The listicle clearing house, pop-culture commerce engine and general Meme propagating juggernaut, BuzzFeed, has been gaining traction across a range of media outlets recently.
From the National Republican Congressional Committee copying BuzzFeed’s content strategy via The Atlantic to Jonah Peretti’s algorithm that purportedly guarantees virality via New York Magazine, BuzzFeed is top of mind for anyone trying craft compelling, shareable content. Regardless of the veracity of Peretti’s algorithm and the often impossible task of “making things go viral”, the underpinnings of prioritizing content that “reproduces” is an important concept for businesses looking to tap into a growing cultural movement.
A key component in BuzzFeed’s success is their understanding of context around site traffic (through analytics) and social segmentation of their audience.
“The vast majority of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes via links on social-networking sites, but placing an ad on the home page is still useful, ” says Andrew Rice of New York Magazine. “Because an important sliver of users—so-called supersharers—come to the site specifically looking for material as they blast away all day on Facebook.”
This “Super-sharer” is analogous to many brand’s evangelists or extreme users that they spend a majority of their efforts targeting. However, Buzzfeed aims for many people sharing content in small groups rather than one large influencer pushing out a message to many (Sorry, Beiber). If they can secure that level of sharability, which seems more sustainable for brands to strive for, then they are on track to having a piece of viral content.
The spotlight being shined upon BuzzFeed’s practices and brand partnerships by content strategists looking to emulate their success is likely due to consternation and curiosity for how they are able to push out so much content that gets shared prolifically. Buzzfeed shares their methodology where they deconstruct virality and cross it with meme theory to develop a literal formula for successful, highly sharable content.
“In speeches, (Peretti) projects a simplified version of the epidemiological equation for viral reproduction, expressed as R = ßz (in epidemiology, the z represents the number of people who come in contact with a contagious individual, while ß represents the probability of transmission). This is the starting point of a theory that Peretti calls ‘Big Seed Marketing,'” says Rice. “This is like a holy grail made of catnip to the hundreds of thousands of advertising and marketing professionals that are attempting to identify what successful paid content looks like and how to generate it consistently for the brands they serve.”
Fortunately for BuzzFeed and unfortunately for content teams, few are prepared to understand let alone deploy and epidemiological algorithm on their work. As New York Magazine points out, “Memes are easy to make, but virality depends on novelty, cleverness, and luck, all of which thwarts the duplicative craft of advertising.”
Memes are a natural cultural contagion. By viewing BuzzFeed’s success across the variety of outlets that are sharing their approach this week, it is evident that a business needs both the analytic capability and cultural foresight to know how to track them to inspire content that has the ability to socially thrive. Through this, both content marketers and self-publishing brands can become more effective and efficient in creating content that not only is sharable but content that it is relevant to the right audience, accessible in the right place and promoted at the right time.