BuzzFeed – dubbed “The Media Company for the Social Age” – has emerged as the preeminent place to browse the most entertaining, viral content on the web. The site is known for its ‘listicles’ (quirky articles comprised of bulleted images or GIFs) but it has also been building out a robust editorial arm that covers everything from politics to business.
As BuzzFeed’s audience continues to swell (current stats have the site at 60 million monthly unique visitors), it’s nearly impossible to go a day without seeing someone share content from the site on Twitter or Facebook. As a result, brands are leveraging BuzzFeed’s cool-factor and sharable format to reach audiences via sponsored content.
A majority of BuzzFeed posts come from the platform’s internal editorial team, but BuzzFeed does grant advertisers the opportunity to create posts as well. BuzzFeed’s Sponsored Posts are a form of native ads in which brands take on editorial roles to curate relevant, authentic content that aligns with their message – but is not directly about their message. One recent example is this post we created on behalf of Ben & Jerry’s, titled: “18 Foods Everyone Must Try Before Leaving NYC,” which received thousands of social shares and was even featured on CBS’ Live from the Couch.
Site integrity is critical, as readers have grown accustom to the tone and types of content they’re likely to find on the site. Below are some best practices for brands to keep in mind when partnering with BuzzFeed on publishing custom content.
Strive for content-advertiser alignment: Since Buzzfeed is all about social shareability, it’s best to provide content that people will relate to and spread to their networks. For example, BuzzFeed posts on Facebook are likely to be accompanied by a caption that reads something like: “#17 is SO me!” Relatability is a huge reason why BuzzFeed’s content is so spreadable; by sharing, people are in many ways acknowledging their own connection to the story.
This is a big insight for advertisers seeking to connect with people on an emotional level, but of course it’s equally important that the content aligns with the brand’s tone and ties back to whatever effort the Sponsored Post is supporting as well. The best way to do that is to find a theme to work with that speaks to the advertising messaging, but doesn’t explicitly read like an ad. For instance, a tourism company could sponsor a post “25 Reasons to be on a Beach Now,” and at the end include a CTA to seek more information about a specific destination.
Collaborate with social & community teams: BuzzFeed posts are not your typical media buy. Given their social DNA, Sponsored Posts are an entirely different animal with completely different success metrics than most media buys. Rarely are people clicking off a BuzzFeed article to go to another destination. Therefore, it makes sense to loop in experts across strategy, creative and community teams in order to put together a piece of content that is engaging enough to get a brand message across without visiting another site.
Be original: Everyone loves a cute dog, cat or baby picture – but these types of images are so pervasive online that utilizing them will make it difficult for your brand to stand out. We encourage marketers to think outside the box and explore themes or topics that haven’t been done before. Of course there are times when memes, animals and babies will make sense for a post, but you’ll have a better chance of winning over your audience if you employ these common themes in new or even surprising ways.
Remember that custom content takes time: As previously stated, BuzzFeed Sponsored Posts are far from your run-of-the-mill media buy. To get the most out of the opportunity, allow ample time for strategy, creative and community to collaborate and inform the content angle and tone. And, because Sponsored Posts are more complex than a banner ad for example, you’ll want to allow time for several rounds of approvals from internal and brand teams, as well as your partners at BuzzFeed.
BuzzFeed unveiled its Sponsored Post product less than one year ago, so this is relatively new terrain for most brands. As the site continues to grow in popularity, we expect more and more marketers will begin to explore opportunities within the platform – especially those representing brands seeking to connect with a very specific audience of socially savvy Millennials.
Cover photo via LADYISH