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                THE SWEET SCIENCE OF VIRALITY
                            You Are Bad At It. We Are Less Bad.

How luck, testing, math, luck, data, retesting, luck, and bullies can help you win the Internet.
             Sara Critchfield (@saracritchfield) & Adam Mordecai (@advodude)
                      There will be pop quizzes, so pay attention, class.
                                 #GoViral @Upworthy #SXSW

                                                                       imized!
 Click
 links
 to
 see
 
                                                                    opt
                                                                                                                 hits!




                                             1
Quiz In The Heart Of Texas!
                POP QUIZ ALREADY?! CAN YOU HANDLE IT?
                    Which headline gets more clicks?



           A                                            B
A Hidden Camera Show Is                       A Hidden Camera Show
 Baffled When They Can't                       Goes To Texas. They Did
 Find Any Bigots In Texas                     Not Expect To Find This.




                                  2
Quiz In The Heart Of Texas!

           B!
           SEE IT @




                3
What We Do: The Quick Version
      +            +

 +         +       =
                    sometimes
 .
               4
What Makes Us Fancy Experts?
                       Adam                                            Sara
                      Mordecai                                      Critchfield
                       Viral Curator                                 Managing Editor
   Worked on the Dean campaign                        B.A. in visual communications
   and maybe caused the scream?                                 from Drexel

      Had a Friendster account.                M.A. in nonprofit management from U of Penn

   Has a Facebook account. Uses It.             Worked at MoveOn as community director.

       Tweets once in a while.                Was a DC lobbyist in international development.

        Can imitate muppets.                     Teaches at Church Camp about tolerance.

       Got 3,500,000 people to                Got 1,000,000 people to watch a lab experiment
watch a spoken word poem on bullying. @             with monkeys being paid unequally. @
                                          5
Case Study: Zach Wahls
    written
 by
                                                      Old Title:
                                                                              1
                                                      Zach Wahls Speaks     Million
                                                                            Views
                                                      About Family
                                           Text
                                                      New Hotness:
                                                      Two Lesbians Raised
                                                      A Baby And This Is


                                                                      17
                                                      What They Got


                                                                     Million V
                                                                               iews
                                                  6
What We Do In A Nutshell
1. Find amazing content.
2. Frame it for
   Facebook.               SEE IT @

3. Promote it on
   Facebook.
4. ????
5. PROFIT?!?! Invest
   in nutshells.       7
Who The Hell Are We? Meet The Founders.


  Eli                                  Peter
Pariser                               Koechley




                    Chris Hughes
                      3
                      8
State Of The Up                                             1
 year
 la
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ter...
                                                                                6th,
 2012
Launches
 March
 2                                                     15,000
                                                                                                                                   Tumblr followers

                                                                                                                                       70,000
                                                                                                                                  Twitter followers

                                                                                                                                    500,000
                                                                                                                                 Email subscribers

                                                                                                                                 1,150,000
                                                                                                                                 Facebook fans
                                                                                                                             9
We’re Off To A Good Start




            10
My Bosses Haven’t Fired Me
           18,000,000 Page views
           15,000 Facebook fans

            And I got 1,000,000
             people to watch a
              bank oversight
                  hearing. SEE IT @

             11
DISCLOSURE: I Am Dumb
 In the last year, I predicted 100 of my
posts would break 500,000 Page views.




                5 did.


                   12
5% Expert, 95% Not So Much
Anyone who tells you he can make ANYTHING go viral
is definitely not telling you the truth. Or is really naive.
         Almost nothing will. Even if it’s great.




                            13
That’s Why We Have This Instead




We test the hell out of everything. Then we test it again.

                            14
Pop Quiz, Slackers!
        A                                                   B
  A Journalist Goes                               Watch A Diner Waitress
  Undercover As A                                 Explain To A Wall Street
Waitress. Guess Which                             Guy How Money Works
  Job Was Harder?                                       In America




          Which one did our audience totally want us to serve?



                                   15
Pop Quiz, Slackers!


        B!            4X
                 THE CLIC
                           KS!

               SEE IT @



         16
THE MOST FAQ
How Do You Make That One Thing You Made
        Go Super Viral And Stuff?




                   17
What The Hell Is Virality?
     Shares per
       View
                       Clicks per
                         Share          Viral?
        LOW               LOW               Nope.
        HIGH              LOW              Kinda?
        LOW               HIGH          Not so much.

        HIGH              HIGH            Hell yeah!

To get clicks, you MUST focus on framing things perfectly.


                            18
Will That One Thing You Made Go Viral?
                                             Yes
    START
    HERE
                                                         Is it         No               Is it       Yes          Is it
                                             Yes
         Does it         No        Is it                shrill?                        funny?                   REALLY
                                                                            No
         suck?                  political?         No                                                No         funny?     YES!
            Yes          Yes                             Kittens, puppies, babies,                                  No
  Do you                                                 celebs, or Harlem Shake?                                Heart-
                         Good luck with that.                                    Yes
have a huge       No                                                                                            warming?
PR budget?
                                      No                          I doubt it. Maybe?                No
                                                                                                               No    Yes
                   Yes          You ask            No
   No                                                          No                         No
                               to share?                                                                 Yes    Hero 
   Are you                                   Easy to     Yes    Does it          Yes    You sure                villain?
                  Yes                  Yes
   lucky?                 We’ll See          share?            end well?               it’s good?

                                                          19
Why The Hell Do People Share?
                               Anger
                                          Shareable:
                                       “I am angry, yet
                                     entertained. I must
                                     do something, right
                                        now.” *click*
    Relaxation                                        Happiness

          Not Shareable:
            “Just chill.
          We’re all gonna
       die anyways.” *sigh*

                              Sadness



                                20
Where The Hell Do People Share?



       good
 luck,
 if
 
     you
 crack
 it
 you                                                                                                                                                                                              slow
 cook
 it
 to
          are
 a
 god.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   perfection.

                                                                                                                                                                If
 you
 do
 it
 right,
                                                                                                                           it
 can
 make
 a
 small
 dent.
                                                                                                                                           21
The Social Part Of Social Media
 It’s not as much about having a conversation
       as it is about being conversational.




                      22
Six Degrees Of Viral Bacon
                                                   Who should you be targeting?
             EASY                                   HARD             REALLY HARD
         Getting your                               Getting your    Getting your audience’s
         audience to                                 audience’s      friends’ friends to like
             like.                                friends to click.        and share.

My
 mom
                                          Getting your     Getting your         Getting
                                          audience to       audience’s       @KevinBacon
                                           click and        friends to        to like and
                                             share.           share.            share.
                                                                23
We Have Not Achieved Bacon... YET

                             365 days.
                              Still no
                              Bacon.
TL;DR
1. CONTENT: Find and/or create amazing content.
2. FRAMING: Optimize said content to be really clicky on Facebook.
3. TECH/UX: Optimize your site to be really good at sharing said
   content back to Facebook.
4. DATA: Never stop testing your zany theories.
5. LUCK: Capture a leprechaun and steal his lucky charms.
                               25
STEP 1: FIND EPIC CONTENT
        A Hero
        A Villain
        An Emotional Story Arc
        A Super Inspiring Meaningful Message
        The Right Time And The Right Place
        Charles Xavier  Cerebro


               26
How Hard Can It Be To Find Awesome Stuff?
   66% of our posts don’t break 20K views.

  6% of our posts have reached 100K views.        Tell
 me
 
                                               more
 about
 how
 
          3% have reached 200K views.           easy
 this
 is.
         1.6% have reached 300K views.

         0.9% have reached 500K views.

         0.5% have broken 750K views.


 and   11 posts have broken 1,000,000 views.
  (0.42% for those playing the home game)
                             27

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The Sweet Science of Virality Pop Quiz

  • 1. s ‘ THE SWEET SCIENCE OF VIRALITY You Are Bad At It. We Are Less Bad. How luck, testing, math, luck, data, retesting, luck, and bullies can help you win the Internet. Sara Critchfield (@saracritchfield) & Adam Mordecai (@advodude) There will be pop quizzes, so pay attention, class. #GoViral @Upworthy #SXSW imized!
  • 6.   opt hits! 1
  • 7. Quiz In The Heart Of Texas! POP QUIZ ALREADY?! CAN YOU HANDLE IT? Which headline gets more clicks? A B A Hidden Camera Show Is A Hidden Camera Show Baffled When They Can't Goes To Texas. They Did Find Any Bigots In Texas Not Expect To Find This. 2
  • 8. Quiz In The Heart Of Texas! B! SEE IT @ 3
  • 9. What We Do: The Quick Version + + + + = sometimes
  • 10.  . 4
  • 11. What Makes Us Fancy Experts? Adam Sara Mordecai Critchfield Viral Curator Managing Editor Worked on the Dean campaign B.A. in visual communications and maybe caused the scream? from Drexel Had a Friendster account. M.A. in nonprofit management from U of Penn Has a Facebook account. Uses It. Worked at MoveOn as community director. Tweets once in a while. Was a DC lobbyist in international development. Can imitate muppets. Teaches at Church Camp about tolerance. Got 3,500,000 people to Got 1,000,000 people to watch a lab experiment watch a spoken word poem on bullying. @ with monkeys being paid unequally. @ 5
  • 12. Case Study: Zach Wahls written
  • 13.  by Old Title: 1 Zach Wahls Speaks Million Views About Family Text New Hotness: Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is 17 What They Got Million V iews 6
  • 14. What We Do In A Nutshell 1. Find amazing content. 2. Frame it for Facebook. SEE IT @ 3. Promote it on Facebook. 4. ???? 5. PROFIT?!?! Invest in nutshells. 7
  • 15. Who The Hell Are We? Meet The Founders. Eli Peter Pariser Koechley Chris Hughes 3 8
  • 16. State Of The Up 1
  • 18.  la ter... 6th,
  • 21.  2 15,000 Tumblr followers 70,000 Twitter followers 500,000 Email subscribers 1,150,000 Facebook fans 9
  • 22. We’re Off To A Good Start 10
  • 23. My Bosses Haven’t Fired Me 18,000,000 Page views 15,000 Facebook fans And I got 1,000,000 people to watch a bank oversight hearing. SEE IT @ 11
  • 24. DISCLOSURE: I Am Dumb In the last year, I predicted 100 of my posts would break 500,000 Page views. 5 did. 12
  • 25. 5% Expert, 95% Not So Much Anyone who tells you he can make ANYTHING go viral is definitely not telling you the truth. Or is really naive. Almost nothing will. Even if it’s great. 13
  • 26. That’s Why We Have This Instead We test the hell out of everything. Then we test it again. 14
  • 27. Pop Quiz, Slackers! A B A Journalist Goes Watch A Diner Waitress Undercover As A Explain To A Wall Street Waitress. Guess Which Guy How Money Works Job Was Harder? In America Which one did our audience totally want us to serve? 15
  • 28. Pop Quiz, Slackers! B! 4X THE CLIC KS! SEE IT @ 16
  • 29. THE MOST FAQ How Do You Make That One Thing You Made Go Super Viral And Stuff? 17
  • 30. What The Hell Is Virality? Shares per View Clicks per Share Viral? LOW LOW Nope. HIGH LOW Kinda? LOW HIGH Not so much. HIGH HIGH Hell yeah! To get clicks, you MUST focus on framing things perfectly. 18
  • 31. Will That One Thing You Made Go Viral? Yes START HERE Is it No Is it Yes Is it Yes Does it No Is it shrill? funny? REALLY No suck? political? No No funny? YES! Yes Yes Kittens, puppies, babies, No Do you celebs, or Harlem Shake? Heart- Good luck with that. Yes have a huge No warming? PR budget? No I doubt it. Maybe? No No Yes Yes You ask No No No No to share? Yes Hero Are you Easy to Yes Does it Yes You sure villain? Yes Yes lucky? We’ll See share? end well? it’s good? 19
  • 32. Why The Hell Do People Share? Anger Shareable: “I am angry, yet entertained. I must do something, right now.” *click* Relaxation Happiness Not Shareable: “Just chill. We’re all gonna die anyways.” *sigh* Sadness 20
  • 33. Where The Hell Do People Share? good
  • 35.  if
  • 36.   you
  • 38.  it
  • 39.  you slow
  • 41.  it
  • 42.  to are
  • 43.  a
  • 44.  god. perfection. If
  • 45.  you
  • 46.  do
  • 47.  it
  • 48.  right, it
  • 49.  can
  • 51.  a
  • 53.  dent. 21
  • 54. The Social Part Of Social Media It’s not as much about having a conversation as it is about being conversational. 22
  • 55. Six Degrees Of Viral Bacon Who should you be targeting? EASY HARD REALLY HARD Getting your Getting your Getting your audience’s audience to audience’s friends’ friends to like like. friends to click. and share. My
  • 56.  mom Getting your Getting your Getting audience to audience’s @KevinBacon click and friends to to like and share. share. share. 23
  • 57. We Have Not Achieved Bacon... YET 365 days. Still no Bacon.
  • 58. TL;DR 1. CONTENT: Find and/or create amazing content. 2. FRAMING: Optimize said content to be really clicky on Facebook. 3. TECH/UX: Optimize your site to be really good at sharing said content back to Facebook. 4. DATA: Never stop testing your zany theories. 5. LUCK: Capture a leprechaun and steal his lucky charms. 25
  • 59. STEP 1: FIND EPIC CONTENT A Hero A Villain An Emotional Story Arc A Super Inspiring Meaningful Message The Right Time And The Right Place Charles Xavier Cerebro 26
  • 60. How Hard Can It Be To Find Awesome Stuff? 66% of our posts don’t break 20K views. 6% of our posts have reached 100K views. Tell
  • 61.  me
  • 62.   more
  • 64.  how
  • 65.   3% have reached 200K views. easy
  • 67.  is. 1.6% have reached 300K views. 0.9% have reached 500K views. 0.5% have broken 750K views. and 11 posts have broken 1,000,000 views. (0.42% for those playing the home game) 27
  • 68. What Do The Top 10 Have In Common? @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ 28
  • 69. Everyone Loves A Good Movie @ @ @ High production value can work. You better have a good story though. 29
  • 70. Everyone Likes To Learn Mind-Blowing Stuff @ @ @ If you can give your audience some information that they are honestly surprised by, they’ll share it. 30
  • 71. Everyone Loves Raw, Human, Honest Moments @ @ @ @ You can’t fake authenticity. People love it and share it. 31
  • 72. Everyone Hates Bad Guys And Bullies @ @ @ @ @ The The viewer who fed not Extremist The male- Mitt rhetoric dominated called her doing his Romney guy industry fat job @ @ The company All the with bad ideas Every good story needs a villain. bullies, EVER 32
  • 73. Everyone Loves When The Good Guys Win @ @ @ @ @ An The A woman A couple in An eloquent awesome President of inventor love news anchor gay military Ireland engineer veteran @ @ @ @ A funny A senator Say hello Astronauts A poet feminist on who does talking about the TV her job to our science all of us heroes. 33
  • 74. Everyone Likes It When You Say What They’re Thinking @ @ @ @ @ Stop Your Stop We should attacking It’s time. position is poisoning the help girls people’s wrong. discourse. succeed. looks. @ @ @ @ @ The Our feds need Bullying planet is the WHOA. FOR Seriously? affects all of to do their only one we REAL? us. job. got. 34
  • 75. Moral Of The Story Make or find really amazing content that speaks to your audience in a human way. WHO KNEW?! 35
  • 76. STEP 2: Frame ’Em 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. 36
  • 77. Social Headlines Need A “Curiosity Gap” Too vague, and I don’t want to click: A Guy Invented This Thing You’ll Like Too specific, I don’t need to click: Inventor Launches New 3D Printer At SXSW Ergo... The Epic Thinger That Makes The Internet Look Like A Coloring Book 37
  • 78. Upworthy’s Editorial Process 1. You HAVE to crap out 25 headlines for every piece of content. 2.You WILL write some really stinky headlines. 3. Once you start getting desperate, you start thinking outside the box. 4. So you HAVE TO WRITE 25 HEADLINES. 5. #24 will suck. Then #25 will be a gift from the headline gods and will make you a legend. 6. Accept that not every headline will be perfect. 7. Then write 25 headlines. 8. With practice, you’ll be writing 25 in 15 minutes. Then I will give you permission to lower your limit. SO PLEASE WRITE 25 HEADLINES 38
  • 79. Headline Rules Don’t give it all away in the headline. Also, don’t give it all away in the excerpt, share image, or share text. Don’t be shrill. Don’t form an opinion for the end user. Let them do that. Don’t bum people out. (Remember slide 11.) 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. Which reminds me, my mom doesn’t like it when you put the word “sucks” in headlines. Lastly, be clever. But not TOO clever. 39
  • 80. The Slide For Your Cheap Boss Two Headlines. The Exact Same Video. @ @ TOO CLEVER 100X THE VIEW S! 10,000 1,000,000 Pageviews Pageviews 40
  • 81. YOU WILL WRITE 25 HEADLINES!1!!!1 Otherwise, people won’t click your links. So I’d write 25 headlines. 41
  • 82. FRAME ALL THE THINGS! The Share Text The Headline The Excerpt SEE IT @ The Share Image Your Mom* Don’t give it away on any of these, or you will prevent people from clicking.
  • 83.  Mom
  • 84.  Thing. ing
  • 88.  Not
  • 89.  Jok
  • 90. To Do List For Your Code Team If you aren’t making the most of social media, you are wasting opportunities for massive traffic increases. Facebook Headline Field Facebook Excerpt Field Share Image Field Fancy AB Testing System You have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t do the first three things. 43
  • 91. “We Can’t Afford That, Mr. Fancy Pants.” You may be thinking, “Easy for them to say with their fancy development team.” Then click here. You can edit headlines and descriptions when PROTIP SEE IT @ posting. ALL THE THINGS! 44
  • 92. Let’s Talk About Your Mom, Dude FACT: No one likes to disappoint their mom. DOUBLE FACT: Middle-aged women are the biggest sharers on the Interwebs. ERGO: If you frame your content to not make your mom shake her head, you have a better chance of winning. 45
  • 93. You Aren’t A Bad Person (Probably) Marketing is not inherently evil, hippie. Accept that if you get people to come see your important message, they might actually learn about how to help and stuff. 46
  • 94. How We Sleep At Night Curiosity-inducing headlines are manipulative, you say? 00K 8 on Views Up worthy SEE IT @ Guess what NYC is now being forced to investigate? Read it @ 47 The Nation
  • 95. Also... Not sure if we mentioned this yet, but you should write 25 headlines unless you want the terrorists to win. 48
  • 96. The Quiz To Punch Your Boss In The Brain A B A Public Service Put Yourself In A White Announcement On Behalf Guy's Shoes. Comfy, Of All White Dudes Right? Pick a winner, champ! 49
  • 97. See, I wrote 25... 50
  • 98. The Quiz To Punch Your Boss In The Brain A 32X THE CLIC KS! SEE IT @ 51
  • 99. The Share Image Is Your ‘In’ @ @ @ @ Interesting
  • 100.   Curiosity-inducin’ The
  • 103.   People
  • 104.  love
  • 106.  image what
  • 107.  is
  • 109.   in
  • 110.  the
  • 111.  world secrets @ @ @ @ x
  • 112.  vs.
  • 113.  y Heavily
  • 114.  annotated PG-13 Obvious
  • 116. Facebook Just Made Images More Interesting Thumbnails are now 600 x 600. You better start optimizing. Their new feed is focused on visuals, so if you aren’t making your images big enough to be visual, your content ranking will probably suffer. 53
  • 117. Share Image Quiz For Your Thoughts? A B 54
  • 118. I Got This One Way Wrong A! SEE IT @ 1.6XKS! T HE CLIC 55
  • 119. “We Can’t Afford AB, Mr. Fancy Pants.” Your Wall + Bit.ly + A Stopwatch + Facebook Targeting 1. Create two Bit.ly URLs, one with URL?r=A and one with URL?r=B. 2. Find two cities with similar demographics and populations amongst your fans. Use one Bit.ly on each. PROTIP 3. Time it. The most Bit.ly clicks wins. (Add a “+” to a Bit.ly url to see stats.) SEE IT @ 56
  • 120. I Know Your Boss Thinks It’s A Waste Of Time But I have an idea. You should write 25 headlines and make it easier to share. Then people will want to “click” on your “stuff” and bring “traffic” back to your “website.” Then your boss will “finally get it.” 57
  • 121. STEP 3: Let’s Talk About UX, Baby 58
  • 122. Optimize Prime Your website is the gateway drug to sharing. Make sure it shares properly. You should always be testing, always adapting, always challenging what works. Art by Tim Doyle of Nakatomi Inc 59
  • 123. You Better Fix Your Share Buttons Floating Hover Overlay Links + Links Above SEE IT @ 3E98% MOR WIN 60
  • 124. Slide SEE IT @ A slider pops out and 6E20% asks you to like us. MOR BOSS 5
  • 125. STEP 4: Don’t Stop Testing And/Or Believing 62
  • 126. Always. Be. Testing. AB test constantly. -“Katy Perry and Tim McGraw” garnered twice as many clicks as “Rihanna and Pink Floyd.” - Test angry vs. passive, short vs. long, questions vs. statements, and anything else you can think of. Use Google and Facebook Analytics to see what people are interacting with the most. Always ask yourself, “Is there another way to do this?” 63
  • 127. You Can Always Do Better SEE IT @ 16-second delay 7 0% ICKS! MORE CL 5 64
  • 128. STEP 5: Go Get Lucky You can’t force something to go viral. Even if it’s good. Virality is tough to predict. Content you love won’t always make it. Walk it off, and write 25 more headlines. More content = more chances for a huge hit. 65
  • 129. TL;DR 1. CONTENT: Find and/or create amazing content. 2. FRAMING: Optimize said content to be really clicky on Facebook. 3. TECH/UX: Optimize your site to be really good at sharing said content back to Facebook. 4. DATA: Never stop testing your zany theories. 5. LUCK: Capture a leprechaun and steal his lucky charms. 66
  • 130. Stay Classy, Austin Sara FINAL PRO TIP: Always make an ask. Ask us some questions... make sure to test Critchfield things... Managing Editor and always write 25 headlines. Totally your call, but Adam would you mind following us? Mordecai Viral Curator The Sweet Science Of Virality by Upworthy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://facebook.com/upworthy. 67