If you are in the business of content marketing or are active on social media, then you'll probably be familiar with BuzzFeed, arguably the site with the most shareable content on the web. Jonathan Perelman, BuzzFeed’s GM of Video & VP of Agency Strategy, gave attendees at the 2014 ReelSummit a glimpse into the video marketing strategy that Buzzfeed employs. Jonathan's keynote took a focused look at the evolution of media and how new innovations in distribution technologies have changed how it’s consumed. We learn how BuzzFeed Video views and categorizes consumable vs. shareable content, and take a look at some examples of successful video content being created by the BuzzFeed Video (soon to be BuzzFeed Motion Pictures) team:
Buzzfeed's Strategy for Creating Successful Video Content
Jonathan began by asking how many attendees had heard of BuzzFeed. Unsurprisingly, the majority, if not all the room, responded by confirming they had. Jonathan began his presentation by talking about content as a form of communication, not simply as consumption. Straightforward, right? Not really, there has been a massive change in the zeitgeist and sites like BuzzFeed are using video as a communication tool, and not just as content filler.
There have been many changes in distribution technology over the past decades, and those have triggered changes in the way we consume media. Not so very long ago, moving visual content came not only via the TV, but through a very limited number of broadcasting channels. The 'Thrilla in Manila' boxing match became the first piece of TV content to be streamed into American homes, and that again changed the distribution/consumption model. Then, HBO started producing, and distributing original content, which changed the paradigm once again.
Social is the New Distribution
Access to the Internet has almost completely changed the way we distribute, and consume content. Today, you are as likely to see content via social media channels that you follow as you were via your TV 10 years ago, and via magazines and newspapers 20 years ago. Tragic events are now reaching news feeds within seconds, either from on-the-spot reports, or via sharing. Right now, social IS the new distribution channel, it's how we connect and communicate with each other.
So, publishers and content creators need to see video as a form of communication - because that's exactly what it has become.
Mobile Devices are the New Consumption
So, if social is the new channel for distribution, then mobile has become the new consumption. We are not just sleeping with our phones on our nightstands anymore, we are sharing our beds with them, and are checking them before we sleep, and again, as soon as we wake up. We are constantly checking in with our friends, and the outside world, to see what's happening, or what we've missed. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a recognized disease which affects thousands to varying degrees, and looks set to affect even more as we continue down this path.
Consumable Content vs Shareable Content
If you are a New Yorker, then the following video, "How to Piss Off Every New Yorker in 36 Seconds", should mean everything to you. Why? Because it will resonate with you whether you love the city, or hate it with a passion. It's an excellent example of video as communication, and one that was created with shares in mind. BuzzFeed calculated the 'share sentiment' of creating this content, knowing that it would mean different things to different people, and each group would share across their social networks with their own message attached.
Why Do We Share Video Content?
So, we do we as consumers share video content on the web? Because of the following:
- 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 something you like laugh
These are all valid reasons, but Jonathan chose two more; to form a community, and to build a personal brand.
We all love being part of a community, whether that's discussing sports or the weather, or other subjects we can relate to, and social media lends itself extraordinarily well to that. As for personal brand-building, that will mean different things to different people depending on how they want to appear to the outside world.
As a content creator, you should start from the premise of one of the above. Don't just make content to be consumed, also make it something that can be share.
Buzzfeed: Making Content to Be Shared, Not Consumed
So, how do they make shareable content at BuzzFeed? Well, for a start, they has around 30 sub-categories of content (not all to do with cats), and it's all data driven. The main pillars of content are 'emotional gift', 'information', and 'identity':
Emotional Gift: This type of content taps into the vast range of human emotions. A BuzzFeed video should be able to change your mood from a sad to a happy one, it should be able to relieve stress, and give the viewer respite from upsetting personal, or even world events. The whole point of the video content is to make the viewer feel something - if they feel it, they will share it.
Information: Can you present information in a new, interesting way? Never underestimate the power of the humble brag - give the viewer the impression that they were aware of most of the facts, but were genuinely happy to learn a couple more. Also, great informational videos can help prove or disprove an argument, and that makes them fantastically shareable.
Identity: This is huge, and demonstrated by just how popular the BuzzFeed quizzes are. People want to to be identified as something, to belong to a group, and taking the BuzzFeed quizzes is one way of confirming where they belong. Or not, in same cases. But it's all good because it all leads to that content being shared.
Unlike television back in the day, BuzzFeed doesn't aim to reach as many people as possible. Instead it aims to hit those who will share on its behalf.
We'd like to thank Jonathan for his amazing keynote at the ReelSummit, and for his insights into what makes video content really work for BuzzFeed.