I’ve long considered Buzzfeed the holy grail of timewasters. In college what would innocently enough start as a 10 minute study break would inevitably lead to an hour’s worth of quizzes, with my results scattered and shared all across the interwebs. And while I never give into its siren song at work (…) nearly every @Buzzfeed tweet gives me pause while scrolling through my Twitter feed.
And then it hit me.
In all that time I read about “How to Survive Post Grad Life According to Clueless,” watched baby hedgehogs dance to Frozen and stayed abreast of Harry Style’s comings and goings, I was also learning some valuable marketing and PR strategies.
True to Buzzfeed’s hallowed form, let’s review those learnings as a list:
1. TAILOR YOUR MESSAGE
It’s safe to assume that the “21 Problems only people with baby faces would understand” post was not created for mass appeal. But boy does it hit home to that well-defined demographic.
Similarly, when it comes to writing a press release, you need to have an equally well-defined target audience. Abandon aspirations of writing a release with universal appeal. In an effort to entice to all (i.e. multiple journalists and news outlets), you are likely to interest no one. Instead target niche markets with custom-tailored content.
2. HEADLINES MATTER
It’s no voodoo magic that Buzzfeed’s articles, quizzes and tweets draw me in every. single. time. They say just enough to catch my eye and pique my interest, while hinting at more information and fun to come if I just click that link.
Likewise, PR and marking professionals should craft interesting and intriguing headlines that make readers want to read on. And not only read on but share across social networks. Eighty percent of Buzzfeed quiz-takers make a decision about taking a quiz or not based off its title. What percentage of traffic do you sacrifice because of poorly named content?
3. KEEP THE CONTENT COMING
Buzzfeed generates a lot of content. A whole lot. While not everything is a viral success, the law of averages approach produces significant traffic across the vast number of articles. And yet the site strikes that delicate yet crucial balance between informative and incessant without being annoying.
Consistently sharing engaging, quality information is crucial for building brands, growing followers and gaining trust. Just remember not to lose quality when aiming for quantity.
4. TIMELINESS IS KEY
Buzzfeed’s post about 50 Cent’s attempt to throw out the first pitch at Tuesday’s Pirates-Mets game got 440,000 shares because it was posted minutes after it happened. MINUTES. Old news is no news, so you have to act fast and be prepared. Year round Buzzfeed undoubtedly has teams anticipating national and international stories, holidays, events, etc. and strategizing different ways to exploit and deploy when the time is right.
The same goes for PR. Christmas, the Oscars and the State of the Union all come around the same time every year. So plan ahead and have buzz worthy pitches, stories and blogs ready to go so that when the unexpected does happen, you’re ready to respond immediately and capitalize on timely events.
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY
One thing Buzzfeed does perhaps better than any other major social news and entertainment outlet is foster a culture of experimentation. Sure the site has established formulas, but it is also always looking for a new way to present information and entertainment in easily ingested ways.
That should be no different for PR professionals. Play around with different titles for online content, try different calls to action, experiment with different upload times. Keep trying and monitoring what works and what doesn’t. Before too long you’ll have more hits than misses and will have developed your own tried and true best practices.
But what are your thoughts? Are these just vain attempts to justify my Buzzfeed consumption or can you too think of additional PR and marketing insights? Share your thoughts, memes and cat pics below.
photo credit: via npr.com