Confession: I've recently become borderline-addicted to Buzzfeed.
For the uninitiated, Buzzfeed is a website that updates eleventy billion times a day* with bizarre and interesting content. While they definitely have their moments of seriousness - from funneling information at lightning-speed during the Boston Marathon bombings to outing Anthony Weiner's sexting partner to getting into public feuds with Facebook staff - by and large the site is known for its fluffy yet addictive content, particularly lists full of animated gifs.
And their approach seems to be working:
BuzzFeed’s unique visitors grew from 30 million to 65 million between January and April, while the evening news has 22.5 million viewers. [Source: Boston.com]
So what can we learn from their success? What's the secret sauce that makes Buzzfeed so popular, and how can we apply it to our nonprofit blogs? Here are five things you can learn about blogging from Buzzfeed:
1. Update frequently.
As previously mentioned, Buzzfeed updates a LOT. I subscribe to some of their feeds, and sometimes I find upwards of 80 new items in my feed reader from them in a day. Obviously, this kind of frequency is neither desirable nor attainable for most nonprofits, but could you update more frequently than you already are? Have you considered using guest posts on your blog, for example?
As a great nonprofit example, AARP is super-active on their blog and social media channels, posting a wide array of content throughout the day. And it's working. They have tens of thousands of engaged followers on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, and their 70-80 Facebook pages.
2. Have a sense of humor.
Buzzfeed is often very, very silly. And yes, it's possible to do this while still driving home an important message. For example, the National Wildlife Federation did a great job of this with their post, "What a Squirrel Wants" (which gets bonus points for playing on the title of a Christina Aguilera song).
3. Know your audience, and give them what they want.
Buzzfeed has these fun icons at the top of their site, separating their content in a way that's appealing for a very specific, younger demographic:
I'm not saying you should use text-speak on your site, but ask yourself: Is your language resonating with the people you're trying to reach? Would more lighthearted content play well? The best way to know for sure is to experiment and measure your results. Look at the great stuff PBS and Sesame Street have been doing to appeal to younger audiences, for example.
4. Make your content easy to share.
Every Buzzfeed page is heavy on the social-sharing elements. Look at the example to the right. Above and below the content are lots of icons inviting you to share it on a variety of social networks, as well as email.
5. Try your hand at list-based blog posts.
Buzzfeed lists are lots of fun. Some I've enjoyed lately include:
- The 33 Fluffiest Animals on the Planet
- 27 Underrated Things About Being In Your Thirties
- 5 One-Song Workouts
- 14 Things You Didn’t Know About “Labyrinth”
- 20 Awesome Minimalist Harry Potter Tattoos
- 25 Signs You’re From Minneapolis
- 20 Signs That Jennifer Lawrence Is Your Spirit Animal.
Now, to be clear: you don't need to load your site with copious animated gifs (though if you can do so and still be relevant, power to you!). Second Harvest, for example, posted "5 ways to support Second Harvest over the holidays." People dig list content because it's easily digestible. (Case in point: You clicked the link to the blog post you're reading right now.) Think of ways your content could be adapted to a list format.
What else can we learn from Buzzfeed? Post your ideas in the comments.