Viral site LittleThings is big on Facebook, but not Facebook video yet

Upworthy-esque viral-content site LittleThings is the definition of a Facebook publisher, relying on the social network for upwards of 80 percent of its traffic. And yet, until very recently, the company was not using Facebook to distribute video.

According to the company’s chief operating officer Gretchen Tibbits, has been averaging between 80 and 120 million views per month since August. The desktop site accounts for only 20 percent of global views. Most of the viewership is happening on the mobile Web, with smartphones and tablets accounting for 60 to 65 percent and 15 to 20 percent of monthly views, respectively.

What makes this surprising is that LittleThings is pretty big on Facebook. It has 7.1 million likes and in October was the fifth-most shared publisher with 3.7 million shares, according to Newswhip. (The company is also a partner in Facebook’s Instant Articles program.) When it came to video, the company would primarily use Facebook to drive users to its site, which certainly helped goose viewership totals.

That’s changing. Recently, the company began uploading videos directly to Facebook, though it’s still in a “fact-finding phase,” according to chief operating officer Gretchen Tibbits. “We’ve had a couple of videos [on Facebook] with pretty significant views, but we’re still in the early stages,” she said. “But we are one of the top publishers and are optimistic.”

(YouTube, meanwhile, is not on their radar at the moment. “That doesn’t mean we won’t revisit YouTube,” said Tibbits, “but it’s just never been an area where we have gotten a lot of traction.”)

Video overal has become a central part of LittleThings’ content strategy. Today, roughly 85 percent of posts include video, said Tibbits.

LittleThings is best known for uplifting, warm and fuzzy content, the site you go to if you want to watch a newlywed bride play Adam Sandler’s “Grow Old with You” on a guitar for her new husband. The approach has helped LittleThings more than quintuple its monthly audience — from 8 million uniques in November 2014 to 44.7 million in October 2015, according to comScore.

In video, LittleThings elected to focus its distribution on its own website because it was where it had the most control in terms of user experience. “The biggest thing for us is always user experience,” said Joe Speiser, co-founder of LittleThings. “For example, we don’t mind if a user reads an entire article before even watching the video, because it’s embedded at the end.”

The same applies to advertising, which runs in a limited fashion. Ninety percent of ads on the site are either 15-second pre-rolls or skippable. While this limits the amount of advertising the site can run, the goal, again, is to make the video experience as unintrusive as possible for the viewer. “I’d rather not show a pre-roll than run a long one,” said Speiser.

LittleThings is also investing more in is original content. Most of the views currently gets occur on videos sourced from YouTube. While this has helped the company grow its video audience, that content can’t be directly monetized.

Original and licensed content can. In September, LittleThings opened an in-house content studio manned by a group of six. This group focuses on creating inspirational and how-to content — things that would be entertaining and relevant to its core audience of moms.

LittleThings also licenses videos from content libraries and individual creators producing uplifting or how-to content. Combined, original and licensed videos account for 30 percent of the video on today, and that number is growing, said Tibbits.

The early results are promising, with views on original content hitting 14.2 million views in October, up from 6 million in September. Halfway through November, original-content views are at 18.4 million.

Looking ahead, LittleThings, which is expected to book $25 million in 2015 revenue, is planning to grow the brand beyond its own borders. In recent months, the publisher has secured co-production and distribution deals with AOL and NBC.

“[These deals] expand our production capabilities without having to build multiple different studios,” said Tibbits. “It’s also a great opportunity to build awareness for our brand. When you see our content on or Huffington Post, it’s helping more people understand who we are.”

Another way to raise awareness: by increasingly uploading content to Facebook and its 1 billion daily users.

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