Your Website might not be your Internet home. Rather, your online base might be Facebook, a Twitter feed, or other social media. That's the marketing vision of BuzzFeed, a fast-growing social media site with growing relevance to CMOs.
Even if you don't now what BuzzFeed is, you know its work. BuzzFeed produces entertaining snack content like "48 Pictures That Perfectly Capture the 90s" and "40 Things That Will Make You Feel Old."
Unlike other news sites, which thrive on search optimization, links from other popular sites, and building a loyal readership, BuzzFeed lives and dies on social sharing -- particularly the Facebook Like button, but also StumbleUpon, Google+, Twitter, and others, according to a BuzzFeed profile on BloombergBusinessweek.
Co-founder Jonah Peretti got his start at Internet fame with a viral marketing campaign criticizing a brand:
In 2001, inspired by reports of substandard working conditions at Nike factories, Peretti ordered a pair of custom Nike sneakers decorated with the word "Sweatshop." The company refused to fill the order, and Peretti got into a theatrical back-and-forth with a customer rep on e-mail. Afterward, Peretti e-mailed the document to 10 acquaintances, who passed it along to their friends. The whole thing snowballed. Overnight, Peretti became an Internet sensation. NBC flew him to New York to appear on Today.
Peretti went on to develop political Websites and the Huffington Post before launching BuzzFeed in 2006.
BuzzFeed gets all its revenue from branded content for clients such as Kraft Foods, Dell, and McDonald's. The top advertiser is General Electric, whose branded content campaigns featured brief videos of GE-built power plants shot from a helicopter. A follow-up study found that people had a higher opinion of GE if they came across the videos through a shared link on social networks than if they saw it directly. "We all understand that if our friend -- or a community we are a part of -- shares something with you, you’re going to accept it and embrace it differently than if it were through paid placement or if you happened to stumble upon it," says Paul Marcum, director of GE’s global digital marketing and programming.
BuzzFeed uses the GE results to support its thesis that its style of branded content results in significantly more brand affinity than banner, print, and broadcast ads. It calls this concept Social Brand Lift. The theory seems to be working for BuzzFeed, whose branded content revenue tripled in 2011.
BuzzFeed and the brands that use it are riding the wave of a big Internet trend: Recommendations from people's friends carry more weight than communications directly from brands. It's the theory behind Facebook's Sponsored Stories, where brands can pay to have people's activities, such as Liking a brand page, appear in the News Feeds of those people's friends.
Read the whole Businessweek article to find out more about BuzzFeed, its history, and how it works.
What do you think? Has BuzzFeed found the key to Internet marketing? Do you have any experience with BuzzFeed marketing? Let us know.
— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, The CMO Site