In today’s digital culture, Facebook success is something all publishers dream of.
In a little more than two years, LittleThings has found what works.
Launched in 2014 with one employee, LittleThings is now the leading lifestyle destination for inspiring, uplifting and engaging content.
The brand has 10 million social followers and garners more than 280 million video views per month. And with 52.9 million uniques a month, it’s also a top 100 comScore site, beating out the likes of Mashable, Mic, Upworthy and Refinery29.
Maia McCann, editor-in-chief of LittleThings, chalks the bulk of that success up to two strategies: tapping into a demographic no one else is serving, and listening to your audience so you know what they really want to see.
“The reason LittleThings has grown so fast is, in part, because we concentrate on an overlooked demographic: women over 35,” says McCann.
With many brands focusing on millennials, women age 35+ were not getting content targeted to their needs, says McCann. LittleThings recognized that opportunity and targeted their content specifically to that demographic.
The Editorial Funnel
“Cracking the Facebook code isn’t a magic formula,” said McCann. “It’s really about listening to your audience and finding out what they like, and then creating content around that.”
To do that, LittleThings has two editorial teams: one that focuses on curated and licensed content, and another that creates original content, including illustrated galleries, video content and animations.
Like with traditional media, LittleThings holds editorial pitch meetings every morning. This gives writers an opportunity to pitch ideas they think will be popular with their audience.
Before pitching an idea, writers look at six criteria:
Sourcing algorithms: Algorithms like Spike, Twitter lists and RSS feeds allow writers to discover content that’s starting to pick up traffic.
Trend analytics: Analytics programs such as Google Analytics help writers see what’s trending.
Performance metrics: Metrics allow writers to see what was successful in the previous week or so, which helps them figure out what’s going to succeed in coming weeks.
Keywords and ideas: The team looks at keywords and ideas that have worked in the past. For example, one keyword that has worked well for their food content is funfetti. “If there’s a way to add rainbow sprinkles to a recipe and create a food video around it, we’ve done it,” said McCann.
“Wow” factor: “There’s a video that was brought to us in a pitch meeting as an idea. It was about why we wear our wedding rings on our left fingers. This is an old wives’ tale, and we turned it into an original video. It’s a really great example of the ‘wow’ factor,” said McCann.
Brand-safe: The idea of brand-safe means that they want readers to come to the site and know it’s not going to something that’s upsetting to them, like child abduction or negative news.
“People know that when they see our little happy cloud logo, they’re going to click on something and be safe going there,” said McCann.” We don’t run any negative news. You’re not going to come to our site and see something that’s going viral. Anything related to ISIS or politics does not surface on LittleThings. That helps us differentiate ourselves from all of our competitors.”
McCann said everyone should use Facebook Live for one main reason: It’s a great way to get to know your audience.
“We can literally interact with our audience in real time,” she explained. “We talk to them. They tell us where they live. We found out about areas that we didn’t know people were living in that are enjoying our content.”
Broadcasts last about 30 minutes at a time, and they take questions from the audience and answer them live.
One example is a broadcast they did on a rescue kitten, Mac N’ Cheez, who lost the use of his back legs. The woman who took him in built him a wheelchair using Lego pieces. During the broadcast, they saw a comment from a viewer who said he would take Mac in but already had 17 other cats, and they mentioned the comment in real-time.
“One of the beautiful things about Facebook Live is hearing from your audience as you’re discussing something in real time,” added McCann. “It’s been a really powerful tool for us to get to know our audience even better.
Just Say No to Clickbait
One thing that is really important to cracking the Facebook code is listening to Facebook itself.
“About a year and a half ago, Facebook really started to kill clickbait,” said McCann.
McCann defines clickbait is deliberately misleading someone to get them to click on something, and then giving them a negative user experience.
“One of the things that’s so important to LittleThings is giving someone a positive user experience on the site, so we don’t want to mislead them with content that they weren’t expecting to see.”
Because LittleThings focuses so much on making their readers so happy, one in four readers return to the site every day, half of the audience returns once a week, which shows they’re not purely getting one-off clicks from Facebook.
This has resulted in LittleThings having the #1 rate of engagement per post.
Testing 1 … 2 … 3 …
Every piece of content on LittleThings goes through a proprietary testing algorithm, a regression analysis that factors in 20,000 pieces of content. Some of the inputs include clickthrough rate, cost per click, likes, shares, engagement, and time on site. The end result is 10x higher engagement on site than industry average.
“There are a lot of people out there who are just looking at clickthrough rate, particularly advertisers,” said McCann. “We’re looking at the clickthrough rate and the engagement rate. We’re looking at the audience reactions, like the shares and likes on a post. And those are valued almost equally.
They also do AB testing and, often, ABCD testing to figure out what’s the best way to wrap the content.
“Doing a small test on an individual piece of content can prove a point and make that content be twice as viral,” she added. “We only serve our audience the very best of what we write, so while we don’t take things down from our site if they don’t test tell, we don’t run them on our Facebook pages.”