“Nobody wants a tweet from their toilet paper” – how we learned the secret to BuzzFeed’s content planning success

06 Jun 2016

“Nobody wants a tweet from their toilet paper,” is a guiding mantra at BuzzFeed, and one which Partnership Director, Brandon Keenen believes even the biggest brands in the world would do well to learn and put in to practice.

The key, he told the audience at a recent AAR event, is to remember that human beings love to engage with and share content, and they’ll do so with yours as long as you identify their niche interests and appeal to one of the three pillars of content sharing; identity, emotion and information.

“If you want people to truly engage with your content, you’ve got to think about niches,” says Keenen.

If you had a room full of people you might think finding the thing most of them had in common would be the way to go, but it’s not. If you want to get shared, show them something about being left-handed. That will get the left-handers sharing but it will also get right-handed people sharing the content with their left- handed friends. It’s these niches that will get your content shared.Brandon Keenen

So, a highly targeted audience is the best starting point. Then, when it comes to the actual content, BuzzFeed’s experience is there are three sweet spots that content needs to cover.

Identity is a very good starting point and accounts for why the most shared content generally points to something that people can associate with very closely. It may be 10 Things Only Middle Aged Dog Owners Will Understand or 10 Things Only Girls Having Their Eyebrows Shaped Understand. Whatever it is, if people can identify themselves with the content, they will share it to say something about themselves. If people see it and associate it with someone else, that also means they will share it.

Emotion is another good area to explore, because people like to share feel-good content. In fact, Keenen reveals that after every major disaster or terrorist strike, emotional feel-good content spikes in popularity because people want to help one another feel better about the world.

Information is the third string to the content marketer’s bow. This can be as simple as a recipe somebody will want to make and share with friends or an opinion they hold.

If you can pick your audience and hopefully get a niche within that audience, you just then need something that speaks to identify, emotion or information that will make people truly engage with it,Brandon Keenen

So, the BuzzFeed way is to not make the product or service the subject of content but to instead attract a niche audience with content that speaks to their identity, is emotional or is packed with useful information. That way, people will take notice and, more crucially, share your content and build up an audience that is massive, yet still based around a niche.

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Robin Charney


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