Infamous for its scandalous bits of clumsy prose crafted in the wee hours of the morning, Texts From Last Night sexted its way onto the web in 2009. Three years later, TFLN has come a long way from its humble beginnings on BlogSpot—the site now gets an average of 4.5 million hits a day, claims over 1.5 million likes on Facebook, and has a book, a mobile application, and talks of a television show in the works.
And beneath the crude language and haughty accounts of last night’s mishaps, there lie some critical lessons for anyone who’s involved in creating or marketing content online. Namely, what is it that makes content really good?
In a nutshell: “It is always engaging—whether the user is passing it on to someone else, thinking about it later, commenting on it, or exploring it beyond the piece,” explains Phil Bator, the editor of Texts From Last Night. We sat down with him to learn about TFLN’s success, and the keys to creating some of the most addicting content on the web.
1. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Texts From Last Night relies heavily on short, humorous, and often crass content. And it works.
“Our content is suited for a quick laugh,” says Bator. “We look to publish quick and humorous content that gives readers a break from their day, however long they intend for that break to be. A little humor can go a long way.”
Although most marketers find themselves a bit more constrained than TFLN in the shock-and-awe arena, you can do just as well with clever headlines, amusing photos, or blog posts that break up the mundane script of all the content on the web. Whether it’s a subtle pun or an off-the-wall title, slipping in a few chuckles will get you noticed, engage your readers, and illustrate the more lighthearted and human side of your brand.
2. Make it Relatable
Content generally strives to address a problem, answer a question, or provide entertainment. Although these avenues vary a bit, they often all focus on topics that people can apply to their daily lives. As Bator explains, “usually, I aim to only select texts that people can aspire toward or relate to on some level.”
That’s because, when users find content that’s relevant to them or someone they know, there’s a much greater chance they’ll share it. When thinking about your content, figure out how it can address topics that users face on a daily basis. (Of course, to be truly successful with this strategy, you’ll need to fully understand your audience, from the things that interest them to the problems they face.)
3. Make it Easy to Share
With visible share buttons on the site and a free mobile app for users on the go, TFLN makes it simple for users to share content with friends.
“Because the texts have always been relatively short, they’re perfectly suited to pass on easily, whether it’s a copy and paste or just by clicking on whichever share button. We also see a large number of our texts shared on Twitter through our iPhone app because it’s such an easy way to share,” says Bator.
Once a user decides your content is worthy of being shared, make sure it’s easy and seamless for them to do so. Take a chapter out of TFLN’s book and use social share plug-ins or share buttons that are visible and identifiable—not a lengthy registration process or an application that calls for additional information.
4. Keep it Fresh
The TFLN crew scours through over 3,000 submissions each day in search of the best of the best (or the worst of the worst). Why? So that users won’t be greeted by the same texts they saw from two nights ago.
You, too should strive to update your content as often as you can. When users visit your social platform or blog, they’ll want (and even expect) to see new content. And if you can’t provide them with something new and compelling, they’ll go elsewhere. With a whole world wide web teeming with content, you have to give the people what they want, when they want it if you’re going to get attention.
5. Keep it Simple
TFLN has always presented its content on an understated, user-friendly interface, which fits nicely with short-and-sweet texts it features. But more importantly, it also enables users to easily navigate through the site.
No matter how great your content, if it’s displayed in a manner that’s disorganized, cluttered, or overwhelming, people aren’t going to stick around long enough to actually read it. The way you display your content will either send users running for the door or have them inviting themselves in for a drink—or seven.
6. Let Everyone Get in on the Fun
Nobody wants to be the odd man out. TFLN appeals to this basic instinct by calling on its users to join the sinful soirée and submit their own content. And with thousands upon thousands of texts on the site, it’s clear there are more than a few folks waiting in line to get in on the action.
You, too, can harness the power of your fans, followers, and website visitors by asking users to share content. And if you think that you have to provide users with monetary incentives to get a response—rethink your pitch. Texts From Last Night doesn’t offer up gift cards or iPads to get people to submit their humorous texts, just the privilege of being featured on their site.
And turns out, that’s more than enough.
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