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May 30, 2016
Marketing  |  6 min read

3 Unusual Lessons We Learned by Studying Over 16 Million Social Media Posts

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Ash Read

We love to see new stats and research about how to best share to social media and drive engagement. At Buffer, we're a brand on social media ourselves, so we know just how challenging it can be to post engaging content across multiple channels.

To learn more about how brands are tackling social media in 2016, and importantly, to discover what’s working, we decided to study what types of posts brands were sharing the most of on social media.

We examined over 100,000 accounts, which consisted of over 14 million tweets and two million Facebook updates to figure out how brands have been sharing to social media over the past 12 months.

Here’s how it broke down:

How have brands been sharing to social media?

Which social networks are brands posting to?


Facebook and Twitter are still leading the charge

After looking at over 16 million updates over 12 months, covering Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter, we found that brands posted primarily to Facebook and Twitter. It makes sense seeing as both social networks have the largest active audiences of the group according to this study.

Here’s the breakdown of percentages:

  • 79.6 percent of updates were sent to Twitter
  • 13.8 percent of updates were sent to Facebook
  • 3.6 percent of updates were sent to Google+
  • 2.3 percent of updates were sent to LinkedIn
  • .5 percent of updates were sent to Pinterest

How many times are brands sharing per week?


This data was super interesting for us as we love to experiment with posting schedules frequencies. We found that brands posted to Twitter more than any other network—which feels about right considering the more real-time feel of Twitter.

I was a little surprised to see that Facebook is the only other network where brands post an average of once per day.

Which types of post are getting the most engagement?


For this part of the study, we looked at how many engagements (clicks, likes, shares) each post a brand shares gets on average across Facebook and Twitter. We found that Facebook video appears to be leading the way here (by a considerable margin, too) and photos are still leading the way on Twitter.

It’s interesting to see that links appear to be driving more engagement than photos on Facebook at the moment. It feels like this could be due to their visual nature, now when you post a link, a large image is displayed, as is meta data from the post, giving brands plenty of opportunities to grab user’s attention as they scroll through their news feeds.

Here’s an example:


A cool way to potentially further increase the success of links on Facebook could be to create specific headlines and descriptions for your post. Here at Buffer, we use a neat tool called Yoast to choose the image, title, and description that’ll accompany a link when posted to Facebook:


Does Twitter have a noise problem?

Twitter have recently made similar adjustments with links pulling meta data into the timeline. Could this lead to a boost in Twitter link engagement? Maybe. But for now, it feels a little like Twitter has a noise problem, with images being one of the few ways to stand out in the timeline.


How are brands posting to each network?


Three key social media lessons we’ve learned from this study

1. Video is largely underutilized

Despite all the excitement surrounding social video, the data shows that video is still underutilized by many brands.

On Facebook, video gets three times as much engagement as any other kind of content, but in the seven posts that brands share on Facebook per week, far less than 1 percent are videos. Of the remaining 99 percent, 80 percent are links, and 19 percent are photos.

The lesson here could be to experiment with sharing more video on Facebook, especially with Facebook’s new live feature, to see how it affects brand engagement.

2. Links are engaging (but are we sharing too many?)

While brands share links often, on every social network at least 50 percent of the content is links. For Facebook and LinkedIn over 80 percent of the content are links, and on Twitter, it’s just over 70 percent.

However, looking at the data around engagement, links are second to Video on Facebook and second to Photos on Twitter for most engaging types of content.

For many of us, driving traffic back to a website via links is a key part of our social media strategy. I’d be curious to see whether mixing up more non-link based content could actually increase the engagement for links when they’re posted. For example, on Facebook, posting more videos could increase engagement and reach meaning more users may see links when we publish them.

3. Brands are missing out on LinkedIn and Pinterest

According to this 2016 study, 59 percent of LinkedIn users don’t visit twitter, 83 percent don’t use Pinterest, and 13 percent don’t use Facebook. Which means that unless you’re capturing them on Facebook, LinkedIn users could be a completely untapped market for you.

According to our study, brands post to LinkedIn only three times per week, whereas, in this small business guide by LinkedIn, they share that posting five times a week, on weekdays allows you to reach 60 percent of your audience.

Pinterest looks like it might be a lost opportunity for some brands as well. According to this recent Shopify study, two million people save product pins every day, and 87 percent of Pinterest users say they have purchased something they found while pinning.

Despite the potential on Pinterest, brands are only posting to Pinterest four to five times per week, whereas they could be posting that many times in a day. Top brands on Pinterest have experienced steady growth by adopting a multiple-times-per-day posting strategy.

This article was written by Ash Read from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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