Forbes’ Most Viral Content, And Who’s Responsible For It (Including A Full List Of Contributors)

26 mins read

Most marketers will agree that Forbes is one of the most influential business magazines/websites in the industry. According to SimilarWeb’s data, Forbes is in the 2nd place in the Magazine and Ezines category, attracting over 120 million monthly readers. So, if your business has been established just recently, and your reputation and brand recognition are still in the works, the thought of being featured on Forbes has surely crossed your mind. And even if your brand has been around for a while, I guarantee you that our research findings are worth your time.

Most marketers will agree that Forbes is one of the most influential business magazines/websites in the industry. According to SimilarWeb’s data, Forbes is in the 2nd place in the Magazine and Ezines category, attracting over 120 million monthly readers.

So, if your business has been established just recently, and your reputation and brand recognition are still in the works, the thought of being featured on Forbes has surely crossed your mind. And even if your brand has been around for a while, I guarantee you that our research findings are worth your time.

Gaining traction in the media is, by all means, vital for your brand, but you’re delusional if you think that influencers are going to reach out to you and start raving about your product. The goal of your company is mentioned in high-profile online outlets is ambitious, but not unthinkable. The results can be very satisfying: your brand visibility increases, your reputation in your industry strengthens, web traffic keeps growing, more people want to follow your business page, and potential investors express their interest in your product.

Would you like to see your brand featured in Forbes contributor’s content? Consider reading this article in its entirety. Because we’ve got some interesting insights for you.

Let’s dive right in.

Alexander Storozhuk, founder and board member of PRNEWS, is accepted to Forbes Business Council

 In an attempt to find Forbes’ most popular content and its top contributors, we analyzed more than 39,000 posts that were published on Forbes in 2017. More importantly, we also researched the most trending topics and the best ways to pitch your ideas to Forbes contributors.

But that’s not all. Our research also contains a list of names and contact details of all current Forbes contributors that is nicely categorized based on the topics they cover. This list is the product of dozens of hours of informational research we put in to help you with your professional endeavors!

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Posts on Forbes don’t get more than 1,404 social signals

After we ran our analysis, we found out that a post’s average number of social signals is somewhere about 1,404.

However, don’t get excited too quickly. Despite such an impressive number of social signals that surpasses 1,000 shares, 73% of posts aren’t that popular. That’s why we can conclude that only 27% of content pieces can rest on their laurels, the rest of the posts are pretty mediocre.  

Why? The reason for that could be the fact that Forbes primarily focuses on delivering B2B content. Buzzfeed.com, a leading independent digital media company delivering news and entertainment with 80% of its reach being outside BuzzFeed’s websites, publishes posts covering trending topics that become a lot more viral. BuzzSumo, a tool for content marketing analysis, reports that the average number of shares across all social media channels on Buzzfeed is 3,5 times higher than it is on Forbes. This number has been calculated based on the analysis of 83,315 posts on Forbes and 137,195 articles on Buzzfeed published in 2017.

BuzzSumo Report: The Most Viral Content

Additionally, there’s research by BuzzSumo that also confirms that going viral requires a lot of time and effort. They analyzed 1 million posts and discovered that 50% of them have less than eight social shares. Judging by these numbers, it’s safe to say that it’s much harder for B2B content to become trending compared to any other type of story.  

For those of you who want to see exactly how many posts surpassed 1,000 shares, and how many of them can boast of scoring 10,000 shares, this distribution has been made for you:

  • 265 posts received more than 20,000 social signals
  • 417 posts received from 20,000 to 10,000 social signals
  • 933 posts received from 10,000 to 5,000 social signals
  • 1,339 posts received from 3,000 to 5,000 social signals
  • 7,585 posts received from 1,000 to 3,000 social signals
  • 28,571 posts received less than 1,000 social signals

In other words, less than 1% of all posts have been shared more than 20,000 times. However, Forbes’s performance is an absolute high in the industry. According to BuzzSumo, Enterprenuer.com has even fewer posts that demonstrate an outstanding virality:

Forbes vs BuzzFeed posts virality comparison

What you can learn by looking at posts with over 20,000 social shares

We decided to take a closer look at the posts that gained more than 20,000 social signals to find out what kind of topic guarantees a post’s virality. Based on the total number of social shares, the most popular topics are Leadership, Politics, and Investing. Interestingly enough, there are 59 posts on Leadership, while Politics has been covered in only 7 articles. No doubt, posts about politics can resonate with a much broader audience than posts about leadership that interests a more specific audience. Also, more generic topics like Politics seem to generate more social signals on Facebook where people are more likely to engage with content that discusses their daily lives (politics is a part of people’s daily life). That’s why we believe that Forbes’ top posts about Politics have an astounding 89% of social signals on Facebook, while leadership gets merely 50%.

Basically, it means that if you can come up with a topic that would have a touch of politics or social life, but keep the conversation within the focus of your business, then the chances of your content piece to go viral increase dramatically.

For example, here’s a post by Adam Andrzejewski who integrated data from his research in his article. He created an interactive map that demonstrates the gap between salaries in the public sector in comparison with any other sector. These data caused a resonance, as civil servants pay wages at the expense of taxpayers.

Who are the most popular authors, and what can I learn from them?

Ideally, success goes hand in hand with expertise and likeability. Sometimes, it’s about likeability. People tend to surround themselves with people they like. Whether it is their personality, their vibe, or their competence, some of the Forbes contributors got it all figured out.

We created a table containing the names of the most popular Forbes authors whose articles were able to score the highest number of social signals. Why should you care about these names, you ask? If any of these guys mention your brand in one of their posts, you’re golden ― your brand awareness and credibility will shoot up!

Author NameNumber of postsNumber of social sharesCategory
Liz Ryan6364685786Leadership
Alfred Konuwa1971172994Sport
Gordon Kelly281964789Tech
Panos Mourdoukoutas208643007Markets
Contributor Group253626028Science
Scott Mendelson473614506Media & Entertainment
Dan Alexander37608589Forbes Staff
Hugh McIntyre189520376Media & Entertainment
Niall McCarthy122520326Business
Bernard Marr137505289Tech

Based on the total number of articles published, Liz Ryan is the leading author on Forbes with 636 posts under her belt. I’d like to mention that some authors created a lot fewer articles than others, but in the end, their articles managed to attract nearly the same number of social shares as the articles of those authors who published 4-5 times more. If you look at the results of Scott Mendelson’s work, you’ll see that consists of 473 posts that earned him more than 600k shares. Then there’s Dan Alexander who wrote only 37 posts. However, Dan is a Forbes employee, so his posts have higher visibility than posts written by other Forbes contributors.

The most active Forbes contributor Liz Ryan writes about leadership. She delivered 637 posts in 2017, creating more than 2 posts a day. Looks like being a leader truly requires you to live up to the hype.

I got really intrigued by Liz Ryan’s posts because she is one of the most popular authors. So I decided to analyze the titles of her posts as well. Here’s what I found out:

  1. Write list-based posts. The best ones contain ten or five items. I’ve discovered that list-based posts that mention the number ‘ten’ were written 160 times, and those with the number ‘five’ were delivered 88 times.
  2. ‘How-to’s’ still work very well. In our case, 100 articles have the word ‘how’ in them.
  3. Posts that tell you to “never ever do something”. There are 30 of those.
  4. Create articles that share “ways to” do something. I found 25 of them.

In case you want to run a title analysis for articles belonging to a specific author, then here’s what you should do. Go to BuzzSumo and export the list of URLs. Then sort the list by author’s name. For example, here’s how Liz Ryan’s list of URLs looks like: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan

After that, you’ll see a list of posts that were created by a specific contributor. You have an option of exporting this list:BuzzSumo Report: The Most Viral Content

Then, copy the column with the posts’ titles and paste it into this tool. That’s it!

What topics are the most popular on Forbes?

Our research has shown that even though most viral posts are dedicated to politics, leadership, and sports, the overall theme is still business-oriented. We can also conclude that the more trendy a subject is, the harder it is to pitch it to Forbes contributors because you’re going to end up being number 101 in line. With that being said, we believe that it makes sense to get inspired by stories within less competitive fields, but attempt to match them with one of the categories of highly demanded content.  

Still don’t have a clue about what keeps people glued to their screens? Feast your eyes on the top 10 content categories on Forbes based on the number of published posts:

  1. Tech
  2. Leadership
  3. Entrepreneurs
  4. Investing
  5. Business
  6. Media & Entertainment
  7. Lifestyle
  8. Asia
  9. Pharmaceutical industry & Healthcare
  10. Opinion

And here’s another interesting discovery that should take advantage of. By clicking on each category, you’ll be directed to a list of authors who write about the subject, specifying their contact information such as social media profiles and email addresses. Statistics in the table below show the number of authors in each category and how many posts have been published within a certain field:

CategoryNumber of postsNumber of Authors 
Media & Entertainment190072
Pharma & Healthcare116057

As I expected, there are a lot more authors writing about leadership and entrepreneurs than any other subject. These categories also have the highest percentage of contributors (20%) who were only published once. The number isn’t dramatically high, but it tells us that there’s a big crowd of entrepreneurs who were interested in being featured on Forbes to get their names out there. After they got what they wanted, they’re no longer interested in contributing to Forbes.

If creating content that people love is your top priority, then here’s a full list of all categories sorted by their popularity level (e.g. the number of posts), as well as names and contact details of authors that contribute to these subjects. By clicking on any subject, you’ll be directed to a list of contributors who write about these topics:

Media & Entertainment
Pharmaceutical industry & Healthcare
Sports Money
Personal Finance
CMO Network
Under 30
Logistics & Transportation
Food & Agriculture
Style & Design
Arts & Entertainment
Digital Money
Reinventing America
Real Estate
Food & Drink
World Affairs
Thought Leaders
Advisor Network
Cars & Bikes
Sports & Leisure
Forbes Asia
Social Entrepreneurs
Intelligent Investing
Economics & Finance
State & Urban

Pitching your ideas to Forbes contributors

So you’re looking at a detailed list of names and emails of people who paved their way into Forbes and became popular contributors. Now what? That’s a great question! Even though the list is broken down into categories these authors cover, even though you now have their contact information, nothing is promised. There’s no guarantee that your pitch will be successfully picked up by a contributor who’s hammering away at his own content plan.

That’s why we asked contributors from reputable blogs to share their expertise as to who can give you better ideas rather than those who are receiving tons of messages on a daily basis.

Joe Escobedo

Joe-Escobedo.com | Forbes contributor covering digital marketing & PR in Asia

Firstly, at least know the name of the journalist/editor you’re reaching out to, along with what they write about. This sounds like common sense but 99.9% of the people who pitch to me fail to do this. Dig deeper and try to find out their “most popular” pieces. By doing so, you can reverse engineer your pitch so it matches their top pieces. For example, if I wrote an article on “The 8 Most Inspiring Pieces Of Branded Content In 2017,” perhaps you could message me towards the end of the year and tell me that you’ve got a great list of “The 10 Most Inspiring Pieces Of Branded Content In 2018.” See the difference? From “dear editor” to “here’s what will help drive traffic for you.

Matt Garrett

Forbes, House Money Studios | Video Producer, Editor, Digital Content Creator

Be clear about your intentions in your opening e-mail. I’ve received several cold e-mails from people asking if I would be willing to cover “their client,” intentionally withholding who their client is.

Please don’t do this. I’m not going to start a long back-and-forth prying the necessary info from someone pitching me. Tell me all of the basic information in the opening e-mail so I can respond accordingly. It spares everyone’s time.

Edyta Kowal

Prowly | Strategic content marketing and social media professional with more than 5 years of PR, social media, marketing communications, and media/editorial experience.

Take time to get to know the editor you pitch, their beat, what they are interested in and the types of sources they look for. Remember: the only way to get journalists’ attention is to HELP them: notice what journalist covers – the story has to be useful for them, so pay attention to what they need. If you don’t know what it is, don’t hesitate to ask and help them get it, as fast as you can.

Ryan Robinson

Ryrob.com | Entrepreneur, and writer that teaches 200,000 monthly readers how to grow a profitable side business on his blog. He also contributes to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Business Insider, and other publications.

The biggest mistake I see writers make when pitching their content to publications like Forbes is trying to reach out directly to editors. When you take that approach, you’re just another drop in the bucket—these editors get hundreds (if not thousands) of email pitches every single day from people just like you who want to get published on Forbes. You have to differentiate yourself in more ways than just the content of your email pitch. So, instead of doing what 99% of other writers do when trying to get published on Forbes, choose to take a unique approach. Invest time into building relationships with existing contributors—provide value to them by mentioning their content on social media, linking to it from your blog, quoting them in your articles, and doing what you can to build up some goodwill before asking for anything in return. Once you’ve spent weeks or months building an actual real relationship based on value with a few existing contributors to sites like Forbes, you can make your ask for an introduction to their editor if it’s a good fit. Editors are much more receptive to onboarding new contributors that come recommended by people who’ve already “passed the test” and made it onto the platform. I regularly do this for friends and talented writers who take the time to build relationships with me, and I can promise it’ll give you a stronger chance of becoming a contributor than cold emailing editors with an outreach template they’ve seen twenty times that day.

Clark Boyd

Candid Digital | Digital Marketing Consultant

Here are a couple of tips I find helpful when I’m pitching my ideas:

Support your idea with data. From a reporter’s perspective, anything that can substantiate the rationale for an article is hugely beneficial. Marketers can identify a topic with rising demand, find similar content that has performed well on a competitor site, or highlight opportunities to rank for high-volume search terms. Then explain why their content will be better than anything else out there on the topic.

Supply something original. If you can provide access to findings that will be exclusive to that publisher, they will be much more receptive to the idea. Statistics from a study or data from a survey can be very convincing hooks when pitching an article.

Put the publication’s audience first. It will be clear to any publication what the value exchange is for the writer; the latter will produce the content and will get some exposure by having it hosted on a reputable site. Therefore, the onus is on the writer to prove that this is mutually beneficial. Marketers should foreground the benefits that the audience will gain by reading the content, whether that is entertainment, information, or stimulating debate.

Alice G. Walton, PhD

Alicegwalton.com | Forbes Contributor

I’d say personalize it as much as possible — it’s very clear when a PR or marketing person has read your work and not. So make sure not only that the story is really a good match for the writer, but also that the email shows that you’ve read the person’s work and if possible reference it (and make sure the writer hasn’t already covered the story!).

In Conclusion

We embarked on a journey of an extensive analysis of some 39,000 articles published on Forbes to help you tap into readers’ interests and needs. It appeared, that only a mind-boggling 1% of posts are shared more than 20,000 times. But we are still hopeful because this kind of performance is still the highest in the industry, and you can learn a thing or two from those few successful posts. For instance, talk about things that people deal with or discuss on a daily basis, like politics or social life. We also took a closer look at why popular Forbes contributors are doing so well and dissected each and every post they published. Even the titles didn’t go unnoticed, and we were able to find out what it takes for a title to draw the reader’s attention. But don’t let the buzz blur your vision, seek inspiration in less competitive categories. And never stop learning from experts like the ones who were kind enough to let us in on their professional secrets.

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