Influencer Partnerships Are Viral Steroids

How Social Media Influencers Are Being Used By Some Of The World’s Most Popular Websites

(This post originally appeared in the Bialerology newsletter. Subscribe here: http://bialerology.com/ )

Diply.com, a viral content site, is the 20th most popular site in the United States with 54 million monthly unique visitors. Globally, they have 120 million monthly uniques. This data comes from Quantcast, which directly measures the traffic at Diply.com. According to a study by Compete.com, commissioned by Diply, Diply became the ”fastest growing website” in history last August.

So what’s going on? How did Diply — which sounds like a web 2.0 version of Dunkaroos — grow into a popular viral media site so rapidly? How does Diply work?

The short answer: influential social media accounts. They’re APlus on steroids, and EPO while throwing a deflated football.

Diply appears to have partnered with hundreds of influential social media accounts, primarily Facebook, but also other social networks such as Twitter and Google+.

Based on an analysis of the post history of the top 1000 celebrity pages and the top 1000 community pages on Facebook from January 2014 through May 2015, they’re not alone.

In fact, a large amount of viral media sites that have seen substantial growth in the last year have grown with significant help through partnerships with influential Facebook accounts unrelated to their brand. It’s not clear exactly how these partnerships work, but the sheer quantity of posts shared from a specific set of sites on unaffiliated influential accounts strongly suggests this sharing isn’t random and there is some sort of working arrangement in place.

There’s LittleThings.com, right behind Diply, with 72 million global monthly unique vistors. OmgFacts.com (15M uniques) and Dose.com (35M uniques), whose founder was profiled in the New Yorker earlier this year, make good use of influencer accounts. As do UpRoxx.com, ViralNova.com, TheChive.com, Bustle.com, APlus.com, Matterdome.com, ijreview.com, Distractify.com, TwentyWords.com, BroBible.com, Guff.com, and many more.

Here’s the situation

  1. Consistent production of viral content isn’t hard. Viral content is still part art, part science, but there are more and more people out there who can consistently produce viral content. To help these people, there is a ton of data on viral content and good tools for navigating it, like BuzzSumo, NewsWhip, and CrowdTangle. Viral sites can learn from other sites and either embed viral content or (for the less ethically inclined) plagiarize it.
  2. Facebook is the biggest social network. If you can get a post to do well on Facebook, then you can reach a large part of the world. Other social networks matter, but Facebook is the most important.
  3. The content matters, but the source does not. If a random page shares an article you like, most people don’t care. Facebook’s business model is based on people liking content from random pages in their feed.
  4. Facebook reach is hard. Even pages with hundreds of thousands of followers struggle to reach people.
  5. If you want a post to reach a large number of people, the best way is to get a lot of influential pages sharing it
  6. There are a large number of pages with a lot of likes that are looking for business opportunities. “I have x-million Facebook followers. How do I monetize it?”
  7. Paying an influencer is worth the price. If paying Facebook pages to post your content is cheaper than Facebook ads and cost per click is less than the lifetime value from each user, then it is worth it. Alternatively, if acquiring a Facebook page is cheaper than Facebook ads, it is also worth it.

Given this situation, the strategy to get a large amount of Facebook traffic is simple: get a large number of influencers to post your content.

This practice doesn’t feel exactly right. This isn’t how Facebook was designed to work, and Facebook’s terms of service specify “Page names and Facebook Web Addresses must accurately reflect Page content. We may remove administrative rights or require you to change the Page name and Facebook Web Address for any Page that fails to meet this requirement.” and “Third-party advertisements on Pages are prohibited, without our prior permission.” Both of these are violated by a lot of these pages. That being said, Facebook doesn’t appear to be enforcing either term. If it actually prohibited third-party advertisements, it would interfere with the practices of a lot of celebrities promoting sponsors and, perhaps, even news organizations promoting sponsored content.

There are several methods for a media organization to get pages with a lot of likes:

  1. Grow pages with a large amount of likes. Use your own content, random content, whatever works. Just get an audience. You can shift your focus later. People don’t care.
  2. Buy pages with a large number of likes.
  3. Partner with pages that have a large number of of likes. Posting sponsored content on users’ feeds is fundamental to a platform business model.

Diply, the leader of the sites utilizing influencers, has used a combination of all three methods. Their main page appears to be purchased, given that it originally started off as Different Solutions (posting Egg Carton Christmas Trees back in 2012), but they’ve continued to build it organically with some onsite promotion.

However, their key viral tool is their partners. They have a lot of Facebook partners. Their partners aren’t limited to Facebook. They also partner with influencers on other social networks, including Twitter and Google+.

Each partner seems to have an associated section on their website. For example, the French Facebook page JE T’AIME MAMAN (I love you mom) posts lots of Diply links. Each Diply link is featured in a http://diply.com/je-taime section of their site. In other words, instead of breaking their website up based on topics (sports, business, politics), they break their site up based on viral Facebook pages (George Takei, Oh My God Facts!, and Did You Know?).

Below, I’ve put together tables showing the accounts that each site appears to be partnering with along with likes, shares, comments, and total number of posts. Each table is ordered based on the number of posts each partner has made. Some of these posts may be organic, particularly those that come from accounts with five or fewer posts, but I suspect a large amount of them are paid. The data in these tables comes from January 2014 through May 2015. I only looked at 2000 accounts: those on the top 1000 celebrity pages and the top 1000 community pages on Facebook. I’ve tried to delete accounts directly affiliated with each website, but I may have missed some.

1. Diply.com

Notice that George Takei drove 6,891,858 likes and 2,117,726 share! His Facebook account drives a huge of amount of likes to his partners.

2. LittleThings.com

3. Dose.com

4. UpRoxx.com

5. ViralNova.com

6. TheChive.com

7. Bustle.com

8. MatterDome.com

9. APlus.com

I covered APlus previously.

10. ijReview.com

11. Distractify.com

12. TwentyWords.com

13. BroBible.com

14. Guff.com

15. OmgFacts.com

This is just a small sampling of the sites doing this. The sample I used in this case is only 2000 Facebook pages. There are thousands of other influential sites out there. A quick Google search reveals additional sites working with Diply. If you look through any other influencers feeds, such as George Takei, you’ll find a lot of other sites that are partnering with influencers.

Does Facebook want this happening on their site? No. They want accounts posting content related to the name of the account and the paid acquisition going to them. This means that, long-term, this is not a viable strategy as Facebook can change their platform and punish pages that do this. However, short-term, if you want to get a lot of traffic, there is no better way than using Facebook influencers.

(This post originally appeared in the Bialerology newsletter. Subscribe here:http://bialerology.com/ )

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