The bored-at-work-network

Founder Jonah Peretti had an incident long before Buzzfeed where he used Nike’s personalised trainer service and asked for the word ‘sweatshop’ to be emblazoned across the shoe. 

This lead to a hilarious series of emails ending with Peretti’s appearance on Fox News and a Nike executive imploring that he will make sure the sweatshops are closed.

Peretti had just sent the emails to a few close friends, they shared the emails with their friends and pretty soon more than 1m people had seen the exchange. 

In wondering how this all of this happened Peretti recognised that most of us have very sedentary jobs, we work in offices, we have computers, we’re online. We also like to take regular two to five minute breaks from work to read small pieces of content. 

It’s easily digestible narratives such as the above, which can be easily shared and absorbed in no time at all.

Although Buzzfeed began as a content curation network, founded on a healthy collection of Gifs and memes…

… it has recently moved into harder news with a strong editorial voice, opened offices around the world in order to localise that news and content and will begin producing its own feature films in the near future.

The third age of the internet

Buzzfeed is a site built perfectly for the third age of the internet. If the first age was mainly portal based (standalone websites that mimicked magazines you find on newsstands) and the second age was based on search (creating content that was favoured by search engines) the third age is social.

The internet is now increasingly mobile, personalised and adaptive, and based on a series of small networks filled with humans who connect with each other and share content and information.

This has huge implications for marketers and brands.

Since the latter half of 2013, social referrals are far outstripping search. Brands need to think in a social way, as people are now the major source of referral.

The way that internet users consume ads has also completely changed. Display advertising, homepage takeovers and banner ads are all becoming irrelevant. Particularly as mobile internet use is increasing.

How can marketers attract consumers on the social web?

People now use social networks as a source of information, rather than just a means to express themselves.

As an example, more than 50% of users see Facebook as a source of entertainment. More than 45% of users see Facebook as a means of discovering content.

Traditional publishers spend most of their time thinking about what they’re going to say and about 5% on where the content will be placed. Buzzfeed spends 50% of its time concentrating on where its content will be best seeded, read and shared.


There are some core values that Buzzfeed uses to make sure that its content is relevant and shareable.

  • Identity: content reflects the reader’s identity, what they express through sharing content is how they’d like to be perceived.
  • Inspirational: readers want to show that they have an interest in the real human world and that they can provoke a positive emotional reaction.
  • Information: telling people something they didn’t already know.
  • Humour: everyone wants to look funny.
  • Human rights: we want to show that we’re empathetic, caring people with a heart.

Curation is narration

People are curating their own content more than ever. They’re using social feeds as a source of information and building their own personal narrative by cherry-picking the most relevant content that reflects them the best.

When we’re gathering up these units of social currency, we’re telling the story of ourselves. About the person who we are, and about the person we want to be.

The commandments of being interesting

Here is Buzzfeed’s advice for brands in the social web…

For a long time marketers have operated in a one-to-many communication system. This is no longer true, now it’s many-to-many. We engage with people across the world as if we’re sitting next to them on the bus, and this only works if we’re not constantly talking about ourselves all the time. Nobody wants to hear it.

This causes a great deal of tension, where marketers understand that they must engage personally with individuals, however everything they’ve been taught in the past is the opposite of that.

Brands need to be brave. Social content first and foremost must offer value to the reader, it must be meaningful and not all about the actual brand behind it.

As the head of your brand, you might not actually be the expert, you may not even be the brand. If you’re 50 year-old male executive wanting to create something that will make 14 year old girls laugh, you’re probably not the best person for this. Integrity is everything.

Everyone’s an editor. We have a huge amount of channels where we can self-select the things that entertain us, you’re not going to get anywhere if your content isn’t of the highest quality and relevance.