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What can we learn from Facebook’s most viewed posts?

Magnifying glass views

What can we learn from Facebook’s most viewed posts?

This week, Facebook published a new report detailing the posts, links and domains that get the most views on the social media platform.

Though the Widely Viewed Content Report only takes content views in the US into account, it gives some insight into what was appearing in Facebook users’ news feeds in the four-month period from the start of July to the end of September 2021, and marketers may be able to learn from these findings.

Of particular interest is the rundown of the 20 most viewed posts on Facebook during the four months, which accounted for 0.1% of all posts viewed on the platform between them. This might not sound much, but when considering the size of Facebook and the number of posts appearing on it every day, for a group of just 20 posts to account for one thousandth of everything seen on the site is an incredible impact. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find that some of your friends have interacted with these very posts as well, illustrating their reach.

What the 20 posts all have in common is that they are all relatively short, single-sentence posts, and all contain an image, or are text made into an image by adding a background. They all also encourage a response from the viewer by asking them a question or to name something.

The most viewed post of the period might surprise people. It was this one from Thinkarete lifestyle, a page responsible for eight of the top 20 viewed posts:

So, how did this post earn over 94 million views in four months, as well as more than 16 million comments and five million reactions to date? It’s not particularly exciting, nor does it use correct punctuation like question marks or capital letters. It could even be seen as irresponsible by normalising something as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, but let’s look at some of the reasons why it might have been a hit (aside from being short, visual and question-based):

1. It’s totally American. The abbreviation DUI (driving under the influence) is seldom used outside of the US, but if that’s the target audience, this is likely to make it all the more effective. Similarly, British companies using Facebook might want to think of something quintessentially British to ask, perhaps explaining the ongoing popularity of posts asking what a bread roll is called in various dialects.

2. It addresses the majority. One of the first comments I can see on the post points out that the US average of people who have had DUIs is only 2.27%, which initially makes it seem like rather a silly question. However, that’s kind of the point. What it does well is it addresses the other 97.73% and gives them the impression that they’re part of a special group. People are more likely to want to boast of something that they think separates them from the norm, but in fact most of the people commenting on this are simply confirming that they are part of the vast majority.

3. It makes people feel good.
Most people are aware that drink-drinking is irresponsible and shameful, so they want to disassociate themselves from it. The post normalises it, which provokes the viewer into making an “I’m not part of this” comment.

4. It uses an emoji. A small detail maybe, but one study says using the right emojis can increase shares and comments by a third. This one uses an outstretched hand resembling a gesture from a police officer.

5. It contains a subtle call-to-action.
The “I’ll wait” at the end suggests a tough question and reinforces the idea that the viewer can’t do it. In fact, they probably can, and this sense of doubt makes them more likely to respond.

Frankly, it’s not great quality content, and neither are most of the top 20. They’re good posts for Facebook pages that exist purely to be popular Facebook pages. That’s not to say we can’t learn from what they do well, but businesses might have to think a little harder about how to connect their posts with their services. We can help you with that at Engage Web, so why not get in touch with us today for advice on website and social media content?

John Murray

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