If we told you that you could learn a few things about successful content marketing from BuzzFeed, you probably would be taken aback. After all, BuzzFeed, while ubiquitous, is not exactly known for its amazing journalism, incredible writing, or even educational content – all things that most content strategists insist are the keys to successful content marketing. However, BuzzFeed is one thing: ubiquitous. You cannot even find “bad BuzzFeed stories” or “BuzzFeed scandal” or “BuzzFeed exposed” results that are not actually from BuzzFeedon the first page of Google when you search these terms. This company has taken the listicle and all associated forms of lazy, clickbait journalism to an extreme – and it is being richly rewarded for it. While clickbait isn’t usually at the top of a serious content-marketing strategy proposal, here are three things that BuzzFeed does that should be in your content strategy as well:
If you think you know your audience but you have not actually done any demographic research or surveys to confirm what you think you know, you probably don’t know them as well as they wish you did. BuzzFeed’s goofy listicles about “bad movie endings that will infuriate you” or “33 pictures that prove the world isn’t such a bad place” may seem like clickbait, but if you think that the truth is those stories are not for you (unless you secretly clicked them, of course). BuzzFeed’s business is catering to the millennial audience, and this audience likes nostalgia and social media, as it turns out. Lists like this and surveys such as “Are you a good person or a bad person?” and “Which terrible roommate would you rather live with?” actually speak directly to this group on topics they find relatable – and they reward that relatability with lots of clicks.
If your audience is not the same as that of BuzzFeed, you may not want to copy them exactly! Just remember how important it is to speak to your audience, especially since if they are interacting with you online, there is a very low “embarrassment factor” since theoretically they are not clicking publicly. That means if it would best serve your audience to educate them on something sensitive, such as “5 ways to make your spouse want you again” or “3 signs you have an STD,” that is the information you should be providing them and in a format that meets their needs, be that a listicle or a scientific research paper.
BuzzFeed is covered with quizzes about everything from food to Disney World to when you will have children or die. A customized quiz that meets a need in an audience or implies you want to meet that need can dramatically improve your interaction with qualified leads for your business. Does this mean your company should start offering to predict death dates or evaluate the content of your clients’ television viewing? Probably not. But you should consider asking meaningful questions that will help you serve existing clients better while possibly attracting new ones.
Take a close look at the types of content on your website that get the most audience interaction. If you have reviews online (on or off your website), take a look at the most frequently asked questions or common concerns. Then, craft a survey that you can post online or send to an email list that will both provide you with insight and demonstrate to your audience that you care about them and what they think.
BuzzFeed writers are masters of the “roundup post,” an article that usually lists the best or worst (or most infuriating – a much-loved BuzzFeed adjective) of something. These posts are fun to read, highly clickable, and improve a host website’s credibility because they demonstrate it was more important to you, the site owner, to provide valuable content than hide good stuff that is on other websites. Furthermore, ranking others in your industry places you in an implied position of authority, which is good for your credibility.
For starters, proceed with caution! Unless you are quite confident a “worst of” list won’t create a scenario in which you are sued for libel, steer clear. Worst-of lists are great for getting attention, but naming other service providers, for example, can land you in hot water. On the other hand, if you create a customized list that point to you as a leading expert in the field, such as “The 5 Best Copper Fittings for Lifetime Plumbing,” to name one example, then you can happily post your own and others’ informed opinions on highly custom topics in your niche.
If you find yourself barely able to make it through this article because you cannot believe we’re telling you to start looking to BuzzFeed for content strategy, we understand. It’s hard to think of BuzzFeed as an expert on things that serious businesses need to be doing. However, the entire BuzzFeed company is based on company writers’ ability to generate compelling content for a specific audience. That strategy is paying off for BuzzFeed to the tune of millions of dollars in investment capital and $300 million in revenue in 2018. So, while you may not want to be BuzzFeed, you certainly cannot afford to ignore them.
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