BuzzFeed and Old Spice on Engaging Social Content

Old Spice aims to make commercials that people want to show their friends. In 2010 the manufacturer of men’s grooming products launched a campaign called “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” It went viral, such that the actor in the spot, Isaiah Mustafa, gained star status. Three years later, with the maturation of social media as a communication channel, developing entertaining and sharable content has become a growing priority for marketers.

Yet, distributing content across social networks is really the final stage of the content development process. Rodrigo Coronel, Old Spice’s communications manager, says that marketers need to solidify their content ideas before deciding on which social network it will live. For Coronel, that last step is relatively simple: focus on channels where Old Spice’s audience is already spending its time.

“It’s more efficient to join a behavior rather than try and start a new one,” he says.

Think customer, not channel

Brands that want to develop sharable content need to focus on the customer, not the channel. Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO of global strategy consulting firm Vivaldi Partners Group, says that channel-centric budgeting and planning leads to a “spray and pray” strategy—brands blast messages randomly across all channels and hope for the best.

BuzzFeed‘s view is that social channel strategy should be determined by the consumer, not the brand. “Great content finds its audience,” says Jonathan Perelman, VP of agency strategy and industry development at BuzzFeed, a popular content sharing website known for photo-centric lists on topics from news to pop culture.

Every month BuzzFeed welcomes more than 60 million unique visitors, 80% of whom visit the website specifically to find content to share, Perelman says, which is why BuzzFeed designs its content to be “inherently sharable” by ensuring that it’s timely, that consumers can identify with it, that it evokes emotion (often via humor or nostalgia), and that it has a voice consistent with the brand—in BuzzFeed’s case, this means content with an irreverent sense of humor and that’s steeped in pop culture.

Learning to share

When it comes to social sharing, Old Spice’s Coronel cites important distinctions for using different social networks. “The approach varies a little since the audience needs vary from platform to platform,” he says. “Twitter is very engaging and conversational, whereas Instagram is great for small, snack-size pieces of photo content.” BuzzFeed’s Perelman also notices patterns in which different types of BuzzFeed content flourishes on different social media networks. For instance, political and news stories are popular on Twitter, while fluffier content with cute animals thrives on Facebook.

Ultimately, however, Perelman reiterates that disseminating content is only the end of the social funnel, in which the top involves attracting fans and followers and the middle is about retaining customers by delivering compelling and timely content. Coronel adds that while Old Spice looks at content success as it pertains to each individual platform, every piece of digital content works cohesively to “ladder up to the brand’s promise of ridiculous masculinity.”

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