social media reviewsAre you curious about which type of social content gets the most shares?

Are social shares part of how you measure social marketing return on investment (ROI)?

Do you wonder which social channels’ users share most frequently?

In this article you’ll discover the most recent findings about what types of content get shared most, which channels seem to have the most users who share and what posting times result in the most shares.

social sharing research

Discover new research on what people like to share.

#1: Mobile Sharing Doubled

In 2014 consumers doubled their sharing activity on mobile, according to Q4 Social Sharing Report from ShareThis. Mobile device (or smartphone) users now spend 20% of their activity on that device sharing content. When using a desktop computer, they spend just 6% of their time sharing content. In fact, sharing activity on a desktop dropped 30.2% in 2014.

sharethis sharing by device image

ShareThis shows consumers doubled their sharing activity on mobile and decreased it on desktop.

Key Takeaways: First, with mobile becoming the social focal point, ShareThis study authors recommend brands “adopt a mobile-first strategyif your goal is to reach customers through social media. January 2015 research tells us that 80% of consumers now own a mobile device.

Second, since sharing is a social activity, it makes sense that consumers perform it from the privacy of their mobile devices and tablets, which they use more at their leisure. With desktops and laptops serving as work platforms, consumers would be concerned about employers tracking Internet activity there.

#2: Facebook Dominates All Channels in Sharing Activity

In the same study mentioned above, ShareThis compared the sharing activity for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and three more platforms. They found that Facebook outstripped the sharing activity of its next closest competitor, Pinterest, by more than 10 to 1. Eighty-one percent of all shares occurring on the seven channels combined (including email newsletter) originated on Facebook.

sharethis sharing by network image

ShareThis shows in Q4 2014, 81% of all shares came from Facebook. Lagging far behind was Pinterest, which originated 7% of all shares.

In Q4 2014, 81% of all shares came from Facebook. Lagging far behind was Pinterest, which originated 7% of all shares. This study did not measure Instagram.

Despite this statistic, keep in mind that ShareThis did not include Instagram in the study.

Instagram has a much higher rate of engagement than any of the channels in the ShareThis study. Our previous post linked above explores recent research on the engagement rate difference on social media channels. Several studies concluded that Instagram’s engagement rate far outstrips Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Considering that “engagement” is made up of likes, shares and comments, we can assume that shares make up a reasonable portion of Instagram’s engagement rate.

forrester user interactions with brand posts image

Forrester shows Instagram’s 4.2% engagement rate wowed marketers last spring. “Engagement rate” includes shares.

Keep in mind too that researchers find that both sharing and overall engagement rates are declining. TrackMaven’s Content Marketing Paradox Report analyzed 2 years’ marketing activity for 8,800 brands, including 13.8 million pieces of content across seven marketing channels.

The chart below compares the rise of social content quantity with the decline of sharing and engagement. As more content floods the Internet, each piece is forced to compete for the limited number of readers available to consume it.

The chart below also shows that in January 2013, brands were at an average of 25 posts per channel. That number doubled to 50 posts per channel by September 2014 before falling off a bit. Engagement rate went the opposite direction. Where the interaction rate in January 2013 per post was .35 per 1,000 followers or 3 interactions for 10,000 followers, by September 2014, that number had halved to about .15 per 1,000 followers.

trackmaven output vs engagement image

TrackMaven shows social content amount (in teal) far outweighs content engagement (purple).

In a bracing statement, the study authors explain:

On social networks, brand-generated content is seeing the lowest engagement rates now than anytime in 2013 and 2014; 43% of professionally marketed blog posts receive fewer than 10 interactions. On Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn, more than half of all posts receive fewer than 10 interactions (73%, 60%, 65%, and 68%, respectively).

Again, the TrackMaven study shares overall engagement, which includes likes and comments as well as shares. We can extrapolate that the number of shares trajectory is going the same direction.

trackmaven interactions per post image image

This TrackMaven graph charts the 2-year decline of “interactions per post” (a.k.a. “engagement rate”) from December 2012 to December 2014.

As the chart above demonstrates, Twitter gets the least sharing activity and Facebook the most. Don’t forget that for now, Instagram has a far higher engagement/sharing rate than any of those platforms studied by TrackMaven.

#3: Consumers Share “List” and “Why?” Posts the Most

Have you heard of the “Listicle”? It’s an article in list form, and it’s one of the most shared types of content on Facebook and other channels. (Due to its popularity, “listicle” even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014.) From June to November 2014, web-based marketing tool company BuzzStream and agency Fractl tracked 220,000 pieces of content from 10 high-engagement and 10 low-engagement businesses. They found the most shared content took the form of “listicles” and “why content.”

So common they barely need explanation, “list” posts or “listicles” appear as the typical “5 Reasons to Create Personas for Your Business” or “The Top 7 Pinterest Marketing Strategies.” The number of “list” post shares measured in the study varied from 21,000 to 24,500 each month.

“Why content,” on the other hand, explains a concept or clarifies a topic. Also considered were “how-to” or “explainer” posts, which provide useful information. The “why” posts from the 220,000 pieces of content BuzzStream reviewed from September through November 2014 earned an average of 24,500 shares each month.

“What” posts often take the form of questions. Posts like, “What Is Your Spirit Animal?” or “What Character from Literature Would You Be?” charged across social media sites in 2014. While “what” posts did earn 29,000 shares in October, their share numbers tended to fall more in the 18,000 to 20,000 range, prompting study authors to deem them less reliable than “list” and “why” posts. In other words, those “What color is your aura?” posts may have been a short-lived fad.

buzzstream and fractl content type shares image

BuzzStream and Fractl show “List” posts and “why” posts performed the best and most reliably. “What” posts’ October blip was an anomaly.

How-to articles and videos received the fewest shares overall.

Keep in mind that with lots of data from the biggest channels now available, researchers have figured out just which subjects are most popular on which platforms.

Social analytics and tools company ShareThis found that Facebook serves as the Internet water cooler and social salon where friendships dominate. Therefore, users discuss all kinds of topics. Conversely, other platforms provide a meeting ground for people who focus on certain categories. Beauty and Fitness, Food and Drink and Shopping dominated the conversations on Pinterest. And 2014 saw a surge in sports chatter, news and finance to some extent on Twitter.

sharethis category sharing image

The ShareThis 2014 Q4 Social Sharing Report shows a lot more sports fans found Twitter in 2014. Pinterest provides a meeting ground for those interested in shopping, beauty and fitness, and food and drink.

Key Takeaways: “List” and “why” posts get the most shares, possibly because these formats fit the digital reader’s habits. Both are scannable and concise. The “list” post promises to keep the reader’s eye moving to the section that most interests him or her. The “why” post promises a short explanation of a topic the reader likely searched for. As for topics by channel, watching which industry gets discussed most on which channel could pay off.

#4: Post on Facebook During Early Afternoon

On his QuickSprout blog, Internet marketing entrepreneur Neil Patel compiled into an infographic the findings from 11 robust studies on the best times to post on social media. We’ve included just the Facebook findings below for the sake of space, but if you click the link above, the infographic covers Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ as well.

quicksprout time to share image

The QuickSprout blog shows marketers speculate that Thursdays and Fridays are big days because people long for escape from work the later it is in the week.

Consider these best times to post by channel:

  • Twitter: 5:00 p.m. for highest retweets
  • Facebook: 1:00 p.m. weekday afternoons to get the most shares
  • LinkedIn: Most shares occur on Tuesdays from 10:00–11:00 a.m.
  • Pinterest: 9:00 p.m. on Friday or Saturday nights has most traffic
  • Google+: Best engagement is 9:00 a.m. on Wednesdays
  • Instagram: For brands, evening hours

See the post linked above to get more specific findings.

Key Takeaways: While these times may feel random, Neil Patel claims that he raised his social media traffic (coming from his channels to his site) by 39% when he followed the guidelines. Always good to test!


Tailoring your social media strategy using these findings could help you get more shares and spread brand reach.

While nearly all companies stand to benefit from a presence on Facebook, social channels with smaller audiences still offer opportunities.

Businesses with younger audiences have opportunities on Instagram, where a 2015 Pew study found that 53% of all Internet users ages 18 to 29 are active. Half in that age group use Instagram daily.

Marketers in the athletic industry may get more share action on Twitter, which seems to be a gathering place for sports fans.

On Pinterest, retailers have a chance to provide the deals and new products users want to share with their friends. Sharing excellent content raises Pinterest users’ profiles and gives them a way to connect with friends, building their relationships.

Finally, experimenting with posting times could prove a low-cost way to get more shares.

What do you think? How do you get the most shares of your content? Have you noticed times that work better than others? Leave your comments and questions below.

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  • That stat with mobile sharing being up over 20% while desktop being down 30% is amazing, though the reasoning makes a lot of sense (especially with mobile devices overall usability improving with each new model).

    Great post! ~ Mike

  • How can you rule out a share from a bot especially on Twitter and a share from someone who is engaged with your content.

  • Pingback: Social Sharing Habits: New Research Reveals What People Like to Share | Social Savvy Business()

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Mobile is storming the ramparts, and in a very short space of time!

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Wow. I’ll get the answer to that question and get back to you Craig.

  • Robin Pedrero

    Great post!

  • Opticians

    Thank you social media Examiner teaching a bit of this tomorrow

  • Hey Suzanne as a Marketer myself I sometimes find it challenging to discover which Social Media Platforms to post to. I really only use FB, Twitter, Gplus and LinkedIn along side my blog. Have stayed away from Instagram and Pinterest, I feel they are more targeted at a younger audience. I did read Neil Patal’s blog on times to post and found that very interesting. Your article has given me some interesting stats to digetst. Thanks for the post. Cheers Kim 🙂

  • Laura Anne Seabrook

    Post in thge afternoon of WHICH timezone?

  • Algiemar Lumayno

    Thanks for the tips.

  • Kair Käsper

    “Considering that “engagement” is made up of likes, shares and comments, we can assume that shares make up a reasonable portion of Instagram’s engagement rate.”
    These kind of claims seriously make me question the conclusions drawn in the whole article. Anyone who’s used Instagram knows there’s no good way to share (or “re-gram” as it was put in another article) content without using a third-party app. Pretty sure Instagram’s engagement rate is 99% likes and comments.

  • Great stuff.. It means we need to socializing things after the lunch break.

  • Velislav Chorbadjiev

    It all depends on the market..I work with Australian and Bulgarian brands and it is so different. For example in Europe – people prefer Facebook and Instagram, not that much Twitter. In Australia – Facebook. It depends on the region and the people’s cultural profile. You guys can do a research on how cultural behaviors reflect on Social Media Marketing…

  • Very helpful article, Suzanne, with some valuable tips! For me, reading it has once more reinforced the idea that quality content, that is at the same time useful, is likely to be more successful. Furthermore, quality content coupled with video is likely to get even more shares. Video is very much likely to play an important role in 2015.

  • I totally agree. The timezone of posting is something that I’ve always wondered about. Of course, if your business is local, that doesn’t matter. But it would be interesting to see a serious deep dive into posting times on an international scale.

  • It’s interesting that sharing is down overall. I wonder if that doesn’t have to do with the kinds of strategies that some marketers user – auto pumping out tons of information. I’ve unfollowed a number of people on Twitter just to get out of the massive amount that some people post.

    To be someone who shares shared information these days you really need to actually know that the people who shared it in the first place are credible (that you don’t waste your time consuming the info).

  • Hey Suzanne, great article! I’d like to suggest that people be wary with the times listed in the article as ‘best times’ – while they make for great starting points, it’s important to test to figure out what will work best.

  • Excellent material.. It indicates we should instead socializing points following the lunch break break. Thanks for your guidelines.

  • Sneha Jain

    Great post! Just wondering if the time of post will vary depending on the brand/company, whether its a B2B company or a consumer product or its services.

  • Thanks for the great posts. Very interesting stats. Experimenting is key! Have a thankful Thursday Suzanne! 🙂

  • great post. thnak you very much

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Thanks Robin 🙂

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Are you here at #smmw15? Come say hi! I’ll be at the lunch interest area concierge today!

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Thanks Kim. Here at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego, Mike Stelzner revealed findings from his study of 3700 marketers. Seems Facebook still dominates, hands down, really. But Instagram a big up and comer with the 18 -29 crowd . . .

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Great point and incentive for future blog post!

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Have you noticed how Facebook is pushing hard for video to be directly uploaded there, skipping YouTube all together? Check out: Here at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego, Mike Stelzner discussed the importance of video and possible opportunities through Meercat this morning.

  • Suzanne Delzio

    Sharing is down overall because of the increase in content available. People are getting more and more of exactly the very specific info they need, no matter how nichy.

  • Suzanne Delzio

    The best strategy is to see what time YOUR company is getting the most shares.

  • Suzanne Delzio

    . . . what works best for each company individually. While I think that testing the times suggested is a great idea, following what’s worked best for a company individually over time should take priority.

  • This is a great article about how people are sharing, when they are sharing and where they are sharing. As far as what they are sharing, my take away was the format to put the content into, for example; list format, How-to format or “Why” format. This part I felt was very valuable, but I was still left a little empty on what people are actually sharing, which is what I was looking forward to finding out when I read the title of the article.

  • I think I need to mix up the kind of content on my blog. I’ve been doing a lot of longer form content and now this post has me definitely rethinking my approach. I’m excited to try to work in themes from what’s most shareable throughout the year.

  • Scott Jenkins

    Are those times per time zone, or say, if I’m in California, I should post at 1pm Eastern for the best shares overall?

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  • Jordani S

    The points on Instagram engagement I’ve witnessed first hand. I took one week to focus on Instagram for my brand, and the reach was amazing! I doubled my followers in one week, and had great conversations with people interested in the products, and bloggers wanting to share them with their audience. Seriously spend some time on Instagram, the ROI has been great so far.

  • this is so helpful. thanks for sharing

  • Dark Social & Mobile Sharing are definitely on the rise as well.

  • Tasos Pardalis

    Do you have a more recent study?

  • Tasos Pardalis

    Thank you very much for your response. In fact, I’ve registered on get social to try it out too