More than Baby Animals: the Curious World of Buzzfeed
August 12, 2014Margaret Cody
While it’s tempting to dismiss Buzzfeed as little more than snippets of 90’s pop culture or vicarious living through others’ Instagram feeds, lately I’ve found myself increasingly intrigued by and spending more time on this site – and it’s not just because I’m a sucker for baby animal pictures. Buzzfeed is more than pop-culture lists, nostalgia, and “Where in the USA should you live?” quizzes. It is a news and content hub that fits the sensibilities of Millennials to a T, and is unique in that it captures the spirit and values of this generation, more so than its competitors.
On a Friday afternoon, it’s only a matter of time until someone sends around an animated-gif /video/ can’t-make-this-up picture bonanza that is your typical Buzzfeed article. It’s tempting to want to dismiss this site as little more than snippets of 90’s pop culture or vicarious living through others’ Instagram feeds, but lately I’ve found myself increasingly intrigued by and spending more time on this site – and it’s not just because I’m a sucker for baby animal pictures. Buzzfeed is more than pop-culture lists, nostalgia, and “Where in the USA should you live?” quizzes. It is a news and content hub that fits the sensibilities of Millennials to a T, and is unique in that it captures the spirit and values of this generation, more so than its competitors. With that, a gif-free breakdown of a few factors that make Buzzfeed irresistibly appealing to Millennials.
Buzzfeed excels at creating content that people want to share with others. The simple format of the majority of its content lends itself to easy digestion and sharing – it’s highly visual, tells a simple story, weaves humor throughout, and has a knack for capturing emotions we all feel but frequently struggle to verbalize. Its articles – from lists to quizzes to thoughtful long form pieces – are made for sharing.
Smart, integrated advertising
Advertisers in the social media and networking spaces face the tough challenge of getting their message out to an audience who is skeptical of being “talked to” or, more directly, “sold to.” Advertisers on Buzzfeed have a relevant and on-brand presence that feels completely integrated and authentic. Coppertone, for example, is running a sponsored post called “14 ways to have the ultimate East Coast summer,” featuring alluring pictures of beaches, boardwalks and clambakes, while subtly weaving in a message of staying safe or protected in the sun.
Co-creation and participation
Millennials were raised to believe in the validity and power of their voices and opinions, and when it comes to relationships with brands, they want to actively participate in a two-way street of creation and conversation. Brands that resonate with this young and opinionated audience give them tools to participate in conversation and add their own voices to the mix. Buzzfeed doesn’t just publish articles, it makes its readers authors and publishers themselves. Giving readers the opportunity to become creators gives Buzzfeed added appeal and credibility to a generation that is eager to share their talent with others.
An animated gif is worth a thousand words
Perhaps with the exception of its (often excellent) long-form content, Buzzfeed excels at using the visual medium to engage readers. For a generation enamored of Instagram, Buzzfeed’s reliance on videos and highly visual content is smart. Words are powerful, but visual content transcends cultural and language boundaries and is easily shareable.
Stirring our curiosity about the world
Millennials are keenly interested in other people, ideas, and cultures around the world, perhaps because they are more diverse and globally connected than other generations before them. Buzzfeed can enlighten readers and bridge cultural differences with its articles about life in other countries, foreign idioms, and even popular late-night foods around the world. These articles pique our curiosity about and interest in the world around us, without having to leave the site.
Validates our quirks and celebrates collective individualism
Lastly, one of the most significant reasons for Buzzfeed’s success among its Millennials is that it has found a way to tap into their simultaneous tribe mentality and deep sense of individualism. Buzzfeed nails this dual mentality with its articles celebrating the quirks and qualities that make us feel unique yet unite us all. Look no further than articles titles “31 Things only Extroverts will Understand,” “31 Things all 00’s Girls are Trying to Get Over,” or “25 Struggles of Youngest Siblings.” People who take pride in their identity as extroverts, 00’s girls, or youngest siblings, as these articles suggest, will see in these articles a validation of these traits and will take comfort in knowing countless others feel the same way they do.
Millennials are driving significant shifts in the way media is consumed, and are also reshaping conventions of brand loyalty and engagement. Although Buzzfeed has its flaws and its critics, it is a compelling encapsulation of Millennials’ attitudes and behaviors. Brands seeking a deeper connection with this generation would be wise to pay attention. Happy browsing!