Earlier this month, Upworthy, a site that curates irresistibly sharable content, announced that it received $8 million in funding from Spark Capital, Catamount Ventures, Uprising, and the Knight Foundation. Impressive as that is though, the news of its latest infusion of funds is just one out of the many, many achievements of this online media company.
In just 18 months, Upworthy grew its traffic from one million in the first month, to 30 million unique monthly views in a little over a year. At present, the site averages over 20 million monthly visitors, and claims more visitors than TMZ, People.com or Entertainment Weekly.
On top of that, Upworthy has garnered nearly 5 million email subscribers and its Facebook page currently has around 3.2 million Likes.
To rack up those numbers in just 18 months is truly impressive by any standard.
But perhaps the greatest achievement of Upworthy is that it went on to prove that meaningful content about social and political issues can in fact, go viral. The site isnt about meaningless cat videos or snarky gossip stories about the latest scandal. All the videos, stories, and infographics curated by Upworthy pertain to serious issues surrounding categories such as immigration, military, health care, LGBT, and more.
And as its recent blog post pointed out, Upworthy doesnt just reel in the page views, the site also manages to spark real action:
Seventeen million of you saw the story of Zach Sobiech's heartbreaking last months " and then helped contribute over $300,000 to his cancer charity. When we found this amazing video about GoldieBlox, a toy set that encourages girls to become engineers, you didnt just watch and share " you went out and bought 23,000 of them in two days. Now GoldieBlox is one of the top toys in Toys R Us. And youre lifting up the stories of people like Alice Guy-Blach, a cinema pioneer whose contributions were in danger of being forgotten. In just two days, you donated more than $80,000 to filmmakers who can now create a documentary about her life and impact.
What it has to do with you
By now youre probably thinking, Thats great for Upworthy and all, but what does it have to do with me?
Heres what: Every social media manager and online marketer can pick up a ton of lessons from Upworthy. The media company teaches us that you dont always have to resort to snark or mindless humor to get attention.
Beyond that though, its also best to take a look at the actions behind Upworthys success. How does it manage to turn serious issues into viral and sharable stories? Lets look at some of the sites tactics and see how you can apply them to your own online campaigns:
Upworthy definitely gets a lot of attention but it didnt do that all on its own. In a PandoDaily story earlier this year, Eli Pariser said that they put in a lot of effort to get influential individuals to help spread the content. As an example, he mentioned that George Takei (who now around 4.5 million Likes on Facebook) sends over 20,000 people to the site whenever he shares something from Upworthy.
How much effort do you put in when it comes to approaching the influencers in your niche? If you answered not much then perhaps its time to start ramping up your outreach efforts to the big players in your market. Build relationships with them and keep publishing awesome and relevant content. If your stuff truly adds value to their audience, then they could just help you spread the word.
Write irresistible headlines
Headlines play a huge role in the success of Upworthys stories. As PandoDaily noted, its curators apparently put a lot of effort into that task, writing as many as 25 different headlines for every piece of content before ultimately deciding on a winner.
Make every headline count. Strive to write compelling and irresistible headlines for your content to maximize clickability. Remember that your headlines should tell users why they should click on it, and why they should do it now. When coming up with titles, always ask yourself, When my audience sees this on Twitter will they click on it?
Make use of prominent social sharing buttons
Never underestimate the power of social media buttons. One of the reasons why Upworthy posts are so sharable is because every piece of content comes with prominent social media links. Youll find Twitter and Facebook buttons on top, below, and on the side of each post.
The site always makes it a point to remind people to share their content, and you know what, you should, too. Make sure that the social media buttons on your site are as user-friendly and obvious as possible.
Also encourage people to share your content by actually telling them to do it. Dont be afraid to spell out your desired call to action. Adding a CTA at the end of your posts or videos can increase comments, engagement, and shares. Additionally, several studies have shown that adding Please Retweet on Twitter really does increase RTs.
Grab every opportunity to build your list
Every piece of content that Upworthy shares comes with an invitation to join its mailing list. Sure, the pop-up window may annoy some users, but it seems to be working for the site, considering that it now has nearly five million subscribers.
Once again, its all about spelling it out to your audience.
How are you inviting people to subscribe to your newsletter? If youre only doing it on your homepage, then consider extending it to other pages on your site. Remember that visitors dont always land on the homepage of your site; a lot of users can discover your website by clicking through a blog post, so be sure to have an opt-in form whenever you publish a new article.
And you dont always have go through the pop-out route. Consider adding opt-in boxes either on top or below the post, or add a permanent form on the side bar.