LONDON: Two thirds of content is shared because the sharer either finds it to have practical value or to somehow reflect well on their own person, according to a new report which advises a 'layered' approach to content marketing.

In Content Marketing and Data Intelligence, published by the Content Marketing Association (CMA), Ben McKay, managing director/MEC Organic Performance, outlined the results of an MEC Citation Audit. This identified the top 50 most shared pages for a range of sectors before analysing these on a range of factors – page type, on-page content format, motivation for sharing – and looking for correlations among the data-set.

The most shared content was found to be editorial (27%) – typically how-to content or guides – CSR/charitable material (20%) and news (17%). All these, McKay noted, "typically serve a larger audience online and a particular need".

Turning to format, once again editorial led the way, featuring in 37% of shared content, followed by images such as memes, photos, infographics (33%), and video (25%).

The shelf-life of editorial is a major contributor towards this statistic, according to McKay who observed that a lot of the most-shared content could be regarded as "evergreen".

"It also raises the question as to whether brands are measuring this sort of ROI around their evergreen content investments," he added.

Motivations for sharing were led by practical value (35%) and there was also a correlation with how long such content had been on the web.

After that "personal branding", or how a person chooses to represent themselves online, was a factor in 31% of sharing. "This feels like a very powerful area for brands to influence," McKay suggested.

Brand 'stories' (5%) featured lowest, although "further analysis tells us that stories act as a sort of glue, giving you purpose to create content," said McKay.

He argued that a Citation Audit could act as a pillar for informing content strategy and "help draw more long-term value from a growing expense to the average business".

And he stressed that brands need to "layer" their approach rather than simply focus on the most-shared area: "Being too literal with just one pool of insight will never help win a marketing or content war."

Data sourced from CMA; additional content by Warc staff