Going viral with Hearst: lessons for creating engaging and sharable content

What does your role at Hearst Magazines International entail? What are your objectives?

I oversee the content and audience development groups here at HMI Digital. Being a content nerd, my focus is on using data to drive our creative decisions and create amazing content that genuinely speaks to our audiences.


What do your teams do to make content go viral?

They make a point to know their audience, understand the kind of content that engages their users and know what platforms will work best for each piece of content. From there, it’s about timely execution, watching the audience engagement patterns and serving up more targeted content accordingly. 


Is video the best type of viral content?

It depends on the audience. Video is becoming more and more valuable to advertisers and it’s becoming easier and less expensive to produce. Video can grab emotions very quickly through motion, sight and audio so there are many dimensions in play to make this type of content go viral.


How do you measure the success of your campaigns? Number of views? Comments? Shares?

All three metrics matter and tell us something about our audience’s preferences so it really depends on what we are looking to achieve with each campaign and on what platform (social media, apps, native, mobile) we are using.


How do you know what type of content will work/be successful?

Market research and measuring audience engagement is important, but it needs to be balanced with tastemakers – our editors – who know their craft and their audience incredibly well. Essentially, it’s the combination of technology and human curation. 


What reaction do you want your users to have to your content?

Users know if you are creating content for them and will let you know pretty quickly if they think you’re faking it. Our job is to create genuine content, specifically built for the brands that our users love and trust. If we keep to that, then we hope to continue to engage them across all Hearst International brands and platforms.


What lessons have you learned and can share from experimenting with sharing viral content?

The rule of thumb is to stick with the core values of your brand and what your audience expects of you. If a new platform or type of content trends, anything from ephemeral messaging to link bait, but is not in line with your brand or audience interests, then it’s not worth pursuing. You don’t want to confuse your message and connection to your audience for the sake of fashion. That said, it’s a perfect storm when you can harness a new popular platform or viral trend to accentuate your brand’s content and turn it into something more meaningful. 

HMI has just launched its first digital-only edition with Cosmopolitan in Nigeria. What does this strategy say about how people are consuming content?

It’s a perfect example of launching a targeted, defined business through a strong, powerful and beloved brand like Cosmopolitan. It’s amazing to watch how the brand impacts young Nigerian women and understand the different trending topics that drive engagement with our content. 

Do international editions make content appeal to their specific country’s readers?

Absolutely. That’s the gift of the internet and having strong media brands Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE and Esquire) that resonate with a well-defined demographic. We love, appreciate and respect the nuances with each audience across different countries and craft our content to fit each specific market.

Are you successfully sharing content with your audience? Do you have a story to tell? Let Amy know.

More like this

Hearst’s Duncan Edwards on Cosmopolitan’s online-only expansion

Hearst UK chief Anna Jones on the enduring power of print magazines

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Vice: targeting millennials with hip, video content 

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