Understand Buzzfeed’s Philosophy And Do Content Like They Do

February 13, 2014 Jonathan Paul

Buzzfeed 18 Signs That You're A Robot

Content, as they say, is king and these days the king has never been more secure on his throne. As the battle for consumers’ attention is waged, compelling content is the key to breaking through and brands are becoming increasingly savvy in this regard. Increasingly, they’re forming partnerships with online publishers like BuzzFeed to create engaging, sharable branded content that’s geared towards building up their brand affinity with consumers.

Eric Harris, EVP of Business Operations at Buzzfeed.

Eric Harris, EVP of Business Operations at Buzzfeed.

BuzzFeed’s EVP of Business Operations, Eric Harris, will be at Dx3 in March to discuss The Case for Innovation and exactly how brands can create quality standout content. We asked him to give us a sneak peek with a Q&A on content marketing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is when brands create and distribute content that tells a story and communicates the brand’s attributes and aspirations to the world. At BuzzFeed, we’ve adapted content marketing for social/mobile with a focus on creating social, sharable content.

Why is it important in this day and age?

Brands have never been closer to their consumer. With the advent of social media, social content allows brands to connect with their consumers on a personal and authentic level. The disruption of the “norm” is to be fearless, to break the bounds of tradition – the brand on one side and the consumer on the other. Content marketing is the disruptor and brands are now able to be a part of it.

When does it make sense to get into content marketing?

Any brands that want to be relevant and be a part of the conversation should engage in content marketing. At BuzzFeed, we’ve seen success working with brands in every vertical and every industry. The ideal situation is for brands to engage in an always-on newsroom-like strategy, but you can’t sit and wait for breaking news to happen since there often won’t be something to react to.

So, what do you talk about the rest of the time? That’s when your brand’s aspirations or themes become important. Your brand’s strategy should have multiple objectives. It can have a long shelf life and it can capture the moment. It’s the brands that can tap into evergreen and real-time strategies that have been the most successful.

“Content marketing is the disruptor and brands are now able to be a part of it.”

When doesn’t it?

Never. It doesn’t make sense for every brand to always be creating content, but every brand should have a content strategy. With social now the primary means for discovering, consuming, and engaging with content, people now use content to communicate how they’re feeling, what they believe in and who they are. When brands can create content that resonates and is shared it’s a huge win-win.

What are key elements of good content marketing?

In the social, mobile world we live in today, it’s critical that brands are always thinking about how their content will get shared and spread. For every content initiative, brands should ask themselves questions like: Why would someone share this? How would they share it? Is it human? Is it relevant? Can it be shared via mobile?

Mobile is key. Over 75% of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from social sources and the large majority of that social traffic is from mobile devices. If your content doesn’t work well on mobile, you’re putting yourself at a big handicap and your content will not getting shared anywhere near its full potential.

“People want to share content that they can relate to, whether it’s from an editorial staff member or from a brand.”

What are some things content marketers should avoid?

At BuzzFeed, we’ve seen that excessive branding and a heavy hand with your brand’s message can dilute the human element. People want to share content that they can relate to, whether it’s from an editorial staff member or from a brand.

Can you elaborate on BuzzFeed’s approach to content marketing?

At BuzzFeed, our content approach is, “Content Worth Sharing.” We have a creative team of over 40 strategists, designers and researchers that study platform trends and create content with the brand’s aspirations and messaging at the forefront. We ask ourselves, “Will I share this?” to every post created to ensure it passes the sharability test, but content is not the end all, be all.

Timely and smart distribution (both organic and paid) is just as important. At BuzzFeed we promote the advertiser’s content and then analyze the sharing so that we can double, triple, or quadruple down on the best, most shared content. We think of content as the train and the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…) as the tracks.  Every post on BuzzFeed is built for sharing and on average we see a 1.3-times lift (30% additional earned media) of sharing on all branded posts.

What are some good content marketing strategies?

Here are two great examples:

Virgin Mobile works with us on a long-term basis, never turning off their content creation and promotion. They’ve tapped into the cultural zeitgeist while staying true to their brand’s aspirations, consistently producing content and results that are two to three times more than our benchmarks.

Another great example is GE. GE creates content daily on various social platforms to remind us that their presence is all around. As a B2B company, they’re not trying to sell a product, but bring awareness of their massive impact. It’s not surprising that an innovative, technology company would be one of the first to recognize the importance of the social web. They are fearless experimenters and they are the definition of brand bravery.

How do you see content marketing evolving in the future?

Content marketing is the future of the advertising business. At BuzzFeed we’ve been doing content marketing or social content-driven advertising for almost four years. Our success and that of Facebook and others has prompted many other publishers to enter the native/social arena in the last year. The key to content marketing is understanding user behavior and adapting as necessary. We create content that people want to share. If at some point, users share differently, we’ll have to adapt our product to accommodate. Social content-driven advertising is great for the advertiser, great for the publisher and, when done well, great for the consumer.

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