2013 was a huge year for content. Marketers finally made headway in the battle for the Internet’s attention, and as evidenced by the chart below, content was top-of-mind for quite a few searchers.
Traditionally, news stories get the most attention online but content marketing has opened new doors for marketers looking to grow their audiences online. At the end of the year, many of the web’s most prominent publishers took a look at their analytics and rounded up their most popular stories. We examined some of the best of the “best of” lists to get an idea of what kind of content spurred sharing and attracted searchers in 2013.
This annual production offers an in-depth look at what people searched for in many different categories. The most-searched topics in 2013 were the deaths of Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela, and the Boston Marathon bombing. Scroll down the list, however, to see what memes, brands and even reality TV stars had our attention last year.
Videos are often the most viral form of content. That was especially true in 2013. What Does the Fox Say? led the way with 350 million views. For perspective, that’s more than 2,000 combined years of time … simply amazing. See the rest here.
The kings of curation collected 21,303 stories in 2013. Their editors poll data from social media and hand-pick viral, insightful and sometimes controversial content to share with their readers. By balancing data and editorial judgement, then measuring the results, their year in review offers and interesting glimpse into what readers want in content.
As a major news and lifestyle publisher, TIME has the opportunity to explore a number of different audiences. You can get lost in this collection of 54 lists and hundreds of stories, which in itself is a lesson on the value of re-purposing content.
Memes and viral content are often born on Reddit. There is plenty of trending news and timely content that gets shared on the boards, but where Reddit really shines is unearthing GIFs, pictures and stories the world has never seen before.
The lists above offer a look at pop culture in general but let’s take a look at some niche content to see what resonated with readers in different verticals. Some topics may be irrelevant to your work, but it’s important to see how smart publishers are communicating.
- Longform: Best of 2013
- The Verge: The Biggest Stories of 2013
- Medical News Today: Most Popular Health News Articles for 2013
- Deadspin 2013: Our 101 Most Popular Posts
- Tumblr: 2013 Year in Review
- Top Pins of 2013
- Search Engine Land’s Most Popular, Most Tweeted and Most Liked Stories
- Above the Law’s Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2013
- Nikon Rumors: Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2013
- The 25 Most Popular Nieman Lab Stories of 2013
- The Year on Energy.gov: Our Most Popular Posts of 2013
- Hack Education’s Most Popular Posts of 2013
- The American Birding Association’s Most Popular Posts of 2013
- Animal Planet: 20 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2013
Let’s also take a look at the two biggest viral hits of 2013. Neither were accidental, and in fact, each was the result of careful planning and social media savvy.
Commander Chris Hadfield: Space Oddity
More than 21 million views later, it’s clear that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is a content-creating genius. What you might not know, however, is that he has quite a bit of help distributing and promoting his content.
With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here’s Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World. http://t.co/DMnMc8qC7f
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) May 12, 2013
Hadfield’s son Evan helps with social media strategy and promotion. When asked about his dad’s Twitter account, Evan noted that his dad understands that he has access to valuable information but wasn’t sure how to make it accessible and shareable. As he told Teaching Kids News, “There is a difference between tweeting and tweeting in a way that people can respond to and enjoy properly.”
Copyblogger recently recognized Evan’s work as an example of how content creators can get a better understanding of their audience.
- Understanding what the audience wants.
- Understanding how different formats work together.
- Understanding what makes content shareable.
- Understanding how content creates the overarching message you want.
- Understanding how to drive the behavior you need, whether it’s a sale, an email opt-in, or international support for the planet’s patchwork of space programs.
It takes a lot of trail and error but smart strategists can measure data against their editorial judgement to create content that thrives.
Batkid Saves Gotham City
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is famous for making wishes come true, but they outdid themselves when they helped five-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott save Gotham City. The effort, which you can read about in detail here, had all the telltale signs of a social media phenomenon but needed help from the experts. Clever Girls Collective, a social media marketing firm in San Jose, Calif., volunteered their skills and the rest is history.
There were 406,960 tweets on the day of the event, using either the #batkid or #SFBatkid hashtag on Twitter. Mashable also announced that Batkid was discussed in a total of 117 countries, and the news reached somewhere between 750 million-1.7 billion people worldwide, according to social-media agency Clever Girls Collective. More than 21,683 Instagram and Twitter photos were posted by Friday afternoon.14] This single [Buzzfeed article garnered over 2.5 million hits within 3 days of the event. Public interest brought so much traffic to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s website that it crashed.
Clever Girls detailed their carefully-planned social strategy, which you can read here.
A Few Lessons in Engagement:
- Get visual. People love images. Whether its photos, graphs, charts, data visualizations, infographics or videos, building visual elements into content can improve engagement and share-ability.
- Be the source. The biggest digital wins go to the sources of great content. Tactics like news-jacking can be helpful but shouldn’t be the primary method of content creation. To generate original content, interview smart people, research open data and post your own original ideas.
- Go big. You will notice that a lot of the content that thrived in 2013 was big, either in length or preparation. Don’t be afraid to invest in big content because it’s usually worth it.
- Create your own “best of” list. Why should everyone get to have all the fun? Even small blogs have the opportunity to repurpose their own content. The year’s end is the perfect time to reflect on your work. It’s a nice way to gain perspective on what your readers are interested in, learn for next year and maybe even earn some new visitors.
What was your favorite content of 2013? Let us know in the comments.