When broken down by social platform, different publishers emerge as top recipients of referral traffic, underscoring the importance of publishers promoting content tailored for each platform. For example, Forbes’ and Mashable’s business content are tailor-made for LinkedIn, while The Kitchn’s and Better Homes and Gardens’ content are appropriate for Pinterest.

Research shows BuzzFeed articles fare best on Facebook and Pinterest, while Mashable’s articles are most popular on Twitter and LinkedIn. MSN drives the most article shares on Google+, followed by the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes, and NBC.

BuzzFeed and Mashable publish particularly shareable content.
BuzzFeed and Mashable publish particularly shareable content.

Meanwhile, popular outlets driving traffic across various social media platforms include the Huffington Post, CNN, The New York Times, the Daily Mail, the BBC, Women’s Health, The Kitchn, Greatist, Better Homes and Gardens, and Inc.

BuzzSumo and Fractl’s 2014 research on 2.6 billion shares of one million articles demonstrated that knowledge-based verbs, positive adjectives, and headlines with action words drive referrals.

For example:

  • Knowledge-based verbs such as understand, know, think, prove, and believe.
  • Positive adjectives such as hilarious, happiest, cutest, greatest, and adorable.
  • Headlines with action words such as focused, shaped, investigated, targeted, guided, investigated, and visualised.
  • Photos and videos.
Only a small fraction of BuzzFeed’s content goes unnoticed.
Only a small fraction of BuzzFeed’s content goes unnoticed.

The study also revealed each social media platform has resounding content themes that drive post popularity:

  • Facebook has become a favourite social media network for news sites because it has many content genres: entertainment, news, and commercial.
  • Twitter: pop culture.
  • Google+: world and industry news.
  • Pinterest: food, home, health, and beauty.
  • LinkedIn: professional development and business.

The study also explored the distribution of articles shared and to what degree across social media by publisher, including The New York Times, the Daily Mail, the Mirror, The Telegraph, the Guardian, Vice, Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed.

While half or more of the articles from The New York Times, the Daily Mail, and the Mirror appear to go unnoticed, only 12% of BuzzFeed do so. “Unnoticed” is defined as an article receiving fewer than 100 shares. 

Meanwhile, some publishers are more successful at driving social media referrals for articles to become popular or even viral.

According to the study, 24% of BuzzFeed articles have become popular. That is, they have been shared 2,000 to 10,000 times, compared to 11% each for the Huffington Post and the Daily Mirror. Fewer than 10% of The New York Times, Daily Mirror, Telegraph, Guardian, and Vice articles have become popular or viral during the survey period.

For more information, or to download the executive summary of the 2015 Global Digital Media Trendbook, go to www.wnmn.org.