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Whippies 2014 – The Best Sites of the Year on Facebook and Twitter

We’re delighted to announce the first Whippies – recognising publishers that performed best on Twitter and Facebook in 2014, based on what we’ve seen in NewsWhip’s social data.

Whippies

Throughout 2014, we’ve looked at how sites from around the world are performing in terms of overall engagement on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve seen plenty of sites pass through our monthly rankings, and noticed what they’ve been doing right.

Now we’re pleased to present our inaugural ‘Whippies’, which recognise the publishers using social media to reach new audiences during 2014.

The awards are based on what we’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook over the year, through our exclusive data from Spike, which tracks content from tens of thousands of sources every day.

Today, we look at the best publishers overall on Facebook and Twitter. We also identify three upcoming newcomers from 2014 – sites to keep a particularly close eye on in the New Year.

Later, we’re going to rank the biggest sites by category. We’ll be highlighting the sites that showed a lot of success this year on social in sports, tech, politics, and more.

Social media editors, publishers in the area and anyone interested in getting using Facebook and Twitter to reach and keep new audiences can all learn from the examples of these sites.

Best on Facebook 

Facebook

#1 – The overall winners on Facebook this year had to be the Huffington Post. Consistently on top of the charts since April, they set new records for impact on Facebook in 2014. Some of their biggest stories achieved mind-boggling reach.

The Huffington Post’s blogging platform looks to be a key pillar in their success on Facebook in particular.

For instance, one of their most-shared stories of the year was titled ‘10 Things Your Mom Never Told You‘, had over 300,000 shares, and was written by a guest blogger, rather than a staff writer. The Huff Po is unique in being able to give content an unrivaled platform on social media, and they set new records for overall monthly engagement on Facebook during 2014.

#2 – In second place, BuzzFeed have had a similarly extraordinary year on Facebook.

Despite expanding hugely in terms of coverage, BuzzFeed’s output remains relatively low compared to many of their direct competitors, suggesting that their stories are perfectly pitched to readers.

They’ve had huge stories. As we noted back in February, they were early adapters to the interactive quiz as a means of encouraging sharing. And their most-shared stories consistently get enviable interaction rates.

One of their biggest hits of the year was beguilingly simple. ‘Which Classic Rock Band Are You?’ marked the peak of BuzzFeed’s quiz popularity back in February, with over 800,000 Facebook shares.

However, in 2014, we saw them move on from being seen purely as a gif-heavy entertainment site. Some of their most-shared stories of the year included exclusive news stories, as well as many popular long-form pieces from their dedicated ‘Big Stories’ section. As a publisher that puts social firmly at the heart of what it does, it’s interesting to watch how BuzzFeed goes about adapting traditional content forms, and fine-tuning them for Facebook readers.

With significant investment and a string of high-profile hires in 2014, we’ll be watching their progression in 2015 keenly.

#3 – Taking third place is Fox News, one of the most reliably-performing publishers in the rankings. They grew their monthly Facebook interactions from 8 million in January, to almost 24 million last month.

They have been in the top 3, 4, or 5 every month this year, and it has been amazing to watch the network adapt to social media as a means of reaching a wider audience than ever before. A widely-circulated clip of newscaster Shepard Smith urging for calmness after the US’s first Ebola case in October proved to be one of their most popular pieces of content of the year on Facebook. It made waves across the internet, and racked up almost 600,000 interactions on Facebook alone.

Back in August, they even came close to challenging BuzzFeed in overall engagements, and their consistent presence near the top of the rankings means they’re impossible to overlook.

Best on Twitter

Twitter

#1 – Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised in the slightest by our inclusion of the BBC as the best Twitter publisher in 2014.

They’ve managed to take top spot in the Twitter rankings every single month, while consistently producing some of the most-tweeted news stories each month. This year, their flagship Breaking News account hit 10 million followers, then 12 million.

Throughout 2014, the BBC regularly broke some of the biggest news stories of the year to their enormous audience on Twitter, setting new standards for real-time reporting on social media.

Their social media team is one of the most innovative around, so it’s always interesting to try and keep up with what they might come up with next.

#2 – In second place, it’s Mashable. For much of the year, Mashable stayed as second in the monthly Twitter charts, only to be gradually overtaken by the New York Times.

But there’s another amazing side to Mashable’s performance on Twitter. For a site with a low relative output, their average tweets per story is very impressive.

Average Twitter shares

As we put it in October’s rankings, Mashable’s Twitter feed is mandatory reading for all social media editors. Mashable’s social media team get basic Twitter principles right – tone, delivery, and timing are all well-pitched to their 4.8 million+ followers.

They’re also great at putting the social lede to their stories out in front – meaning that they’ve frequently had huge Twitter impact with stories that other publishers struggle to reliably replicate.

#3 – Taking third place is the New York Times, who made strong gains throughout the year.

While the Times’ approach to Twitter isn’t exactly ground-breaking – a steady stream of news stories, images and retweets – it’s just what many readers see the original paper of record’s voice being like on a network like Twitter. In October, the NYT had particular Twitter success with a long-form piece on the use of chemical weapons in Iraq, which proved that good reporting still has a highly-regarded place in the real-time stream.

Plus, there’s the New York Times Haiku, and the ever-fascinating archive – two Twitter curios that never disappoint.

Newcomers of the Year

Newcomer

#1 – When PlayBuzz ascended to the upper tiers of our Facebook rankings in August, many were surprised. The news drew comment from Bloomberg Businessweek to Mashable, and many places in between.

The viral quizzes spread rapidly across Facebook and to the top of many of most-shared lists in Spike, leading to a huge surge in their online visibility in the latter half of the year.

When they continued to grow their share numbers in the remaining months of 2014, we got the sense that we were seeing a new viral phenomenon. Now, just 12 months after they launched, they seem firmly entrenched in the top of the charts, so they’re an obvious first choice for the newcomer of the year.

PlayBuzz work with a wide range of partners, ensuring that their content is seen by a gigantic audience. While not a publisher in the traditional sense, they’re using social media to attract attention like few others.

Read our Q&A with PlayBuzz’s Head of Content to hear how to create shareable content

#2 – There was much digital ink spilt over the arrival of a new addition to the Vox Media stable this spring – Vox.com.

The site’s stated mission was to ‘explain the news’, and it did so in a way that was ‘socially aware’, and with a social media readership in mind.

The site performed reasonably strongly on both Twitter and Facebook. In November, the most recent dataset available, the site had almost 1.7 million Facebook interactions for 775 articles.

They haven’t yet appeared in our top 25 Facebook or Twitter publishers, but they’re certainly making an impact on both.

They had notable Facebook success with stories including this guide to every school shooting since Sandy Hook, with almost 85,000 shares. Their stories were also tweeted heavily, with their approach to presenting their stories using video and social media has been impressive.

#3  – Throughout 2014, numerous US and UK media brands set up shop in India. Quartz, BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post were just some high-profile names to expand into the subcontinent.

However, the Indian site that really caught our attention this year was the newly-launched India Times. Part of the Times Internet Group, which includes the Times of India, this site is very much focussed on connecting with a younger audience in India. “We feel younger and are restless to share with you stories that you won’t stop talking about,” says their About page, suggesting that social was a major influence on the format of the new site. The site has already started getting big engagement on Facebook, with over 3.5 million interactions during November.

The site also featured in the top 25 most-tweeted list throughout the year.

With the likes of ScoopWhoop also making a name for themselves on Indian timelines, it looks as though 2015 is going to be a particularly interesting year for Indian publishing.

We’ll be back with some of the most successful sites by category, including tech, politics, sport and more. For updates, subscribe to the blog at the top of this page, or here.

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