Rob is extremely passionate about helping YouTube creators grow with data and insights.
Successful Content’s Secret Sauce, Explained by Science (and Exploited by BuzzFeed)
Resisting the brute efficacy of “listicles,” True Facts, and relatable gifs is – as I’m sure you realize – futile.
Between mobile and desktop users, the Buzzfeed website enjoys about 10 million unique visitors daily…and that’s on a bad day.
For the non-Mathletes in the audience, that’s 30% of YouTube’s total unique user traffic over the course of a month (which is 1 billion) – on a website that is younger, less prolific, and does not rely on user-generated content.
That share-of-voice takeover escalated quickly, am I right?
Obviously, BuzzFeed is not in competition with YouTube – instead, these two monolithic content platforms function as partners on this epic, shared journey of Social Media domination. And while their business models share little in common, the media giants are both swaddled and secure in the knowledge that they have perfected – together and independently – the Internet-reinforced concept of “content as communication.”
Pictured: YouTube and BuzzFeed’s concurrent sense of self-satisfaction.
Both in Ze Frank’s 2013 Vidcon presentation and during Jonathan Perelman’s REEL Video Summit speech last week, the BuzzFeeders tip their hand by declaring that content should be made for how it is consumed – as a shareable form of communication. They’ve cleverly discerned that share-worthy content – taken holistically – keys almost exclusively into 3 drivers of human communication:
Identity (“this article/video communicates something about me or my life experiences better than my just telling you would.”)
Emotional gift (“this content made me feel X, I want you to feel X too.”)
Information (“HEY GUYS – this stuff is factual and cool.”)
By playing to these 3 share-driving principles, BuzzFeed has exploded in popularity over the last 24 months and has, perhaps more notably, rendered Google Search secondary to content discovery. In its place, Facebook – the gold standard of Social Media referral – now leads the bulk of users to BuzzFeed’s content watering hole.
The implications for SEO, by the way, are semi-staggering. (Source.)
Ahh, yes. Share-worthy content is indeed successful content. But, why? Is it because of the complex network of overlapping human needs resulting from our schizophrenic relationship with empathy? Is it because LOL cats have driven us to over-identify with memes? Is it because Ze Frank has perfected mass hypnosis from high up in his ivory, BuzzFeedian tower and we are all victims?
Nay, my friend – it is so much simpler than that.
Allow me to introduce you to oxytocin:
“Sup, bros. I’m basically the neurological foundation of human society and community sentiment. No biggie.”
Oxytocin is a fun little mammalian neuromodulator that most of you will more readily recognize as the “bonding hormone.” This is the stuff that gets mothers (naturally) high after childbirth, the stuff that gets you (naturally) high after sex, and that makes menial tasks like grocery shopping – when shared with someone you like – (naturally) less terrible.
Interestingly, oxytocin is released in small amounts into the human brain during 3 common, share-worthy experiences:
Now, let’s play a game called, “Find the Synonyms.”
“Identity” = “Social belonging” (we reinforce our sense of self by seeking out external reinforcement and relationships.)
“Emotional gift” = “Intimacy” (shared feelings/experiences are the root of actual and perceived intimacy.)
“Information” = “Information discovery” (not really a synonym so much as exactly the same word.)
Wait a minute. Does that mean that BuzzFeed is just exploiting your fiendish biological addiction to oxytocin?!
Not at all, my dear reader – everything good on the internet is just exploiting your fiendish biological addiction to oxytocin. Whether it’s a Wikipedia loop or social media FOMO or LOL cats, your sustained interest is no more mysterious than is a mild heroin habit (for even less mystery, check out the structural parallels between oxytocin and heroin molecules).
Ain’t neurochemical stimulation neat? Evolution certainly thinks so – that’s, like, its entire community-building strategy.
In short, the secret sauce of successful content is also the secret sauce of all human endeavor – a high dependency liability.
Thanks for reading. I got you some oxytocin. (Source.)
More info means more oxytocin. Got a craving? Download vidIQ’s free Chrome Extension to see YouTube video analytics and a whole mess of metrics right in your browser.