No matter what industry your company is in, having an effective social media strategy is a no-brainer. Coming up with a game plan that will actually work, however, is a lot trickier than it sounds. The way consumers interact and connect across different platforms is constantly evolving.
"Sharing is becoming even more personal," said Summer Anne Burton, the editorial director of Buzzfeed's experimental social media team.
In the past, users typically posted content to show off to their followers on social media, or to prove that they were especially news savvy. Now, users have shifted to more "direct sharing"--to a single person or group--through such apps as Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Burton spoke in conversation with Rachel Christensen, BuzzFeed's social media director, at Social Media Week in New York City on Wednesday. The presentation, called "Building A Great Social Presence The Resourceful Way," touched on the evolution of BuzzFeed, and how the company has built out its own strategy over time. With a reported $1.5 billion valuation, the media company now generates more than six billion monthly views, with about 75 percent of its traffic coming from social media.
The good news for entrepreneurs, according to Burton, is that people are still sharing the same types of content that they always have--even as they're now flocking to their smartphones (and not their desktops) to do so.
"While people's behavior has changed, the things that people like and like to share have stayed the same," she said. Thus, the so-called "tent poles" of BuzzFeed's business remain: Animals, celebrities, nostalgia, food, and -- as part of a more recently bizarre phenomenon -- emojis.
Here are three expert tips from BuzzFeed for ramping up your social presence:
1. Be prepared to adapt the same piece of content on multiple platforms.
In 2006, BuzzFeed was little more than a website, with embedded links to lists that included more links. Today, it has a much broader reach, with its own channels on third-party sites including YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat.
The editors make a more concerted effort to create content that can be housed elsewhere on the Internet.
"We can be all of these different things to different people because we're able to embrace those platforms very natively," said Burton.
That means when pushing out a post, her team will often go back to the writer or videographer to ask for different versions of the same content: A listicle could also be presented as a GIF, a looped video, or a video with sound.
It's also important to know the technical limitations on separate platforms; an Instagram video, for instance, should be no longer than fifteen seconds, whereas a Vine should be six seconds.
Although experimentation does require more resources, you're much more likely to create content that will go viral this way. And once you discover what resonates well with your audience, you can ditch those time-consuming practices that weren't serving your brand before.
2. You don't have to experiment blindly.
Burton notes that BuzzFeed analyzes strategies that have been successful in the past, and experiments with topics that are already trending (i.e., major events, holidays, and celebrity news).
When Drake's "Hotline Bling" music video went viral last October, the company created dozens of different GIFs featuring the rapper. The most popular piece of content, which featured Drake dancing to the "Monster Mash" song, once again suggested that nostalgia routinely drives traffic across platforms.
Here's a technical bonus tip: Square images are the holy grail of formatting.
"Squares take up the most real estate on your phone. Facebook only lets you look at images when they're squares," Christensen explains. Generally speaking, square posts outperform rectangles, circles, and other forms of content, even on platforms that support those shapes, they found.
3. Sometimes, less is more.
While it's tempting to only push out the highest quality content (i.e., a professionally edited photo with deep color saturation), that won't always perform the best on social media.
"As Instagram has more and more ads, you're more likely to see a beautifully polished photo than an eggplant wearing a sweater," said Christensen.