What you can learn from the BuzzFeed approach to branded content

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It’s easy to pigeonhole BuzzFeed as a meme engine replete with cat cuteness, celebrity pics and nostalgic callbacks. But the online giant is more than just a punchline; BuzzFeed’s branded content is raking in millions of dollars, and their video content attracts 1 billion pageviews monthly, with half of that traffic coming from Facebook.

BuzzFeed understands social, because they know how to ensure their fans get shareable content where they reside, whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat or elsewhere online, as Keith Hernandez, global VP of revenue, explains at the marketing conference Dx3 Canada in Toronto.

In Canada,¬†they have worked with major brands such as Koodoo, Walmart and Harvey’s. And they aren’t plugging the product in their content, but instead wrapping strong editorial around a topic of interest for the client. For Harvey’s, for instance, they wrote about the ideal burger you’d want, and for Koodoo, they created a listicle of the most outrageous smartphone cases. This is content you’d want to read and share no matter if it was branded or editorial, Hernandez points out.

Let the content live on social

“Don’t force your audience to travel for great content,” Herndandez says, stressing how Facebook has become a key driver for traffic. They aren’t worried about any algorithm changes Facebook might commit, he adds, saying whenever Facebook does tweak what content surfaces in the News Feed, BuzzFeed never loses out.

He cites the a few¬†factors that drive engagement with BuzzFeed content, whether it’s the hilarious Obama interview they snagged or a branded video about Awkward Things Your Parents Do With Technology (client: Cricket Wireless). First comes identity, where a viewer may not personally identify with a post about, say, the best things about being left-handed, but will know someone who is and thus want to share the post with that lefty. Or maybe we’re not all pet people, Hernandez says, but our partner may be, or son or daughter, so we’ll share that cat meme from BuzzFeed with them. He also calls this act an “emotional gift.”

“Also, your content can be educational, because people love bragging about things that can make their lives easier, that they want to share with other,” Hernandez says. For example, you likely saw this BuzzFeed post on what 200 calories looks like. It’s accumulated more than 406,000 views since it was posted in 2013.

Hernandez ends his talk by imploring branded content providers to realize the importance of diversification. Don’t just rely on one format for one outlet, he implores. What works for Facebook won’t work for Snapchat. What works for Instagram won’t translate well to Twitter. Cut and edit the video or post as necessary, to ensure your audience at each network gets the right media for their appetite.

Check out our other Dx3 coverage on neural marketing here.

 

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David Silverberg
David Silverberg is the former editor-in-chief of Digital Journal Inc. He helped pioneer Digital Journal's proprietary technology to leverage content from writers from across the world. He was the host of Digital Journal's annual Future of Media event. David has been published in various publications, writing on everything from technology trends to celebrity profiles.
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