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Published August 6th 2015

How IFL Science is Nailing it with Short Form Viral Content

Have you read about the biodegradable urn that turns you into a tree? If so, it is probably due to the IFL Science website and their viral short form content.

Our research shows that long form content on average tends to achieve more shares and links than short form content. However, this does not mean that long form content is better content. There are examples of companies doing very well with short form content, such as IFL Science. Their posts averaged over 30,000 shares last year and they appear to be the masters when it comes to viral short form content. We take a look at the secret of their short form viral content.

IFLS: Highly Shared Short Form Content

IFLS’s top performing content is overwhelmingly short form content of less than 1,000 words. Below is an analysis of the 4,000 posts they published in the last 12 months.

So why does IFLS’s short form content work so well and what can we learn?

Background to IFL Science

Somewhere between Big Bang Theory and The Theory of Everything, Science became cool. Hadron Colliders and AI theory have turned the boffins into poster boys. IFLScience have taken advantage of this renewed interest with their focus on the lighter side of science. It also taps into that basic human need: to feel smart, and to have something smart to share with your peers.

IFLScience has successfully built a very large audience, there are now over 21m people who have liked their Facebook page. The Columbia Journalism Review noted that this is more than Popular Science, Discover, Scientific American and the New York Times combined. They also have 166,000 Twitter followers and get an impressive 69 retweets per tweet but it is Facebook where IFL Science excels. Almost all of their shares and interactions are on Facebook. They amassed over 133m shares and interactions in total and averaged over 30,000 shares per post. Whilst not as prolific at publishing as sites such as BuzzFeed, the site still published over 4,200 posts last year.

Why IFLS Short Form Content Works So Well

The Content Is Focused On A Single Issue

The content is very focused, often just a single image or video that explains a single concept. The site always attempts to simplify content. The content is short, to the point and just focused on one specific point or concept.

The content below is a typical example of a short form post, this one was shared and liked over 240,000 times.

Lung Capacity Of A Smoker Vs Non-Smoker

The focus of the content is a video with very little text which brings us on to the second key element.

The Content is Heavily Image and video based

The focus of the IFLS content is rarely the text it is normally a single image or a video. Sometimes an infographic but something that is carefully selected to demonstrate the point.

For example the image below shows the true size of Africa by overlaying the United States, India and China onto a map of Africa.

Photo: Kai Kruse

The skill of the IFLS team is very much in selecting images and videos to explain a single concept clearly and succinctly. They literally speak for themselves.

The Team Curate Inherently Shareable Content

The CJR review noted that while science news tends to focus on what’s “important” or “newsworthy” in a discovery, IFLS finds “what’s cool about it and tries to convey why it’s cool and how we know it’s true.”

The team curate content that aligns well with the content people share. Surveys have shown people share content that is new, cool, interesting, amazing, emotional, informative and entertaining.

The IFLS content curation is focused almost exclusively on these forms of content, for example:

Amazing Content

This Tree Can Grow Over 40 Different Kinds Of Fruit

Company Claims Their Flying Car Will Hit Markets In Two Years

Graphic Shows The Size Of Rosetta’s Comet (Just in case you thought comet’s were small!)

Counter Intuitive Content

Some of their content works as a warning, which makes it highly sharable.

Why You Should Stop Using Hand Sanitizer Immediately

Informative News

IFLS’s health content particularly does well. People appear very interested in latest research findings on topics such as cancer.

Vitamin Pills Could Increase Cancer Risk

Educational Content

Interesting educational content gets shared, again health content performs well

Where Does Your Fat Go When You Lose Weight

What Your Urine Color Says About Your Health

Humor and Entertaining Content

Everyone likes a cat video once in a while. Putting it in a scientific context makes it ok to enjoy them.

Science Shows that Watching Cat Videos is Good for You

IFL Science Craft Headlines To Make Content More Shareable

The IFLS team write great headlines to intrigue the reader and tempt them in, for example:

This Is What Our Cities Would Look Like Without Light Pollution

4 Key Takeaways

IFL Science shows that it is possible to create viral short form content. The lessons from IFLS on short form content are:

1. Make sure your content is inherently shareable. Is the content:

  • Amazing
  • Counter Intuitive
  • Entertaining
  • Educational
  • Informative
  • New – such as health research

2. Focus on a single issue, fact or concept. Aim to simplify, keep it short and to the point.

3. Use a striking image or video to explain and exemplify your point.

4. Create enticing headlines to increase shareability.

You can see today’s trending content on IFL Science here http://bzsu.co/1N82B1P

Let us know of other sites you think are killing it with short form viral content.



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