Top social media content 2017: What are the key takeaways?

Well, 2017 is nearly over and we’ll soon put this year in the books. A lot of content publishers are sharing their most popular posts/tweets/preferred content type of choice for the year, and we figured it would be a good idea to see what we content marketers can learn from the data.

Understandably, the top performing content pieces are outliers in the grand scheme of things, so we have to look at what boomed with that in mind. But there are some fun things we can learn. Let’s start with Instagram. 


Topic-wise, the ten best-liked photos of 2017 involved a very small number of topics:

  • Selena Gomez
  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Babies
  • Beyoncé

The highest-rated photo was Beyoncé’s announcement that she was pregnant with twins – it received 11.1 million likes. You can take a look at the list of photos in this article from Buzzfeed.

The photos can also be divided into two types. Some of the photos are clearly staged for maximum visual impact. While others, like the photo of Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant, are candid, behind-the-scenes photos of very special moments in these celebrities’ lives.

Granted, the star power of these individuals is a huge pull for views. But considering how well-composed the shots are, it might be time to hire a professional photographer for your Instagram account or dust off that camera/photo editing software you’ve been meaning to master.


If Instagram is the land of celebrities this year, Twitter was the land of politics and chicken nuggets. The top tweet was a high school student asking Wendy’s how many retweets he’d need to get a year’s supply of nuggets for free. Wendy’s replied 18 million. While the tweet only got retweeted 3.6 million times, the savvy marketer-in-training got his free nuggets.

2017 also had the most-liked tweet in Twitter’s entire history. This was Barack Obama’s tweet responding to the tragic events in Charlottesville earlier this year, which received over 4.6 million likes.

Perhaps surprisingly, none of the tweets made by President Donald Trump cracked the top ten. Instead, the remaining top tweets were about sympathetic responses to the tragedies of this year, like the suicide of the frontman of the band Linkin Park, or appeals to the Twitterverse for charity during the hurricanes.

It would be very difficult for a company to thread the needle of writing a tweet in response to a disaster, but it’s clear that tweets that use empathy and emotional resonance to appeal for action are often highly engaging. If you’d like to use a charitable donation to raise awareness of your brand, one possible approach is to take the example of Penn State who promised to donate a small amount of cash for every retweet it receives.


There are so many different ways to measure Facebook engagement that it’s hard to rate the best. Also, Facebook changed how it measured engagement mid-year, so we have to look at broad trends.

Videos were certainly amongst the biggest trends this year on Facebook, with engagement rates higher than any other format. Despite the rapid evolvement, adoption has been slow. The two biggest reasons for this are the costs, as well as the fear of loosening the grip on brand standards. Despite these concerns, it’s important for companies not to neglect this trend if they want to drive engagement on this channel – in both the B2C and B2B markets. To capture your audience’s attention, just remember to keep your videos sweet, short and square, and add subtitles so users can watch it without sound.

For some more tips about how to optimize your Facebook video strategy, take a look at this Adweek article. 


The sheer number of articles published every year makes it extremely difficult to pluck out the top-performing ones, but Kaleida, a media research company, released a report on the top performing news stories in 2017 and which topics are engaging the audience.

Politics have dominated the news this year and much of the report tracks the changes in political reporting. But there are some really cool takeaways for content marketers:

  • Half of the 1.5 million articles they tracked received less than 36 engagements.
  • Shorter pieces (sub 500-words) have far more engagements-per-word, but the 500-600 word mark seems to be the sweet spot between words and engagements. 1,000-word receive about a third of the engagements of the short ones.
  • While long pieces can get a strong engagement rate, going beyond 2,000 words rapidly diminishes returns on engagement.

Will we see a return to shorter pieces? Will companies continue to grow their video and photography divisions? Time will tell, but we hope this tour of what worked really well in 2017 will inspire your marketing plans for 2018.

To find some more inspiration for your content marketing in the New Year, click on the link below to download our latest eBook ‘Writer’s Block 101’: