Adam Mordecai is editor-at-large at Upworthy. When he’s not trying to get millions of page views (300 million to date) on issues like racial justice, climate change and economic inequality, he focuses on training new curators and advises nonprofits on how to tell great stories.
He recently shared some of his best tips for going viral to an audience full of social entrepreneurs at the Skoll World Forum, and today we’re sharing them with you. But first things first: “Going viral is partly science, partly luck and partly hard work,” Mordecai says. “There is no recipe guaranteed for success every time.”
Take heart. “There is data and science behind virality.”
Five of our key takeaways from Adam:
Facebook is the driver of the Internet, and that’s where we put all our focus. Facebook wants strong stories, clear headlines, timely stories, authentic voice, and added context. (See above video around 26:12 for details and examples)
Tell really good stories. Give people a reason to go to that page. Stories that build empathy are the ones that are needed to make a better world. If you give people all the information they want but they don’t feel connected to it, it’s going to be much harder for them to retain the information.
Ask these three questions when you are making a piece of content: 1. Is the content substantive, engaging and maybe even entertaining? 2. If a million people saw it, would the world be a better place? 3. Does the content deliver on the headline?
Headlines matter. Framing your content matters. Upworthy did an experiment (which you can see completely at 20:00) and in it, there were two headlines. One was “Two monkeys got peed on and see what happens next” and the other was “Remember Planet of the Apes? It’s closer to reality than you might think.” They were published separately on the same video. The first headline got 700 times the views.
You’re not always going to win. Some of your failures will be your best learning experiences, ever.
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