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  • January 3, 2014

Upworthy’s Top Takeaways For Creating Viral Content

Joel Rothman
Senior Product Consultant

Upworthy has been called the “fastest growing media company in the world”. Started in March 2012, it now has 87 million monthly views and ranks as the 114th most popular site in the US, ahead of popular content companies such as businessinsider.com and time.com. How have they risen so quickly? Here are some tips every content marketer can learn from to support viral content:

1. Use social networks to find content people are already talking about. Upworthy looks at social networks to see what information is being talked about. They care more about quality then being first or fastest. They might take a video that has 1 million views, reword the title and drive 17 times the traffic

 2. Optimize content for sites that are driving the most traffic. Upworthy has dedicated its resources almost completely to optimizing for Facebook, even at the expense of their website.

“Honestly, I think part of [our success with it] is we take Facebook much more seriously than many of the other social networks,” said CEO and co-founder Eli Pariser, in a BusinessInsider article. “I love Twitter, and Twitter is a fun place to hang out with smart people, but it's a small fraction of our traffic compared to Facebook.”

3. Content must be shareable AND clickable. As this Upworthy presentation on SlideShare notes, it’s not good enough to have content that people want to share or click. It needs to do both. “If people click and don’t share, you lose. If people share, but their friends don’t click, you lose..It doesn’t matter how good your content is. If you don’t make it compelling enough to click and share, no one will know it exists.”

Upworthy also notes that it is way easier to optimize the clickability then the shareability.

5. Remember that your audience already likes you. The same presentation notes, “Your audience will share your stuff. It’s their friends that you really have to focus on. If their friends who haven’t heard of you share, you have a way better shot t viral gold. So your content better appeal to them.”

6. Write 25 titles. Most people spend a ton of time on content, and very little on the title. The title is what grabs people. The main recommendation that Upworthy gives time and again is to make 25 titles. One of the inspirations for upworthy was when the identical video was posted with 2 titles:
“Zach Wahls speaks about family” – 1 million views

“Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is What They Got” – 17 million views

Check out Upworthy’s headline writing rules

-          Don’t give it all away in the headline

-          Also, don’t give it all away in the excerpt, the share image, or the share text

-          Don’t be shrill. Don’t form an opinion for the end user. Let them do that

-          Don’t bum people out

-          Don’t sexualize your headlines in a way your mom wouldn’t approve

-          And don’t over think it. Some of your headlines will suck. Accept it and keep writing

-          Lastly, be clever. But not TOO clever

-          Optimizing for Social is different than optimizing for search. Search wants proper nouns. Social wants intrigue.

-          “If your boss wants their logo on Facebook shares, tell them to find a new digital director who can make people care more about logos than kittens”

Where do you find inspiration for creating viral headlines and social content?

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