LittleThings Shares Plans For Big Advertisers

LittleThingsLittleThings, which collects uplifting stories and DIY tips, went from 8 million monthly unique visitors in November 2014 to 31.5 million last June, making it part of the comScore 100. But though it’s the third most shared publisher on Facebook according to Newswhip, LittleThings suffers from low brand recognition.

That’s something LittleThings is trying to change as it attempts to build more direct relationships with advertisers. To do so, it’s upping its content creation and assembling a media organization to support the nascent publisher.

The year-old site hired Gretchen Tibbits as COO in June. The veteran of Maxim, ESPN, Hearst and StyleCaster is tasked with creating the organizational structure that will set up LittleThings for growth. Tibbits helped get the site measured by comScore, join the IAB and start hiring more content creators as the staff plans to grow from 30 to 50 by the end of summer.

With a huge following clicking over from Facebook, LittleThings attracts a largely human audience that reads content from start to finish, according to LittleThings’ internal analytics. That makes for a better advertising context and ROI for advertisers.

While LittleThings attempts to prove that audience quality to media planners, major retargeting companies have already caught on to the value of its readers.

According to data from advertising intelligence company Pathmatics, Criteo picks up a third of all LittleThings impressions, and Amazon another 5% to 10%.

“We invested close to one year building [the Amazon] relationship,” Tibbits said. “They have experienced a CTR from LittleThings that is frequently 10 times the industry standard, which speaks to the quality of our audience.”

With strong traction from programmatic buyers on the open and private marketplace, LittleThings is focusing its direct sales efforts not on banners but “partnering with advertisers on a native and sponsored strategy,” Tibbits said, which often means branded content.

It hired its first direct salesperson last October, and most of its efforts are going toward “getting on major plans in 2016,” Tibbits said.

Media planners often haven’t heard of LittleThings, but once they see posts, they realize they’ve seen LittleThings articles in their Faceboook news feeds, Tibbits said. Then they become more receptive.

LittleThings creates content on behalf of brands or uses brand’s content if the tone fits. Over Mother’s Day, it ran a funny, warm video from Ford on its site as well as on social media that showed nonparent drivers taking a test drive with kids in the backseat.

“That sort of content naturally resonates with our readers, so we’re the perfect environment for advertisers to deploy branded content like that,” Tibbits said.

Because LittleThings’ focus on uplifting content creates what Tibbits called “the ultimate brand-safe environment,” it expects to see strong alignment with advertisers focused on “how to be positive and turn adversity into greatness.”

Two advertisers she’d like to see added to LittleThings’ list? Dove and LeanCuisine, whose branded content focuses on empowerment. She’d also like to have CPG advertisers create their own DIY content in LittleThings’ recipe and crafting section.

Sponsored content goes back to the roots of LittleThings. The publication started out as content marketing for PetFlow, an ecommerce brand that schedules regular deliveries of items like pet food. When the site started taking off, co-founder Joe Speiser spun it off. He remains involved in both companies.

As LittleThings brings on direct advertisers, it’s also looking ahead to the future to maintain and grow its 30+ million uniques. Distribution is highly data-driven. LittleThings runs its content through a proprietary algorithm before it posts, and that algorithm is adjusted every four to six weeks.

Like many viral sites, LittleThings focused on distribution first and content creation second. Now, it’s devoting resources and hiring staff to add more original content to its pipeline of posts.

While Facebook was largely responsible for LittleThings’ meteoric rise, that means it’s also uncomfortably dependent on the site for traffic, despite its “great relationship” with the platform, Tibbits said. One way it’s extended itself beyond social media is by licensing content to Yahoo and Huffington Post.

And just like the early digital media sites before it, the social media-driven publisher is not only looking to build direct sales, but also direct visitors. The true sign of brand-building, Tibbits said, is when visitors type in the URL the old-fashioned way.

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