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How Buzzfeed Creates Share-Worthy Content

Buzzfeed LogoLast week, Ze Frank, one of the world’s most influential web experts and current head of BuzzFeed Video, presented a one-hour web seminar on “How BuzzFeed Does Video for the Social Age.”  We at CEB Marketing tuned in, and want to share what we learned with you.

Many of our members are familiar with the recent growth of video and mobile.  From 2011 to 2013, the world has seen a 9% growth in video consumption online, and a whopping 59% growth in video consumption on mobile (loser: traditional TV, which lost 2% of its views).  BuzzFeed’s total video traffic reflects these trends, with about half of its 300 million video view growth in 2013 coming from mobile devices.  But what’s unique about BuzzFeed is that only 6% of that growth stems from the platform.  That means that 94% of that growth came from sheer virality.

How did BuzzFeed develop this impressive ability to create shareable – indeed, share-worthy – content?  Well, in the pre-social age, there was this notion that the “best” media shares well, and if we could all just hit a high-enough quality bar, our messages would be heard and echoed.  Unfortunately for the traditionalists, something else surfaced.  Things that are shared today pinpoint a certain kind of communication that language just doesn’t do as well.  Think of those videos that you email to your friends before you’ve even finished watching it yourself.  It’s not just about the content anymore.

In fact, according to Ze Frank, information is now only one of three drivers of content share in today’s social age:

Identity – This type of content conveys part of the sharer’s identity better than the sharer is otherwise able to do so.  It can also be the sharer’s way of expressing tacit understanding of the receiver’s identity. BuzzFeed example: Why It’s Hard Out There for a Lefty

Emotional Gift – Here, the sharer wants the receiver to feel a certain way.  For instance, the sharer might think “This made me feel X, and I’d like you to feel X.”  Or “I heard you’re feeling Y, and I’d like you to feel X.” BuzzFeed example: How to Restore Your Faith in Humanity

Information – This is the most traditional category, but in today’s world, it must be even more personal.  People will only share information that either supports a view s/he already holds, or demonstrates that something is important to him/her. BuzzFeed example: The Time You Have (in JellyBeans)

Now, many of you might think “Well gee, I’d sure love to create some appealing and share-worthy video content, but I just don’t have the budget for that high-tech, fancy-schmancy stuff.”  Ze Frank actually doesn’t think you really need fancy technology or special effects to succeed here.  (Not convinced by the examples above?  See more captivating yet super simple BuzzFeed videos.)

Instead, you should think in terms of emotional and intellectual resources, or, in Ze Frank’s words, “you need an aesthetic sense of network.”  He believes that video can be thought of in a much more friction-less way by thinking about “something incredibly important to you, and then building out a map of identity.”  And he even gives us his own, personal trick to remind himself how to improve a video.

Specificity: “Write down the ways that you expect other people to talk about your content, and then throw that away. Instead, ask yourself, ‘What is fundamentally my experience around this subject matter?’”

Scale: “Try things big and small, whether in your speed of transitions … or the ridiculousness of the subject matter.”

Surprise: “This is a reminder that almost all content has patterns in it, from the way you present the title to the way you tell jokes.  This patternicity comes naturally, so take a moment to break it once in a while.”

There you have it folks, pearls of wisdom from the guru of share-worthy web content.  Which of these has worked in your marketing campaigns?  What hasn’t worked so well?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Members, for more on social media, visit our topic center.

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