How BuzzFeed has changed the face of content creation

06 June 2014

BuzzFeed is a site that content creators love to hate. We might all be sick of teasing headlines and the time-thief that is a page of 28 animated gifs representing what you hate most about your job, yet we can’t help but click. Recently, the site has broadened out into longer form content and quizzes, too.

Lots and lots of quizzes.

So, while you didn’t even know you cared what kind of horse or alien you are, there’s something so compelling about the site that you still click through to find out. And then, against your better judgement, you even share the results on Facebook.

So, how does BuzzFeed do it? And how can content marketers tap into the BuzzFeed formula for success?

Highly clickable headlines

BuzzFeed headlines are catchy, they promise a lot, and they entice readers to click. They don’t all follow the same formula, but their tactics include:

  • Simplicity
  • Numbers / lists
  • Humour
  • Story telling
  • Using topical events
  • Description.

Take extra care over the subject lines you use, and use those that people can’t help but click on.

Be relatable

People love to unite over shared experiences. BuzzFeed regularly produces content around geographical areas, careers and social and community groups that people can instantly relate to. They share it with their local friends, work colleagues and community contacts, and virality ensues.

Keep promotions subtle

BuzzFeed doesn’t shy away from branded content, and it clearly displays which posts are sponsored. And yet this is not blatant advertising, and the content fits the same pattern as the rest of the site. People do not feel they are being sold to, so there is little resistance to this kind of post.

If the branded content is good, people are happy to share it in a way that rarely happens with more traditional advertisements.

Don’t be too serious

BuzzFeed has mastered the art of providing informative content that is informative in a way that is light-hearted and often comical. There are numerous techniques for presenting content in an accessible way, and sometimes turning it into a joke or a meme can do the trick.

We don’t always want to be “taught” or lectured at, so presenting information in a more relaxed way can make sure that people understand the facts without nodding off.

Mix it up

BuzzFeed uses different styles of post, covers many different topics, and yet manages to feel relevant to a huge demographic of people. It can do serious, daft, and downright weird, and somehow the latter two don’t detract from the first.

While most brands need to be far more targeted in the content they create, there is still a valuable lesson in BuzzFeed’s example of varying the form of the content and the way it is presented.