Whether you’re interested in news, the latest celebrity gossip, or a video where stoned people pet sloths (yup, that happened) there is only one place you need to visit to take it all in – BuzzFeed.
The digital giant, founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, John S. Johnson III, and Kenneth Lerer, has taken over the Internetz. I write “Internetz” because BuzzFeed has reached an audience so broad that even the “cat memes” corners of the WWW were moved.
In an article by FastCompany, the author mentioned that Peretti was inspired by CNN – he had a vision ahead of time by being the Ted Turner of our times,
“owning all the elements of a modern media business: a global news team, its own video production studio, a sophisticated data operation, and an in-house creative ad agency”
BuzzFeed took that power a step further, a big millennial step not only into the “now” but also to the future – social media.
1. Viral lab
The appeal of BuzzFeed is that most of us don’t know what their website actually looks like. Peretti saw an opportunity all the way back in 2014 – why lure people into clicking a link and going to their website? Why do we HAVE to have clicks and website visits? Instead, BuzzFeed thrives on content posted right on social media with occasional links back to the website. What’s more, there is no such thing as republishing! Let that sink in:
Every. Platform. Has. Individual. Special. Audience-tailored. Content.
The magic lies not in excellent SEO (in fact, BuzzFeed believes in emotion for humans over SEO-ing the crap out of titles for robots) but in analyzing every single piece of content that is being shared. Seriously, every link (even on that website you’re flipping through) is tracked – just look for the “utm” in the URL.
It’s not about someone finding your URL on Google but about you creating a brutally honest title, like “7 Reasons Why Mondays In The Office Suck” – someone bored at work on a Monday morning will see it in their Facebook news feed and click/watch/share faster than you can say “these are not the droids you’re looking for.”
First, we laughed at their ridiculous quizzes like:
- Which Hipster 2016 Trends Need To Go? (IMHO avocado will never be “over”)
- How Overprotective Of A Pet Owner Are You?
- If You Click 20/30 On This Quiz, You’re Addicted To Coffee (Some of us don’t need a quiz to know that)
Then we got sucked into the glories of Tasty – short videos that used beautifully minimalistic shots that used a minute (two max) to show how to cook some either very cheesy, very sweet, or (once in a blue moon) healthy food.
People LOVED the idea of quick videos that didn’t require anyone to read lengthy recipes or leaving their Facebook page. In fact, Tasty has 76,964,211 Facebook Page fans as of mid-December, 2016. BuzzFeed went on to create dedicated pages for the international foodie in all of us:
- Proper Tasty – British cuisine (14,571,567 Facebook Page likes)
- Tasty Miam – French cuisine (1,668,311 Facebook Page likes)
- Bien Tasty – Spanish cuisine (10,436,915 Facebook Page likes)
- Tasty Demais – Portuguese cuisine (13,182,260 Facebook Page likes)
- Einfach Tasty – German cuisine (1,917,710 Facebook Page likes)
- Tasty Japan – Japanese cuisine (1,640,969 Facebook Page likes)
To blow your foodie mind even more, BuzzFeed decided to release the Tasty Book just in time for the 2016 Holiday season. The beauty of the book is that it can be individually made. Tasty has produced so. many. videos. that it has a recipe list that seems to go on forever – and that’s why you get to pick EXACTLY what you want in your Tasty Book:
But the viral content didn’t stop at food videos and TMI quizzes.
2. Social campaigns
To get to the heart of every person BuzzFeed began tackling reactive marketing in a way that hasn’t been done before – controversial YouTube videos.
BuzzFeed is known for its liberal and eye-opening honesty in environmental, social, political issues and although these videos started a while back for the sake of time and sanity let’s list videos that focused on bigger issues and causes of 2016:
- Racial Inequality: BuzzFeed created videos dedicated to showing what different communities go through, asking questions like “what do black people want white people to know”. The most controversial video “If ‘All Lives Matter’ Logic Was Applied To Everyday Life” brought in over a million views and 10,000 comments. The digital giant aims to ask controversial questions to create a dialogue through videos like “Whitewashing in Hollywood” or “Asians/Women of Color Photoshopped Into Disney Princesses.”
- LGBTQ: A huge supporter of the LGBTQ community BuzzFeed created a couple series like “Lesbian Princess”, “Love Wins”, and “In The Closet” to educate others and create a forum where commenters could freely ask questions they normally were too scared to ask.
- Veterans Lives: Introducing veterans to YouTube videos was an opportunity for them to share their stories, talk about being different and in the military, answering questions about coming how, and most of all – raising awareness about PTSD.
- Immigrant Lives: BuzzFeed is famous for its diversity, they used their platform to talk about the lives of 1st generation American immigrants, about the struggles of having a parent that doesn’t speak English well, or being Muslim-Americans in the States. This lead to series like Pero Like.
- Gender Equality: “Women Try Manscaping For A Week”, “Dressing Beyond The Binary”, or “Men Wear Heels For A Day” are just some of the videos that BuzzFeed came up with to show exactly how different lives men and women lead, and most of all – how society reacts to men and women switching roles.
- Health: Have you ever tried being vegan for a month? Maybe you worked out every day for a week to see what it’s like? Well, BuzzFeed did that and more! With great campaigns like “Mental Health Week”, “Body Positivity Week” or Try Guys videos about prostate cancer check-ups, BuzzFeed keeps up with health education.
- US Presidential Campaign 2016: One crazy presidential campaign is behind us… And BuzzFeed was a part of it. In order to encourage young voters to register to vote, BuzzFeed created videos that talked about Trump/Clinton voters, what Republicans and Democrats think of their candidates, and why voting is important. “Turn Up To Vote” is one of the playlists that was created thanks to US Presidential Campaign 2016.
3. Catching the celebrity wave
BuzzFeed made use of how popular particular employees were getting and used them as brand evangelists with their own Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds, and Instagram posts that engaged people and showed them the “life” inside BuzzFeed. Some of these people took their comedy to their BuzzFeed social media profiles and generated even more buzz:
Eventually, it wasn’t enough to see our favorite BuzzFeed employees in a video. Over time there were personalities that we saw click and we started grouping people into our own virtual TV sitcom cast. BuzzFeed saw how quickly videos with our favorite “cast” shared and so began the saga of The Try Guys, Ladylike, The Try Friends, High-Friends, or BuzzFeed Violet:
With YouTube Red coming to more and more regions of the World, it was an opportunity to take segments like “Broke” and turn them into paid episodes (going for 1.89 GBP per episode). The first episode was free and brought in over 2 million views!
4. Quality or quantity?
Lately, there’s been a lot of criticism that BuzzFeed is focusing on quantity over quality. More and more commenters started to troll videos with criticism and complaints that BuzzFeed is running out of ideas. From videos, all the way to quizzes that predicted which Harry Potter character you are based on your zodiac, it seemed that there wasn’t anything more that BuzzFeed could write or talk about.
Their response? Videos titled “Running Out Of Ideas” starring the infamous Jordan, who did the most random pranks or challenges. To no one’s surprise, the videos still generated more than 2 million views – BuzzFeed wasn’t going anywhere!
What can you learn from BuzzFeed?
Although BuzzFeed has its own special Internet sphere where it seems that they’re allowed to do more than us regular marketers, there is a lesson to learn: research and niche targets.
We do have to follow the “quality over quantity” rule, but we can spice things up! I do believe that research and very specific customer personas are the keys to social media success. This has been the year of personalized content, but what if we took personalized and made it very, very, niched content?
What are your thoughts on the tactics BuzzFeed uses? Do you use customer personas to personalize your content? Share in the comments below!