining content, thus meeting people’s expectations of finding everything under one roof. I like the way they avoid using too many images, while maintaining a better mix of text posts with links. According to What Type of Content Gets Shared More on Twitter, text performs better than images. “What was even more interesting is that 65% of those text-based tweets contained a link. The link part is important because not only does that mean you can drive traffic back to your site, but it also means that tweets with links get retweeted 86% more often.”
Also, they make use of lists, like for example, 14 Summer recipes, thus capitalizing on the fact that audiences love lists and share them. In A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Tweets: How to Get More Clicks, Retweets, and Reach, Courtney Seiter mentions the most popular phrases, which include “the best,” as in this post:
I really like the fact that this preview on the feed doesn’t need an image. As soon as you click on the post you see a small one, but the wording is perfect and made me curious enough to want to click on that link. Finally, during breaking news, like the sentence of the Boston Bomber, they start tweeting and retweeting about the verdict process, giving us more background. That’s what The New York Times does best, which is using the best judgement to deliver a well-balanced amount of content on Twitter, by using the most appropriate choice of words, consistent with its brand voice, yet captivating enough to drive engagement.
Mashable is more casual, more entertaining and tweets more often than The New York Times. The nature of its content is more varied and tends to fall more on the entertaining side. However, on Twitter, they do post breaking news (like right now when they posted that the Boston bomber was sentenced to death).
The post before that one is about a woman who picked the worst shoes for her graduation and fell for 15 seconds. I like the fact that this post is in the form of text with a link to the video. Yet, the headline is compelling enough to make me want to click on that. It’s more of what I mentioned earlier about The New York Times.
Mashable makes more use of image and videos on the feed than The New York Times. I keep on wondering why they just posted that tweet about Boston Bomber’s sentence with an photo of him, when I think by this time we know who he is. The text is simple: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to death for bombing the Boston Marathon.” Straight to the point. On a final note, Mashable posts more frequently per hour than The New York Times (11-13 per hour). Content is for a more curious audience and at this moment they’re using Periscope quite a lot to live stream interviews with people on startups and technology.
Bottomline: Be fun, use images appropriately, spend some time writing a compelling post text (sometimes simple is better), use text post with links on Twitter and find out what makes a better balance between using images or plain text. Give people valuable content they can relate to, how to guides and list format posts and the result will most probably be more engagement.