Upworthy, a site that focuses on curating social cause related videos and content has been receiving a lot of media attention for changing how bloggers write headlines. In November of 2013 Upworthy traffic grew to about 87M unique visits, which was quite a drastic leap from less than 5 million a year ago, according to Quantcast. In December traffic dipped about 21% to 68M unique visits. These numbers are still quite respectable. But is this a signal that people are growing weary of the “and you won’t believe what happened next” headlines? And what does this trend mean for nonprofits?
Please do not run out and start using Upworthy like subject lines on your online advocacy and fundraising appeals. Just because this tactic works for Upworthy (who is driven by a ton of testing on their own website) does not mean it will work for your organization. Remember, you are not a viral news sharing startup. Just like you were never the Obama campaign when their fundraising tactics were all of the rage. Raise your hand if you adapted those tactics a few years ago and suddenly raised an extra few million dollars. Any takers?
However, trying to amp up your creativity with headlines and testing them to see if they resonate with your audiences is something you should always be investing resources into. And that is one of the key take-ways from Upworthy’s success. The startup is constantly experimenting and testing to see what headlines and messaging works best with their target audiences. And if you look at their website right now, you will find that some of their headlines are simpler and not the hyped up "and you won't believe what happened next."
What about Facebook?
Upworthy is a great example of how compelling content can generate a lot of shares and comments on Facebook too. Should your organization adopt a similar model and share popular memes and videos with your audience on Facebook to generate more engagement? You bet so as long as there is some connection to the issues you are working on. However, memes and videos should not be your only source of content. Drew Bernard over at ActionSprout likes to compare this content strategy to broccoli and cheese. You need to balance just the right amount of cheese (fun stuff) and broccoli (your engaging messaging and content) to get the perfect dish that everyone loves.
Has your organization tested Upworthy like subject lines or headlines? What have the results been?
PS: Be sure and check out this fun Chrome plugin called Downworthy. It changes viral headlines like ""Will Blow Your Mind" to "Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment". #SoAwesome