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What can companies learn from BuzzFeed for their content marketing?

Since its launch in 2006, the “media company specializing in the social age” (Jonah Peretti, founder of BuzzFeed) has experienced a rapid rise. BuzzFeed has reached more than 150 million visitors a month with its sensational articles and is now one of the most visited websites worldwide. Social networks, especially Facebook, supply the main traffic, but what is the story behind BuzzFeed’s success? And what in particular can companies learn from BuzzFeed for their own content marketing?

Since its launch in 2006, the “media company specializing in the social age” (Jonah Peretti, founder of BuzzFeed) has experienced a rapid rise. BuzzFeed has reached more than 150 million visitors a month with its sensational articles and is now one of the most visited websites worldwide. Social networks, especially Facebook, supply the main traffic, but what is the story behind BuzzFeed’s success? And what in particular can companies learn from BuzzFeed for their own content marketing?

BuzzFeed has quickly learned how to generate high coverage in social networks in record time. The articles are always full of teasers with lurid headlines and good pictures, which piques readers’ interests, and as a result, the articles are often very quickly shared and liked a million times.

The site is kept simple, fast and perfectly optimized for all mobile devices. Contributions are read at any time of day or night, anywhere in the world, and BuzzFeed employees now post up to 400 items a day. They are in various viral formats, from pictures and top lists to Life Hacks and quizzes. The articles are easy to share, and BuzzFeed also incorporates the social sharing buttons on the main social networks, starting with Facebook. In addition, readers can evaluate articles with responses such as “LOL” or “SMH.”

About two years ago, when the content marketing hype began, there were few online companies who really understood the concept. But content marketing ideas have been around for decades. Ultimately, content marketing is nothing more than “marketable” content that needs to be target seeded. The focus here should be our own content, which provides branding, links, social media presence and rankings, and thus generates more sales across all traffic channels. In recent history, infographics in particular were used as a content marketing tool – unsuccessfully in most cases. Frequently, no clear objectives were defined, which dissipated the effect of many initiatives. So it’s important to think carefully in advance about how to reach the target audience and what specific content should be created to achieve this.

Different types of content can be roughly classified into three categories:

  • transactional content
  • branding content
  • social content

Transactional content, like category or product texts, is mainly relevant for SEO purposes. Branding content and social content, on the other hand, are suitable for content marketing. While branding, such as magazines, glossaries and advice columns, generates content that’s relevant long-term (particularly organic searches), social content mainly provides social attention, links and high coverage. With transactional content, the focus is on the purchase and its requirements whereas with branding and social content, the emphasis is on awareness, which means the image and/or branding is paramount. And this is where most companies still have room to reach their full potential.

Here are a few items from BuzzFeed that may serve to be an inspiration for other brands looking to improve their content marketing.

1. Viral Content for animal feed requirements

On the subject of animals in general, there are an infinite number of humorous articles on BuzzFeed. Two very successful ones, for example, were “What Kind Of Dog Are You?” (10 million views) and “26 Hacks That Will Make Any Cat Owner’s Life Easier” (1.5 million views). Companies that are active in this field should be inspired by BuzzFeed – it is particularly authentic when these companies publish the articles, thus reaching the best target audience.

2. Viral Content for real estate portals

“What City Should You Actually Live In?” This BuzzFeed article had over 20 million views – with such themes, you engage the interest of the masses. This theme is always up-to-date, and users are actively seeking such topics. For real estate portals, this would certainly be a good eye-catcher as well as the article “Can You Guess The Rent On These NYC apartments?”.

3. Viral Content for travel portals

TravelBook shows how it can be done: In the travel industry, there are countless ways to create viral content. The BuzzFeed article “22 People Who Should Stay Away From The Beach For A While” (1 million views) lists 22 funny pictures with short captions. Such formats result in extremely long visit times and lots of liking and sharing.

It’s possible to extend these examples to almost any industry. Often, they stretch existing good ideas or have been discovered through research into the “most-discussed” themes with appropriate tools such as BuzzSumo. Content identification is straightforward with BuzzSumo, which divides the most common content into specific subject areas.

Conclusion

Not only BuzzFeed but also other companies can generate high coverage with viral content by paying attention to:

  • Creating content that will interest users
  • Producing content that is fun to read
  • Choosing a good headline
  • Using images and lists
  • Giving users the ability to share content directly

Most companies do not use their full potential, and large companies have access to a large range of interesting facts and figures that are too rarely utilized. In addition, many companies are not structured in a way that allows all the pertinent people to plan and carry out a quality content campaign. Every company should be aware that the creation of your own content – that is “owned media” – should be the main focus, both now and in the future.

About the authors:

Maik Metzen

Maik Metzen leads the Berlin-based agency AKM3 GmbH with two other managers. AKM3 GmbH advises companies in the field of SEO, SEM, SMM and reputation management, and he also specializes in international link marketing. Since September 2014, AKM3 GmbH has been part of ZenithOptimedia Group/Performics. Prior to founding AKM3 GmbH, Maik Metzen headed the SEM-, SEO- and Control departments at Hitmeister for over two years and gained practical experience in Spreadshirt Boston during his business studies in Cologne. He is a regular speaker at international conferences and is also co-founder of the Noblego online cigar shops.

Matthäus Michalik

Matthäus Michalik is a Senior Consultant at AKM3 GmbH. Three years ago, he was instrumental in setting up the Link Marketing teams. With his expertise in strategic and technical Search Engine Optimization and App Store Optimization, he is also in demand as a speaker at national and international conferences. Before Matthäus came to AKM3, he worked in online marketing for Hitmeister and SoQuero.


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