LADbible and UNILAD: How two U.K. publishers rocketed to the top

September 13, 2018

Written by NewsWhip

How did LADbible and UNILAD end up as two of the most viral publishers on social media? We take a look at five key tactics of these U.K. publishers.

Last week, we released our monthly rankings of top publishers on Facebook.

We were surprised to see LADbible and UNILAD jump to first and fourth place, with LADbible seeing 2.3x the engagements as the month before.

UNILAD Lad bible Facebook
After Facebook’s algorithm shift in January promised to emphasize content from friends and family, we’ve been watching closely to see how this has played out for publishers.

Primarily, our focus has been on general news publishers. These publishers have weathered the shift well, and it’s interesting to see how social users still go to platforms to share and digest stories that they care about.

So what’s the secret to the success of this month’s British invasion?

1. An audience-first strategy 

Content must have a value to your audience. It has to fit some sort of role, whether it’s educational, inspirational, entertaining, or encourage a strong emotional reaction.

This is something these publishers have mastered on their Facebook Pages, which we can see from their proportion of Facebook reactions to likes. 

UNILAD Lad bible Facebook reactions

We’ve seen how Delish has upped its Pinterest engagements by tweaking its headlines to be more like its Facebook posts. We’ve also seen how viral publishers are setting the trend for longer Facebook videos among the top performing videos.

Mastering how audiences like to consume content, in the places that they’re organically encountering it, can help inform social & digital strategies overall. (More on the impact of emotionally-charged content here.)  

2. It’s all about the feels 

We’ve gone from “whoa” to “aw”. The top stories for these two publishers have shifted year over year, and engagements have shifted along with that. Here are the top stories for UNILAD for August 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Facebook UNILAD top stories
Interestingly, UNILAD’s top stories of August 2018 aren’t enormously different than those of August 2016. The top stories are heartwarming and emotional, or humorous and out-of-the ordinary. In August 2017, the top stories were much more just interesting facts or product announcements.
This is the same for LADbible.

LADbible articles
The engagements on those top ten stories have changed as well. In August 2016, UNILAD’s top article only racked up 43,000 Facebook engagements. That number was almost 1.2 million in August 2018.

It’s also worth noting that these publishers’ overall output of content hasn’t changed, but those engagements have definitely increased exponentially. 

3. Start some buzz 

Community-building has been a major focus of social platforms this year.

Comments have been seen as stronger indicators of interest and noteworthiness in general, especially when compared with likes. LADbible and UNILAD both saw more than double the number of comments over shares in July.

Along with engagements overall, we see that comments have been on a steady rise.

Which stories drive the most comments for these publishers? 

Two things. Opportunities — new or weird products or jobs, and content that prompts an agreement or disagreement.

LADbible comments

To determine this, we looked at the stories with the highest percentage of comments. The headlines are almost formulaic.

Some of the stories present an opportunity that the reader can jump in on, or share with specific friends that might be interested. Some are just bizarre, and drive comments for that aspect, or how relatable they are. Who doesn’t want to go to a chicken nugget festival?

This article had 72 percent of its Facebook engagements come just from comments.

Others present a study or statement that might have users immediately agreeing or disagreeing. Plenty of people had opinions on “Eldest Siblings Are The Worst Drivers, Research Finds” from LADbible.

4. Know your audience

Given that these viral publishers tend to do well natively, we decided to look at their main Facebook Pages. Ranking Facebook Pages for August, clear winners again emerge.

top facebook pages august 2018
Approximately 68 percent of LADbible’s Facebook Page engagements came from video posts in August, and 70 percent for UNILAD. If we narrow our focus to just the top performers by Facebook video engagements, we see them still solidly at the top.

To put this in context, BuzzFeed Tasty’s videos drove only 4 million engagements for the month of August. UNILAD’s videos drove on average 1.22x the engagements as BuzzFeed Tasty in August.   

5. Adapt fast

However, UNILAD and LADbible’s video engagements have been on a downward trend since the algorithm change, a shift that we noticed for a few of these viral publishers.

Meanwhile, their link posts have been performing exponentially well.

links lad bible unilad
This is something we’re seeing for many publishers that may have initially focused on quick, viral hits. However, it’s worth noting the publishers’ ability to adapt and still engage their audience.

When we looked at the top link posts on their Facebook Pages, it looked very similar to their top web articles.

link posts unilad
This is something we’ve noted before in our analysis of dark social. Their Facebook audience seems to respond well to the same content as their web audience.

By having an understanding of what links will intrigue their platform audiences, UNILAD and LADbible can hone in on what’s going to get users clicking and sharing from their websites.  

What people want 

As we’ve seen, UNILAD and LADbible have both evolved over the years, while staying true to their audience and who they are as a publisher. They’ve adapted to both platform changes and to the type of content that resonates with their followers.

Both publishers have continued to reach follows on other platforms. We featured UNILAD recently for how it creates sponsored content on its Instagram Stories, in a way that is a natural fit for the publisher and its audience.

Content remains king, as does understanding what your audience will come to you for.

For insights into audience trends and what’s predicted to go viral for them, take a demo of NewsWhip Spike


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