content-lessons-buzzfeedPart of being a good marketer is putting your hands up and saying: “Fair play, they have nailed that… let’s try and replicate their success”. It’s by no means defeatist to admit that another brand, or publisher, has got one up on you in an area of your endeavours.

After all, it´s what we do in all aspects of life – how many hairstyles are truly one-of-a-kind, for example?

That said, good examples should act as inspiration as opposed to something you merely copy, otherwise you not only risk accusations of lack of originality but duplication, or worse, copyright infringement. Just ask Robin Thicke…

One firm that has emerged as a pacesetter in recent years – especially for brands that have content marketing ambitions – is BuzzFeed. Boasting nearly 150 million unique monthly visitors, last year it crossed $100 million in revenue (according to a staff memo, no less). Not bad for a website that makes a business out of the “hottest, most social content on the web”.

So, what’s the key to its success? BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen spoke at SXSW Interactive this month on exactly that, with her advice being nicely summed up by Business 2 Community, for people (that´s me) who were unable to make this year´s conference:

People can’t be tricked into sharing

The term “clickbait” has long been levelled at publishers who use certain tactics to ‘trick’ users into clicking through to content that has no real value to them. How many sensationalist headlines have you clicked on, only to be left disappointed once you see the story in question?

However, as Dao explained, those same tricks of the trade cannot be used to get content shared, with people having to make a more considered decision in order to click “share”.

BuzzFeed claims that people share content if they feel one of the following:

  • They’re inspired
  • They’re relieved
  • They identify on a personal level

We’re an emotional bunch

As we explained in a previous blog, content is serious business now. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lighten the mood once in a while. Take a look at the content that is getting shared most readily on social media. How much of it plays up to our emotions?

BuzzFeed believes that a large chunk of the most popular content is driven by emotion, reflected in its own posts, which don’t do too badly for traffic, do they?

Brands need to take a gamble

So, you’ve happened on a content formula that is getting the engagement you desire. Job done, right? Wrong. People get bored pretty quickly these days. Why wouldn’t they, given the amount of content that is fired their way.

The trick, then, is to keep experimenting. Going back to hairstyles, imagine if David Beckham had just stuck with the same haircut forever?

BuzzFeed might have a recognisable layout, but it is forever pushing the envelope with its content – even verging on the controversial at times. Brands should adopt a similar approach with their content marketing efforts. Just don´t stray too far into choppy waters.

How important is it to assess the competition´s content once in a while? What other lessons can we learn from BuzzFeed?