According to new research published by LinkedIn and Buzzsumo, there is no secret formula when it comes to content that flies and that which pans on social media.
This comes as no surprise, but even I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that there’s no format to follow for content production and marketing. On the plus side, the report is very interesting when it comes to the type of content that works across sectors, which is arguably more important for B2B marketers.
LinkedIn say this is the “most in-depth analysis yet of content marketing effectiveness on social media”. The study looked at 40,000 of the most shared posts for 10 different industries, across all major social media networks over 12 months. They analysed their success in “driving organic reach and engagement, but also the extent to which they establish influence and authority”. In comparing different approaches the posts took, they were aiming to identify the factors that define a successful piece of content such as topic, headline, format and length.
In measuring success, LinkedIn put its head on the block and included shares – considered a vanity metric by many – as one of its success measures, alongside backlinks. When it comes to B2B, their justification for this is bang on: “The fact that your content gets shared doesn’t automatically mean that it’s delivering ROI – or contributing to your business’s bottom line. However, it strongly suggests that it is generating awareness and engagement, and that it’s seen as relevant”.
So, there’s no formula for success but the report points to the five tools marketers have at their disposal for creating content. Use these in the right way, for the right sector and your content will be more relevant and authoritative for your target audience.
All fairly obvious until you read a little deeper. What’s most interesting about this report is the fact that the combination of these is different across sectors. Take marketing for instance. Us marketers love ‘how to’ posts, lists, tips and guides yet this type of content doesn’t perform as well for the technology sector and leaves the legal and health sector cold.
The research also highlights the importance of theme for different sectors. Financial services for instance seem to gravitate towards strong, recognisable personalities where-as technologists are more interested in trends and future predictions. Marketers on the other hand must be working too hard since they enjoy reading about wellbeing among others.
The length of articles is also a hotly debated area and everyone has an opinion so it’s good to finally have research to back this up. 650 words used to be considered the ideal length for a blog post. With more and more content being added everyday it seems we are seeking out longer articles that dig deeper. Again, it does depend on the sector but expect to see more long-form articles between 1000 and 2000 words.
The research also looked at headlines. It’s fascinating to see how sector-specific these are but also how formulaic many headlines have become. While B2B audiences are looking for words that trigger an emotional response or use power words such as ‘leader’, ‘success’ or ‘secret’, there is the opportunity to freshen up headline writing by drawing inspiration from the B2C world.
Lastly, the research looked at which platforms are best for amplifying content and it comes as no surprise that LinkedIn is number one (and not only because they produced the research). Their reasoning is that: “Content marketers get maximum value from the social networks that they use when they tailor the approach of their content to suit the strengths of that network. The fact that LinkedIn supports longer form copy makes it a particularly powerful platform for building content authority, and this is reflected in the types of posts that are often shared.”
I’ve long felt that it’s time B2B marketers started hiring journalists to write their content or training their writers to behave like journalists. By behaving like journalists, they will be focused on seeking out the most interesting, relevant and important stories for their readers, will dig deep and focus on informing rather than selling. When it comes to B2B, content is a vital part of marketing a business, whether that is an article for a website, a video or a conference submission.
“Establish enduring authority and influence that will keep drawing relevant people to a business and its content over a longer period of time.”
Well written content, that is produced with the right audience in mind not only generates brand awareness but also helps to establish authority for that company. This is a great quote from the report, which sums it up nicely: “Broadly speaking, the content that’s shared on social media can contribute to business and marketing objectives in two ways. it can create immediate impact, interest and excitement that drives short-term reach and engagement; it can also establish enduring authority and influence that will keep drawing relevant people to a business and its content over a longer period of time.”
Download the full report via the LinkedIn website