This past May 14 at NewsCred’s #ThinkContent Summit, Buzzfeed’s Motion Pictures President Ze Frank gave a presentation with his insight on the changing face of content. Frank begins by retracing his story back to 2001 when a simple online birthday invitation he sent out to his friends went viral. He met, now BuzzFeed Cofounder and CEO, Jonah Peretti through mutual friends, who also at the time experienced similar success. Together, they tried to analyze the science behind their seemingly arbitrary sensational hit. Later, Frank joined Jonah at BuzzFeed, and since then have shifted their focus to what and why people share. What are the “fundamental underpinnings” of shareable content? Here are some tips you can take from him on content marketing for your startup.
First, Frank emphasizes visual content. He uses the facepalm meme as an example that can universally illustrate more accurate depiction dismay than a thousand words. Images and videos have the power to communicate emotions and meaning that the text inevitably can’t. And hence, has changed the way users share content and understand media.
But why do people share? That’s what your content team should really be focused on. Originally, social media was thought of as a means of escapism and over-consumption. However, Frank observes that sharing media reflects the value of connecting with another human being through content. Frank breaks it down into the following three points:
1. To express a part of their identity (or to express a friend’s identity).
Whether it’s having red hair or being a lefty, people like to share something they can identify/relate with.
2. To give an emotional gift.
It’s simple. This made me feel x, and now I want you to feel x.
3. To share social information.
It isn’t new information, and usually starts off with “we were talking about this the other day.” But people want to resurface content that supports views they already have.
Not only has visual content changed the face of media, but this sharing media ecosystem has enabled content to target a more narrow, niche audience. Before, traditional television and media were limited to time slots to capture as many people as they could. This meant that content had “minimum viable relate-ability,” or in other words was generalized to match a broader audience. However, through the evolution of owned content and shareable media, variation is now possible to reach the niche audience.
Ultimately, Frank reveals the primary equation: reach x impact. In traditional media, reach was the dominant focus. However, the tables have turned where now social content thrives. Impact is how much the content affects the consumer and making sure the audience understands/connects. What value will the content have for the consumer? Although it is still important for brands to try and reach as many consumers as they can, targeting niche audiences will have a stronger impact and value.
Of course, BuzzFeed didn’t get all of this on the first try. It took repetitive experimenting and taking risks implementing new ideas for them to get to where they are today. BuzzFeed’s various channels boast 1.2 billion views per month. That sounds like an unbelievable number, but with the number of videos and content they create and upload per week, 1.2 billion is a given. On top of that, they figured out not only how to make brilliant content, but also content that people naturally want to share. And through their breakthrough, BuzzFeed is able to share their success with brands to reach the ultimate balance of reach and impact. Their most successful collaboration with Purina produced “Dear Kitten”, which gathered over 22 million views.
On an ending note, Frank says, “I think as an industry overall, we’re over-indexed on measuring reach, and under-indexed on measuring impact.” Instead, he calls for all brands to shift more of their content focus on the impact to find the right balance between two. And since brands have such diverse needs, all brands should have a strong foundation in this for all of their campaigns.