Product-focused content is shared more at Christmas than John Lewis' brand ad

Rupert Staines, European MD at RadiumOne, says Christmas blockbuster TV ads from the likes of John Lewis are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating content to drive sales. Most shared content is in fact about products - present ideas, seasonal promotions, travel deals and food recipes.

John Lewis Christmas campaign: product-focused content is shared more than big brand ads
John Lewis Christmas campaign: product-focused content is shared more than big brand ads

We conducted research asking what content people plan to share online this Christmas. Every day, 68% of Britons over 16 years old (34.5 million people), share content online an average of 1.6 times a day.

One in four sharers say they’ll up this activity for the festive season – sharing with nearly 10 people. That’s over 342 million pieces being shared in total.

Pictures (shared by 63% of sharers), present ideas (45%), videos (44%) and seasonal sales and promotions (41%) are the most popular types. Recipes (39%), wish lists (30%) and travel deals (20%) are also popular.

But why is sharing useful?

The vast majority of marketers aren’t tapping into this activity, which is surprising because sharing enables you to identify, understand and target people interested in your content, particularly the important "hand raisers" who share content which then leads to another valuable additional layer of audience – the people they share it with.

People aged 25- to 34-years-old, those earning at least £60K and people in London consistently over-index on sharing "product-type" content, for example, which reinforces what an attractive and ripe area shared content is for brands and retailers.

The Jockey Club, for example, analysed sharing behaviour to identify over 3.5 million people who interacted with their content in some way at least five times over 90 days. They targeted them for the Cheltenham Festival and saw a 12-1 ROI on ticket sales.

Where people share: dark social vs social networks

We estimate around 262 million pieces of content will be shared using our tools alone this month. In 2014, around 70% of this content was shared via dark social channels – content that can’t be measured by web analytics platforms, such as links sent via email, instant messenger platforms like WhatsApp and online forums.

In comparison, just 20% of this Christmas content shared was done via Facebook and Twitter – places brands and retailers are too pre-occupied with. They’re relatively ineffective compared to dark social’s power in harnessing shared content to reach a wider audience.

Sharing via dark social also carries more emotional weight as it’s normally done on a 1-2-1, implicit basis with family or close friends, rather than the ‘blanket’ approach on social networks.

Shopping, food & drink and travel brands, generally have the most to gain from dark social, where it accounts for 90%+ of sharing.

The busiest time for sharing

Sharing activity rises steadily as excitement around the big day builds, peaking in the week of Christmas. Its vital marketers maximise the opportunity for sharing by understanding when different demographics are most likely to be in the frame of mind to do so or what types of products peak at certain times.

For example, last year 2 December was the peak for sharing toys/gift ideas whilst food/recipe shares had three distinct peaks – 11to14 November, the last few days of November and the three days before the big day.

If retailers can seed content and ideas to tie into this, they maximise the chances of sharing and, ultimately, driving sales.

Three top tips

Understanding sharing behaviour helps marketers and planners find new audiences and improve the ROI from advertising campaigns, however, it remains scandalously under-used. To fix this, and ensure sharing works, here are my key things you need to do:

  1. Ensure you have the right plumbing in place to track all of your content to see where it goes across the open web (not just via FB and Twitter) and on what device (are you mobile ready?)
  2. Gather and activate this data in real-time – not in weeks and months because the consumer of today moves faster than ever
  3. Finally, ensure you have visibility into Dark Social – it could be that you are missing 70% of the leads available to you.

It will certainly be a Happy Christmas and Merry New Year, all year, if you can do these things.