With the world of online content almost completely saturated, is space for new businesses to succeed? According to Maia McCann, going viral is about appreciating the little things in life.

Generating irresistibly shareable content is a hard task for seasoned veterans, let alone new creators looking to break into the market. But with the right attitude and a good understanding of what the hive-mind is looking for, it’s more than possible. LittleThings was founded barely 20 months ago, but it’s already the 4th largest mobile site in the US, with 51.1 million monthly readers. What’s the secret to their success?

The Feel Good Factor

Checking out LittleThings leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling that pretty much guarantees you’ll have a good day. That isn’t sentimental or subjective — it’s backed up by hard science. We know from Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman’s research that material which evokes a “high arousal positive” emotional response is more viral than content that leave readers angry or sad. This finding alone is a good argument to strive for a positive slant, but LittleThing’s Pollyanna attitude also ensures readers come back: by showing their readers hopeful, positive stories, they LittleThings cements itself as the premier destination for a daily mood lift.

Research by journalist and happiness researcher Michelle Geilan showed that “when people are exposed to transformative news first thing in the morning, they have an 88 percent likelihood of reporting their day is a happy one six to eight hours later.” LittleThings doesn’t just make you feel better while you’re reading it: your whole day gets lifted. With such a profoundly positive emotional response associated with their brand, it’s clear why their fanbase is so huge — currently, they boast 14 million social fans, and that number is rising.

Behind their warm and fuzzy exterior, LittleThings has a strict editorial process which maximizes their content’s chances of viral attention while allowing their writing team to follow their own inspiration. After morning pitch meetings where editors select content ideas, the writing team generates candidate articles, which are then evaluated for potential virality. McCann explains “If it doesn’t pass our testing algorithm, which is based not only on clicks but also on levels of engagement, it doesn’t go to our Facebook page.”

Often, the team is inspired by their own experiences: “A writer can find inspiration from a Cosmo quiz that she took ten years ago. Another time it might be like “home remedies using X ingredient.” For an example of this, check out their article on clever uses for Vaporub. As well as provoking curiosity, Vaporub has nostalgic associations for many people — and the smell is strongly tied to emotion-laden memories of being cared for through childhood illness. Yet again, LittleThings tapped right into their audience’s emotions, strengthening that killer brand association.

Why Moms Rule The Internet


Another interesting part of their strategy is their target demographic: rather than courting millennials, they cater to the “successful, well-educated 30+ woman”.

By tapping into an audience who are left underwhelmed by the multitude of Buzzfeed-esque sites out there, they side-step the saturation of the 16-24 market that stymies their competition. Identifying and positioning a brand in an ignored or under-appreciated market is a great way of revitalising a mature industry, as well as making sure a new business has room to grow.

And, this demographic are keen sharers: McCann encourages writers to “go on Facebook and, you know — look at their moms.” It’s not the vaunted millennial demographic who share content: it’s their mothers, aunts and grandmas. Facebook in particular skews female, and 32% of its users are over 45. It might be time for content creators to stop chasing the flighty desires of youth, and look to moms for inspiration.

Achieving virality is both an art and a science: in addition to keeping a weather eye on the research and acting on what the data reveals, there’s a human aspect to making must-share content. LittleThing’s success can be attributed to their compassionate approach: viewers return to the site again and again because it gives them a lift.

LittleThings makes a genuine improvement in  their readers’ lives and brands that offer this kind of unfakeable value can’t fail to succeed.


If you’re interested in learning more about viral content creation and the magic behind LittleThings’ success, please join us Tuesday, April 26th for “Growth Marketing Concepts Behind Viral Content,” featuring Maia McCann from LittleThings and other viral marketing experts.


RSVP by clicking this link or the image above, for a fun and informative night, and a 50% off discount!

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer thought leadership services to turn your company executives’ opinions and insights into authoritative content that starts meaningful sales conversations. Learn more about thought leadership here.