What makes people share on social? If anyone knows the answer to this so very important question, it is popular viral news and entertainment sharing site Buzzfeed — what with its content ubiquitous on nearly everyone’s Facebook and Twitter feeds!
So it is great news that Buzzfeed is coming to Singapore soon. “We’re looking for localised content, stories that resonate with Singaporeans,” shared Scott Lamb, VP, Buzzfeed.
“We’ll start with a small offsite editorial team, figure out what locals like to share, then hire more and grow based on the results,” he added.
In an exclusive interview with e27, Lamb decodes what generates virality. According to him, it boils down to just four things: Identity, Emotion, Surprise, and Timeliness.
Firstly, content needs to speak to people and appeal to who they are. “People want to share with others similar to them,” Lamb noted, “For instance, one article we had on the worst things for left-handed people got nearly 280,000 shares on Facebook, due to lefties sharing it with fellow southpaws and getting laughs out of it.”
That said, Lamb acknowledges different things speak to different people, and it’s difficult for content to appeal to every single individual. “It’s hard to make something that appeals to everyone,” he said, “One example would be age, like our article on being a music fan in your 20s vs. your 30s. Most people who are 30 now are likely to be music lovers, so articles such as this will be relevant to them.”
Mention Buzzfeed, and most people would associate it with cute animal pictures, particularly of cats and kittens. There’s a reason for this, according to Lamb, and it’s emotions. “One of the reasons why animals are so popular is that they’re a medium for people to express emotions. People want to be reminded on a rough day that life isn’t that bad after all,” said Lamb.
On Buzzfeed, the most shared articles are often the funniest, and Lamb claims that this is emotion at work as well. “Humour and laughter are positive emotions,” he noted, “Positive emotions makes it easier for people to connect with others, while negative emotions such as anger and sadness shut people down and impedes their ability to share and connect.”
Buzzfeed articles usually have straightforward headlines. For instance, this article on the 50 books you’ll never read the same way ever again contains, easily enough, interesting facts about 50 books. The surprise comes inside the article, which states such unbelievable things as Justin Bieber making the New York Times bestseller list.
“In the world of social media, individuals are the producers of content. People are excited to share things that surprise others, and want to feel unique when they manage to hold the attention of other people,” stated Lamb.
Many Buzzfeed articles that do well exploit current events, creating funny memes out of shared experiences. Lamb shared that this desire for people to share what is relevant and timely also contributes to making content viral, citing an example over two years ago about the earthquake that rocked the US East Coast.
“Millions of people in the East Coast were looking for something to share about the experience,” he said, “Our article on 20 earthquake damage photos gave them a humourous opportunity to connect with others with regards to this event.”