The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Becoming a publishing powerhouse takes commitment to consistency. Regularly publishing content your readers love ensures they always have more to come back to. My team uses a knowledge bank to store and organize our info, examples, and published content in one spot, which makes it faster and easier to create consistent content on a regular basis.
Create sharable content
A good story is a story that is remembered, but a great story is one that is shared. When creating content, focus on crafting sharable information that will help your customers. Make it easy for customers to consume and share content wherever they are by being mobile-friendly. Focus less on driving traffic to an owned destination (like your blog) and more on making it easy for people to consume your content on their own terms.
Use quizzes to generate leads
The pieces of BuzzFeed content that grew the company were quizzes. Companies today can incorporate quizzes into their content strategy to generate leads and learn new information about customers. Use a service like DilogR to create your quiz, sync with your CRM, and begin promoting the quiz to prospects to generate leads.
Interact with your audience
You can't publish content and hope your audience will come to you. You need to interact with and engage your audience; BuzzFeed does that well. It uses a variety of interaction tactics, like quizzes and video, to keep its target audience returning. It also uses breaking news as a way to draw people in. Make sure you're getting to the heart of what matters to your audience.
Ignore the conventional
Simply put, great content wins. Yes, the catchy headline with a picture of the cutest baby in the world will draw in an audience, but the twist in the second paragraph will keep the audience from leaving. Don't be repetitive, know your audience, and always try something new. Publishing powerhouses ignore the conventional.
Share information that helps your audience
Keep giving your audience information that will help solve a problem or get something done cheaper or more quickly, and you will have them continually coming back for more. As an added bonus, they'll tell others that you are the source for the best tips, recommendations, and resources. People go to BuzzFeed because it's a central location for very helpful, reliable content.
BuzzFeed content is easy to poke fun at, but it may be the most scientific platform out there. It split-tests and adapts content and knows exactly what its audience wants and will readily consume. Like it or not, every business competes with BuzzFeed's content and must adapt accordingly. Brands need to be more scientific in terms of testing content and making data-driven decisions.
Learn what your audience wants
BuzzFeed did several things really well, not the least of which was targeting its demographic and producing a consistent stream of content that its demographic would consume. This content was quick, entertaining, and engaged an audience in a specific age range at a time when they were clamoring for a content provider that could speak their language.
Include user-generated content
Websites like BuzzFeed and Medium have proven that enabling users to easily publish content is a great way to grow your publishing channel while scaling your costs. Content is notoriously expensive, so if you can source the public to generate content for free, it's a win-win situation. Authors get exposure, and publishers get free content.
Put the audience first with fewer, better ads
Digital publishers constantly struggle to find the right balance between creating and sharing great content and monetizing it. This struggle can jeopardize the relationship between audiences and the content they consume. To thrive in this industry, publishers must put the audience first. Emerging players need to focus more on continuing to provide engaging content, while showing fewer, better ads.
Use location-based content
The fastest way to connect to someone's emotions online is to write about something they have nostalgia about. BuzzFeed pioneered these articles with titles like "25 Reasons You Know You Grew Up In Topeka" and watched the shares explode by people who grew up in Topeka. It repeats this for each town and buys highly-targeted, low-budget Facebook ads for those articles, which is a winning formula.
Maximize your publishing platforms
When you're the authority on a topic, you can dive deep within that topic and do so on a variety of platforms. For instance, if you're talking about mobile e-commerce conversion optimization, write an in-depth blog post, create a white paper, do a YouTube video, and host an event and a podcast. This will minimize your need for new content and maximize your audience.
Publish short and sweet content
Short, sweet, entertaining lists really grab people's attention. Entertainment delivered in the form of lists ("Top 5") are engaging and the audience can easily follow along. Although I doubt this approach can be translated universally to every business, you may be able to apply these principles to some aspect of your business branding/marketing.
Blaze your own trail
Focus on your expertise and audience. The "BuzzFeed aesthetic," by the very appeal that made it spread, has lost its novelty. People don't appreciate listicles like they used to because every brand is writing five listicles a week. Give your audience the information they seek in a voice and a format they haven't seen a million times.