1. The titles of its posts are just weird enough to intrigue.
Just long enough to give you a good sense of the article and snappy enough to make it easier to click than wonder what you might have missed out on by not clicking…
2. The content for Buzzfeed stories is frequently sourced from Twitter AKA REAL LIFE.
I myself found fame after being unwittingly featured in ‘27 Middle-Class Problems‘, after *jokingly* tweeting about Spotify. Cue tweets telling me i’m famous – well the article was tweeted 7,500 times!
3. The writers are brought to the forefront.
As well as the post author’s name appearing at the top of an article, the URL for each story/list/piece goes http://www.buzzfeed.co.uk(com)/AUTHORNAME/ARTICLENAME. People buy people. Or familiarity breeds contempt. One or the other. I personally remember the author of a particularly good post and will be more likely to read that author’s future musings/listings.
4. It’s just so goddam visual and succinct.
Long-winded textual explanations of the state of the housing market are for CEO’s reading the Financial times at a leisurely pace whilst eating their egg and soldiers. Buzzfeed is for us young-uns (32’s young right?) looking for that next fix of heady content. Any text in a Buzzfeed article is usually their to explain the image/gif/video. Time is money people, and a gif tells a thousand words.
5. Easy touch points of engagement.
In these time and attention scarce times, you need to make it flippin easy for people to engage. Buzzfeed does this by giving you an easy set of loose adjectives to click. Browsing readers can then sort content by the most ‘OMG’ or ‘wtf’. Win!
6. It’s starting to take itself seriously
There will always be a place for cat gifs on Buzzfeed but the site has recently made a lot of new hires as it tries to make in-roads to serious journalism, presented in a Buzzfeed style format. They’ve hired Pulitzer winning Mark Schoofs to head up their ‘Investigative Unit’ and The Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief, Miriam Elder to be their Foreign Editor. Today they’ve tackled the housing crisis through a well laid out, easy to understand post entitled ’15 Facts That Reveal The Utter Insanity of The Housing Market’ by Daniel Knowles of The Economist. As I saw someone say on Twitter – this WILL be the way the next general election is sold to the younger generation. That may be good for engaging a previously inert segment, or bad for the bias in the way the arguments are laid out. Reporting serious subject matter brings added responsibility and a requirement to show both sides of an argument. That doesn’t get clicks though.
7. The breadth of subject matter!
From ‘The 14 Craziest Things Russia’s Top Doctor Ever Said’ and ’16 Horses That Look Like Miley Cyrus’, to the aforementioned article on over-population and the UK housing crisis – there’s a lot going on!
8. They’re monetizing already
Not through garish banner ads skyscraping their way down half the screen. No, the ads on Buzzfeed are stories written by advertisers or ‘partners’ and appear in the same content stream as regular Buzzfeed posts. These advertorials indicate that they are from a featured partner and have a shaded background – but if the title’s interesting, people are going to click and read…
9. User generated content
As well as hiring big names in the world of journalism to write for them Buzzfeed also leverages to creativity of its readers. The Buzzfeed community members are able to create their own posts, and watch them spread like wildfire from the internet. In fact, their UK Editor, Luke Lewis was quoted as saying today at the #BBCSocial event, that the best community contributors may even be offered a job with Buzzfeed, Swell.
10. Other news networks are beginning to mimic the Buzzfeed way
From the BBC to The Guardian and Independent, the was truncated, easy to digest format of Buzzfeed articles is impossible to ignore and affecting the style in which other present their own news.
In case you’ve been living in a dark room, wearing ear mufflers you will know that the feisty 80’s quiffer Morrissey has released his autobiography. What interested me however was the contrasting ways of promoting the book on Twitter by two UK retailers; Waterstones and HMV.
Waterstones – Unique, Funny Content
Waterstones created a piece of unique and relevant content – a photo of the Morrissey book standing next to a book on the English Legal System (Morrissey has always liked a dig at the judiciary). Equal parts relevant and humorous the tweeted photo resulted in 133 retweets and 73 favourites.
HMV – Stock Photography
HMV also tweeted about the new book. The same subject matter from a high street retailer just as well known as Waterstones (in fact more Twitter followers), yet this generated just 13 retweets and 12 favourites.
The moral of the story? It’s not enough to state that something has happened. Brands tweeting need to add their own perspective and brand personality to every tweet. A touch of humour and relevance and you’re away. This particular Waterstones account has just 47k followers compared to HMV’s 77k – so 30,000 less followers but a lot higher engagement levels!
Don’t even get me started on how brilliant the WaterStonesOxfordSt Twitter feed is in general…
Facebook say they have listened to feedback and want to make Insights clearer and more actionable. Sounds good. Current insights are inconsistent and I always take them with a pinch of salt. With these new insights, Facebook have evidently realised that if they want to charge Facebook users to reach the fans they have already paid to acquire – there had better be some good stats available to justify all this spend to the CFO!
People Talking About This (PTAT)
Currently a single ambiguously achieved number Facebook are going to split this out in to its constituent parts. These will all now be reported sperately as:
- Page Likes
- People Engaged (the number of unique people who have clicked on, liked, commented on, or shared your posts)
- Page tags and mentions
- Page checkins, and other interactions on a Page.
Virality (now called ‘Engagement Rate’)
“We also heard that the virality metric in Page Insights is often used as a benchmark for Page post quality. However, this metric doesn’t include clicks in its measurement, which are a strong indicator of positive post engagement and a key piece in providing marketers with metrics around overall post quality. So moving forward, we’re including clicks in this metric and renaming ‘virality’ to ‘engagement rate’ to be clearer in our definition.”
The new insights are split in to four distinct sections; Overview, page, posts and people.
Facebook now give Page managers a post-specific ‘score card’, allowing you to compare positive and negative metrics together.
New Demographic Metrics (People)
You can now see the data not just for those users you have reached, but also for those who have engaged with your page. You can now break this down even further and see if people in different countries or towns ‘like’ or engage with certain content categories. E.g, you see that fans in London engage most with posts that feature black cabs, where-as those users in Wales were more prone to interact with posts about rugby…or dragons.
Facebook state that this will be a gradual roll-out starting with selected page managers, before becoming more widely available ‘later this summer’.
More information from the horses mouth
The biggest change is allowing users to view their profile from the perspective of any of your Facebook friends.
This does go some way to clarifying the effect of the various privacy filter options. Tweak your settings and check how your profile looks to certain friends.
What it lacks is the ability to view your profile as a user you don’t know, a friend of a friend for example. I’d also be interested as a user in how much of my information a brand page that I follow can see. These options would be useful.
Social Media at The Beach
Yesterday I went to the beach to enjoy our two week long British summer. Once we’d found a parking space, we (I) carried the entire contents of our home minus kitchen sink, the short distance from the car to the beach. Struggling along the promenade, kids straining at the (virtual) leash I saw the last vacant spot on the sand and headed towards it. “Hi how are you today?” I heard a voice say. “Are you going to build a nice sandcastle?” the same voice said to my 4 year old. Peering around the pile of towels, goggles and assorted balls in my grip I saw an RNLI lifeguard talking to my son. He was highly engaged in conversation with her as the topic was ‘how to build the best sandcastle. The girl next to her then asked my wife if she wanted any info on safe swimming for kids, which of course my wife did. What kind of a mother wouldn’t want this information. Impatiently tapping my foot, the cynical marketer in me was counting down the seconds for the goal conversion to occur, i.e. donate some money. It took 6 minutes for my wife to finally walk away, nearly as weighed down as I was, by donation /sign up forms.
This is nothing new in ‘real life’, however social media have allowed this commonplace tactic to occur in the digital space. All organisations, businesses, brands, SMEs and charities need to make a profit. It’s their ‘raison d’etre’ whether said profit goes to shareholders or good causes.
This will never be overtly communicated though. In fact mentioning the fact that a business is an actual money-making business these days is a heresy. Organisations want to ‘be your friend’, ‘tell you a story’ and share ‘the moment’. They definitely, DEFINITELY don’t want to relieve you of your hard earned $$. Yet.
Social media now allows organisations to enter in to that same conversation as my wife and son had at the beach:
- Location – we were at the beach, therefore a related subject is beach/sea safety, for which the RNLI are an authority.
- Weather/season/relevance – It would be fairly pointless those nice ladies from the RNLI standing in that same spot in mid-December.
- Conversation / engagement – Had they just asked us to give them some money we would have completely ignored them. They asked a pertinent question, at the right time and began a relevant conversation. This applies exactly the same in social media.
- Conversion – They weren’t there just to have a chat, they had targets and goals. With any social media activity you should also have a firm idea of the purpose of the conversation.
- Awareness – Even those people that walked straight past couldn’t have failed to notice the RNLI branded tent and branded paraphernalia. Not all (hardly any) social media activity will lead directly to a conversion – it’s largely an awareness thing.
- Value exchange – in this example, the RNLI gave us some useful advice on beach and sea safety with a helpful booklet for us to keep. That’s value for us so we may reciprocate by ‘liking’ them on Facebook or even signing up to a monthly direct debit.
You can donate to the RNLI (who do incredible things and save lives here
The near impossible to achieve objective: Monitor and measure all social media mentions and interactions. It’s something i’ve um’d and ah’d about many a time; I wrote about it 4 years ago in 2009, and things aren’t any easier now. The more social platforms, the more complicated the monitoring and the insight!
It’s something that the BBC and other organisations large and small are obviously very keen to get a handle on. There are a great many monitoring tools but very few standards by which to compare, other than the comparison of year-on-year/month-on-month performance or competitor analysis. Software is available both for free and at a cost: Radian 6, Brandwatch, Sysmos, Meltwater, Cision, Social Bakers, Social Mention, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite plus many others are all good tools.
On the BBC blog today they posted 8 challenges that the BBC (and others) face when assessing social activity:
1. No official measurement source: TV has BARB and Radio has RAJAR – two well established bodies, with consensus on the most appropriate metrics to use. Within digital, there is the relatively new UKOM – while it offers a range of measures, it does not break down social media into specific accounts (such as @BBCSport on Twitter or BBC One on Facebook). Social networks may offer useful insight tools themselves, but only top-level information is made public. It can therefore be difficult to place performance in the context of the performance of other accounts or organisations.
2. Limited geographic restrictions: I work within the public sector side of the BBC, and so am principally interested in UK performance rather than global. Again, insight tools can offer geographic splits but there isn’t much publicly available UK-specific data to compare to.
3. Aggregating across multiple accounts: It can be difficult to assess overall performance when multiple accounts are being used – for instance, if we wanted to measure combined performance across @BBCBreaking and @BBCNews on Twitter. Action-orientated metrics (such as measuring the number of ‘likes’ or views) can be added together, but others such as total audience cannot, since people that follow multiple accounts would be counted more than once unless data could be de-duplicated . The challenges of measuring your own organisation are magnified when trying to measure others.
4. Totalling activity across multiple services: The ideal would be to evaluate our performance across the entirety of social media, but different services with different functionalities with different ways of measuring make this impractical. For instance, is a Facebook share the equivalent of a Pinterest re-pin?
5. Distinguishing active from lifetime audience: Metrics such as followers or likes are based on lifetime activity – they take no account of recency and so could count activity from several years ago. Changes over time can be used to assess growth, but it doesn’t give an accurate reflection of the active audience – people that interacted with the site more recently (e.g. in the last week or last month). Again, some insight tools offer this function, but once again there is an inability to place performance in context.
6. Interpreting behaviour: Adding up the number of comments or mentions produces a measure of audience engagement, but it assumes all interactivity is good when in fact audiences could be using social media to protest against something or talk about how much they hate a particular programme. Sentiment analysis can provide some context. While tools continue to improve and innovate, ambiguities in tone and meaning mean that analysis is not yet fully accurate
7. Identifying relevant activity: Counting the volume of mentions for a programme across social media could be limited to searching by the programme name, or it could include a search for mentions of the on-air talent, topic or notable incidents. Furthermore, that on-air talent can appear across multiple programmes or formats. Agreeing on parameters can be hard to do. Some tools do automate this to provide a consistent view for all users, but without an industry standard it is still possible for other organisations to announce radically different figures due to different measurement criteria.
8. Measuring impact: Metrics such as likes or retweets are not ends in themselves, but are signifiers of audience engagement. Social media objectives should be broader than stimulating this type of behaviour alone, and could have goals such as increasing the audience figures for a TV or Radio programme or raising positive opinion towards a programme, channel or service. This is something that is hard to measure in any medium, but the nature of social, where ease of interaction encourages high volume of messages – makes it harder than most to measure this type of impact.
These 8 challenges were written by Simon Kendrick, a Research Manager for Audiences at BBC Future Media.