Using 2014 and 2015 data, we set out three tips for publishers to maximise engagement this festive season.
For publishers, the Christmas period offers unique opportunities for themed content. The season is generally light-hearted and feelgood, with a clear appeal to a wide demographic. However, as it also tends to be one of the busiest months of the year for many people, it can be difficult to hold user attention.
Looking at Spike data on how Christmas content has performed in previous years, we’ve compiled the following tips for publishers.
(1) Be diverse
As our recent blog post revealed, social users respond to a wide range of content during the holiday season. While all of the stories we looked at pertain to Christmas in some way, they cover a broad spectrum of interests.
Emotive and nostalgic content tends to strike a chord with readers at this time of year. As many people gather with family and exchange gifts, articles profiling festive seasons of old tend to find a wide audience. The success of features highlighting popular toys in the 80s and 90s speaks to this, with articles discussing how Christmas has changed over the years resonating with older generations.
Humour also tends to be received well. Light-hearted content can be used in a number of ways – as our earlier blog noted, pieces on last year’s beard bauble phenomenon generated significant interest, and BuzzFeed had one of their biggest hits with a community-sourced post on one woman’s unique Christmas cards.
A quick look at the content gaining significant engagement on Facebook in the first week of December 2015 indicates similar themes are dominating social this year. As an example, this Huffington Post video of a family surprising their foster children with adoption papers has been shared almost 103,000 times since it was posted on December 9th.
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(2) Stagger posts across the month
For many, it feels like Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. On this side of the pond, shops tend to begin setting up displays right after Halloween, while in the US the twin phenomenons of Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become landmark Christmas shopping days. For publishers, this means a fine line must be drawn – posting content too early can lead to fatigue, while posting too late can mean losing out to increasingly stiff competition.
Our data shows an early high for Christmas shares in the seven-day period from 4th to 11th December. In 2014, 11th December saw the highest volume of shares of Christmas-related content for the entire month, with some 2,298,301 stories shared on Facebook. 16th December was also a big date for sharing, with just over 822,000 shares of Christmas-themed posts. By contrast, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day saw share figures of 676,156 and 693,168 respectively.
For publishers, the best option may therefore be to phase in content – embrace users’ continuing interest in news to post more hard-hitting, detailed pieces earlier in the month, and then bring in lighter content as the weeks pass. As people’s attention is increasingly absorbed by other things, they’re more likely to spend time on a simple, feel-good piece than an in-depth news report.
Further, our data suggests that Christmas-themed content should be wound down immediately after the festive season. In 2014, shares of seasonal articles began to decline on the 26th and 27th before hitting a low of 74,822 on New Year’s Eve. As people return to their normal routine, this fall off in interest is unsurprising.
Publishers can harness changing interests by turning attention to forecasts for the year ahead, and phasing in important news stories which may have been missed by users over the holiday period.
(3) Consider your medium
Comparing social data for Christmas 2014 and 2015, one thing which becomes immediately evident is the rise of native content. Where many of the top-ranking articles over Christmas 2014 linked to external pieces, data for 2015 shows a clear proliferation of videos and imagery. Public figures such as Tom Brady and Kelly Clarkson posted Christmas photos and messages, while the popular Humans of New York page posted a message offering assistance to those in need over the holidays.
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Indeed, there are few traditional publishers in the top ranking posts for the month thus far. BuzzFeed Video posted a humorous summary of misheard Christmas lyrics and the Independent uploaded a viral German television ad, but otherwise many of the top posts are from entertainment or sports figures.
With this in mind, publishers should consider the type of medium which might best suit their content. Facebook native video has been one of the mammoth success stories of the year and recipe videos, which are very topical at Christmas, have proven particularly popular. Recipes also tend to find an engaged audience on Pinterest, as do DIY and lifestyle posts. Spreading content across different social channels and embracing native wherever possible will help to ensure stories reach as wide an audience as possible.