BuzzFeed’s Viral Video Growth Strategy
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A Look Inside BuzzFeed’s Viral Video Growth Strategy
It’s safe to say that the New York-based media company BuzzFeed is a cultural phenomenon. Each month, the “social news and entertainment company” garners over 5 billion video views across its various social channels, and the digital content producer's flagship channel, BuzzFeed Video, now has over 9 million subscribers. As BuzzFeed continues to set the benchmark for creating socially shareable content, independent video producers (like YouTubers), multi-channel networks (MCNs), and brands seeking influencer partnership opportunities can all learn valuable lessons from BuzzFeed’s viral video growth strategy.
Why Do BuzzFeed Videos Go Viral?
It’s no mistake that BuzzFeed’s content is everywhere. The media company has spent countless hours developing a formula specifically designed to make videos go viral, and both video producers, marketers, social media influencers, and brands can replicate the media company’s success by emulating the following elements of BuzzFeed’s content creation and distribution strategy:
1. BuzzFeed's Video Content Is Designed To Be Shared
BuzzFeed owes much of its success to the shareable nature of its content. Almost all of BuzzFeed’s videos focus on topics that are highly relevant - things most people can agree with, empathize with, or at the very least, laugh at. The secret, former BuzzFeed VP of Agency Strategy Jonathan Perelman says, is to produce videos that people will use to communicate ideas, emotions, and personal identities (such as "I am a cat lover" or "I'm a New Yorker") with their friends and followers throughout their social networks. See his video below at end of our article.
According to Perelman, content is shared for one of the following reasons:
- To be social
- To express how we are feeling
- To show off or to brag
- To prove we were the first ones to find something
- To make a friend or follower laugh
Both content creators and the companies that partner with YouTubers should seek to replicate this “communication-over-entertainment” model by producing content that speaks directly to and/or for target audiences.
For great examples of how brands have partnered with social media influencers to create highly shareable content, click here.
BuzzFeed's partnership with Purina perfectly illustrates the company's ability to produce viral sponsored content. To date, the video "Puppyhood" has received over 9 million views and almost 200,000 likes.
2. A Multi-Platform Approach To Distribution
Social media is now the world’s most prevalent distribution channel, and BuzzFeed remains relevant by flooding the internet’s most popular social platforms with targeted, clickable content. In addition to creating a profusion of articles and videos for BuzzFeed’s website and YouTube channel, the media company also relies on Facebook, Vine, Snapchat, and Instagram to increase engagement and expand the company’s social reach. The content produced for different social media platforms is often unique to the platform, but similar videos or articles are typically cross-promoted throughout BuzzFeed’s social network.
Again, brands and content creators should take note: BuzzFeed’s videos may be great, but the company’s multi-platform distribution and promotional tactics are crucial to engaging audiences and making content go viral. By collaborating with top social media influencers, companies can easily leverage this multi-platform approach to significantly boost reach across multiple social channels. Oftentimes, social media influencers have large followings across multiple social platforms and channels.
3. Speed, Output, & Hooking Audiences Are Key
BuzzFeed now claims to produce more than 700 items of content covering over 25 categories every single day, and it does so at incredible speeds. According to an interview with BuzzFeed’s CEO Jonah Peretti, most videos take less than a week to be written, shot, and edited. President of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures Ze Frank reiterated this point, stating in an LA Times article:
"This modern crop of talent is not optimized for six-month script writing processes where they're getting notes from someone they've never met and for a show that might air in a year. They just put it out there."
Audiences now want a constant flow of new and engaging content, a fact best illustrated by the rise of Snapchat stars like DJ Khaled who post ultra-short videos (called “Snaps”) to the social media platform relentlessly. BuzzFeed’s ability to constantly produce new articles and videos to meet the demand of audiences is crucial to the company’s success.
Frank also says Facebook’s recent decision to begin autoplaying videos has fundamentally changed the way producers think about how people are consuming content and altering the way videos are made (ReelSEO). BuzzFeed knows it only has a few seconds to win over today’s fickle audiences, so it employs attention-grabbing video thumbnails and an increased “wow factor” at the beginning of videos to hook viewers within the first five seconds.
4. Data Science At The Heart of BuzzFeed’s Success
Great writing, acting, production value, and catchy headlines all contribute to BuzzFeed’s popularity, but data science is at the heart of BuzzFeed’s viral strategy. According to Frank, the company uses an algorithm called “Viral Rank” to monitor all content being shared and identify which articles, videos, or photos are “trending,” then optimizes the videos that fall within trending categories to give them an extra social push. “Viral Rank” also helps BuzzFeed create its content schedule by identifying what types of articles, videos, or photos users are searching for and engaging with.
The takeaway from Buzzfeed’s reliance on data science cannot be understated: if you want your content to be viewed, liked, and shared, it’s important to choose topics that resonate and are relevant with your audience (and back your selections up with data and metrics if possible).
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March 1, 2016 By Evan