At Fractl, a content marketing agency, I lead a team of researchers whose goal it is to conduct studies that will help us further refine our content production and promotions processes. Our research spans from data analysis of 2.6 billion social shares, to in-depth consumer surveys of thousands to people, to viral emotion heat mapping and beyond.
Over the last few years, we've executed close to 30 research projects that are redefining how the marketing industry gains brand awareness, earns consumer engagement, and increases organic search rankings. Our studies have been published on the Harvard Business Review, Inc, Marketing Land, The Next Web, Fast Company, and dozens of other reputable sites.
In an effort to inform and refine your 2016 marketing strategies, I've summarized XXX key takeaways that will help you achieve your goals in the new year. Fastrack to our marketing research white papers here, or dive into the individual takeaways below:
I. The Emotions That Make Marketing Campaigns Go Viral
In order to understand the best emotional drivers to use in the content we create, we looked at 50 of the top 100 images of the year from Imgur, as voted on Reddit - a community of 9.4 million content voters. We then plotted the most common and strongest emotions using Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotion.
1. The strength of the emotional impact was a great indicator for the popularity of the content on Reddit. The top four most popular posts on Reddit also had the top four highest aggregate emotionality scores - the sum of the emotional strength scores.
2. The top 10 emotions were: amusement, interest, surprise, happiness, delight, pleasure, joy, hope, affection and excitement.
3. The bottom 10 emotions were: anger, politeness, frustration, doubt, embarrassment, despair, hurt, guilt, contempt, shame
4. 98% of the images spurred a positive emotion, while only 2% were negative.
5. Contrasting emotions increased the emotional impact. In the cases where negative emotions were present, they seemed to directly contrast positive emotions, enhancing the emotionality of the image through contrast.
6. Empathy acts as an emotional multiplier for content that elicits negative emotions.
7. Interest, surprise, and amusement act as emotional multipliers for positive emotions.
8. Admiration was very commonly found in highly shared content.
II. Consumer Survey on Effectiveness of Outbound vs Inbound Marketing
Fractl conducted an online survey of more than 1,000 people. Participants were asked 13 questions regarding their opinions on and recent engagement with various marketing media and tactics.
9. Close to 90% of people said they used online search to seek out more information about a company, and over 80% said they visit the company's website.
10. A whopping 93.2% used online search to find information about a company within the last week, and almost 90% had read an article about a company.
11. 54% said mobile app ads have a negative influence on their buying decisions.
12. Close to 60% of the people we surveyed used some form of ad blockers while browsing the web.
13. 54% of people reported they had not clicked on any ads within a week of being surveyed.
14. 77% are more likely to buy your product or service after learning about it through online search.
15. 57% are positively influenced by online articles--47.4% are slightly more likely to buy something they hear about via online articles.
16. Email marketing was most likely to negatively impact buying decisions, with 44% of respondents slightly less likely to buy something they hear about via email marketing.
17. 48% of people said "Appearing in search results when I'm looking for something I need or want," is one of the most effective ways for a company to attract the consumer's business.
18. Direct mail positively impacts buying decisions for just over 30%.
III. Reach, Engagement, and ROI of Content Marketing vs Native Advertising
We surveyed over 30 different content marketing agencies and analyzed native advertising cost data from close to 600 digital publishers.
19. 72% of clients have asked their content marketing agencies about native advertising.
20. The average cost of launching a native advertising program with a top-tier news publisher is $54,014.29. The highest cost was $200,000.
21. When we expanded our analysis to include all publishers who have a DA greater than 80, we found the average cost of launching a native advertising program was $35,482.50.
22. When we evaluate all publishers and blogs below a DA of 80, we see the less valuable publishers (lower reach) offer a significantly reduced cost. For sites with a DA less than 80, the highest cost was $20,000 and the lowest cost was $10.
23. 70% of content marketing agencies offer monthly retainers.
24. 48% of clients measure content marketing success by the number of leads, high-quality links, and total social shares generated by each campaign.
25. 39% use DA to evaluate the authority of a link.
26. Retainers tend to fall into four buckets: $1,000-$5,000, $5,000-$10,000, $10,000-$50,000, and $50,000-$100,000.
27. On average, 65% of agencies produce between 1 and 10 campaigns per month for each client.
28. Articles and infographics represent almost 60% of production, with case studies, interactive graphics, and videos accounting for close to 30% of production.
29. Excluding outliers, the average content marketing campaign earns 27 links.
30. The average for each agency's "most successful campaign" is 422 links and the median is 150 links.
IV. 500 Top-Tier Publishers Tell How To Get Press
We surveyed over 500 top-tier writers from sites like TIME, Huffington Post, and cNet to discover what they want from content creators and promoters.
31. Only 5% of writers wish they saw more press releases.
32. 64% of writers wish they saw more infographics, mixed-media, data visualizations, images, videos and interactive maps.
33. 39% of writers want campaigns that have exclusive research.
34. 27% of writers want a campaign that has breaking news.
35. 15% of writers want to publish a campaign that has high-arousal emotions.
36. 70% of writers would rather collaborate on an idea instead of getting pitched a finished asset.
37. On average, 45% of writers publish one story per day.
38. 40% of writers get pitched 20 times per day, while 8% of publishers in highly competitive verticals get pitched more than 100 times per day.
39. 10 verticals receive more than 300 pitches per day, with lifestyle receiving the bulk of the pitches at 26.1%.
40. Lifestyle, entertainment and technology verticals combined attract more than 50% of all high-volume pitches.
41. Editors receive more than 68% of all pitches, 7x more than bloggers or writers.
42. Only 5% of writers "never" write a story based on something that was sent through a pitch.
43. 64% of writers think it's important that you establish a personal connection before sending a pitch.
44. 66% of writers said they'd be more likely to open a pitch if you indicated a previous relationship in your subject line.
45. 81% of writers prefer that you send your pitch via email.
46. Less than 10% of writers said they prefer to be pitched on social media.
47. Only 5% of writers want you to call them with your pitch, and most of these writers were small blog owners.
48. 69% of writers prefer to be pitched in the morning hours.
49. 88% of writers want your pitch to be less than 200 words.
50. More than 85% of writers want the campaign's raw data to be included in your pitch.
51. 85% of writers said they would delete your pitch based on a spelling/grammar errors, regardless of your campaign's quality.
52. 85% of writers open an email based on its subject line.
53. More than 50% of writers want a subject line that is descriptive, specific, and tailored to their beat.
54. Almost 100% of respondents told us they were against sensationalist tones such as "This is incredible!" or "You won't believe what we found!".
55. 75% of writers want your subject line to be fewer than 10 words.
56. 42% of writers want your subject line to define the content format and title of what you're pitching, "The Selfie Phenomenon [Parallax]".
57. 29% of writers say a personalized subject line catches their attention the most, "You Have a Beer Chine, We Have Cowbell - RE: Exclusive Study".
58. 19% of writers say a statistic-based subject line catches their attention the most, "Kylie Jenner posted 451 selfies to Instagram [Celebrity Selfie Study]".
59. Only 10% of writers want you to mention their name in their subject line, "Hi [Name], I thought you might like this].
60. 87% of writers agree you should send one or two follow-up emails at most.
V. What 2.6 Billion Shares Reveals the Platforms and Publishers Dominating Social
We partnered with BuzzSumo to analyze the 1 million most-shared articles within a six-month timeframe. Collectively, these articles generated more than 2.6 billion shares on five social platforms.
61. The top million articles showed that the most engaged platforms, in order, were: 1. Facebook 2. Twitter 3. Google+ 4. Pinterest 5. LinkedIn
62. Facebook dominated both network size and engagement, generating more than 2.18 billion shares of the articles in our study--81% of the total shares generated.
63. Using Alchemy API, we determined that Pinterest and LinkedIn's content had the most positive sentiment, Twitter and Google+ had the most even distribution of emotions, and Facebook was the most negative when you removed publisher outliers.
64. BuzzFeed represented more than 400 million total shares, earning nearly 150 million more shares than second-place publisher Huffington Post.
65. 88% of publishers earned less than 25 million shares for all their top articles in the first half of the year--less than 1/16th of BuzzFeed's share volume.
66. Mashable, Forbes, and The New York Times were among the five most-shared publishers on three different networks; BuzzFeed and CNN each earned top-five spots on two different networks. No other publishers earned enough shares to rank in the top five of more than one network.
67. Most publishers averaged less than 5,000 shares per article, but Upworthy and ViralNova garnered an average of more than 60,000 shares per article.
VI. How to Build a Content Strategy to Earn more Social Shares
We analyzed 220 high- and low-engagement websites from 11 major verticals that produce content.
68. Business publications see the most shares on Tuesday.
69. Food followers share the most on Mondays.
70. Health peaks on Friday for high-engagement publishers, but Tuesday for low-engagement publishers.
71. LinkedIn earned 21% of shares for high-engagement publications in the business vertical.
72. Twitter earned 11% of shares for high-engagement tech publications, and 20-34% of shares for low-engagement business, finance, tech, and entertainment publications.
73. Pinterest ranked second for a mix of high- and low-engagement publishers in health, lifestyle, food, and education.
VII. How Individual Identity Influences What We Share
To get an idea of how people view and construct their identity through sharing on social media, we surveyed more than 1,000 people about different aspects of their online sharing habits and motivations with regard to personal identity.
74. 68% of women expect 11 or more likes or comments on their Facebook posts, compared with 61% of men.
75. 84% of respondents said "relationships" and "being a good friend to those I care about" are important to them when considering what content they share online--more than 20% said these factors are "extremely important."
76. 63% of respondents ranked their personal values and moral standards as "very" or "extremely important" when they shared content online.
77. 68% of participants said they had posted on social media between 1-7 times in the past week.
78. 42% said 1-3 of their posts were articles or media from third-party online publishers.
79. Millennials ranked their dreams, imagination, and goals higher than their older counterparts.
80. 41% of men said social identity was at least somewhat important, compared with 37% of women.
81. Millennials and Generation X (ages 18-50) placed more importance on their physical appearance, while the oldest age groups (ages 51 and above) gave it very little importance.
82. Fewer than 35% said their possessions--the things they own--were important in their content sharing.
IX. The Inbound Marketing Economy
We analyzed 75,315 inbound marketing job listings posted on Indeed.com during June 2015.
83. The number of profiles containing "content marketing" has seen the largest growth, with a 168% increase since 2013.
84. "PPC" returned the smallest number of results, with only 3.8% of listings containing this term.
85. "Social media" appears on a significantly higher volume of profiles than the other keywords, with more than 2.2 million profiles containing some mention of social media.
86. Although "SEO" has not seen as much growth as the other keywords, it still has the second-highest volume with it appearing in 630,717 profiles.
87. Digital marketing job listings have seen substantial growth since 2009, when it accounted for less than 0.1% of Indeed.com search results. In January 2015, this number had climbed to nearly 0.3%.
88. Jobs containing "digital marketing" or "inbound marketing" had the highest average salary of $84,000.
89. Jobs containing "SEO" and "Google Analytics" are tied for second with $76,000 as the average salary.
90. Massachusetts led the U.S. with the most jobs per capita for digital marketing, content marketing, SEO, and Google Analytics.