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Published September 4th 2018

Social Engagement Around “How to” Content is Plummeting. Here’s Why You Should Be Creating It Anyway (And How)

The Brandwatch React team pulls together data from Google, BuzzSumo and Pi Datametrics to work out what value "how to" content has and the best ways to create it.

Listen or read:

“How to” content can encourage customer retention, hook in new customers and promote your solutions to widely held problems.

But crafting this kind of content isn’t easy, even if you are an expert in the area you’re creating the content about.

The Brandwatch React team decided to bring together a bunch of data sources and experts to identify how “how to” content can be most successful.

Within our research, we found four key trends:

  1. Social engagement with “how to” content is plummeting.
  2. Production of “how to” content is on the rise – it’s a saturated marketplace.
  3. There’s a clear demand for “how to” content, despite falling social engagement.
  4. Video and other visual content is the best way to approach “how to” content, but you’ve got to be smart about it.

Let’s get stuck into those trends and show you how to create “how to” content with the best chance of success in the current landscape. (Yes, this is “how to” content about “how to” content).

Trend 1: Social engagement around “how to” content is plummeting

We started looking at “how to” content using a simple Brandwatch Analytics query to see if mentions of this kind of content was on the up. It was not. Looking at the data over time, it seemed like mentions were steadily falling.

This was at odds with what we were hearing about the success of “how to” content from elsewhere, so we thought we’d look deeper.

Enlisting the help of our friends at BuzzSumo, we took a look at their data on social engagement with “how to” content back to early 2015. Things don’t look good for “how to” shares on social.

Trend 2: Production of “how to” content is on the rise

While we looked at the BuzzSumo data, we noticed something that puzzled us. While engagement was plummeting, production of “how to” content was very much growing.

You can see the upward trend here:

Given that all the social data is pointing to a lack of interest in “how to” content, it would seem that all these tutorial pieces were surplus to requirement. But that’s not true – it turns out we were only looking at half of the picture.

Trend 3: There’s a clear demand for “how to” content

While social engagement around something might be on a downward slope, demand for that thing can still be soaring.

That’s exactly the case when it comes to “how to” content.

Check out these graphs from our friends at Pi Datametrics – they show more and more searches for “how to” content on Google and on YouTube.

Brandwatch image
Brandwatch image

Trend 4: Video and visual content are the best way to impress consumers

As the above YouTube graph shows, demand is high for video content. This is backed up elsewhere, too.

In the Brandwatch Analytics data we noticed that the top-mentioned tweeter within “how to” conversation was @YouTube.

According to Think With Google, “Recent research revealed how-to videos earn the most attention of any content category on YouTube, even more than music clips or gaming.”

“How to” videos are apparently one of the main reasons people turn to YouTube.

Being smart about crafting and promoting “how to” content

What we’ve identified so far is that there is scope for your “how to” content to be popular, but that popularity probably won’t be in the form of lots of shares on social media.

Instead, “how to” content writers must take into account a variety of different things. Here we’ll include tips on choosing the subject and content, the most appropriate platform and the best kind of promotion.

Subject and content

There are two key ways you can go about planning the content of your “how to” piece – search data and social data.

Search data:

Alongside the data pulled above, Pi Datametrics were able to dig into the most searched for terms around “how to” content. Here are a few of the insights they came up with:

  • “How to” searches were dominated by trends (twerk, floss, slime, Fortnite / Fortnite dances)
  • Beauty terms weren’t as popular as we presumed they would be
  • Surprisingly, pest control terms are highly searched
  • Gaming “how to” searches peak in July 2016 on Google and Youtube, in line with the release of PokemonGo – although only a few search ‘PokemonGo’ related search terms make up this category
  • Tech searches peak higher on Google than on YouTube

By researching the common search terms relating to your industry or products, you’ll be able to work out which questions need answering most importantly in your content. Pi Datametrics’ Brand and Content Manager Louise Linehan told us:

“Search data allows you to understand what your potential customers are searching, when they are searching and what questions they are asking. Creating “how to” content around this insight gives you the opportunity to capture the attention of huge audiences, particularly during trending windows. Knowing when and for how long a trend occurs enables you to plan “how to” content and sales activity at exactly the right time.”

Social listening:

Search data is one way to work out what problems consumers are searching for solutions for, but social is another. Between 18 May and 27 August we found 4 million mentions of “how to” on Twitter that included a question mark at some point in the tweet, and this was excluding retweets. That’s a whole lot of curiosity that could be answered with “how to” content.

You don’t just need to analyze questions to find good subjects for “how to” content – simply looking at negative mentions around your product, industry or competitors can help you identify the questions or issues that need the most urgent answers. By looking at the actual words consumers are using, content can be specifically tailored to each of the problems and verbatim questions they might be searching for answers to.

Regardless of what you’re creating a tutorial for, make sure your content is high quality and truly valuable. Wasting people’s time will not get you anywhere.

Platform or media

We also spoke to Heidi Cohen who writes Actionable Marketing Guide. She said “how to” content is important for both prospects and customers and that visual content is best:

“While “how To” content can take a variety of formats, it’s most useful when it includes actionable product support such as recipes and patterns as well as videos and photographs that show users what to do step-by-step.
From a distribution perspective, use YouTube and Pinterest to attract searchers who need your help. Further, use post-purchase emails and other communications to guide customers to the support they need.”

Whatever media you decide to use (written, static images, videos), make sure it’s the one that is most useful for the people searching for it – consider what situation they might be in when they are searching for how to do something, and what kind of device they might be searching on.


No matter how good your “how to” content is, if you don’t promote it in the correct way you’re not going to get the results it deserves.

Again, take into account where and how a person might be looking for content that solves their problem. Ensure that your content is front and centre when they need it by optimizing it for search and making it easy to find on your website or social channels.

Meanwhile, break your audience down into different personas and make sure your content is suitable for each of them. If you’re looking to attract customers, you might want to promote your how to content to people who you know will have problems your product or service can solve. If you’re looking to improve customer retention, perhaps emailing them or including new tutorials in company newsletters is the way to go.

The benefits of “how to” content are obvious, but getting it just right can be challenging. With the above tips, hopefully you’ll be on the way to making customers and prospects happy and enjoying the rewards.

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