BuzzFeed is known for its grabby listicles, “viral” news stories, and clickbait pop culture posts – and is often (fairly) regarded as millennial-era “lazy journalism.”
While most of BuzzFeed’s readership doesn’t venture there for in-depth, hard-hitting journalism, there’s no doubt that BuzzFeed rose quickly for fame for their highly engaging and share-worthy articles.
Which begs the question:
Are there some brilliant content creation lessons to be learned from this viral content king?
Yes. For sure, dude.
But before you start writing up “500+ SEO Hacks You Should Know Before You Die”, let’s dig into what BuzzFeed does right, why it works, and what content ideas are worth stealing for your own content marketing strategy.
BuzzFeed – So Hot Right Now
BuzzFeed isn’t known for substance – but that’s exactly the point. Their success is based on their entertainment factor – articles that are a momentary escape from the depressing news articles of late.
While millennials as a generation are known for being entitled and lazy, this stereotype often overshadows their love for nostalgia, of better times, and of quick and simple pleasures.
BuzzFeed has capitalized on this by creating highly relatable content that both speaks to millennials’ nostalgic nature and their familiarity with social media.
The result is content what has readers acknowledging “Wow. This is me” and encourages them to share it like crazy.
So, though at the surface this content looks like clickbait, it is actually quite brilliant.
What marketer doesn’t want their content to speak directly to their ideal audience and go viral?
Here’s how to replicate what BuzzFeed has mastered in their content, from creating audience-focused articles that share like crazy, to uber-relateable content that gets you links by the bucket load.
1. Uber-Relatable Content that Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity (and Get You Shares)
The first thing that BuzzFeed got right when it came to creating content was taking the time to understand their target audience.
Many content creators jump into writing content that they think their audience wants to read without taking the time to conduct thorough (or any) market research. And no, keyword research does not count.
BuzzFeed’s content gets clicks and shares not because it’s funny, easy-to-digest, or trending. It gets clicks and shares because it is exactly what their target audience wants to read.
And BuzzFeed knows what their audience wants to read because they did the research. They didn’t just guess.
Buzzing from the Beginning
In a Business Insider interview, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti discusses how BuzzFeed came to be and what has made it successful.
Essentially, BuzzFeed came from his research into the psychology of why people share things. He looked at what content was performing well and why.
He saw that his target audience was tired of the depressing, twisted, and often monotonous news stories. They wanted content that was highly relatable, entertaining, and fast.
This was not an instance of guess-and-check. His process is formulaic – repeatable – and you can do this for your own content as well.
Doing Research Right
Creating highly relatable content means creating content that your audience can relate to. Duh.
But how do you know what they will find relatable?
You ask them.
Market research starts with a few essential questions:
- What is your biggest struggle with [topic/subject]?
- What methods have you tried in order to overcome this struggle?
- What issues did you have with these methods?
- What is your biggest fear when it comes to [topic/subject}?
- What is your goal when it comes to [topic/subject]?
Ask your audience these questions in regards to what you are looking to offer – marketing services, content writing, SEO consulting, whatever – and you gain access to a treasure trove of information.
Not only will you learn what your audience is struggling with (their pain points), but also where your competitors are falling short.
Then, your USP (unique selling point) can become what makes you different, and how you can help them overcome their fears and reach their goals.
In BuzzFeed’s case, they discovered that their target audience struggled with finding entertaining content online that didn’t make them depressed or stress them out.
They likely tried scrolling through Reddit, Instagram, or Tumblr to find relatable content that was entertaining an digestible.
Problem was, this content wasn’t consolidated in one place, and it wasn’t fast enough.
BuzzFeed overcame this by using a bot to scrape the internet for viral stories, spun the articles for quick circulation, and implemented a multi-platform sharing strategy to get it in front of their audience’s eyes.
Create Content That Your Audience Actually Wants to Read
You can create highly relatable content by simply taking the time to conduct market research to figure out what your audience wants to read.
- What information are they looking for or aren’t able to find?
- Are they reading content for information or entertainment?
- Are they searching on Google or somewhere else?
These are all questions worth asking.
Your content strategy should never be solely based on the keywords that you want to rank for.
It should always be based on a solid foundation of market research. Not only will this inform your keyword research, but it ensures that you are creating content that your audience wants to read. This significantly improves your chances of drawing in clicks, social shares, and on-site conversions.
BuzzFeed didn’t jump into the deep waters of content creation without doing the proper research and looking at the data.
Neither should you. Get to know your audience and create content that specifically for them – as if you are writing for an audience of one. That’s how you create relatable content that gets you shares.
2. Awesome Quizzes to Die For (and Earn Links From)
One form of relatable content that BuzzFeed turns to a lot is quizzes. Again, quizzes are quick, entertaining, and highly shareable (as people want to see what results their family and friends get as well).
Now, when most people think of “quizzes” they think of those like “What kind of potato are you?” or “What does your favorite color say about you?”.
Clearly, these types of quizzes are only appropriate for certain niches (though I would encourage you to have a little fun whenever possible).
Here, I use the term “quiz” rather loosely, as it can really relate to tests, tools, or assessments that provide some type of value to your audience.
For example, if your client is a local construction company, you can add a measurement calculator to the website to help their readership in their DIY projects, or attract links from other websites that would find this resource beneficial.
Similarly, you could implement a quiz to help users in their living room remodel based on a quiz that asks them about the dimensions, their desired aesthetic, color scheme, etc.
A quiz doesn’t have to be goofy – but it does need to make sense for the audience you are trying to appeal to.
What is your audience trying to accomplish? Could a quiz, tool, or survey help them with this?
If so, this is a great opportunity to provide value and attract links from websites that may find this quiz useful.
BuzzFeed’s success rides on the virality of their content. They want their content to circulate widely and quickly.
Quizzes are great for this. Quizzes could be great for your content strategy not only in terms of social shares but also attracting backlinks to improve SEO.
3. ‘Viral’ Content Ideas You’ve Probably Never Heard of (or Gotten Brand Recognition From)
If there’s a science behind what makes a piece of content go viral, then BuzzFeed definitely has it down. Unfortunately, BuzzFeed has yet to reveal their secrets, but that doesn’t prevent us from trying to hack their success.
Really, there are many ways to make a piece of content go viral, but most of them start with one thing: emotion.
Viral content provokes emotion. It gets people talking. They comment because they are mad. They share it because it is funny. They go back to it over and over again just to feel the feels.
Speak to the Core
While it’s one thing to create content that’s relatable, it’s another to speak directly to the core of your target audience.
You have to really know what their struggles are, their fears are, their joys are, and what makes them tick. Sometimes you will know this from market research, and sometimes you will just get lucky.
Watch your audience carefully to see what type of content gets them buzzing the most. Look at your top social media posts or blog posts and look for similarities. Some things to look for are:
- What emotion does this content provoke?
- What was the focus topic
- What kinds of reactions did it get?
- What action did readers take (comment, share, etc.)?
If you can find similarities, you will be able to apply this to your next piece of content. It may be a process of testing what works, fixing what doesn’t, and looking to your competitors to see what they are doing with their content.
Then, your goal should be to implement a content marketing strategy that helps you circulate the content as widely as possible.
You must get the ball rolling. And you must include calls-to-action so that is super easy for your audience to know what action to take.
Viral content is an opportunity to get in front of as many eyes as possible. From a brand awareness standpoint, this is invaluable.
It’s worth it to invest the time and marketing manpower in getting it right – even if that means failing a few times.
With viral content, you go beyond simply focusing on traffic and conversions, but also getting your brand in front of a wider audience. You may be on your way to becoming a household name like BuzzFeed.
4. ‘Best of’ Roundup Posts for Newbs (and High-Authority Links)
Roundup posts are a well-known content form in the marketing world. They are great for building authority and drawing in high-quality backlinks to your website.
This is because roundup posts draw in multiple sources of information (often industry experts) in order to create a piece of content that is extremely valuable and easy to digest.
At the same time, you then have the potential that those featured in the roundup post will share and link to your content. All wins all around.
BuzzFeed is known for its listicles that draw in many sources of information, including videos, memes, quotes, and more. People love this type of content because it is easy to comb through and there is something in it for everyone.
You can use roundup posts too by asking industry experts to share a piece of advice about a chosen topic that’s of interest to your audience.
You can even do a roundup of the top tools used in your industry, or x trends that readers should look out for in the upcoming year.
There are near endless opportunities available to add roundup posts to your content marketing and link building strategy.
Just remember to focus on what your audience is interested in, and include sources that are likely to reciprocate the feature by linking to and/or sharing your content.
5. The Most Timely Content Ever (for Maximum Social Shares)
One of the most genius things that BuzzFeed does is capitalize on content that is already going viral. They do this by either spinning trending news articles or creating content around something hot that’s happening right now.
Marketers often refer to this as content timeliness. Timely content is content that takes advantage of what people are interested in and are talking about for a short moment in time.
This is not your “evergreen” content. This is content that will likely live a short life. But it is content that takes advantage of what’s popular at the moment and what users are actively searching for.
Here’s how to do it:
- Look to the top social media sites or news sites to see what is trending. Google Trends, Facebook trends, and Twitter’s trending hashtags are all great places to look. You will be able to see the top stories or the day, and sometimes the week or the month.
- Consider which news story may be relevant to your audience and business. Is a celebrity going through a messy divorce? Perhaps your family law attorney client could turn this into a valuable lesson on how to protect your assets. Is there a big flood happening in some part of the world? For a local construction company, there could be a post there on what to do in case of such a disaster.
- Be sure to include a reference to the original story so that it clearly ties into the trending topic. For the above, the titles could be “x Lessons to Learn from the [Celebrity] Divorce” or “Worried About [Area] Flood? Here’s How to Protect Your Home if it Happens to You”. This way, users are more likely to click on it and share the content as it being relevant to what’s happening in the world at the moment.
- Share. Again, you want to get the ball rolling by sharing the content yourself. Be sure to include the trending hashtags, then share it across multiple platforms.
Creating timely content that goes viral is not hard science, but it can be wildly successful if you get it right. Just be sure to make the story relevant to what your audience may be interested in.
I would, however, recommend that you avoid capitalizing off of tragedies, as this may have the opposite effect by making your audience think that you are insensitive. This content idea should always consider what’s appropriate, and provide value to your audience.
Get Your Audience Buzzing with BuzzFeed’s Content Ideas
It may be hard to compete with the content marketing genius that is BuzzFeed, but there are some highly valuable lessons to be learned here when it comes to creating content that your audience will love.
Not only that, but you can hack BuzzFeed’s content marketing strategy in order to maximize links and social shares.
Every niche is different, so it’s important to look at what trends well with your audience.
Start with your market research to get a solid understanding of what your audience is interested in, then use the content ideas above to create content that’s clickable, shareable, and worthy of going viral.