By Jodi Harris published December 28, 2014

A Behind-the-Scenes Analysis of Social Media Content Trends

Social-Media Harris-Cover

Just for kicks, I recently took a Facebook quiz to see if I am more right-brained or left-brained. The results — split nearly down the middle: 49% left, 51% right — confirmed something I’ve suspected all along: My Libra brain craves equality and balance in all things, and doesn’t like dealing in absolutes, especially when there are multiple factors to consider.

I’m sure many content marketers can relate to my balance-beam brain’s struggle to find definitive meaning in the fuzzy logic of social media measurement and analysis. On the one hand, a number is a number. Fifty “likes” on Facebook mean 50 people saw your post and took the action of clicking “like,” which is better than 20 people, but not as good as 100 — end of story. Yet, we also know the true value or meaning behind the 50 “likes” can be colored by a virtually limitless number of considerations, variables, and situation-based data points. The possibilities boggle (both hemispheres of) my mind.

Nonetheless, my right brain and left brain have agreed to work as a team just long enough for me to take a look at CMI’s top-performing posts of 2014 on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Incidentally, we had to really think about the angle for this post. Our goal is to educate, not promote, so we didn’t want to simply churn out lists of “best content by channel.” (Though, if you are someone who wants a summary of some of the posts you may have missed this year, or ideas of things to share on your social networks, these lists are here for you.)

Rather, our intention is to demonstrate how we use this kind of data to improve our marketing and editorial efforts. We share what surprised us and how we have changed our strategy as a result of what we learned.

How do we use social data?

First off, it’s important to note that while we track social sharing data, it’s not the Holy Grail by which we measure the success or failure of our content (and we don’t want to give that impression). However, we do evaluate this data as it provides insight into two key areas:

  • Social and marketing: At CMI, we have a channel plan that looks at the various content that resonates most with people on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, and other platforms. Social sharing helps us understand what these audiences like so we can create more content along those lines. We also share evergreen content in these channels based on what has worked well in the past.
  • Editorial: Knowing what topics trend well helps our team create our content calendar.


Twitter Leaderboard*

  1. 6 Ways to Measure B2B Content Marketing Performance (7,900), Derek Edmond
  2. How to Use Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy (2,800), Ben Harper
  3. The Ultimate Blog Marketing Checklist: 57 Tips (2,100), Mike Murray
  4. 7 Books That Will Inspire More Successful Content Marketing (2,100), Roger C. Parker
  5. 8 Ways Public Relations Can Fuel Successful Content Marketing (1,900), Paul Roetzer
  6. What Keeps Brilliant Visual Content From Being Shared (1,800), Buddy Scalera
  7. How to Audit Your Website Content for SEO (1,700), Amanda DiSilvestro
  8. The Content Marketing Pyramid: Create More With Less (1,500), Pawan Deshpande
  9. How to Make Content Creation a Benefit for Your Team — Not a Burden (1,500), Jodi Harris
  10. 10 Ways to Inspire Your Inner Content Creator (1,400), Michele Linn

What surprised us: In February we published a post from Derek Edmond called 6 Ways to Measure B2B Content Marketing Performance. Within the first week, we had almost 7,000 tweets, which was a record for us. The not-so-great news? We didn’t have 7,000 views to the page, so people were sharing this headline, but they weren’t actually visiting our site, reading the post, or signing up for our newsletter (which is a key goal for us).

How we have adjusted our strategy: While we have tracked email conversions along with social shares, we now also look more closely at time on site and bounce rate. Are people taking the time to really read our articles? Are they visiting other pages on our site once they engage with the original post? These are questions we ask to gauge whether our content is truly driving our business goals.

Ask yourself: Are the posts that are performing well for you on Twitter helping you achieve your goals, or do you need to be looking at this data in conjunction with other metrics to give you a clearer picture of your content’s performance and value?


Facebook Leaderboard*

  1. How to Use Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy (600), Ben Harper
  2. New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy (584), Joe Pulizzi
  3. 10 Content Marketing Roles for Success in the Next 10 Years (556), Joe Pulizzi
  4. A Content Marketer’s Checklist: Editorial Calendar Essentials (487), Jodi Harris
  5. New Data: Mix Content Types for Successful Content Marketing (481), Peyman Nilforoush
  6. Make Your Visual Content Stand Out With a Signature Brand Look (467), Chuck Frey
  7. For Brands, Facebook Is Now a Content Publisher — Not a Community (453), Robert Rose
  8. 7 Books That Will Inspire More Successful Content Marketing (414), Roger C. Parker
  9. How to Build Social Media Into Your Content Marketing Processes (406), Cathy McPhillips
  10. Why Your Online Content Needs Both Social and Search Optimization (341), Lee Odden

What surprised us: Out of all social channels, there is the least correlation between Facebook shares and our goal of increasing email conversions. As such, Facebook is not the platform we would want to rely on for tracking performance against that specific goal.

We were also surprised to see what topics performed well here. Prior to seeing the data, we would have guessed that general interest discussions (like social media, digital technology, creative considerations, or discussions of specific brands) would grab the most attention. However, we discovered that our top 10 most-“liked” posts on Facebook are more heavily concentrated in the B2B arena, and that in-depth and niche-focused discussions seem to feature just as prominently as overview topics and thought leadership pieces.

How we have adjusted our strategy: Facebook is the social channel on which we now share the fewest blog posts. One reason is because we want to encourage people to subscribe via email. Over time, we have also started to focus more on sharing more conversation-friendly content here, as well as smaller bits of content that we curate from posts and our larger content efforts — such as our Content Marketing Example of the Week.

Ask yourself: Does it make sense to share your content on every possible channel there is, or are there certain channels where the content you provide is more meaningful to your audience than what you share elsewhere? If this is the case, you might want to consider whether it’s worth putting your resources into those channels where you aren’t delivering epic content or providing unique value.


LinkedIn Leaderboard*

  1. How to Use Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy (1000), Ben Harper
  2. 3 Tactics to Optimize Your Website Content With Social Intelligence (995), Rebecca Watson
  3. How to Audit Your Website Content for SEO (911), Amanda DiSilvestro
  4. New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy (909), Joe Pulizzi
  5. The Content Marketing Pyramid: Create More With Less (876), Pawan Deshpande
  6. If Your Content Marketing Is for Everybody, It’s for Nobody (843), Joe Pulizzi
  7. 8 Ways Public Relations Can Fuel Successful Content Marketing (843), Paul Roetzer
  8. Why Your Brand Should Speak Human (834), Kevin Lund & Eileen Sutton
  9. What Keeps Brilliant Visual Content From Being Shared (802), Buddy Scalera
  10. Why 55% of Potential B2B Buyers Might Not Trust Your Website Content (799), Dianna Huff

What surprised us: If we were to guess what would perform well on LinkedIn, career-focused topics — like setting up your content marketing team or how to transform your organization to use content marketing — would have been our safe bet. However, we discovered that our top 10 most-shared posts are focused on other areas, such as strategy optimization, creating more efficient and productive processes, and overcoming specific content industry challenges.

How we changed our strategy: The influencer-heavy LinkedIn reminds us that we shouldn’t stop at topical evaluation on this platform. With this in mind, we started to take a closer look at who our contributors are, and what roles they play — both in our industry and online. We’re looking outside our “regulars” to find new voices and extend our reach.

Ask yourself: How can influencers on your network help extend your content’s reach on your high-priority channels?

Across all platforms

Beyond what we saw when we looked at each of the individual social channels, there were the undeniable successes — the content that hit the bulls-eye on all three platforms, as well as on our website. For example, Ben Harper’s post, How to Use Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy, topped the list on LinkedIn and Facebook, was No. 2 on our Twitter list, and earned well-above-average page views, conversions, open rates, and click-through rates.

Lesson learned: Don’t evaluate your content in platform-specific silos. Monitor the entire dashboard. Keeping an eye on the big wins can provide insight into what you might want to curate into new formats or update periodically in order to capitalize on their universal appeal and high potential to engage an audience.


Of course, these “top” evaluations are somewhat surface-level and unscientific, but even anecdotal evidence like this can be instrumental in providing a quick, snapshot view that can help content marketers identify opportunities, set priorities, and recognize early traffic patterns that can be explored in more detail down the road.

*Note: Our social counts are for posts that were published between January and November 2014. Social data was captured during the first week of December.

Find more best practices and rules of engagement for working with today’s top social media platforms. Read our Content Marketer’s Guide to Social Media Survival: 50+ Tips.

Cover image by tiffanytlcbm via pixabay

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is the Director of Editorial Content & Curation at Content Marketing Institute. As a content strategy consultant, Jodi helps businesses evaluate their content needs and resources; build infrastructure and operations; and create compelling stories to be delivered across multiple media channels and platforms. Follow Jodi on Twitter at @Joderama.

Other posts by Jodi Harris

  • Outtanames999

    It seems to me you don’t understand Facebook. It’s about loyalty, familiarity and a sense of community. Perhaps you don’t realize that. Putting direct marketing metrics against that (email signups extracted from a loyal community) is a mismatch of impedance – it doesn’t resonate with the channel. It’s Facebook. If they can see your content they’re already “signed up”. You got ’em! Don’t stop communicating with them now. Yes the money is in the list and your Facebook audience is its own list. What more do you want?

    • Cathy McPhillips

      Thanks for the comment! We wholeheartedly agree that Facebook is about community, and our community is something we value tremendously. With that said, there is different content shared via email, via Facebook, via Twitter and our other channels – and we want to make sure they’re seeing what they want and need from us. Our channel plan helps us make sure we are using our channels in a way that the customer is receiving value, but also in a way that we are as well. If our Facebook community is vibrant and loyal and engaging but they don’t go beyond our Facebook wall, is that best for our business? We want this community to also use CMI in other ways – whether it be receiving our emails, attending our events, or simply using CMI for all of their content marketing needs and questions that go beyond our Facebook walls. Thanks for giving us a chance to clarify!

  • Susan Silver

    Good discussion and application. I sometimes think authors spend too much time in articles telling people to do x, y, and z for content marketing. What we really need to read about is how to apply x,y, and z to met specific goals.

    Social data is very difficult to knead insights from. This example shows how to interpret sharing activity and how to set a strategy that makes sense.That is very useful.

    I’ve been focusing my writing more on statistical methods appropriate to apply to social data and how to interpret KPIs because I feel that discussion is not well explored.

    • Cathy McPhillips

      We’re really glad you liked the article, Susan! We’ve massaged our own approaches over the past few years – first building KPIs, then stepping back to readjust to KPIs that were actionable. If our numbers increased (or decreased) in certain areas, how could we alter our content marketing and marketing efforts to better achieve our goals? And also, what are these numbers telling us about our customers and their needs? I’d love to stay in touch as you focus your own efforts. Good luck to you!

  • Blasko

    Great article to start my strategy 😉 As a business owners just starting now I also would like to know what social media channels to use the most or least. In that contest I was wondering why you left out Slideshare

    • Michele Linn

      Great question. SlideShare is a platform we use a lot, but we stuck to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in this particular post. Honestly, we could /should have added it. Are there specific questions you have or insights I can provide?

      • Blasko

        To stay within the theme of this post I would like to know about the shares/view numbers on Slideshare.

        • Michele Linn

          On SlideShare, we look at views and downloads; we don’t track shares. Our best-performing SlideShares in terms of views from the year are our B2B research, our 2015 predictions eBook and a visual content Look Book.

          While our research had a high number of downloads, other strong performers in terms of downloads are not necessarily ones with a lot of views. For instance, this document has a high number of downloads:

          While it may seem unintuitive, content that is text heavy performs well for us on SlideShare, but we like to provide a mix.

          • Blasko

            I know it is late, but I wanted to thank you for your clear and transparent answer. Thanks