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10 Effective Strategies that BuzzFeed and Upworthy Have Taught Us

Effective Strategies that BuzzFeed and Upworthy Have Taught Us

Riding on the exponential growth of social media platforms, BuzzFeed and Upworthy have picked up a lot of media attention while growing rapidly in recent years. BuzzFeed has since tripled its monthly unique visitor counts over the past 2 years (from 4.3 million to 19.3 million), while Upworthy has grown from 1 million visitors during its initial months to over 20 million unique visitors per month. Upworthy is now the fastest growing media sites of all times.

It is evident that these two companies have gone through a thorough thought process and sufficient planning to become such amazing success stories. I believe all of you want to know how they did it within such a short period of time, hence we have come up with a list of things they did that aided in the boom. These methods are replicable; you may want to learn and work them through with your Inbound marketing* strategies, which may help bring about success for your own brand!

1. Target Audience

The first step you take is to find out who your target audience is when you are coming up with a strategy for your company. You need to find out who would be drawn to your content, and you need to know what kind of benefits your audience wants to get from it. 

BuzzFeed recognizes that their key target audience are those who are "bored at work" and "bored in line". What they meant by those who are "bored at work" refers to those with desk jobs but are able to spend a considerable amount of time to browse through the Internet without supervision. These people often look for content that can alleviate their boredom or content that they can relate to with their current frustrations.

The other group of people are those who are "bored in line", or you could also see them as people who like to use their mobile phones to learn or read articles while waiting. BuzzFeed emphasizes in having their content mobile-enabled, ensuring that readers are able to consume the contents on the go. This led to more than 1/3 of all BuzzFeed traffic made through mobile, resulting in significant growth over the years.

2. Platform

Ever thought of why you always see BuzzFeed posts in your Facebook timeline? According to a research conducted in August 2013, BuzzFeed was the most shared and liked site on Facebook, with 15.9 million interactions with the brand and its content. This means that the Facebook audience contributed largely to the success.

BuzzFeed then took this opportunity and started creating content that brings about the attention and sharing by Facebook users to express themselves.

So we have learned that content that results in users sharing it is very important. However, you must remember to optimize the content (headlines, excerpts, image fields, etc.). This is to enhance the aesthetics and informative details, increasing the chances of the content being further distributed.

3. Content Categories

BuzzFeed has done an impressive job in identifying the content categories that their readers prefer to read about. These categories include:

LOL: Humorous content
Win: Ingenious or admirable content
OMG: Shock/Surprise element
Cute: Generally animal related content
Trashy: Content consisting of people mocking or ridiculing the failures of others, particularly famous people.
Fail: Content that points out the failings of both individuals and society
WTF: Strange and bizarre content
Hot: Content trending in the current week

Think about these categories when planning what you are going to deliver for your readers, how do you think they will react to your content? Will your content garner enough interest for your readers?

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4. Emotional Triggers

After looking through the popular posts of BuzzFeed and Upworthy, you will realise that all the posts have something unique—they are emotionally evocative.

The use of emotional triggers is highly effective. When there is an emotional touch to the content, people tend to remember more and feel more interested.

5. Self-Identification

The writers at Buzzfeed are really of a rare kind...they take risk to write cutting-edge or controversial subject matters, quite the opposite of most content marketers who play it safe by publishing content that does not stoke much emotion, but if it is written to be very quirky or entertaining, such articles can also garner a lot of attention. For example, the article "21 Problems All Sarcastic People Understand" has reached 5.7 million views since May 2014. Posts with such contents will attract like-minded readers who self-identifies themselves with these specific characteristic, experience or opinion. They will then share it with more like-minded people, and in turn increase your page views and popularity.


How many times have you come across posts with similar content, and yet, always click on all of them to read?

The point is, posts with similar content can be published again with updated information or presented from a new perspective or angle, creating new hype on an already published story.

Upworthy practices finding Internet archives and retelling compelling stories that did not make a hype. They believe that there is plenty of content available on the Internet, but because too much is available, it is difficult to read all the top stories shared during the time it is out. Hence the advantage for this is that since there was little readership when the story was first announced, it is worth reusing at a future date.

As long as your articles provide something of value and the topics enjoy keen interest, readership will always be in demand. When you know an audience responds positively to particular topics, you should grasp the opportunity to publish content using similar recycling methods.

7. Terminology

BuzzFeed has a style guide which lists down the 'hot' words and terms used, that does not necessarily follow the rules of grammar or the English language. It basically acts as a guide for readers who are interested to understand the terminology used in BuzzFeed. They break down the proper usage of everything so that all of the content has consistency.

By acknowledging and giving these interesting terminology a space in BuzzFeed’s official style guide, it demonstrates how seriously BuzzFeed takes pop-culture and anything that their readers prioritize and care about. Moreover, this style guide is updated frequently to catch up with the 'trend'. They are not afraid to speak the language and terminology of their readers, and in fact, are very open for it. This is essential for sustaining a strong connection between the readers and the brand.

8. Title

A title is important because that is what people read first. It is an influential factor that causes readers to decide whether they want to read the post. Upworthy comes up with multiple headlines per story, as they believe in producing wonderful works under pressure and practice. Having 30 headlines to choose from is definitely better than just having 3.

Upworthy has several rules to work by, including two which will be very useful for all of you: 1) Do not give it all away in the headline, and 2) do not form an opinion for the user in the headline. Let them be curious, allow them to willingly click on your post to read. The image you feature on your post works the same way, bring about curiosity for the best impact. With an eye-catching image and a powerful headline, you are all ready for an influx of readers.

9. The Best?

Whatever you do, don’t give up. It is not a failure if your post does not hit your target number of views. You may have the misconception that big companies such as BuzzFeed and Upworthy get all their posts noticed, but that’s not true. A significant percentage of the posts in Upworthy have yet to break the 20,000 views mark. Keeping in mind that 20,000 is a large amount of views, we need to think from the perspective of the company that 20,000 probably means that the views are relatively a lot lesser than what is expected.

10. Be Human

While having so many objectives and points to take note of, do not forget the most important criteria—make your content human. Include vibrancy and make sure the content is engaging, and avoid having your content seem robotic. A question you have to always ask yourself is: "Why would they want to read this?" Keep in mind that what you are doing is for a real audience, and your stories should ultimately tap on a very human need.

Now that you have learned what makes BuzzFeed and Upworthy tick, let's put on your thinking cap and start cracking!

* Inbound marketing is a form of digital marketing that involves SEO, Social Media, blog and landing pages to generate sales leads.

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