Think you have top-quality content? Maybe you do. But that isn't enough,according to Jonah Peretti.
"Quality helps, but quality isn't enough," the BuzzFeed founder and CEO told more than 600 marketers at Lithium'srecent LiNCconference in San Francisco. "Making shareable content is an art and ascience."
And Peretti's got the numbers to prove it. At a time when most mediaorganizations are struggling, Buzzfeed reaches 130 million people a month,putting it in the same league and MTV and CNN. And where do those people comefrom? The vast majority come from links on social networks.
Social and Mobile
"Over 75 percent of the traffic on BuzzFeed comes from people seeingsomething and saying 'I want to share this on Facebook, on Twitter, on socialplatforms,'" he said. " Over 60 percent of our traffic is now on mobile, which means peopleare consuming media increasingly on mobile devices."
The secret in getting those kinds of numbers rests not only in the contentbut in using data to determine what content is going to get the mostshares. Think about all those cats and dogs on Facebook. Peretti argues thereason people share images of their pets in social media is because it shares apersonal moment.
"People are able to connect with each other," he said."They're able to feel the same emotion at the same time even if they're notin the same physical space. That allows people to feel closer to eachother."
That thinking applies to branded content as much as news,entertainment and human interest stories at BuzzFeed. And the company requires its advertisers to cross the same threshold.
"We have this approach of holding brands to a higher standard, wherethey have to make content that is worth clicking and worth sharing," hesaid. "They can't just put a banner on our site."
For example, he said, Toyotapitched its hybrid Prius cars with a list of the 20 coolest hybrid animals,replete with pictures of Beefalos and Ligers. "This is the kind of thingToyota wouldn't have done a few years earlier, but every brand has to learn tospeak the language of the web. I think of a Venn diagram of your brand's messageand what people are going to share. You look at that overlap."
Virgin Mobile came upwith a list of 10 movie plots that would have been radically changed if theactors had cell phone. "Die Hard would have been a much shortermovie," noted Peretti.
Words and Numbers
Of course, all that is the easy part. Analyzing data is where it gets reallyinteresting. And analyzing data is"something creative people ought to be excited about," he said.
For example, two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, Peretti's teamobserved that users were searching for feel-good stories. So Buzzfeed publisheda story about a disabled boy whose parents transformed his wheelchair to an ice cream truck as a Halloween. costume.
"We don't just look at our headline. We look at what people saywhen they're sharing the content. In this case, they were saying 'I needed thistoday,'" he said. "It was serving a particular emotional purpose intheir lives when there was a tragedy in the world."
In the Moment
The timeliness of content is also a big factor. "Everyone isexperiencing something at the same time and they want to be part of it,"said Peretti. "So this is a really great strategy -- publishing things thatreally play into the zeitgeist."
Peretti, who began his work in new media at the MITMedia Lab years ago, is optimistic about the potential for media companiesin the future.
"I think we're really starting to see the beginning of a new generationof media companies that take advantage of the huge shift in media consumption tomobile and social, and use that to build a new kind of company for the waypeople consume media today as opposed to the way people consumed media 10 yearsago," he said.
Of course, a cute picture of a kitty probably wouldn't hurt, either.
Title image by Asa Aarons / all rights reserved.