(Reuters) – Republican Senator Rand Paul said on Sunday he is giving serious thought to a run for the presidency in 2016 but might decide against it because of the burden a campaign would cause for his family.
Confession: I used to look down on anyone who thought they could create “viral” content for the web—like they knew the magic secret for making something so contagious that millions would share it. Oh, yes, you want to make your new music video thingy go viral…of course you do.
However, in the last few months my perspective has changed. I think it’s actually possible to create content with high viral potential. Not due to lectures or complex principles, but due to a tested editorial strategy that I’ve seen work, firsthand.
In early September, we launched a new social media sharing website, gleaning from the masters at Upworthy.com, BuzzFeed.com, Mashable.com and other like-minded sites, and it changed the way I think about viral content. Why? Well, in just one month we’ve achieved what took us years with other sites within our company. In short, we received 5.8 million unique visitors—more than the population of Colorado—in under two months, and grew our Facebook fan base to over 100K. We spent months on the backend strategy and development, but once we launched the site took off faster than anything else we’ve started. One key difference: we changed the way we look at social media, studied the psychology of sharing and refined our vision for content curation.I’d like to offer what we’ve learned—and are learning—with these 10 tips for creating viral content.
An important note: (he humbly demurs) most of these tips have been learned from the shared knowledge base of others. I tried to cite them within each point with supporting links. Although, what makes these tips unique and personal is how we’ve applied them along with the results we’re experiencing early in the launch process.
1. It’s all about content—kind of.
At Upworthy.com, their formula for viral content goes like this:
Virality = strength of the applicability of content and packaging x shareability of original content x size of distribution + luck.
In this formula there are three things you can work on and control and one you cannot. You can work hard to find or create great content; you can work hard on packaging that content with the best headline, image, abstract; you can work hard on expanding your distribution size (email list, Facebook fan page, etc.)—but you cannot create your own luck.
So. Work hard on the things you can control and make sure every piece of content is packaged for viral potential. Stay consistent over time and luck will inevitably strike. Unless you stink at it. In that case, it will not.
Sometimes the content we think will catch on like a virus ends up falling flat and other pieces that we’ve worked hard on—but didn’t expect much out of—will go crazy. One story we featured from the archives went viral as a total surprise. It was a big connect with an international audience that we didn’t see coming.
Finding great content is where it all begins, but the packaging and distribution really matter. And there’s luck. You need luck.
Sara Critchfield, Upworthy’s editorial director, says it well in this short video. (It looks like it was shot in the 80s, but it’s recent and it’s so good.) In it, Critchfield says:
Social media is about socially defining ourselves to other people … there has to be some kind of opinion or point of view, some way to define who you are or else people aren’t going to share your content.
Stop thinking about Facebook as a marketing tool and think about it more like a conversation at a party. What makes something easy to pass on? It’s shared by someone you respect and value—maybe even someone you look up to. We don’t share content on social media just because it’s good content, we share it because it says something unique about us—who we are and what we value.
We share content because we believe the people in our social circles will appreciate that content… AND… don’t ever forget this part… appreciate us for sharing.
This is the new way of shareable content—curating something that’s meant to be passed on, not just consumed.
3. Find a way to test. Even if it’s messy. Because it will be.
Testing headlines on social media is tricky business. There’s not a clear-cut way to make A/B testing work so you have to be a little creative, go with the data that’s available and keep refining the strategy. In fact, if you have a great way to A/B test on Facebook, do share.
We run content on Facebook once, measure the engagement and, at a later time, change the image and headline and re-feature it (up to 3-4x). Sometimes the content catches on in the subsequent run, sometimes it doesn’t. However, this practice helps build our knowledge base and gives great content a better chance to get passed on. Once we’re done, we compare notes on effective headlines and share them with the team.
We’ve also run Facebook ads (not that helpful because of the short character limitations) and A/B test our newsletter headlines.
The top three metrics for viral content for me personally are: 1) Does it make me cry? 2) Does it make me angry? 3) Does it make me laugh out loud? If it does one of those things, well, there’s a good chance it will have the same affect on someone else.
In this fantastic article on creating viral content from SocialTriggers.com, Derek Halpern offers advice on emotional content:
Positive content is more viral than negative content.
(Amazing, right? When you read the news, you’d think that negativity was a must, heh).
Content that evoked high arousal emotions—positive or negative—is more viral than content without emotion.
(What’s a high-arousal emotion? Think awe, anger, anxiety, or anything related to the fear of loss)
5. Cause-driven content is the new storyline.
People, especially on social media, want to make a difference, share what they stand for and let their networks know what they’re passionate about. If we can publish relevant and inspiring cause-driven content that connects with our users, it makes sharing easy. Instead of trying to market content, we let our users share what’s genuinely important or moving to them. This eliminates the need for expensive ad campaigns and lets the content stand alone on it’s value—or, more specifically, it’s value to our readers. We’re positioning ourselves as their in-the-know friend who’s continually sharing content with them in mind. In other words, cause-driven content helps our readers do something that they already want to do, but don’t know how or where to start.
6. Forget everything you know about what works and doesn’t.
We went into the site launch thinking that a specific kind of content would work best for our audience—mainly short, inspirational (and maybe funny) videos. What we discovered was that our readers wanted to engage in meaningful stories—stories that often lasted a lot longer than 3 minutes. Our first viral story was an ESPN feature about a father who found out his unborn daughter had down syndrome. It was 15 minutes long. We didn’t have a lot of hope for it, but we loved the story. It went on to receive 3.5 million views within just a couple of days. *Here’s the headline we used: “This Guy Writes a Confession Letter to His Daughter with Down Syndrome that Will Break Your Heart in 100 Ways.”
(Reuters) – Two Republican congressmen on Sunday defended Washington’s surveillance programs abroad in reaction to protests from allies, after the wide scope of the eavesdropping was revealed this year by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
WASHINGTON, Oct 7 (Reuters) – As the U.S. government moved into the second week of a shutdown on Monday with no end in sight, a deadlocked U.S. Congress also confronted an Oct. 17 deadline to increase the nation’s borrowing power or risk default.
The last big confrontation over the debt ceiling, in August, 2011, ended with an eleventh-hour agreement under pressure from shaken markets and warnings of an economic catastrophe if a default were allowed to occur.
A similar last-minute resolution remained a distinct possibility this time as well.
In comments on Sunday political talk shows, neither Republicans nor Democrats offered any sign of impending agreement on either the shutdown or the debt ceiling, and both blamed the other side for the impasse.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Treasury SecretaryJack Lew said: “Congress is playing with fire,” adding that Obama would not negotiate until “Congress does its job” by reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling.
(Reuters) – U.S. forces launched raids in Libya and Somalia on Saturday, two weeks after the deadly Islamist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, capturing a top al Qaeda figure wanted for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. officials said.
Senior al Qaeda figure Anas al Liby was seized in the raid in Libya, but no militant was captured in the raid on the Somali town of Barawe, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
CNN reported in September last year that Liby had been seen in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. It quoted Western intelligence sources as saying there was concern that he may have been tasked with establishing an al Qaeda network in Libya.
Republicans hate domestic spending, but their hatred is not completely indiscriminate. Some programs offend them more, and others less. The general pattern is that social programs offend Republicans to the degree that they benefit the poor, sick, or otherwise unfortunate. The struggle over the farm bill is not the biggest policy dispute in American politics, but it is the one that most clearly reveals the priorities and ideological identity of the contemporary GOP.
The putative rationale for the food-stamp cuts is that eligibility standards have loosened, or that it encourages sloth. Jonathan Cohn makes quick work of these claims, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities makes long, detailed work of them. Click on those links if you want a blow-by-blow refutation. The upshot is that food stamps are a meager subsidy, of less than $1.40 per meal, for people either stuck in very low paid jobs or unable to find work at all. Their cost has increased because the recession has increased the supply of poor, desperate people. Republicans have offered specious comparisons to welfare reform, but that law both offered funds for job training and was passed in a full-employment economy. Neither of these conditions holds true of the GOP’s food-stamp cuts, whose only significant result would be the first-order effect of making very poor people hungrier.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves hired former Washington Wizards executive Milt Newton as general manager Friday, with new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders tabbing a familiar face to help him reshape the franchise’s front office.
Newton spent the previous 10 years with the Wizards, most recently serving as vice president of player personnel. He worked closely with Saunders when Saunders was the head coach for the Wizards, and quickly became a prime candidate to make the move to Minnesota when Saunders took over this summer for the fired David Kahn.
“I have followed Milt closely during his career and have always been impressed with his basketball knowledge, work ethic and professionalism,” Saunders said in a statement issued by the team. “His front-office experience in the NBA, as well as his ability to combine analytics evaluation with his basketball playing and scouting background will greatly benefit our organization.”
(CNN) — Mark Zuckerberg believes that connectivity is a human right. Or at least that’s how he’s framing his new project, Internet.org, a partnership with leading companies in the smartphone industry to bring Internet access to the developing world.
You could be generous and call this enlightened self-interest, but more likely, Internet.org is a canny business move dressed up to sound like charity.
In his overly earnest manifesto about the project, Zuckerberg declares, “For almost ten years, Facebook has been on a mission to make the world more open and connected. For us, that means the entire world — not just the richest, most developed countries. We’ve made good progress, and today we connect more than 1.15 billion people through Facebook each month. But as we started thinking about connecting the next 5 billion people, we realized something important: the vast majority of people in the world don’t have any access to the internet.”
In other words, how do we help these people become our customers?
CHICAGO — It has taken Derrick Rose more than a year to recover from the physical effects of a torn ACL in his knee, but his mentality appears to be in midseason form.
When asked by CNN’s Pedro Pinto in an interview who the best player in the NBA is right now, the former MVP did not hesitate with his answer.
“Derrick Rose,” the 24-year-old said confidently.
The fact that Rose responded that way won’t surprise those close to him. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman both said recently that the star point guard is feeling great and is ready to start the season.
(CNN) — Hashtags are coming to Facebook to help users better surface conversations.
Support for the all-but-ubiquitous topic organization system was rumored in March and will roll out to a small percentage of users Wednesday. Facebook will roll out hashtags to more users in the coming weeks.
The social network wants to make it easier for users to find content already on Facebook, and functional hashtags are the first step. According to Facebook, many users already post hashtags anyway, so why not make them work? Hashtags will be both clickable and searchable, so, for example, topics like #NSALeaks or #NBAFinals will now exist.
Hashtags from other services, such as Instagram, are clickable as well. Users will also be able to compose posts directly from a hashtag feed and search results. That could make adding real-time content to specific streams easier than before.
Twitter user Chris Messina created in 2007 the hashtag as we know it today. Twitter eventually adopted the system of organizing tweets around a certain subject into its API and its broader ecosystem. Since then, the hashtag has been adopted by other services, including Flickr, Tumblr, Google+ and even Facebook-owned Instagram.
What do you think about Facebook’s decision to finally embrace hashtags? Let us know in the comments.