5 Tips to Kick Start Your Day

Reading Time: 2 minutesEveryone knows that waking up on the wrong side of the bed can lead you to a frustrating day. On the other hand, getting a […]


The Perfect How To Post (Updated June 2017)

In the last three years at BuzzSumo we have crawled and analyzed over 2m ‘how to’ posts. The top posts were shared over a million times. These posts ranged from ‘how to hide your house from Google maps’ and ‘how to fix your sleep problems with science’ to ‘how to be a great lover’. Popular business content included ‘how to look good in Skype interviews’.

The best ‘how to’ posts frequently outperformed other content formats in terms of views, shares, links and conversions. So we decided to take a look in more detail and set out three steps to create the perfect ‘how to’ post namely:

  1. researching the right questions and topics
  2. identifying where you can be the best answer
  3. using a winning structure for your post

Why “How To” Posts?

Our research reveals that ‘how to’ posts are an opportunity to establish lasting trust and authority with your audience. The best “how to” posts address the questions the audience is asking and provide value by helping readers to perform a specific task rather than simply imparting information.

The top 10,000 ‘how to’ posts in our survey averaged over 90,000 shares each, with a median of 49,000 shares. What is more significant is that they often outperformed other content formats. As far back as 2012 Hubspot found that how-to style posts generated an average of 55% more views than all other types of posts on their blog.

This reinforces our findings that business or job focused ‘how to’ posts frequently outperform other content formats. Below are examples of strongly performing ‘how to’ posts from Social Media Examiner and Moz.


Look at the number of links from unique domains that these ‘how to’ posts are gaining. Over 100 unique domain links for a post is very high, even for these popular sites.

‘How to’ posts also work in the consumer arena. Here are three examples from the current year.


Tip: See the top ‘how to’ posts for a topic or site using BuzzSumo. Just type Topic ‘how to” or Domain ‘how to’. Here is an example of a search for ‘how to’ posts on analytics.

Challenges and opportunities

‘How to’ posts are not easy posts to create, they involve a lot of research and thought. You need to:

  • really understand the questions your audience is asking and the issues they need help with. The choice of topic is critical to a ‘how to’ post, is it something your audience wants help with.
  • provide the best, most authoritative answer. There is little point being just another ‘how to’ post on a topic well served with ‘how to’ posts. Our research shows that the best posts or answers dominate, so you don’t want to be an also ran.
  • be focused on providing practical and valuable advice that helps the reader. The best ‘how to’ posts are educational and often take you through a process step by step.

The great news is that if you can be the best answer to a question you will have a piece of evergreen content that gives you compound returns over time. You will also establish yourself as an expert or authority, and build trust with your audience. ‘How to’ posts go to the heart of the Youtility approach advocated by Jay Baer. Basically be useful and helpful to your audience.

jat baer

“If you sell something, you make a customer today, but if you genuinely help someone, you create a customer for life.” Jay Baer

The size of the opportunity is highlighted in study carried out by Towards Maturity of 5,700 workplace employees. The survey found that 75% of employees were motivated to seek information online about how to do their jobs better and faster.

The Benefits of a ‘How To’ Post

A good ‘how to’ post has many benefits, for example it:

  • educates your audience rather than simply pushes your product
  • demonstrates your expertise through the quality of your post
  • builds an audience by building a reputation for insight and helpfulness
  • creates relevant content that addresses an audience’s needs
  • is a content format that attracts links as well as shares

How to create the perfect ‘how to’ post

From our survey we identified 3 steps to create the perfect ‘how to’ post:

  1. research the questions your customers are asking
  2. identify the questions where you can provide the best answer
  3. use a winning structure for your ‘how to’ post

1. Research The Questions Your Customers Are Asking

The perfect ‘how to’ post is the answer to a question: “How do I …?”

There’s no point creating a perfect answer to a question nobody’s asking, so you must research your audience and the content which will be helpful to them. Here are some suggested approaches.

Talk to your customers

Start by asking customers where they need help. They’re probably already asking you questions via social media, help desks, or through your sales and support teams. Get all these questions into one place and look for patterns. identify the key questions that customers are asking and the issues that are keeping them awake at night.

Tips: Ask customers to take part in surveys on their key challenges. Brainstorm recent customer questions with your sales team. Look at common questions your help desk is dealing with.

Search Bloomberry and Answer The Public

None of us know everything though, right? So you can enhance your own knowledge and experience by searching the questions that people are asking on forums and sites such as Quora.

Type in any topic into Bloomberry and the app will return the questions being asked about your topic across thousands of forums. You can use the filters to see recent questions or only questions asked on specific forums.

Similarly you can use Answer The Public to see Google suggestions about questions for any topic.

Research The Content Your Audience Is Sharing

Last year the New York Times participated in a study that looked at why people share content. They found five main motivations but number one was to bring valuable and entertaining content to their colleagues and friends. Thus it is clear people share content if they find it valuable. Therefore to understand what type of content is helpful to users you can take a look at the content they are sharing. This can help you identify current and emerging issues.

Here is an example BuzzSumo search for the most shared “how to” posts on Ads and PPC. At the time of writing this post the most shared articles in the last month were about advanced Facebook targeting, mobile and new Adwords features.

You could create ‘how to’ posts and answer the implied questions behind any of these, e.g.

  • How can I use Facebook targeting?
  • How do I place ads in mobile Google searches?
  • How do I use the new Adwords reports?

Tip: Use the date ranges in BuzzSumo to see the most shared content last week and last month. You will often see trends and it is good to highlight more recent questions.

You can also use BuzzSumo’s trending dashboard to to track emerging issues. If you can be first to share an answer, you can gain credibility and authority.

Research Summary

To draw up a list of potential topics for ‘how to’ posts your research can include:

  • talking to customers
  • drawing on your experience, including your sales and account managers
  • researching questions they are asking online
  • reviewing the content customers are sharing
  • identifying issues that are starting to trend

2. Identify the Questions where you can be the Best Answer

Following your research you will have a shortlist of questions that your audience is asking. The next step is to decide upon the question you are going to address. Specifically consider:

  • the question that would most help your customer if it was answered
  • narrowly defined ‘long tail’ questions eg ‘How can I improve CTR using Google AdWords on a limited budget’
  • whether the question has been adequately answered already
  • whether you have insights or information that can be developed into the authoritative answer

This last question is critical. You need to identify how your post will be the best answer not simply another “how to” post on the topic. Lee Odden summarized this challenge nice and simply.

lee odden

“Be the best answer.” Lee Odden, Top Rank Marketing

Brainstorm the ways can you add extra value, for example:

  • update previous advice if things have changed
  • conduct and provide new research
  • gather top tips from experts
  • create a series of images for key steps or information
  • provide a well designed content structure that helps people learn

Tip: Be clear how your answer will add extra value to existing posts, will it be more informed, more current, better structured, include your unique insights, personality and tone?

3. Use A Winning Structure for your “How To” Post

Our analysis of ‘how to’ posts on BuzzSumo reveals that:

  • the most shared posts are long form content with more than 3,000 words
  • the top posts typically follow a clear structure with numbered steps
  • picture list posts are particularly popular in taking people through tools and processes
  • videos within “how to” posts work particularly well from tying a bow tie to changing radiator valves

The top performing posts draw on and utilise lessons from educational learning designers.

Learning designers have spent many years researching and testing the best ways to help people learn. As part of this research they have developed well tested instructional models. These models provide a clearly defined structure that scaffolds or supports the learning, for example:

  • introduces the topic and gains attention
  • provides information in structured, bite sized elements
  • exemplifies the information, often with worked examples or case studies
  • provides practice opportunities to apply the new knowledge
  • provides actionable tips
  • provides links to further resources

You can also look to more formal instructional models such as Gagne’s 9 steps of instruction.

A Winning Structure

Based on our analysis a winning “how to” post structure will have the following elements:

  • numbered steps
  • scannable text
  • annotated images and videos
  • a case study
  • links to tools
  • practical tips
  • links to further resources

Let’s have a look at some examples which utilize these elements.

Best Practice Examples

Laura Roeder

This post on How to Improve Your Facebook News Feed Visibility by Laura Roeder has been shared over 9,000 times. It has a strong “how to” post structure including:

  • numbered steps
  • annotated images
  • links to further resources
  • a case study
  • scannable text

Below is an extract from Laura’s post.

structure how to

Ann Smarty

This post by Ann Smarty on How To Optimize Your Slideshare For Maximum Exposure is another great example of how to structure a “how to” post.

The post also starts with a clear promise

“In this article I’ll share five tips to get the most out of your SlideShare deck.”

So I’m in no doubt about what I’ll get, and whether it’s right for me.

The post is long form and detailed but broken up with the use of steps, images and tips. This post also provides links to tools as shown below.

anne smarty

Kristi Hines

This post by Kristi Hines on How to Use Google Analytics Behavior Reports to Optimize Your Content received over 8,000 shares.

It follows a similar format with numbered steps, skimmable text and images. This post also contains regular actionable tips.

Neil Patel

Finally, here is a further example from Neil Patel, How to Come Up With 50 Topic Ideas in 30 Minutes. This post was shared over 15,000 times because it is relevant, well structured and full of practical tips. This post uses step by step images to walk readers through how to follow the process.

how to post

Tip: Research the most shared ‘how to’ posts in your area and see what lessons you can learn from the post structure including the use of images and videos.


In every industry there is an opportunity to create ‘how to’ posts that deliver value to your audience. Start building trust and authority by:

  • researching the questions that need answers
  • identifying where you can add additional value and be the best answer
  • using a winning ‘how to’ structure for your post

In short: be helpful.

The post The Perfect ‘How To’ Post (Updated June 2017) appeared first on BuzzSumo.

What You Need To Know About Creating Thumb-Stopping Facebook Videos

Because video drives shares on Facebook, we wanted to find out more about the types of videos that grab viewers’ attention. Facebook describes these compelling videos well.

They are Thumb-Stopping.

To identify common features of highly shared videos, we used the BuzzSumo Facebook Analyzer to look at 3000 videos with a high number of shares, likes, and comments. All of them were posted during the last 12 months.

BuzzSumo Facebook Analyzer

The average interactions–shares, likes, and comments– for these videos ranged from 228,723 to an astounding 8.4 million, with a median of 752,737.

One thing that surprised me in the data was that average and median shares were higher than average and median comments.

My hypothesis is that videos may be especially viral in nature…not so much something we comment on, but something we pass on to friends. This definitely needs more research. (I’d love to hear about your experiences with shares vs. comments).

3000 Engaging Facebook Videos

To put the magnitude of average interactions into perspective, I compared the 3000 videos in my sample to videos published at pages with the largest Facebook audiences — Cristiano, Shakira, Coca-Cola, and Beyonce, Vin Diesel, Eminem, Leo Messi, and Facebook itself.

At these popular sites, the median number of interactions for video content was substantially lower, ranging from 103 to 1.7 million, with a median of approximately 99,000, despite their much larger fan base.

Initially at least, the data seems to indicate that audience size alone does not drive interactions with Facebook videos. This is encouraging news for non-celebrities who uses Facebook for videos.

So, if audience size isn’t the only thing driving interaction with Facebook videos, what factors do stop the thumbs of Facebook viewers?

Here are our key takeaways about engaging Facebook videos:

  1. Heavy video interaction does not depend solely on audience size.
  2. The most engaging Facebook videos, on average, have more shares than comments.
  3. The most engaging Facebook videos include the same elements as other engaging (non-video) content and headlines.
  4. Blatant calls to action don’t hamper interaction with Facebook videos, and they may encourage it.
  5. Storytelling is an important element of Facebook videos that people share, like and comment on.
  6. B2B Facebook pages can apply insights from brand and consumer-oriented content to create engaging videos.

What drives interactions in Facebook Video?

Earlier research by BuzzSumo into content marketing data has shown that highly engaging content shares five core elements:

  1. Emotional element
  2. Content element
  3. Topical element
  4. Format
  5. Promise

Shock, anger, controversy, inspiration — emotional content –catches people’s attention and drives them to share. People also can’t seem to resist sharing lists, recipes, trendy information or cute pictures of kids or animals. And, promises are powerful share drivers.

Common Elements in Engaging Content

These same elements are seen often in viral headlines.

Data based content marketing headline formula

Like 2 billion other people, I use Facebook at least once a month, and I know from my own feed that the same viral elements seen in popular non-video content show up frequently.

But, I’m also not a connoisseur of video posts; my feed is heavily influenced by my demographic; and more importantly, I wanted to approach my marketing decisions with more than a hypothesis that funny Facebook videos get more shares than other types of videos.

As a first step, I watched each of the top 100 videos in my study, and classified them as one of 12 things:

  1. Inspiring
  2. Animals
  3. Amusing
  4. DIY
  5. Recipes
  6. Celebrity
  7. Cute kids
  8. Shocking
  9. Controversy
  10. Beautiful
  11. Warning
  12. Contest

You can see the results here:

Most engaging facebook videos

Clearly, inspiration and amusement are important!

Next I wanted to see if there were any common phrases or terms in the messages of the most engaging video posts.

To determine this, I took the messages, written posts, from the videos with more than the median number of interactions and plugged them into a free text analyzer.

Here are the results:

Frequently Occurring Words and Phrases in the Most Engaging Facebook Video Messages 1 like our page for more 2 get the full recipe 3 like share and comment 4 to spin the wheel 5 beauty and the beast 6 step by step instructions 7 how to make 8 by occupy democrats 9 the best 10 recipe 11 trump 12 people 13 know 14 first 15 trailer 16 today 17 donald 18 dog 19 year 20 love 21 world

One thing that surprised me in this list is that specific or blatant calls to action don’t seem to hamper shares.

Of course, in the world of BuzzFeed Tasty, recipes rank highly, as do how to’s and step-by-step instructions.

And, trendy content is represented with the names Donald and Trump, as well as the word trailer and the phrase Beauty and the Beast.

Tell Stories with Facebook Video

One key element in successful Facebook video is storytelling. (You can learn more about storytelling with Facebook Live videos in this presentation with Mari Smith).

At their most basic, stories have four components: Setting, Character, Conflict, Resolution. Those elements can be included in even the shortest videos.

And, you don’t have to be a playwright or screen writer with a narrative to create videos that tell stories.

I originally saw a clip of the “Nature is Amazing” video on Facebook, posted by the World Surf League. It manages to tell a story in 0:34 seconds. The Facebook clip has 121 million views and 2.8 million total interactions.

Storytelling in Facebook video

The setting is a beautiful lagoon; the characters — a pod of dolphins. They are swimming peacefully, as a wave (the conflict) gathers behind them. Just moments later, the drama is resolved as the dolphins swim, dive and jump through the wave, returning to their former calm.

But storytelling is not just for Facebook pages with access to beautiful natural settings! Brands can apply story-telling logic, too.

The Edinburgh Casting Studio sells DIY body-casting supplies.

Without a story, the product is a bucket of slurry that can be used to create a mold of a hand or other body part.

With a story the bucket becomes the vehicle to create a family heirloom.

“A Recipe Like No Other,” is 1:10 of marketing glory–setting the product within the context of a love story.

It has 139 million views on Facebook, and 3.7 million interactions.

B2C and Entertainment Facebook pages aren’t the only ones to benefit from video posts on Facebook. B2B companies can apply the same principles to their video strategy to test engagement.

To determine the types of videos that succeed for B2B companies, I analyzed 950 of the Facebook videos with highest average engagement from ten leading companies in the B2B space–Intel, Oracle, SAS, IBM, Netapp, Salesforce, Cisco, DellEMC, VMWare and Symantec.

Here’s what I found. The total interactions for video are lower than in my larger sample, but that’s to be expected, because the products belong to a niche.

Still, the average overall engagement for the B2B videos is 1144, and the median is 161. And, just as with the original set of 3000 videos, average shares are higher than average comments.

I tend to value shares more highly than comments, as they push a brand or page message into the newsfeeds of a broader audience–for free.

Remember that Facebook is not LinkedIn. It’s about everyday life–parenting, kids, jokes, stories, growing up, forgiveness, thankfulness, life issues, celebrities. Keeping this in mind, B2B companies can experiment with a couple of different video ideas:

  1. Employee stories
  2. Customer stories
  3. Office tours–with a twist
  4. Volunteer work

The following examples illustrate the potential for interaction, as well as how to apply emotional elements and storytelling principles within a video context for Facebook.

Example of Facebook Video Storytelling from Oracle

In addition to 5.8 million views, this post from Oracle has 42.7k interactions.

But, even without semi-professional yoga instructors and video crews, employee stories can get a lot of interactions. This video, also from Oracle, features Bruno Borges, principal product manager, with his nine golden retriever puppies. It also proves that puppies have a place on B2B Facebook pages. The Facebook clip is just 30 seconds long.

It has 34.7k views, and 794 interactions.

VMWare used video to showcase their corporate campus, but they didn’t settle for a vanilla walk through video.

VMWare Amazing Facebook Video

They told the story of rescuing turtles with their on-site pond.

In addition to 7.5k views, it has 229 interactions–much more than median interactions for Facebook B2B video.

The 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, produced by Social Media Examiner, makes it clear that “Facebook is the most important social network for marketers by a long shot.” And, it’s importance has increased for B2B marketers, overtaking and surpassing that of LinkedIn.

The report also notes that live video is an important trend, and visual content is essential for social media engagement.

There is no better time to master the art of video content for Facebook.

It’s time to stop some thumbs.

The post What You Need To Know About Creating Thumb-Stopping Facebook Videos appeared first on BuzzSumo.

Why Picture List Posts Are The Perfect Viral Content Formula

When we looked at 100m Facebook posts we found, not surprisingly, that posts with images got the twice the number of interactions as posts without. So yes, images work but you knew that already. We have also found that list posts gain more shares on average. Again you knew that already. But did you know that one of the most shared forms of content was the picture list post?

The picture list post contains the promise of a list post, the value of curation and the speed of images.

It is like rolling three of your favorite superheros into one. They’re the ultimate in efficient, emotionally engaging content — snackable content, enriched with curation and structure.

In this post we take a look at why they work and how you can make them work for you.

What is a picture list post?

A picture list post is a series of curated images that can:

  • help tell a story
  • show the passing of time
  • show comparisons
  • explain a concept
  • demonstrate a process
  • form a curated list
picture posts

Why do they work?

People like to share content that is valuable. A New York Times and Latitude research study found five main motivations when it comes to sharing. The number one motivation for sharing was to bring valuable and entertaining content to others. 94% of the respondents said they carefully considered how the information they share will be useful to others.

Picture list posts work because they provide value through a combination of curation, lists and images. It’s a perfect content formula.


Let’s start with curation. Good curators help us by doing the heavy lifting. They research and filter content to provide the reader with just the relevant content though they will often include links for further reading. A good curator also adds value through commentary and context. Curated content is increasingly popular in a busy world, where we are overloaded with content.

Now let’s add images. The brain processes images much faster than text, studies have shown visuals are processed as much as 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. According to the Visual Teaching Alliance the brain can see images that last for just 13 millisecond and our eyes can register 36,000 visual messages per hour. Try reading that many tweets in the next 60 minutes and see how many you recall. This means we can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second. This explains why a series of images works so well and why they are used in areas such as learning materials. They work faster than words.

Images have been found to improve learning by up to 400 percent. Stanford University’s Robert E. Horn, argues this is because “visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’ — the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.”

Finally, let’s structure as a list. We know that people like list posts, particularly one which is well structured and instantly scannable. In creating a list post such as 7 steps to design a landing page the author adds value by breaking down a task into a series of clear steps. List posts are also tell the reader what to expect for example 5 pictures or 10 tips. There is an expectation that you will gain some valuable nuggets of information rather than a long form essay. This makes them an attractive form of content for the time pressed consumer.

The picture list post contains the promise of a list post, the value of curation and the speed of images.


Pictures that tell a Story

The New York Times ran a picture list post on the Women’s March on Washington (January 2017) to highlight the hundreds of marches that also took place across the world.


This picture list post was shared 430,000 times across all the social networks.

Fathers caring for their children on the refuge trail. This picture list was published by the Huffington Post and received over 90,000 shares.

refuge fathers

Stories and the Passing of Time

This picture post shows the photographs that a photographer recreated of his home town forty years after he took the original photographs. This article received over 450,000 shares and each picture comparison suggests a human story to be explored.


This next post 40 Portraits in 40 Years on the New York Times shows how four sisters took a picture of themselves every year over the last 40 years. This picture post was shared over 660,000 times.


Photographs by Nicholas Nixon

Picture Curations

Picture curations can take many forms and Pinterest boards are an obvious example. They also work well as viral posts, the curations can be of amazing images, cute images or amusing images.

The National Geographic are well known for the quality of their pictures and produce many viral picture list posts. Here is an example of cute pictures of rescued baby sloths. These posts appeal to the emotions and was shared over 600,000 times.

baby sloths

A similar post was National Geographic’s ’10 Most Stunning Wildlife Pictures of the Year‘ which received over 50,000 shares.

A very different form of curation was this picture list post of Overpopulation and Consumption on The Guardian. It is a series of curated images about the impact of overpopulation and was shared over 700,000 times.

guardian images

Photos by Zak Noyle and Daniel Dancer

A similar picture post is this ’10 pictures that show what pollution has done to Delhi‘ which was shared over 120,000 times.


Pictures can be used to show many different forms of comparison. Here are some examples.

This article by Bright Side uses NASA images to show how the world is changing over time.


This picture post was shared over 750,000 times on Facebook.

This next picture list compares school meals across the world. It was shared over 540,000 times.


Photos Sweetgreen

Tutorials and ‘How To’ Posts

A series of images is often key to a tutorial or a ‘how to’ post in order to take a learner through a process step by step. Here are some examples:

How to paint watercolours — this series of image tutorials was shared over 160,000 times.


How to dry nail polish quickly — This series of images was shared over 600,000 times.


Photos WikiHow

Another variation on a tutorial post is this post ’10 Must Take pictures on Baby’s First Day‘. This post received over 38,000 shares.


Most of the above are business to consumer examples (B2C) but tutorial picture list posts can work equally well in business to business posts. Here is an example from Social Media Examiner on ‘Four Steps To Get Your Business on Snapchat‘.


How Can You Use Picture List Posts?

Believer? Great. So now what? Picture list posts are a key content format which have the potential to go viral. Here are some initial questions to help you think about where they may work best in your content strategy.

  • What types of images currently work best in your industry? Are they product pictures, emotional images or process pictures?
  • What images can you use to tell a story? For example, how would one of your successful projects or case studies look like as a series of images?
  • If you make something, can you show where the raw materials come from, how it gets made, who makes it? Brands like Guinness are increasingly using imagery to tell the story of their product and process.
  • Can you introduce some humour? Product ideas you’ve rejected?
  • What comparisons can you make with images? For example, how have products in your area changed over time?
  • Can you associate your brand positively with different uses / settings through time or around the world?
  • What ‘before and after’ images might work in your industry?
  • What concepts can you explain through a series of images?
  • If you have You Tube videos showing how to use your products or services, could you turn them into picture list how to posts?
  • What ‘how to’ picture posts might work in your area? Processes and structured steps can often work well as a series of screenshots.
  • Could you show a different angle or viewpoint through a series of pictures? What it looks like from your CEO’s desk, from your CMO’s desk, from the front window?
  • How could you surprise people with a series of images?
  • Could you encourage your audience to help curate the images for you? Have a look at 3 UK, Mobile phone company’s HolidaySpam campaign, which gets their customer base showing and sharing what you can do with free data when you travel. Ok, so it’s more of a picture massacre than a list, but still, top marks for getting customers to create content.

The post Why Picture List Posts Are The Perfect Viral Content Formula appeared first on BuzzSumo.