How Content Spreads on the Social Web, According to BuzzFeed

Social Content Marketing

Advertorials have been around for many decades. These are magazine or newspaper ads that give information about a product or brand but are written in the editorial style of the magazine/newspaper. Below is an example of an advertorial from a magazine. This advertorial is trying to get people to visit by telling a personal story about one of the social workers.


Furthermore, word-of-mouth (WOM) and sharing have been around since humans could talk. WOM is a great way to spread content, and consumers usually believe WOM over business’s advertisements.

Marketers have been using advertorials and WOM marketing for a very long time. However, over this last decade, these marketing techniques have moved online and into the social media world. Within the online realm, advertorials have become branded “social content marketing,” and companies strive for their content to become viral–the ultimate WOM situation!

BuzzFeed: An Expert in Social Content Marketing and Going Viral

BuzzFeed is a company that deals with the production and dissemination of social content. It publishes interesting content that ranges from news to entertaining images of cute animals. With its 40+ million unique viewers each month, its content spreads very quickly through sharing and electronic word-of-mouth. While it is not the inventor of viral social content, BuzzFeed is definitely the company that is most committed to it and is an expert in that field.

BuzzFeed also works with businesses to create and publish branded social content. This branded content also appears in BuzzFeed’s newsfeed next to the non-branded social content that BuzzFeed creates for its audience.


According to an interview Sparksheet conducted with the BuzzFeed President Jon Steinberg, BuzzFeed does between 500-600 branded content campaigns for Fortune 1000 brands.

Companies should look into utilizing BuzzFeed for marketing purposes if it is an appropriate means to reach their target audience. According to Jonah Peretti, the founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, 60% of BuzzFeed’s viewers are between 18-34 years of age. Jonah Peretti also highlighted a few important points about how to create good content and how to spread it:

  1. Quality is very important, but it is not enough. The mechanism used to spread the content is equally important.
  2. Remember that content is about identity. People share stuff that is about them—stuff that they can relate to or have a passion for.
  3. Capture the moment. In other words, know current events and how they affect your target audience. Know what people are talking about. Become a part of that conversation and contribute some interesting and useful content to the conversation.
  4. Humor, nostalgia, and human rights are inherently social. People like to talk about these topics. Just make sure they fit your brand and are appropriate to the audience and situation.

BuzzFeed implements all of those points when it creates content—whether it is a news article or a post full of cute kitten photos. Additionally, BuzzFeed is successful, because it hires experienced reporters and journalists. This expertise is able to produce quality content. Furthermore, to spread the content, BuzzFeed uses equations that calculate the “viral rank” of each piece of content it publishes. According to Jonah Peretti, viral rank “measures the social reproduction rate” of a piece of content. The higher the viral rank value, the more that BuzzFeed will promote that content and will let it stay on the homepage. This helps maximize the spread of content.

How Brands Can Utilize BuzzFeed

What is also interesting about BuzzFeed is that it has no banner ads. Its revenue comes from branded social content. However, BuzzFeed holds brands to a high standard. BuzzFeed requires brands to produce quality content that people actually want to read. Thus, brands must learn to be more like publishers, creative writers, and reporters if they want their content on BuzzFeed. Here is a link to an example of how Virgin Mobile used BuzzFeed and social content to engage consumers.


What do you think? Do you think BuzzFeed is an important emerging media platform? Do you think brands can learn from BuzzFeed’s production of social content?


One thought on “How Content Spreads on the Social Web, According to BuzzFeed

  1. Lauren says:

    It is always amazing to me how insanely viral content from Buzzfeed is. I think a lot of what causes the social content they create to go viral is that it is created in the same language its target audience is speaking. They understand current events, know what people are talking about and exactly who their audience is. They leverage the data they collect and monitor social platforms and feeds to ensure the volume of content they are producing is going to grab someones attention.


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