Put Your BuzzFeed Hat On

January 22, 2014


As a community manager you can’t help but spend a lot of your free time thinking about content.

How can we create branded content that Facebook fans and Twitter followers will get excited about? How can we write blog posts and create graphics centered on the brand experience that will grab and sustain people’s attention? And ultimately, how can we create content that people are so jazzed about that they’ll want to share it with their friends?

I don’t know about other community managers out there, but I think about these questions constantly.

BuzzFeed inspiration

Recently, I attended  our “What’s New in Social” webinar featuring a special guest, BuzzFeed’s Jonathan Perelman, which made me realize that BuzzFeed’s editorial approach was centered around this idea of developing inherently shareable content. Essentially, content that makes you want to immediately send a link to a friend or share on your social network.

After the webinar, I wrote the following note to myself:

Put your BuzzFeed hat on. Ask yourself, will this be shared? If not, it’s probably not worth publishing.

This got me thinking – what actually makes content “inherently shareable?”

Digging into WHY we share

To get a better understanding of what truly motivates people to share on social media, I asked a couple of my colleagues around our NYC office for their thoughts and came back with five main motivations:

  1. Desire to keep others updated on your life: On the most basic level, my colleagues share on social media in order to connect with the acquaintances in their lives – everyone has a general desire to let people know what they are up to.
  2. It’s funny or unique: It didn’t take more than two seconds for each interviewee to exclaim “funny” when I asked them what makes them share content on social media. If something makes them laugh, they automatically want to share it. But beyond that, Lauren Naru (SVP, Marketing Communications) tells me that she shares if she feels that something is “very unique, something that I feel others may not have seen.”
  3. I think it might benefit others: Some of my colleagues talked about how one motivation to share was thinking that the content might actually be beneficial to other people. Jack Barbour (SAE, Marketing Communications) tells me, “I’ve actually had experiences where I’ve posted about a certain MOMA art exhibit on Facebook and my friends have gone as a result.” Danielle Al-Hamdouni (AS, Healthcare) also tells me that she’s a big fan of sharing NPR stories, explaining: “I usually share educational pieces, something that makes you say ‘wow, I didn’t know that.’”
  4. I want to start a conversation: Another trend among those I spoke with is the desire to get a conversation going. Jack tells me, “I want to share my opinions and get other perspectives,” while Julia Mellon (SAE, Corporate Financial) explains that sharing is about “wanting to get a reaction.”
  5. The content I share is a reflection of me: Ultimately, as I dug in to get to the core of why my colleagues share, it ultimately came down to this – the content they share was a “reflection of my personality and what I value” (Jack Barbour) and is tied to “how I want people to view me” (Julia Mellon). At the end of the day, it is all about identity – and the content you share on social media is an extension of yourself and what you believe in.

So, what about branded content?

Interestingly, while it was fairly easy to talk to my colleagues about why they share on social media (my colleagues’ faces literally lit up as they were speaking about this subject), when I turned the conversation to branded content and asked if they could name the last piece of branded content they shared on social media, I got a lot of “ums” and head scratches.

It honestly took a long time for people to even remember something they had recently shared related to a brand.

Julia told me that the only time she talks about brands on social media is when she has a bad experience. She told me about a scenario when she went to a clothing store, saw a shirt she liked and then realized the size she needed was on the mannequin and thereby explained how the salesperson refused to let her try it on. She was so enraged that she shared the story on social media.

Lauren told me that the last piece of branded content she shared was something she didn’t even realize was branded. RAM Trucks had partnered with National Geographic to create a coffee book table of gorgeous photos of farms and the families that run them. Lauren explains, “It was just so compelling and only after sharing the Yahoo article did I realize that it was something from RAM.”

So, what do these two examples tell us? For one, it doesn’t take very much to share a negative experience on social media (it’s just so easy!) but seems to take quite a compelling concept to get people to share branded content (and perhaps only when you don’t realize the content is branded.)

It might seem daunting, but I think we can do it if we put our BuzzFeed hats on and approach content creation with the ideal of creating inherently shareable content: conversation-inducing, beneficial and even truly unique.