The Most Viral Content of 2016: Thirty Examples of Insanely Shareable Content

How was your 2016? Yes, it was a little crazy. The volume of social sharing reflected that. The act of social sharing became mainstream news itself in 2016. There were many stories about echo chambers, the sharing of false news and the impact of social sharing and news feeds on politics.

We have analyzed the most socially shared content this year and set out below 30 examples of the most viral content from across the different social networks. These top viral posts by their nature are outliers and exceptional. However, by analyzing these most shared posts, we can learn a little more about the characteristics of viral content and the steps we can take to improve the potential shareability of our own content.

Research Note

We have excluded from our analysis games and forms, such as sign up forms to support the Clinton campaign. We have also excluded YouTube and Vine videos. Music videos can gain many millions of shares, for example over 8m for a Coldplay video. You can see the most shared Youtube videos here. The data for links and shares was taken on 5th December 2016.

1. New Alzheimer’s Treatment

2. OCD Radar Quiz

3. 100 Inspirational Quotes

4. First Born Child Is Most Intelligent

5. Donald Trump

6. Healthy Snacks

7. Bald Men Are Sexier

8. Intelligent People

9. Women Need More Sleep Because Their Brains Work Harder

10. Top 10 Abs Exercises

What are the themes?

This is an eclectic collection from an exceptional year. Here are some patterns we’ve seen in the content that went viral in 2016?

“Science says” stories: The word “science” adds a veneer of credibility to any article. Lots of the most shared content quoted scientific research. Those posts either promised self-improvement, held out some hope for our health, or explained why a behaviour or characteristic is positive based on scientific research. We are all looking to be understood and articles like these seem to help.

Data driven content: Similar to science stories, articles which predicted or analyzed trends using data were well shared and well linked to.

Strong opinion and political pieces: This was a politically divisive year. To feel belonging in our tribes, we shared strong opinion pieces that bound us to what we believed in. These come with an echo-chamber health warning, but they do get well shared.

Heart warmers: Stories of inspiration, human kindness and just plain joy and silliness always do well, and in a year that had more than its fair share of seriousness, heart warming stories ticked a box for many of us.

Health and food: People share medical news and developments. They also share ways to stay fit, particularly short cuts, and recipes, both healthy and unhealthy.

The classic viral formats such as images, lists and quizzes also did well again this year. The big viral posts appealed to a wide audience and many appealed to a particular tribe in the widest sense such as women, bald men or first born children.

© Milena Svetna, all rights reserved