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BuzzFeed is successful in anyone’s book when it comes to creating content their audience wants to consume wherever they are and then share with their friends.

I listened to Will Hayward, VP Europe, BuzzFeed, at the Adobe Summit EMEA 2014. He was talking about how traditional display advertising is still inefficient and how new methods of social distribution of native content are worki.ng for BuzzFeed.

Here I’ve attempted to sum up some of Will’s thoughts.

Here are some salient figures from the BuzzFeed site:

  • 130m uniques every month.
  • 75% of these visits are from social media.
  • 50% of these visits are mobile.
  • 60% of these unique users are 18-34 year olds.

Changing media

Media continues to change. The advertising techniques you are using now will only offer diminishing returns. Harnessing social media currently offers huge opportunities and perhaps isn't being optimised by many companies.

That’s what BuzzFeed is doing, in its targeting of the so-called bored-at-work network.

Search overtook portals as the premier metod for users to find content, and so social as overtaken search. Looking at content, referral traffic from Facebook has been far higher than Google since around October 2013.

This obviously impacts on how BuzzFeed creates its content. As much time is spent focusing on how an idea will spread as on the idea itself; 50% on distribution and 50% on the idea.

Sharing

Tactics obviously include funny content, but also nostalgic content, which is always positive in sentiment, makes users realise something about themselves and is eminently shareable.

BuzzFeed’s ‘stuff that’s 20 years old’ is a good example of a recent nostalgic success story.

forrest gump

Memes are an example of participatory mass media and show how prolific and all-reaching social media has become.

Memes are a good source of content for BuzzFeed. Will cited David Cameron’s Obama phone call as a recent success.

In many ways, Will said, BuzzFeed is trying to be the new leisure section of a newspaper. And it's not just funny, shorter content.

Two and a half years ago the site recruited Ben Smith from Politico, to write serious long-form content. 

buzzfeed politics

The impact on advertising

Advertising hasn’t been working. News outlets were writing about banner blindness seven years ago, yet advertisers still buy tons of banner ads and media buyers want this to continue.

Ad rates and CPMs can’t sustain a business anymore in the way that print ads could. Mobile advertising simply isn’t valuable enough.

So, what to do?

Will urged advertisers to think of content as a gift. He gave some examples of good content as native advertising.

In B2C - MTV’s Lucozade tie-up allowing fans the chance to ‘pimp their summer ball’. The brands match well and the concept does well on social media, with lots of photo sharing.

mtv lucozade

In B2B – Chevron’s Energyville game developed with the Economist Group shows that good native and shareable advertising is possible in B2B.

energyville

Will cited Oscar Health as another advertiser from a fairly dry industry making great shareable content with BuzzFeed itself.

oscar health on buzzfeed

Purina was Will’s final and most impressive example of shareable content designed for social and tied to a brand.

The brand is very much part of the content (which is produced by BuzzFeedVideo) without compromising the fun level. 

So in summation, the new distribution system of social is here. Advertisers need to take note and think of how they can get much greater traction through fun and shareable content. 

Ben Davis

Published 15 May, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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