What We Learned From Neil Patel’s Latest Social Media Content Study

social media content

The role of social media content in brand awareness is bigger than ever. But with so many businesses getting on social, is it even possible to stand out in the crowd?

Neil Patel, trusted SEO expert and thought leader in all things digital marketing, recently released a mega-review of 50,000 social media posts. As content marketers, we were eager to dive into his findings. In a nutshell, yes, your business can grow your audience through social media — if you focus on providing both value and entertainment.

But that’s only the beginning. Read on to learn what Neil and his team found, plus our key takeaways for our own strategies.

What Do 50,000 Social Posts Reveal About Audiences?

Neil Patel’s team analyzed top-performing Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest posts. The data spanned 10 industries and 12 months. They compared each industry’s posts in terms of engagement, shares, and performance on each platform. News posts had the highest engagement across all industries, and political content had the highest engagement rate per post. However, news pulled ahead of political posts for shares on both Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest was a bit more glamorous, with fashion content earning the highest shares.

Next, the analysis compared total engagement to total shares for each industry. As you may have observed for your content, a post may have lots of engagement but relatively few shares — or vice versa. Neil and his team found that only news content performed equally well in both regards.

The study also found that for most industries, the top-performing posts were published on a Wednesday.

One fun finding was that the top reactions on Facebook were “Haha” and “Love,” with the latter dominating most industries!

What Type of Social Media Content Performs Best?

The team broke down the posts by type, such as listicle, review, podcast, video, infographic, etc. They found that regular blog posts were the most popular items shared on social media, with “why” posts a close second. (“Why” posts answer a longtail search query such as “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do I need to do content marketing?”) After that, classic listicles and interviews performed the best. (Infographics ranked the lowest!)

Finally, the team looked at the characteristics of top-performing content (whether for shares or engagement). While there’s been a trend of creating ever-longer content to appease the Google bots, the average front-page results are only 1,447 words on average!

However, Neil Patel’s study found that the most popular articles shared on social media were all under 900 words. It’s no surprise that business and e-commerce posts were the longest. But most industries’ top-performing content pieces were about 500-700 words each.

Our Key Takeaways

After digging into the results of this study, we found some valuable insights.

News Posts Perform Best

Since posts from the “News” industry enjoyed the highest engagement and shares on most platforms, it’s clear that people are interested in current events. Even if you’re not a news company, you could tap into recent news. Consider making brand-relevant content that ties into a hot topic, or share news that’s relevant to your industry. (For example, if you’re a lawn care company, you could share an article about a drought season that could harm clients’ turf.)

Answer Consumers’ Questions

Partly because of the rise of voice-based search, more users are making longtail queries. The top-performing content addresses a “Why” question. Consider what your target audience may be asking, then create content to answer their question and share it on social.

For example, your lawn care company could answer the question “Why is my grass turning yellow?”

Social Media Content Should Be Short — and Written

Except for some interviews, the top-performing posts in Neil Patel’s study were all written content. Blogs, “why” posts, and listicles still reign supreme. This was an interesting result considering how popular video has become. And some content forms that used to be wildly popular, such as infographics, are now the lowest-performing. 

So, the content you share on social should be written, and it should be less than 900 words — ideally 500-700 words. However, Google’s front-page results are still twice as long. The solution is to create two content pipelines: one for Google rankings and one for social shares.

Let People Live, Laugh, Love

If “Love” and “Haha” are the reactions that people most want to give, let them do it! Publish content that inspires, entertains, and motivates them. When sharing content that may not elicit these reactions, consider how you can frame it differently. Overall, it seems that people prefer positive posts; evaluate whether your content might trigger a “Sad” or “Angry” that would give them a bad impression. Remember, engagement only gets you so far… you want people to share, and most people share content they enjoy.

Publish on Hump Day

Wednesdays are the best days for social content — go figure! This isn’t to say you shouldn’t publish on other days. But if you’d like certain posts to gain more engagement and shares, aim to release them on Wednesdays. It’s the midpoint of the week when people are (mostly) caught up but not yet in “weekend mode.”

Social Media Content Strategy Takeaways

We plan to integrate these key takeaways into our content strategies moving forward. Overall, it’s clear that social media is more than a place for self-promotion and cat videos. People truly want to see informative, educational content. Whatever your business or industry, consider how you can answer the question “Why?” Share relevant news and show that you’re part of the larger community. Give them a chance to laugh and love. And don’t forget to put your best content out on Wednesdays!

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