29 Strategic Video Marketing Insights You Can Borrow From BuzzFeed

When it comes to video, no brand seems more dom­i­nant than Buz­zFeed. Here are 29 strate­gic insights from Buz­zFeed’s video strat­e­gy.

Greg Jarboe By Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR. Join the discussion » 0 comments

When it comes to video, no brand seems more dom­i­nant than Buz­zFeed at the moment. Buz­zFeed Tasty is the most-watched over­all cre­ator in the Tubu­lar Labs rank­ings, with 1.9 bil­lion views in Feb­ru­ary 2016. Buz­zFeed Food ranked fourth with 823 mil­lion views that month and Buz­zFeed Video, which ranked #12 with 621 mil­lion views that month. What insights can video mar­keters gain from Buz­zFeed?

With a lit­tle help from my friends and col­leagues at ReelSEO as well as the “cool nerds” at Tubu­lar Labs, here are 29 strate­gic insights video mar­keters can bor­row from Buz­zFeed.

1. Develop A Cross-Platform Distribution/Promotional Strategy

Things have changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly since the Buz­zFeed Video chan­nel was launched in August 2011. Today, peo­ple watch Buz­zFeed videos on Face­book, YouTube, Vine, Insta­gram, Snapchat Dis­cov­er, and oth­er video plat­forms. In oth­er words, video mar­keters can learn from Buz­zFeed what build­ing a cross-plat­form video strat­e­gy real­ly means.

2. Create A Content Plan That Meets Your Brand’s Goals & Engages Your Audience

BuzzFeed’s CEO, Jon­ah Peretti, start­ed talk­ing about the brand’s dis­trib­uted strat­e­gy to inter­nal teams in Jan­u­ary 2015. Instead of focus­ing pri­mar­i­ly on BuzzFeed’s web­site and apps, and using social net­works as a way to send traf­fic to them, the brand was going to aggres­sive­ly pub­lish its con­tent direct­ly to plat­forms like YouTube, Face­book, and Snapchat. So, the lat­est results are the prod­uct of a con­tent plan that was unveiled inter­nal­ly more than a year ago.

3. Create Great Content

A suc­cess­ful cre­ative con­cept can have an enor­mous impact on a chan­nel. Com­pelling videos can bring in new view­ers, intro­duce them to the rest of your con­tent, and build a loy­al fan base. For exam­ple, both BuzzFeed’s Tasty Page on Face­book and Tasty chan­nel on YouTube descrip­tions say they are about “Food that’ll make you close your eyes, lean back, and whis­per ‘yessss.’ Snack-sized videos and recipes you’ll want to try.”

4. Employ A Help, Hub & Hero Strategy

The YouTube Cre­ator Play­book for Brands rec­om­mends employ­ing a pro­gram­ming strat­e­gy that includes help, hub, and hero con­tent.

  • Help con­tent” includes tuto­ri­als that answer the most pop­u­lar search queries in your con­tent area.
  • Hub con­tent” is reg­u­lar, sched­uled con­tent that pro­vides a rea­son to sub­scribe to a chan­nel and return on a reg­u­lar basis.
  • Hero con­tent” refers to the big, tent-pole events that are designed to pro­vide a mas­sive step-change to your audi­ence growth.

BuzzFeed’s var­i­ous chan­nels use a mix of all of these con­tent strate­gies.

5. Develop Show Formats That Are Highly Shareable

With the rise of social media plat­forms, shar­ing has become one of the most impor­tant ways to find and devel­op an audi­ence. While you can’t guar­an­tee any video will go viral, you can make it more share­able by using some proven tac­tics. For exam­ple, view­ers are more like­ly to share a video that elic­its a strong emo­tion­al response. Check out “Moz­zarel­la-Stuffed Slow Cook­er Meat­balls” by Tasty. Accord­ing to Tubu­lar Labs, it has 153 mil­lion views and 3.9 mil­lion shares on Face­book.

6. Consider Video Length Because It Matters!

My friends and col­leagues at ReelSEO took a deep dive into over 24,000 videos with more than 10,000 engage­ments to find out what video lengths work best on each plat­form. YouTube videos aver­aged near­ly 15 min­utes in length while Face­book videos were just shy of a minute and a half. In oth­er words, the most engag­ing videos on YouTube are near­ly 10x longer than the most engag­ing Face­book videos.

7. Optimize Video Content For Mobile Devices

Face­book had 1.44 bil­lion mobile month­ly active users as of Decem­ber 31, 2015. And it’s worth not­ing that 94 per­cent of Tasty’s 1.9 bil­lion views in Feb­ru­ary, 100 per­cent of Buz­zFeed Food’s 822 mil­lion views that month, and 54 per­cent of Buz­zFeed Video’s views that month came from Face­book.

8. Upload Natively To Facebook

Any­body who is cur­rent­ly involved in the online video space in any capac­i­ty should be aware that upload­ing native videos to Face­book is reap­ing incred­i­ble ben­e­fits for a num­ber of brands and cre­ators. If you want to rack up Face­book video views, then make sure you upload the video direct­ly to Face­book, and also take advan­tage of the “Fea­tured Video” and Playlists fea­tures.

9. Use Facebook’s Call To Action Feature

Did you know that brands with a Face­book Busi­ness page can use a Call-to-Action fea­ture to dri­ve users to watch a show­case video – whether that’s a native Face­book video, a link to a YouTube or Vimeo clip, or a video host­ed on anoth­er plat­form? You can guide view­ers towards an explain­er video, a cam­paign video, or videos about any spe­cial offers you are cur­rent­ly pro­mot­ing.

10. Collaborate With Influencers

Brands need to reach out to cre­ators who are able to take on the brief and expand on it with their own per­sona and voice, in a way that their audi­ence will rec­og­nize and respect. Pet food brand Friskies famous­ly col­lab­o­rat­ed with Buz­zFeed on “Dear Kit­ten,” and gen­er­at­ed mil­lions more views across the web.

11. Stick To A Regular Programming Schedule

For your con­tent to per­form as well as it pos­si­bly can, devel­op­ing a con­sis­tent, pre­dictable pro­gram­ming sched­ule encour­ages view­ers to return to your YouTube chan­nel or Face­book video account and see what’s new. It’s also help­ful because plan­ning out each video ensures that each works togeth­er and fits into the larg­er vision for your video mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. For exam­ple, 57 videos have been uploaded to BuzzFeed’s Tasty chan­nel on YouTube in the last 30 days and 102 videos have been uploaded to Buz­zFeed Video’s chan­nel on YouTube over the same peri­od, accord­ing to Tubu­lar Labs.

12. Get Your Metadata (Titles, Tags & Video Descriptions) In Shape!

Opti­mized titles and descrip­tions, as well as the use of tags, help YouTube videos get found in search results. This includes YouTube search results as well as Google uni­ver­sal search results. YouTube is the sec­ond largest search engine. A study by Search­metrics last year found that videos appear in 55 per­cent of Google uni­ver­sal search results. For exam­ple, if you Google the phrase “bal­leri­nas learn how to twerk for the first time,” you will see a recent YouTube video from the Buz­zFeed Video chan­nel on YouTube ranked #1.

Ballerinas learn how to twerk for the first time

13. Optimize For Watch Time, YouTube’s #1 Ranking Factor

My friends and col­leagues at ReelSEO believe that the num­ber one rank­ing fac­tor for YouTube right now is “Watch Time.” Accord­ing to the YouTube Cre­ator Play­book for Brands, “Videos with low­er watch times appear low­er in search results.” Opti­miz­ing for Watch Time involves many fac­tors, not least of all is cre­at­ing con­tent that view­ers will watch. Read ReelSEO’s defin­i­tive guide to watch time for more details.

14. Chose A Compelling Video Thumbnail

For both YouTube and Face­book, thumb­nails are one of the most impor­tant fac­tors for peo­ple to decide if they are going to watch your video. It’s the visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what they could watch. It’s also no sur­prise that most YouTube chan­nels have the most organ­ic views from relat­ed videos. If your video thumb­nails are not amaz­ing, you will miss tons of views.

15. Use Playlists To Group Similar Videos On Your YouTube Channel

Playlists allow you to col­lect, orga­nize and pub­lish mul­ti­ple videos togeth­er. This increas­es watch time and cre­ates anoth­er asset that will appear in search results and in Sug­gest­ed Videos. You can cre­ate playlists using your own videos, oth­er videos, or a com­bi­na­tion of both. For exam­ple, BuzzFeed’s Tasty chan­nel on YouTube has 6 playlists, while the Buz­zFeed Video chan­nel on YouTube has 56 playlists.

BuzzFeed video playlists


16. Optimize Your YouTube Channel Description For Discoverability

The first few words of your chan­nel descrip­tion appear most fre­quent­ly across the site, so high­light your most impor­tant brand­ing upfront. Include your upload sched­ule, espe­cial­ly if you host mul­ti­ple con­tent types or series. For exam­ple, the Buz­zFeed Food chan­nel on YouTube says, “Check back every Tues­day, Thurs­day & Sun­day for Tasty Food videos!”

17. Consider Featuring Channels Your Brand Supports On Your YouTube Channel Page

Fea­tured Chan­nels are chan­nels you choose to pro­mote on your chan­nel page. For exam­ple, Tasty’s YouTube chan­nel fea­tures Buz­zFeed Food, Buz­zFeed Video, Buz­zFeed Blue, Buz­zFeed Yel­low, After Par­ty, and Buz­zFeed Vio­let. Relat­ed Chan­nels are pro­mot­ed chan­nels pop­u­lat­ed by YouTube that appear low­er down on Tasty’s chan­nel page. Rec­om­men­da­tions are based on chan­nels that are sim­i­lar to Tasty’s.

Tasty channel on YouTube


18. Create A Subscriber Trailer For YouTube

In 2013, YouTube launched a com­plete redesign for YouTube, and among the fea­tures intro­duced was the abil­i­ty to cre­ate a chan­nel trail­er for new view­ers. Your chan­nel trail­er is like a movie trail­er — use it as a way to offer a pre­view of your chan­nel’s offer­ings so view­ers will want to sub­scribe. For exam­ple, the trail­er on the Buz­zFeed Video chan­nel is enti­tled, “Peo­ple Try to Recre­ate Icon­ic Dis­ney Food Scenes.”

19. Take Advantage Of YouTube Interactivity

In March 2015, YouTube intro­duced “Inter­ac­tive Cards.” These Cards allow the cre­ator to add an extra lay­er of inter­ac­tiv­i­ty to their video con­tent, on a per video basis. Most impor­tant­ly, the new Cards dis­play on mobile, as well as desk­top, and include cus­tom images, titles and call-to-action text. For exam­ple, start watch­ing “Slow Cook­er Ribs” at the 30 sec­ond mark and you’ll see Cards appear on the right side of the video.

20. Converse With Your Audience!

Your fans want to feel as though they’re help­ing shape your brand. Give them that rare chance to con­nect with your brand by pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for feed­back or, bet­ter yet, involve them in your con­tent. Among the best prac­tices for con­vers­ing with view­ers are:

  1. Mak­ing an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion.
  2. Always ask­ing for feed­back.
  3. Let­ting view­ers know their com­ments mat­ter, and that you’re lis­ten­ing.

Remem­ber: your fans can also con­verse with oth­er fans in real time. For exam­ple, “Food­ies Kill Their Food for the First Time,” has 62,900 com­ments, mak­ing it the most com­ment­ed on video on the Buz­zFeed Video chan­nel.

21. Give Your Audience Unique Ways To Participate In The Content

While being con­ver­sa­tion­al with your view­ers can help build loy­al­ty, YouTube chan­nels can take engage­ment fur­ther. View­er involve­ment can vary. You can share view­er ques­tions and feed­back in your videos, or incor­po­rate their actu­al con­tent into your brand chan­nel. In some cas­es, you can let view­ers dic­tate the con­tent itself.

22. Promote Your Channel Across Your Videos & Encourage Viewers To Subscribe

When view­ers have found your help, hub or hero videos, what’s next? One of the best ways to turn one-time view­ers into a loy­al audi­ence is to invite them to like your Face­book page, sub­scribe to your YouTube chan­nel, or fol­low your Insta­gram account. For exam­ple, BuzzFeed’s Tasty has 50.8 mil­lion fol­low­ers, includ­ing 47.4 mil­lion on Face­book and 2.9 mil­lion on Insta­gram. Buz­zFeed Food has 21.2 mil­lion fol­low­ers, includ­ing 20.4 mil­lion on Face­book. And Buz­zFeed Video has 21 mil­lion fol­low­ers, includ­ing 9.7 mil­lion on Face­book, 9.3 mil­lion on YouTube, and 1.7 mil­lion on Insta­gram.

23. Define Your Community & Give Fans A Reason To Keep Coming Back For More Videos

Com­mu­ni­ties will hap­pen with or with­out you on YouTube. You want to make sure you’re the one lead­ing the dis­cus­sion in a fruit­ful direc­tion. For exam­ple, respond to com­ments in the first few hours after you pub­lish a video. These first com­menters are your loy­al com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers.

24. Shoot Your Video In Vertical

Shoot­ing video in ver­ti­cal is still a big no-no to many, but oth­ers are under­stand­ing that con­sumers view ver­ti­cal in a dif­fer­ent way these days. Face­book sug­gests that “When you shoot video, hold your phone hor­i­zon­tal­ly – this makes sure that your video takes up the entire screen when some­one watch­es it.”

25. The First Few Seconds Count

When your video plays in the Face­book News Feed, it will play silent­ly and auto­mat­i­cal­ly. This means you should try to grab view­er atten­tion with bold imagery or a great shot to entice them to turn on the sound and con­tin­ue watch­ing. For exam­ple, you could shoot a prod­uct at an incred­i­bly close point of view, then quick­ly zoom out to reveal what it is. You could also try a shot filmed in slow motion or at a high­er rate of speed.

26. Turn Your Video Into A Video Ad

Many brands use paid pro­mo­tion on Face­book to push their con­tent, espe­cial­ly in the days after they’ve uploaded it native­ly, when views may be dwin­dling. And many brands also lever­age paid video adver­tis­ing on YouTube to put their con­tent in front of the right audi­ence. For exam­ple, “Peo­ple Take the Milk Chal­lenge // Pre­sent­ed by Buz­zFeed and Got Milk?” ranked #7 in the Cana­di­an YouTube Ads Leader­board for Novem­ber 2015 and #10 on the leader­board for the Unit­ed States that month.

27. Confirm Your Best Performing Videos

Like the Top 10 con­tent report in YouTube Ana­lyt­ics, you can use Facebook’s “Top Videos” sec­tion to con­firm which of your view­ers are gen­er­at­ing the best per­for­mance for you. You can check across a spe­cif­ic date range, or across all videos all time. Click­ing through to a spe­cif­ic video will give you met­rics on engage­ment, reten­tion, and oth­ers. You can access “Top Videos” via the Videos tab in Page Insights.

28. Understand Audience Retention Metrics

Like the Audi­ence reten­tion report in YouTube Ana­lyt­ics, Facebook’s reten­tion curve will give you data and feed­back as to where in a video the major­i­ty of your audi­ence tends to stop watch­ing. There will some drop off at the begin­ning of a video as a user scrolls past it in their feed, but if you keep their atten­tion and they drop off lat­er in the video, you can use that feed­back to ascer­tain why.

29. Track Performance & Engagement Metrics

Like the Engage­ment reports in YouTube Ana­lyt­ics, Face­book will track any engage­ment your video attracts, such as likes, shares, and com­ments. These met­rics give you an enor­mous amount of data about how your con­tent is per­form­ing, and pro­vide valu­able insight into what you can be doing to improve them going for­ward.

Greg Jarboe

Written by Greg Jarboe

President, SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe is President and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency that was founded in 2003. He’s the author of YouTube and Video Marketing and also a contributor to The Art of SEO, Strategic Digital Marketing, Complete B2B Online Marketing, and Enchantment. He’s profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes, a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and writes for Tubular Insights and The SEM Post. He’s an executive education instructor at the Rutgers Business School and the Video and Content Marketing faculty chair at Simplilearn.

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