The most popular stories of 2016 on Social Media

The most popular stories of 2016 on Social Media

Was 2016 really that bad? Or have we misremembered it all?

As is customary, it’s the time of year to take a look back at the events that flooded our Facebook feeds over the last twelve months. 2016 was notable perhaps for being the year when extremely popular content, widely shared and engaged with, was completely absent from many people’s newsfeeds. Polarisation along political lines combined with the US Presidential election created a huge division in terms of what liberals and conservatives were being served on Facebook.

It was the year that Facebook established itself as the mainstream platform in the minds of many journalists, as the percentage of traffic it drove to news sites continued to increase. Facebook may not be the cool platform, but it’s clearly the dominant one.

Of course, some stories were so big they crossed over and became truly viral. So hold on to your hats as we hold our collective breath and blast through some of the biggest articles, videos and events that have shaped our year on social media in the US and the UK, month by month.












After snowstorm in Washington, only female senators turned up to work.

Satirical article from New Yorker about ‘Idiots for Trump’ heralds the future divide between Democrats and Republicans. Worth looking at for the Facebook comments alone, eye opening.

Anti Refugee rhetoric was strong at the start of 2016.

Donald Trump claims, with one of many future controversial comments, that support for his Presidential campaign would not decline even if he shot someone in the middle of a crowded street.

Actor Alan Rickman died, one of many celebrity deaths to come in the rest of the year. 

Back in January, people were feeling the Bern.

On the less miserable side – some of the more lighthearted stories that were spread around furiously on Facebook:

Panda plays in snow after US snowstorms


Policeman called to break up young kids playing basketball in the street, joins them for a game instead.

Lego unveils first minifigure in a wheelchair.


Huffington Post vs Trump heats up with a scathing open letter.

US Professor predicts 97%+ chance of Trump victory if Trump wins Republican nomination – how accurate this turned out to be!

British man stops drug dealer in the most British way possible

JK Rowling announces Harry Potter book 8

Woman pulls cop over for speeding – yes you read that right.






Here we see the rise of Breitbart happening, painting Hillary Clinton as a very bad type indeed:

Lady dyes her dogs’ fur to look like Pandas – of course, because why wouldn’t you?

Fan sticks out arm and saves a boy’s face from being crushed by baseball bat:

Edible eating utensils, because who doesn’t like eating a spoon after finishing all the ice cream?

Eddie Izzard completes 27 marathons in 27 days – phew!


Unfortunately not an April Fool as Prince died:

Luckily, the Queen didn’t and Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday.

The most popular post on social media in the UK came from The Guardian and is also death-related: it’s about the reality of mothers dying

Great news everyone! Facebook launches Live Video globally, meaning we all got to collectively witness the death of a watermelon at the hands of many elastic bands, thanks Mark…

This story about working Moms having more successful kids was the most popular general news post on social media in the US in April. 


With spring well under way, we celebrate the sun with this very popular story from the Independent about killing animals: Denmark banning kosher and halal slaughter, to be more precise.

Fox’s tribute photo to a fallen US Navy Seal was the most popular piece of content under General News in the US.

On a lighter tone, May brought us Obama’s mic drop at the final correspondent’s dinner, and the Eurovision song contest – aka the day that Americans don’t understand any of the tweets in their Twitter stream – was won by Jamala from Ukraine.









June 23 was the Brexit vote – shall we stop here? Just kidding, there was loads of good news! It was also when the European Football Championships started (10th June-10th July fact fans), where we saw Iceland do their scary dance and even win some matches.

At the end of June, Facebook announced changes to the News Feed that would prioritise friends & family posts. Unfortunately, combined with Brexit this gave many British people another reason to hate their in-laws.  

The tragic Orlando Nightclub Shooting occured...

…which prompted this extremely popular article (over 500k shares) that visualised gun deaths and mass shootings in the US in an astonishingly effective way: 1000 Mass Shootings in the US over the past 1260 days visualised

More high profile celebrity death news as Muhammed Ali passes Away.


Differences in sentencing, reporting style and terms applied in the media to different races were brought into focus through terrorist acts and the high profile rape case of Brock Turner.

It wasn’t all bad news though, as we learned that cats get brainfreeze too:


And finally: Police Officer in UK proposes to his boyfriend at Pride Festival


The dangers of Pokemon Go were being trumpeted by the media. Parents blamed the game, readers blamed the parents, but everyone got out and walked around for a bit at least…

Teen crosses dangerous highway playing Pokemon Go

Teens used Pokemon Go to rob others

Breitbart hammering Hillary Clinton got a whopping 281k shares on this photo, moving them into mainstream territory – not many achieve this level of engagement.

Melania Trump plagarises Michelle Obama’s speech

In the Aftermath of Brexit, David Cameron moves out of Number 10 – BBC Live Video

Truck terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day

Philando Castille shot dead in car by Police Officer, passenger inside the car starts livestreaming to Facebook.

In fact there were many articles covering the rising tensions caused by Police behaviour over July.

This month is looking pretty bad!

Here’s a scrap of good news to help save it before we move on swiftly: Starbucks opens first store staffed by deaf people


Worried about the world’s most powerful news editor being labelled as a media company, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg ditches all real people and tells robots to sort out trending news, with mixed results – fake news start spreading fast on the platform

Interestingly, top posts in August were not about the summer Olympics, but instead about a child being born in Aleppo, good sportsmanship between young football players, and a guy climbing the Trump Tower.

After that though, pretty much ALL OLYMPICS.

North & South Korea Selfie.

Man Climbs Trump Tower using suction cups – Live on Facebook (of course). 

Iranian Woman wins Olympic Medal for the first time

Land based Merman Michael Phelps breaks 2000 year old Olympic record. 

This boy from Syria:

Even the good news was sad: Woman walked down the aisle by man who received her father’s donated heart


Every one of the Top 10 stories from news publishers was a native video. 

Finnish education system got a mention

The First Presidential Debate happened, who won? Both sides apparently, does it even matter now?


SpaceX Explosion on launch

Colin Kaepernick doesn’t stand for National Anthem

School Bus Driver saves 20 kids from fire

On to OCTOBER then:

Grandson orders Pizza after Hurricane to check on Grandma. “Police & Fire couldn’t do it, but Papa Johns was there in 30 minutes.”

Baby with crazy hair goes viral.

Horror Scene discovered by hiker in forest on Long Island

Breitbart hits 211k Shares – just saying. 

Hey, that wasn’t too bad!


November was dominated by the US Presidential election of course, where America lent their support to the Brexit situation by putting all the world’s focus onto them. 

People went from out of touch (remember all those Breitbart posts?) to disbelief. Live polls looked like this:


Boy was that wrong!

The most popular post was the video of Ellen DeGeneres getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom! A few sources posted that one and did extremely well, but the most popular was from Channel 4

Bumper to bumper traffic in LA made for a wonderfully festive and jolly looking scene of environmental destruction.

Huffington Post doubled down on their Anti Trump coverage and posted this gif which was shared by no less that 17 different publishers all around the world:

That’s it for November. It was mainly people being really really sad about the election results. Interestingly, these kind of posts were a lot more popular than celebratory posts welcoming in the new President Elect.


And here we are. What a year…

Fox News fans were REALLY REALLY happy about Colin Kaepernick playing really badly.

The world finally focused on Aleppo, where things are so bad the children have stopped crying.

At least the Dakota Pipeline idea was scrapped.

Carrie Fisher died.


…and then so did her Mum about a day later.

A man punched a kangaroo in the face.

“The Last Supper” shaved into your head.

A New Yorker Cartoon.

Arctic Ice is disappearing.

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.

Explosion in Fireworks market in Mexico.

George Michael died.

Look, I’m trying here ok – it can’t be all bad news, can it? Most publications in December tend to dredge up their most popular stories of the year – which haven’t all been very happy. So sorry to leave you on a bad note, no, wait look at this – the perfect popular story that brings us wonderfully full circle (remember January’s Panda story?):

Panda plays with snowman:

Pandas, eh? Bringing us all together. And Sky News the same publisher, AND the pandas aren’t even endangered anymore.

Happy holidays everyone!