Jonah Peretti explains online wonder BuzzFeed’s popularity in one sentence: People are curious creatures who like to share information about themselves with others.
Oh, well. Maybe two sentences: And they really like puppies and kitties. A lot. So much that they’re willing to surf the Web during all hours of the day in pursuit of these fuzzy creatures. And then share those photos on social media.
Granted, there’s a lot more behind BuzzFeed’s success and Peretti’s knowledge of people’s behavior when using applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Peretti, the CEO and founder of BuzzFeed, was in Birmingham recently as a guest speaker for the Adcraft Club of Detroit. His luncheon presentation was a revelation – he showed off not only his sense of humor but his clear vision for how people consume media these days and how advertisers and companies can be a part of it.
Some background on Peretti: He is a graduate of the MIT Media Lab and has taught at New York University as well as the Parson School of Design. Before he founded BuzzFeed in 2006, he experimented with viral projects (like a fake telephone line people could share with New Yorkers who wouldn’t take a hint at bars or clubs) and ideas spread through the Web.
Under Peretti’s leadership, BuzzFeed has exploded to employ more than 700 people worldwide. The website gets 175 million monthly unique visitors with its content, which includes everything from unique lists (like 37 facts that prove Michigan is the greatest state), long-form feature stories and international news.
So, in honor of BuzzFeed’s famous lists, here are some of the highlights from Peretti’s Adcraft talk:
1. Everything is local. One piece that BuzzFeed created was to highlight a hometown’s favorite restaurant through a feature story. Those stories were shared something like half a million times, Peretti said. So give your clients and customers a local touch to your marketing and advertising. They will respond.
2. Millennials love their mobile devices. Nearly 70 percent of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from mobile devices. Much of what BuzzFeed does is to make it content look good on smartphones and tablets. That way, things are easier to share and digest.
3. People are bored at work. BuzzFeed studies every piece of data from its users you can imagine, and Peretti noted that much of their traffic comes when people are at work. They turn to the Internet for a little afternoon buzz of activity. They’re looking for a bit of therapy, communication and connection to others.
4. Headlines don’t matter as much as the information shared and how people can use it. People share BuzzFeed lists and photos because they believe these things tell their friends, family and even strangers something essential about them, Peretti explained. They want to give the world an insight into their lives. And if a BuzzFeed post about what it is like to be left handed helps others understand them, they’ll share it, Peretti said.
5. BuzzFeed will always, always have pictures of animals on it. Why? Peretti said because they’re just cute and awesome. People just love these images, he noted. And the only folks who do not are either “robots or sociopathic killers,” Peretti said.