5 Lessons for Creating 'Viral' Content From BuzzFeed

05/05/2015 06:52 am ET | Updated May 05, 2016

Anyone who has ever been on Facebook has probably been on BuzzFeed. The originator of the omnipresent listicle. Of cat memes and baby videos, that home of the wacky and weird on the internet, BuzzFeed is unanimously addictive as it is a huge time suck. With over 13 million daily users landing on their site from around the world and spending over five and a half minutes at least per visit, this is one hugely engaging internet phenomenon. And what does it do per se? It produces content. Wildly popular, may not be the most intellectually stimulating, yet hugely shareable content.

Which content marketer would not want that kind of success?
In an effort to reverse engineer BuzzFeed's winning formula for viral content, here's what you can do with your content; based on the 'BuzzFeed Model'.

  1. Produce a lot of content
  2. As BuzzFeed's Jonah Peretti puts it, "You never know in advance, which ideas will work". BuzzFeed's solution to the problem? Create lots of content. Correction. LOADS of content. At about three to four hundred new pieces of content a day, that's a big content pool to pick from. However, that does not mean it's slipshod content. It all still conforms to their basic quality guidelines. Just make sure you keep track of all your content. Investing in a tools like Wrike helps keep your data organized and easier to retrieve when you want to promote it later. Once you have so much of great content to play with, the law of averages ensures that a definite proportion of the content will succeed. When it does, you know what works and make more content along similar lines.

    Jonah Peretti of Buzzfeed speaks onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on April 29, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

  3. Create Easy Bite Sized Content

  4. There's been this ongoing debate over content length and what would be the best size for a piece of content to go viral. According to research by SerpIQ the best performing content on Google's SERPs tends to be at least 2000 words on an average. Moz found their sweet spot to be at around 1500 words. On the other hand, there are news outlets that do not let articles go over 750 words apiece.

    The best length honestly depends on your product category and content niche. Test out various lengths of content and zero in on the one that works best for you. But taking a cue from BuzzFeed, we know that short interesting and snackable content has a definite audience - feed your audience bite sized content that they can consume at one go.

    No more TL;DR for your articles!

  5. Speak Your Audience's Language

  6. Peretti discloses that 60% of BuzzFeed's readers are aged 18-34 years - basically this is a site that caters to Millennials. If you take a look at the site, you'll see that it is perfectly tailored for this large and growing demographic. Short snappy articles, themes that revolve around pop culture, activism or news headlines about matters that connect with this demographic. Even the typical millennial language - LOL, cute, OMG, fail - literally, is an integral part of BuzzFeed. The extreme ease of sharing - not just every article, every image has social sharing buttons on it - feeds into the hyper-social behavior of this audience.

  7. Matching the Right Content to the Right Platforms

  8. BuzzFeed uses the right content on the right platforms. Their content is not exactly the stuff that Pulitzer prizes are made of, but they definitely understand what type of content works on which platform and they take a good, not great; piece of content and promote the s%#t out of it on platforms that it is best suited for.

    According to BuzzFeed, Facebook is a place where everyone can see what content you consume. Consequently you share or like funny, smart or cool stuff - content that reflects positively on you. Twitter is similar to Facebook in some ways, but here you also have the option of following celebrities, scientists, artists and other famous people on an almost one-on-one basis. This means the content you'll share here is typically not just things that make you look smart and hip, but also things that your followers will enjoy. Google comparatively a more private world, where what you search for is not broadcast to anyone you know. This is where NSFW content gets searched for and therefore, promoted.

  9. Let Data Be Your Shepherd

  10. BuzzFeed is renowned for being hugely data oriented. For example, recognizing the potential that Pinterest holds as a distribution platform, BuzzFeed set up a 'Pin Ops' team. Based on inputs from this team, Pinterest is now the second largest traffic referrer for BuzzFeed. Similarly, the team found that email was a popular form of sharing content on BuzzFeed's mobile site. By making the email sharing button more prominent and more easily accessible from mobiles, BuzzFeed grew email shares by 100%.

    BuzzFeed's dedicated data analytics teams crunches every angle of data for their content and offers suggestions that are adopted by their editorial and distribution teams to some stellar results. You can replicate this data-driven process into your content marketing using a combined marketing, social media and business dashboard such as Cyfe, which crunches all your numbers in one place.

In Conclusion
This is the same site that sent the entire world into a hair-pulling tizzy with its 'What Color is That Dress' post. If they can take an ambiguously colored dress and turn it into an internet phenomenon that sparked millions of tweets and comments and serious weighing in from leading media outlets, this is the company to learn viral content marketing from.

Are you taking notes yet?