Creating a buzz around your brand: SMLF session notes

Justin Hunt, Will Hayward & Antony Mayfield
Justin Hunt, Will Hayward & Antony Mayfield

We are huge fans of BuzzFeed and the way they create and distribute content, whether that be editorial or advertising. So much so that we recently devoted a whole issue of Brilliant Reads to what we can all learn from BuzzFeed.

Our CEO, Antony Mayfield recently spoke alongside BuzzFeed’s VP of Advertising Will Hayward at the SMLF session Creating A Buzz Around Your Brand. Here are some notes of what they discussed.

Will explained the theory Buzzfeed’s business is built on – that social sharing would be the primary means of news distribution. Initially BuzzFeed acted as a lab, monitoring why and how people shared content – the decision to create and aggregate content of its own was a byproduct of this initial research.

Now the organisation is doubling its employees year on year and investing in investigative reporting, long form journalism, a video studio and content marketing agency.

As well as over 200 journalists, BuzzFeed employs 100 data scientists. Data is at the heart of BuzzFeed’s business plan but as Will explained, it should only be used to help guide creative decisions – creative will always trump data.

Buzzfeed is concerned with shares not clicks, and its model is built around this (as Antony says ‘reach is vanity, sharing is sanity’).

According to Will, people behave online as they do at parties, they enjoy sharing jokes, sharing information and occasionally getting outraged. But whilst traditional media plays on people’s fears and negativity, Buzzfeed believes that the sharing economy is driven by positivity. Will predicts that within 10-15 years video consumption will almost entirely come from social feeds, making sharing the primary distribution mechanism for media.

The company has been criticised for its use of native advertising (BuzzFeed acts as an agency for organisations wishing to produce branded content for the site) but as Will explained, the value of the ad goes down when people think they are viewing regular editorial content – the exact opposite of a misleading advertorial. BuzzFeed believes that native ads should consist of interesting, informative stories that just happen to be brought to you by a brand.

How to create a buzz like Buzzfeed for your content:

  • Pay attention to data.
  • Pay more attention to creative.
  • Believe in what you do – and enjoy it.
  • Create content that no one else is creating.
  • Focus on the common interests of your customers – not their demographic.
  • Spot the things that work and do lots more of them.
  • Don’t start with what you want to do, start with what your audience will find interesting.