Before you start publishing on-site or off-site content, you should understand what part of the buying cycle you are trying to target. While viral campaigns use broad topics and strong emotional drivers to encourage hyper-accelerated sharing and large reach, conversion-driven campaigns are highly targeted to a narrow audience that is further down the funnel.

Once you've established the part of the buying cycle, the next step is to develop a powerful and differentiated content marketing strategy. Your content portfolio should include various assets that appeal to a large number of top-tier publishers: data visualizations, infographics, motion graphics, videos, parallax pages, WebGL, apps, etc.

Now, with so many different content types in play, it's important to understand which formats drive the most engagement and when. Understanding these two components can be challenging, so Fractl and BuzzStream came together to analyze the sharing trends among 11 different verticals over six months to find patterns within popular content. Using BuzzSumo, we tracked 220,000 pieces of content in a variety of formats: how-to articles, lists, what posts, why posts, and videos.

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1. Videos

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Takeaway: High production cost doesn't always correlate to a high level of social shares or engagement. In fact, simple whiteboard videos can engage thousands of people when executed on the right topic. You should monitor video consumption trends closely as both Facebook and Twitter compete for stakes in this format.

2. Lists

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Takeaway: Need inspiration for your Top 10 list? Check out Listverse or BuzzFeed to see which topics got the most engagement and evaluate which topics have been saturated. Then, start a mind map to locate the potential gaps in content for your vertical.

3. What-Posts

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Takeaway: What-posts provide additional information on a specific topic, with many articles focused on product or service comparisons. What-posts could be perceived as the riskiest format in our study, since this category earned both the highest high and lowest low in social sharing over six months.

4. How-To Articles

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Takeaway: You don't need to be in the food vertical to produce highly-shared how-to content. Whether it's back to school, the changing seasons, or the holiday rush, there are plenty of opportunities for your business to contribute valuable how-to content during these busy and transitional months.

5. Why-Posts

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Takeaway: Why-posts were the second most-shared content format in our study. This format might be the easiest to execute, since it provides an opportunity to create content that explains something surprising, joyful, or exciting about your vertical.

Check out our Social Content Calendarto learn more about how this research could impact your content strategy.