NEW YORK: Almost all engagement with unpaid social media updates is focused on just 1% of posts, a new study has found.

SocialFlow, a social media optimisation platform, analysed 1.6m non-paid social media posts across Twitter, Facebook and Google+, for its report Data Drives Social Performance. These reached a total of 361m users and generated nearly 1.5 billion social actions, but 99% of the posts generated little to no engagement.

Even among the remaining 1%, most of the Likes, retweets, shares and comment came in the last 0.5%.

It was not a surprise that media and entertainment companies featured heavily in this top group, since their entire business is based around the dissemination of information and entertainment designed to engage consumers.

Marketers in other industry verticals could still achieve success, however, through the creation of more posts that were only modestly successful, the report suggested.

"The massive scale of the most successful 1% of posts makes everything else look small by comparison," Jim Anderson, CEO of SocialFlow, told VentureBeat.

Anderson added that this was not really the issue. "To use a television analogy, most every show's ratings look weak if you compare them to the Super Bowl," he explained. "But that doesn't mean that everyone else should just give up on creating great programming – and the same is true with social."

The report argued that media and entertainment companies were best placed to utilise real-time marketing on social media and that other industries needed to consider using a data-driven approach to social publishing, rather than the scheduled posts that most currently employ.

Its findings showed that data-driven posts delivered 91% greater reach and 25% greater engagement than scheduled posts. This was partly because companies were able to publish more content and partly because they were able to better match posts to the type of content the audience was already engaging with.

Organic social publishing should be as data-driven as the rest of a business's marketing, the report concluded.

Data sourced from SocialFlow, VentureBeat; additional content by Warc staff