You can’t ‘make’ a post, image or video go viral. Unfortunately for marketers, there’s no button to push or secret recipe to guarantee viral success. But there is a science behind good social media content, especially what we call ‘made for social’ content.
Sure, social media activity is about more than just the sharing of content. But sharing is a hugely important part of building an engaged following on pretty much every social media platform.
BuzzFeed is perhaps the greatest example of made-for-social content in action. The site has mastered the art of social sharing. A recent BuzzFeed ‘listicle’ called 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity has attracted more than 13 million views.
And that’s because BuzzFeed knows what we like – what tugs at our heartstrings, what appeals to our sense of humour and therefore what we will share with our friends, colleagues and other networks.
A NY Times Insights group looked at the key factors that influence people to share content. Unsurprisingly, they discovered that sharing is all about relationships. Their key motivations for people to share content are:
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others.
- To define ourselves to others.
- To grow and nourish relationships.
- To get the word out about causes and things they care about.
BuzzFeed’s editorial director, Jack Shepherd, was in Australia last week for a Storyology conference, where he shared the secret of his success: BuzzFeed treats content as a gift. It makes sense – what do you do when someone gives you a new iPad or buys you a treat at the shops? You tell all your friends and colleagues and post photos to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
People may scoff at BuzzFeed as nothing more than shallow memes and superficial listicles. But BuzzFeed is one of the few media organisations that’s actually making money in the current market. The company was revalued in January for US$200 million. Not exactly small change.
So what lessons can we as marketers take from BuzzFeed’s success?
- Social sharing is about what’s important to your fans and followers, not what’s important to you or your brand. It’s about connecting with the people, issues and lifestyles that matter to them.
- Celebrate shared identities – BuzzFeed regularly targets their content to nerds, ’90s kids, 20-somethings, grad students, middle children and more. They might seem silly, but people identify with these groups and share content within them – as humans we like feeling part of something bigger.
- Content needs to generate a strong emotional response. The most successful posts generally cause awe, amusement, surprise or shock, controversy, inspiration or just “awwwwwwwwww”.
- Content is a gift to be shown off to your friends and family. It has been given to you to share with others.
- If in doubt, find a cat GIF.
By Edwina Lawry – Senior Content Strategist