BuzzFeed has become a by-word for shareable content, but the outlet's viral output is by no means limited to lists.

After reaching 2 million subscribers to its main YouTube channel in little over a year, BuzzFeed is also a major player in shareable video content.

Some recent examples include 'video lists' such as 8 facts about food that will totally creep you out, videos that appeal to innate human curiosity, such as The world's most dangerous things to humans, and humour, as in How to piss off every New Yorker in 36 seconds.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, BuzzFeed's senior video producer Andrew Gauthier shared some tips and advice for creating viral video content.

1. Be a great conversationalist

One of BuzzFeed's most shared videos in the last year showed 'real' women being Photoshopped to look like fashion models.

The video, which was published in February, has so far been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube.com/BuzzFeedVideo and has had "hundreds of thousands of shares" through Facebook, Twitter and other sites, said Gauthier.



"We suspect one of the reasons it did well was that it started a conversation about a lot of things - the use of Photoshop, how pervasive altered images are in the media, and also the issue of body image," explained Gauthier.

In addition to the ability to spark conversation, videos that are widely shared also demonstrate an awareness of what people are already talking about on social networks, he added.

"I like to think of the internet as a party where there are all these conversations going on," Gauthier said.

Viral videos "add to the conversation" by offering "some sort of emotional aspect or informational takeaway" which makes users more likely to share content with friends, he added.

"It allows people to pick up the conversation they were having earlier, or they share it and they say 'oh, I saw this and I was thinking of you'."

2. Experiment

An effective way to know what kind of video works best for sharing is to "always be experimenting," said Gauthier.

We have the mentality that every video is an experiment, every time is an opportunity to learn somethingAndrew Gauthier, BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed produces a large amount of video and takes note of what content people tend to respond to, and what works not so well, with the aim of learning and adapting from it. 

"I think the big thing that we always keep in mind is that we don't know everything," he said.

"We have the mentality that every video is an experiment, every time is an opportunity to learn something."

3. Analyse

BuzzFeed is "very much data driven" said Gauthier, adding that the outlet uses Google Analytics, YouTube analytics and its own internal dashboard to monitor the social reach and impact of its videos.

"Everything is open for analysis," he said. "For Facebook we chart not only shares but also likes and comments. On Twitter we chart tweets, retweets, favourites, all of the core structure."

When a video is well shared, the BuzzFeed team will use analytics to investigate the reasons why, for example, whether it appealed to a certain identity, age group or demographic.

"When we look at a video that has performed well we're breaking it down to all of its fundamental elements, and not making assumptions based on a hunch," he added.

Although BuzzFeed's analysis has revealed no hard and fast rules about what types of video content are shared most on different social platforms, Gauthier said that "a very simple breakdown is that Twitter is more news and information based".

We get a lot of international traffic, so when we think about the different aspects of storytelling we like to think about what makes something universalAndrew Gauthier, BuzzFeed
Facebook, on the other hand, seems to be "much more about relationships, about identity, about emotions".

The social news platform Reddit "is its own beast", Gauthier said, where videos that "spark a conversation" tend to do best.

4. Be universal...

Another key element to shareable video is making content that transcends boundaries across different cultures and languages, said Gauthier.

"We get a lot of international traffic, so when we think about the different aspects of storytelling we like to think about what makes something universal," he explained.

"Is there a way to make a video that doesn't require you to know the language? Is there a way to make a video that doesn't require you to listen to the sound?"

Returning to Gauthier's first point, cultural differences can also be a great topic for creating conversation.

He cites a video BuzzFeed published earlier this year featuring Americans taste testing classic Australian snack foods such as Milo powdered chocolate milk, Chicos gummy sweets and, of course, Vegemite.

"That did really well, [particularly] on Reddit," said Gauthier, "because it really sparked this conversation about the differences in our cultures in something as simple as the snacks that we eat every day."



5. ...but think small

Videos which tell just a small portion of a larger story, and do it well, are often more effective for sharing than telling a story in its entirety, said Gauthier.

In a way, this is reminiscent of the narrative technique of telling a story in medias res, or 'in the middle', as opposed to from the beginning.

It is also a very different approach to more conventional forms of video journalism, such as the television news, where there is more of a focus on telling a complete story.

"There is this inclination, a natural creative or journalistic impulse, to tell a complete story, and to tell an entire story," said Gauthier.

"But thinking small is good, being laser-focused on one aspect can be a symbol or a metaphor for something larger."
 
Expanding on specific details of a story makes the videos "hangers for conversation", Gauthier said, returning to his main point about why videos are shared online.

"It's important to kind of leave people with the ability to add their own thoughts when they share it, or inspire people to talk about a certain subject."

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