BuzzFeed's social content and distribution secrets

Jonathan Davies, BuzzFeed's director of brand partnerships, Europe, has revealed the media company's top tips for content creation and themes, as well as the best methods for distribution on social.

OMG: Buzzfeed reveals the social content and distribution LOLZ that help them win the internet
OMG: Buzzfeed reveals the social content and distribution LOLZ that help them win the internet

With approximately 200 million global unique users and three billion page views each month, it’s apparent that BuzzFeed has grabbed the attention of consumers worldwide with its short-form, visual and social content.

Speaking at Social Media Week London, Davies said social content is becoming increasingly more image based.

He said: "Brands using GIFs and emojis can reach out to consumers with something that we can all universally identify with.

"The rising use of images and telling stories via short-form means that we don’t need a text-based language – images mean the same thing to everyone."

When it comes to content creation, Davies said BuzzFeed creates 800 pieces of content at any one time. And since the company’s inception in 2009 it has been testing many different content types.

He said: "We’ve looked at different formats such as illustrations, GIFs, quizzes and lists. But we’re not just about lists, our biggest growth has been in news and investigations. To have a well-balanced media company you have to have news."

Content creation: 'It has to connect with consumers'

Brands should connect with consumers in the way consumers connect with each other, said Davies.

BuzzFeed has a formula in order to achieve that, as Davies explained: "We take a theme from social, as well as the format it works well in. Then select the social platform that it has the greatest resonance with and then find the audience it’s going to work for. This formula has helped us to become really successful."

Davies identified three content themes that make its articles shareable, human and relevant to its audience. He said: "Identity is one of them. Find a niche audience, make them feel unique, special and part of a community. Surprise them with specific traits that only they would understand."

The second content theme highlighted was emotion.

Davies said: "We want humans to be feeling a certain way and brands need to be empathetic with their consumers."

In order to achieve that through content, he explained content creators need to think about what people would share with someone on a Sunday, as well as using visuals to evoke a reaction and giving an emotional gift to audiences.

Informative content is also on the rise, and Davies highlighted four tips that makes this type of content successful of social.

He said: "You need to teach something useful and not be afraid to reaffirm [commonly known things] to readers. Brands can make something that is common knowledge look uncommon to audiences through informative content, as well as making learning uncommon knowledge feel attainable."

Content distribution: 'Stories should meet people where they already are'

"We find the audience is most likely to be engaged with our content wherever they are," revealed Davies. With 75% of BuzzFeed’s traffic coming from off-site sources, it’s more important than ever to understand how to gain that extended social reach with content.

He said: "We talk about good content finding its audience at BuzzFeed. Targeting and distribution is important, but content will naturally appear in someone’s social feed if it’s relevant."

BuzzFeed’s BFF team works to understand the behaviours of consumers in social platforms and analyse where content is and isn’t working. Davies explained: "They are talented individuals, taking content and cutting it down and trying it everywhere."

Content impact: 'Success should be measured by real-world impact'

Davies said: "Having a big reach shows us our success, as well as the relevancy of our content," revealing 21% of all articles shared by millennials come from BuzzFeed. "We’re shaping future content because of this."

Davies said it was important to BuzzFeed as a media brand to be doing good things for its community.

He said: "We are and want to have an impact on the world, so we should be chasing the bad guys and be a good media company. We recently reported on how ISIS was smuggling oil across the borders. This was followed up with an article on the Turkish forces cracking down on the situation."

Brands can still have an impact on people’s lives but have fun doing it. Davies explained: "One example of how BuzzFeed has done this is with the Clean Eating Challenge – a two-week detox plan empowering people to eat real food, be healthy and have more energy.

"We encouraged our audience to share pictures of their food and recipes as part of it, and it was a huge success. If you can have an effect offline, that’s where you can really have an impact."