May 23, 2014

Why Content Goes Viral – Analysis of Over 100m Articles [Report]

Chris Harris
May 23rd, 2014 - 3 mins read

Recently I came across an interesting article from BuzzSumo, a tool which analyses the performance of content in conjunction with OKDork. The article details a study they did on over 100m articles to help answer some of those fundamental questions to get your articles shared as widely as possible. And the results were very interesting…


In the study they asked the following questions, hoping to challenge the assumptions on how to make your content go viral:

– What types of emotions did the most popular articles invoke?

– What type of posts typically receive a lot of shares? (lists? infographics?)

– Did readers love to share short form or long form content? What’s the ideal length?

– Does trust play a major role on whether someone will share an article?

– What’s the effect of having just one image in a post vs no images?

– What’s the effect of having just one influencer sharing your article vs 0?

– How do we make people share our post days and even weeks after it’s been published?

– What’s the best day of the week to publish an article?


And here are the key findings from the study:


So what are the 10 key take-aways?


Long form content gets more social shares than short form content.

Competition is the key factor here, as there is fewer blog articles that are long form (over 3000 words). Plus there’s real social proof that people appreciate those posts which take longer to construct. So stand out from the crowd and create longer content where possible.



Having at least one image in your post leads to more Facebook shares

Anyone familiar with Facebook or has managed a brand page can agree with this finding that posts with images see greater engagement. Facebook by its very nature is visual and it works to include a visual element with your post.



And make sure you know how to and use the social meta tags for Facebook (known as Open Graph). Optimising the sharing image for a webpage in Facebook delivers 3 times the engagement.




Having at least one image in your post leads to more Twitter shares

And unsurprisingly, Twitter is similar to Facebook where you see a greater number of shares for tweets with an image.



Invoke awe, laughter, or amusement. Appeal to people’s narcissistic side

The three most popular emotions from all the shares analysed were awe, laughter and amusement. This is unsurprising when you think about it as sharing entertaining content brings value to our friends, shows others we have great taste, and spurs conversation and reactions. People also share for selfish reasons, like narcissism.



People love to share lists and infographics

Lists bring order and ‘scan-ability’ to long form posts and our brains can make sense of them. They also help give an article a share-friendly title, helping the viewer understand what to expect when they click. Similarly, infographics condense a lot of information in a nice, visually appealing format, that’s primed for sharing.



10 is the magic number for lists

And of all the lists analysed lists of 10 came out on top for shares.


People tend to share content that looks trustworthy

Seems a no-brainer but having a good byline and description for your content is key to making your article feel qualified and trustworthy.




Getting one extra influencer to share your article has a multiplier effect.

Where possible always think about how you can incorporate and ask influential people into your content to significantly increase your sharing.




Re-promote your old content on a regular basis.

Don’t always post once and forget, as there is value in re-promoting old posts at least a week after it’s been published. Alternatively, find old content that ties into an upcoming event/holiday, and re-promote the day of the event.


The best day overall to publish content for social shares is Tuesday.

Overall, of all the posts analysed Tuesday came out the best day for shares, but on Pinterest and LinkedIn Monday proved most popular.



This article was originally published via

Chris Harris
May 23rd, 2014 - 3 mins read