To those untrained in the Internet arts, making posts on BuzzFeed seems easy. Just take a few gifs or cute animals, list them, and boom! Mega viral hit!
But those who have tried their hand at making BuzzFeed posts know that this isn’t the case. Making a good list is hard—really hard. I, better than most contributors, can say how hard it is. And that’s not because I’m particularly talented—it’s just because I’ve been on the site for a while. I’ve made nearly 250 posts and have been reading BuzzFeed daily for some time now.
After reading so many posts and making quite a few posts myself, I’ve noticed a few practices that are conducive to success. What are they? Let’s have a look.
1. Think laterally.
See this image? Crazy, right? At first glance, “X Craziest Cats on the Internet” or some other hook might come to mind. Unfortunately, that’s a little too bland and vague. When you have an image or a gif you think is special, try to come up with a really clever and creative hook for it.
For example, BuzzFeed staffers Matt Bellassai and Arielle Calderon used that image in a list titled 27 Cats That Immediately Regret Their Decisions. Matt Bellassai, specifically, is great at doing lists like this.
That’s how you think laterally. Don’t take the content at face value, think of what kind of story you can tell with it. A funny-looking dog is more than a funny looking dog. For example, a funny-looking dog could be a wingman!
Still not getting it? Check out Jack Shepard’s 33 Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed In You. If the title he used was just “33 Sad Animals,” the post wouldn’t have gotten over two million views.
To paraphrase the great Carl Sagan, the beauty of a list is not the content that goes into it, but the way that content is put together.
That is to say, you could have the best GIFs and images in your post but if the idea behind it is boring or vague or unoriginal, the post won’t do as well.
2. Appeal to niches.
Appealing to a niche will make your post far more shareable. To view this fact in action, look no further than a recent community post, 32 Perks of Living in Michigan Despite The Economy.
Anybody who lives in Michigan and spends any time at all on the Internet is gonna see that. Most importantly, they’re going to share that with their fellow Michiganders!
You don’t have base niche on geography though. You can do them about things certain groups of people like, if you want. Or anything else that comes to mind. Have fun with it!
3. Appeal to opinions.
Back before Arielle Calderon was staff, she was a community contributor. One of her most famous posts during that time was one that proclaimed why Publix was the greatest grocery store to ever exist.
This post, in addition to being extremely well done, appealed to people’s passions about a specific topic, in this case, Publix. Even people who didn’t like Publix engaged with this post. Look at the first Facebook comment, it’s one that says Wegman’s is better than Publix.
Say why something is the best. Say why something is the worst. Say why X is better than Y. Those kinds of posts can be really powerful!
4. Don’t just use Google.
If you’re looking for images for your post, it’s helpful to remember that there are other places to look besides Google. Searching Tumblr and Reddit can be immensely helpful in finding unique images and wondrous GIFs.
5. Avoid posting trending memes and news.
99 times out of 100, the BuzzFeed editorial staff will make posts about the emergence of new memes as well as breaking news. Instead, stick to how you could possibly make new, original posts based off the daily news and off the new memes.
6. Observe life.
Some of the best posts on BuzzFeed have come from simply sitting back and observing life. Take Jessica Misener’s wildly successful 30 Signs You’re Almost 30, for example. She made observations about what life is like when you’re almost 30, turned it into a list, and nearly SEVEN MILLION people read it.
7. Observe trends/create trends.
Pay attention to these trends so that you can capitalize on them! For example, I noticed the trend about the college you went to so I made a post about going to community college that got boosted to the front page.
Pay attention to the site long enough and you’ll notice more trends. There was a trend for which extracurricular activity you did (dance, cheerleading, or nothing), for example, as well as many others.
You can try to be proactive with trends though. For example, there was a fantastic list titled 67 Telltale Signs That You Went to Boarding School. I made an offshoot of that list titled 37 Ways You Know You Went to Public School that ended up being the third-most viewed post that I ever did on the site. Now, I was hoping that this would start a greater trend and we’d start seeing things like “X Ways You Know You Went to a Montessori School” but it wasn’t meant to be. However, it’s important to try!
8. Tell people something they don’t know/something that’s interesting.
Two of my best performing posts were “X Things You Didn’t Know About Y” posts.
But, sometimes, you might not have the luxury of relying on a topic like Saved by the Bell or Full House. Sometimes, you might want to do a post about something general. In that case, observe Erin Chack’s amazing post about the ocean.
If the title had just been “28 Facts About the Ocean” or something, it wouldn’t have done nearly as well. Also, they way she wrote all the facts wasn’t boring. She didn’t list them off in a traditional sense. They were all connected because she used them to tell a story—to tell you why you shouldn’t mess with the ocean. THAT is how you do a “list of facts” type post. And that’s why she got over one million reads with that post. It was perfectly done.
In short, readers want to either learn new things about a topic, or see if they know these things already so they can insult you in the comments.
9. Read the site.
Can’t stress this one enough. Everything I’m saying in this post isn’t stuff that I invented on my own, it’s stuff I learned from watching the BuzzFeed staff and other community contributors.
IMHO, I think community contributors (new and old) can learn TONS from reading BuzzFeed staff writers Arielle Calderon and Erin Chack. You can find Arielle Calderon’s old profile (the one she made the Publix post under) here. What those two are able to do in terms of numbers on a consistent basis is amazing. Making good posts is really difficult and they’re able to do it five days a week.
The rest of the staff is amazing too, though. You’ll learn a lot from reading any of the editorial staff.
10. Don’t give up or get disheartened!
Not every post you’re going to do will get hundreds of thousands of views, or even get boosted by the community editors. It happens. Use it as a learning experience. Think about out why it didn’t get boosted. If you can’t come up with a reason, email a member of the community team if it’s really bothering you. They’re always happy to help users out (just don’t spam them or be mean)!
And please never get discouraged. I posted this as a way to sort of help other contributors out, to share some of the stuff I noticed. If you try these things and aren’t getting results, be patient.
Like, imagine if you had a rookie QB and you told him “Oh, just do exactly what Aaron Rodgers does.” The rookie wouldn’t be able to just do that right off the bat. It takes time to acquire certain skills—and making good BuzzFeed posts is no exception. Just keep making posts and one day you’ll start “getting it” and then you’ll be unstoppable!
Thank you to Matt for taking the time to write this. We love when our users take the time to make things like this. Matt is truly one of the best and we hope this information was helpful!