Last year was a pretty grim one for businesses advertising on Facebook. Thanks to the platform's algorithm changes and the skyrocketing amount of total content on the site, fewer people saw your posts (and therefore had the chance to interact with them) than in years past.

A lot fewer people. According to one study, engagement with Facebook ads dropped by half in 2018.

So what's the solution if you're not willing to throw in the towel on Facebook and want to get your engagement numbers back up in the year ahead? Mark Zuckerberg certainly wouldn't mind if you just paid more to boost the reach of your ads, but, according to a massive new study from Buffer and BuzzSumo, there is another option -- just produce more of the kind of content people actually want to interact with.

These are the most popular kinds of content on Facebook

For their massive annual studies, the two social media companies team up and trawl through huge quantities of data -- 777 million Facebook posts from 2018 for this one, to be exact. They then take a much closer look at a selected pool of the 500 most popular posts of the year.

Some of the conclusions, while interesting, won't come as a shock to anyone who has been following developments in Facebook marketing. Did you know, for instance, that video performs the best on the site? Other findings fall more under the category of intriguing trivia (e.g., HAHA is the second most common reaction to content).

But, this time around, at least one study takeaway will be of great interest to any marketer hoping for better results in 2019. Buffer and BuzzSumo took a close look at the content of the most popular posts and discovered that three specific types of post produce the greatest engagement on the site:

  • Inspirational

  • Funny

  • Practical

"For example, the ?number one most successful post on Facebook in 2018? was one from speaker and storyteller ?Jay Shetty?," Buffer elaborates. "Shetty accounts for several of the top 500 posts because he creates content that inspires people. Inspirational content leads to a greater amount of Reactions, comments, and shares, which in turn leads to greater organic reach."

Of course, it's not totally shocking news that people like joke memes and inspirational quotes online. But in a time when anger and hatred have played such a huge role on social media, these findings are a good reminder that the best performing content still actually offers positivity rather than negativity, hope rather than fear. The results are also a useful checklist for small-business owners and marketers.

Is most of your content falling into one of these categories? Could more of your ads be reframed as inspiration, jokes, or practical advice? If so, your content is likely to get more likes and comments and in turn reach more people and drive greater results in 2019.

And if you're looking for more specific inspiration, check out Buffer's complete write-up of the results for a list of the 10 most popular posts of the year, as well as analysis of what makes some of them so successful.