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The Biggest Facebook Content of 2015


By   |   December 31st, 2015   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Brands, Digital Journalism

We take a look at the most successful pieces of content on Facebook for 2015.

2015 has been a hectic year for publishers on Facebook. It’s seen the rollout of Instant Articles for iOS and Android, the launching of Signal and an explosion in Facebook video. More recently, the platform has been experimenting with multiple news feeds and even music, so 2016 looks to be an eventful year.

But what about the content itself? What posts performed best on Facebook in 2015, and what kind of content was most popular?

We pulled data on the top ten posts for the year to get an insight into what was big on Facebook over the last 12 months. All the data comes from Spike.

These are the top ten Facebook posts for the year:

A graph showing the top ten pieces of content on Facebook in 2015

Note: “Fbtotal” = Facebook total. In this context, this means the combined likes, shares, and comments received by each post during 2015.

Let’s break that down.


Viral Publishing

Viral publishers enjoyed considerable success in 2015 and the trend shows no sign of abating as we head into next year. LittleThings.com were one of the leading names on Facebook this year and recently won Best Newcomer in our end-of-year Whippies, so it seems fitting that the site clinched the top post of the year.

The piece – a brief write-up on a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” – is simple but benefits from the widespread recognisability of the song and an emotive headline. It has earned almost 1.8 million interactions since its June 18th posting date and its success cements LittleThings.com’s status as one to watch in 2016.


The Power of Sentiment

In a recent Q&A with our blog, The Dodo executive editor Kelly Burke described Facebook as “the most emotional of all social platforms”. The breakdown of 2015’s top posts reflects this, with multiple pieces of emotive and nostalgic content among the top 10. Upworthy’s piece on parenting comics is a good example. It earned 1.37 million interactions to rank fourth for the year, thereby showcasing the reach of parenting-related content on a platform whose user base skews older and older.

Parenting comics

The rich visuals lend the article an obvious appeal but its outlook and knowing humour will have struck a familiar chord with many users.

Our recent look at Christmas-themed content showed that nostalgia and list-oriented articles make for powerful bedfellows, and Pulptastic’s “17 reasons why your high school best friends will be your BFFs for life” is notable in this context. It’s easy to forget, as Facebook’s functionality continues to diversify, that its primary use for most people is as a means of keeping in touch with friends. This piece is well-placed to take advantage of that, as is FastCoExist’s article on the value of spending money on experiences instead of material possessions. These stories are thought-provoking and uplifting, and encourage users to share and reminisce with people who have shared key moments and experiences in their lives.


Science and Popular Culture

Space, for many social users, is kind of a big deal. NASA had an excellent year on social in 2015 and one of their images proved a big draw for scoopwhoop.com. The release of the largest photograph ever taken – a composite of 411 images from the Hubble Telescope – all but became an event. The image itself was so large that it was difficult to access for some users, but scoopwhoop’s use of a video breaking down the image helped spur it to some 1.09 million engagements. Pieces like this benefit from the awe-inspiring and evocative nature of the discovery and are eagerly disseminated by social users.

Poster for AMC TV series The Walking Dead

Image via Jorge Figueroa/Creative commons

Science content attracts keen general interest on Facebook, but another cultural phenom showing huge crossover appeal is perhaps less orthodox: zombies. AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead has become a social media behemoth which regularly elicits huge discussion and speculation on social networks. The show has been instrumental in pushing the zombie genre into the mainstream, something readily illustrated by the success of Fox News’ piece on a themed cruise inspired by the series. Fox have had a stellar year on social overall, but the engagement around this story – 1.5 million interactions since its June 26th publication – shows their audience responds to a lot more than just news.


Hard News

As on Twitter, there would at first appear to be a dearth of hard news pieces in the Facebook top ten for the year. However, this isn’t to say that users are unwilling to engage with news and current affairs on the platform. After all, Fox, The Guardian, and the New York Times have consistently ranked among the top publishers on Facebook this year. Rather, it may be that engagement with news content takes a more particular form.

Take for example The Blaze article listed here, an opinion piece on the often contentious issue of the minimum wage. It ranks fifth overall, but a closer look reveals that the article earned by far the most comments of any piece in the top 10.

The top ten stories on Facebook in 2015, ranked by comments

When the article is broken down, the reason many responded to it by commenting becomes clear. It’s a well-written piece but, crucially, its arguments are based on the writer’s background and experiences. This personal approach humanises the issue and makes it more accessible for many readers. In turn, several will respond by outlining their own experiences and how those have shaped their opinion. This suggests that readers may be less inclined to acknowledge a current affairs or hard news piece with a simple “like”, preferring instead to actively engage by commenting.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how these and other trends evolve on social in 2016.

* Please note that the top Facebook posts of 2015 were weighted according to shares, with likes and comments then added in. When the list is re-ordered, an August 2015 post by Hefty.co, featured in our Facebook rankings for that month, also ranks among the top Facebook posts for the year.

What trends in Facebook content did you notice in 2015? Get in touch on contact at newswhip dot com or drop us a line on Twitter.

What’s Next?

1) Sign up for a free trial of Spike, our content discovery platform. Explore the most engaging Facebook content and find new trends in real time.

2) Subscribe to our blog for updates as we go into 2016.

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