What Buzzfeed teaches us about marketing

Most of us have accidentally wasted a couple of hours on Buzzfeed. You can’t help but click on the bizarre headlines that are guaranteed to make us laugh, smile or cry.

It’s estimated that 21% of all content shared by Millennials is from Buzzfeed (CampaignLive, 2015). The site receives 7 billion views each month and it’s estimated to be worth $1.5 billion dollars, meaning advertisers are falling over themselves to give them money (AdWeek, 2015).

So what keeps us clicking? How does Buzzfeed manage to create emails and content that keep us engaged and hanging on for the next installment?

We take a look at what Buzzfeed teaches us and how you can use their tactics in your own marketing and content.

buzzfeed homepage

When you sign-up to Buzzfeed, without realising it, you tell them everything about yourself in an instant. How? By offering an assortment of niche publications their audience selects what content they’ll receive themselves. This means Buzzfeed don’t need to spend hours profiling, segmenting and targeting their recipients as the work’s already been done for them.

Their publications such as Buzzfeed Parent, Buzzfeed Food, Buzzfeed Animals and even Buzzfeed a Dude a Day are so niche that their content is guaranteed to be relevant to the reader. This means they’ve already got a good shot at giving you content you’ll love. And as people like the content, they don’t mind the frequency – Buzzfeed is one of a few types of publishers that can get away with sending daily digests without people complaining about being bombarded.

Buzzfeed’s success is viral. People love the content and want to share it because it’s surprising, funny or shocking. Instead of slogging away trying to distribute their own content they rely on generating an emotional reaction from the reader that propels them to share it. 75% of Buzzfeed’s traffic is generated by social media, meaning fans do the hard work for them without them having to lift a finger (DMR, 2016).

So what makes people click on it in the first place? Buzzfeed know the value of great headlines as well as great content. Like email marketing, if you haven’t got a good subject line people aren’t going to click and read the content. They are experts at using funny, surprising and outrageous headlines that make the content pure clickbait.

Once people have clicked, then Buzzfeed make sure what people get is easily digestible. Buzzfeed’s most popular content are simple lists (BuzzSumo, 2015). These are the articles such as ‘21 things you’ll never admit to as a parent’ or ‘46 things you never knew about keeping up with the Kardashians’. Lists are easy to scroll and browse through – whether you’re waiting at a bus stop or bored at work. It’s not by accident that they stumbled upon the list format – this was after carefully analysing which content received the most views and shares.

Their insistence at continually looking at their results led them to another insight that makes their content so addictive – the quiz. And we’re not just talking about a list of questions – we’re talking about a quiz that will provide you with a summary of what your answers say about you at the end. Buzzfeed noticed the success of this content and realised that humans constantly seek identity, a sense of belonging and group.

This leads on to their other secret of appeal – they’re extremely targeted. They knew from their quizzes that people sought identity and belonging. The natural follow-on from this was take create content that appeals to those identities that people then assume. This is where the likes of ‘25 things only a sarcastic person will know’ or ‘Struggles an emo kid will only understand’ come from.

So there you are – just a few tricks from up Buzzfeed’s sleeve. They’re the masters of producing niche, targeted content with titles that appeal to our human nature. And they’re not to be ignored – above all Buzzfeed know their audience and it’s that knowledge that make them a success.

Becky Hesilrige
Becky Hesilrige
Becky is the Content Marketing Manager at Pure360. She studied Sociology and conducted her dissertation on online communication and relationships. Follow Becky on Twitter @beckyhesilrige
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