Have You Cracked the Facebook Code? How One Site Conquered the World’s Biggest Social Network

How LittleThings Cracked the Facebook Code

All publishers dream of Facebook success.

In a little more than two years, LittleThings has found what works.

Launched in 2014 with one employee, LittleThings now is 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 beating out the likes of Mashable, Mic, Upworthy, and Refinery29.

Maia McCann, editor-in-chief of LittleThings, chalks up the bulk of that success to two strategies: Tapping into a demographic no one else is serving, and listening to its audience. She spoke about this at a recent Social Media Week event.

“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.

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 focuses on curated and licensed content, and the other creates original content, including illustrated galleries, video content, and animations.

Similar to traditional media, LittleThings holds editorial pitch meetings every morning.

Credit: LittleThings at Social Media Week

Before pitching an idea, writers look at six criteria:

1. Sourcing algorithms: Algorithms like Spike, Twitter lists, and RSS feeds allow writers to discover content that’s starting to pick up traffic.

2. Trend analytics: Analytics programs, such as Google Analytics, help writers see what’s trending.

3. 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.

4. 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 its 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.

5. “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.

6. Brand-safe: The idea of brand-safe means that it wants readers to come to the site and know they’re not going to see something upsetting. “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. That helps us differentiate ourselves from all of our competitors.”

Facebook Live

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 he already had 17 other cats. 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,” says 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,” she says.

As a result of their efforts, one in four readers return to the site every day and half of the audience returns once a week. LittleThings holds the No. 1 rate of engagement per post.

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Maria Perez is director of audience website operations at PR Newswire. She loves cupcakes, crossword puzzles and her dog Toody, though not necessarily in that order. Follow her on Twitter at @themariaperez

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