When Upworthy was created in 2012, the site's content generated an uplifting, positive message. But as it grew, the site understood that the entirety of the human experience is what's inspiring. Upworthy needed to adapt and expand its subject matter or as Eli Pariser, the CEO and co-founder of Upworthy, described the site's evolution, "You can't live on candy alone."
"Your heart gets deep into empathy," said Pariser, "and your head needs data to better understand the world. Those are what Upworthy combines."
It's that message that brought Facebook (yes, the Facebook) knocking on Upworthy's digital door to create a sponsored content campaign together.
The campaign, which ran for six weeks, focused on how Facebook "helps make the world more open and connected," Pariser said.
Between pure sponsorship of videos and posts, co-branded content and more native ad products, Upworthy's content pieces made with Facebook drove over 31 million social impressions, 11 million video views and over 86,000 shares for Upworthy. Each piece averaged 15,000 social interactions (a combination of comments/likes/shares, etc), which is about 32 times the industry average, according to Upworthy.
"Across the board, we're looking to do things that matter," said Nicole Carrico, head of Upworthy Collaborations, a branch of the company solely focused on creating promoted and sponsored content that resonates with the Upworthy audience.
"This campaign really set the bar that we're always swinging for," she said. "We want to produce content that performs as organically well as our editorial content."
The success of Upworthy's branded content isn't just limited to this campaign with Facebook, but it is one of the site's most successful campaigns. It's a continued example of how media brands understand how their consumers or audience don't want to be interrupted by ads anymore.
"We're not approaching this content like it's a commercial in your feed," said Carrico. "Instead, it's an opportunity to identify a story that we all have a shared interest in."
In fact, the storytelling aspect of Upworthy has carried over into its Collaborations branch with a few staffers who started with the Upworthy Media Group.
"Upworthy spends a lot of time thinking about how to lift up good things on lots of platforms," said Pariser. "This partnership was a natural connection."
And based on its amount of social interactions, it appears that Upworthy's audience found the connection to be natural as well. Upworthy combs through 11 billion data points each month to refine its ability to create stories that hit points of empathy or other emotional responses.
"The presence of Facebook branding on our content didn't impact consumption at all," explained Carrico, "because they were good and authentic stories."
"We're giving people experiences to show them what life is like in someone else's shoes, which includes both the hardships and the joys," said Pariser. "The fact that it's not just pure sugar has made it work all these years."