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Social sharing has put the "power" into the hands of readers, BuzzFeed's Jonathan Perelman told a conference in Birmingham today.

Speaking at the Rethink Media conference in Birmingham, Perelman, general manager of video and vice president of agency strategy at BuzzFeed, said sharing has allowed readers to go "up the economic value chain" to the point where they are in charge.

As a result, he explained that it was more important then ever for content to appeal to readers on an emotional level.

"EQ [emotional quotient] now matters more than IQ [intelligence quotient]", he said.

Perelman noted that as media outlets moved away from a "centralised" broadcast model to the more "democratic" social model, the influence over the kind of content being produced had changed.

"The power is this notion of the influencer," he said, which offers all readers – as well as famous or well-known individuals – the chance to be an influencer within their social circles.

He added that it was "vital" when creating content to "understand the platform that it's going to spread on, because they act very differently".

Twitter, he said, worked best for breaking news while Facebook was a platform people used to "express their identity" by posting content such as quizzes.

Part of the reasons quizzes are so popular is they "validate" people's assumptions of themselves, said Perelman.

He also said that BuzzFeed had seen an increase in traffic from Pinterest, possibly because of people pinning content they planned to revisit at a later time.

Content on Pinterest "isn't about immediacy" said Perelman, noting that content on DIY or hairstyles worked particularly well on this platform.

"To build a business around social you must understand why people share content", he added.

He explained that people share content for two main reasons: to form community, and to "look good – smart, irreverent, in the moment".

He added that people do not necessarily read this content before sharing – and he has the data to prove it.

A lot of BuzzFeed's political reporting – produced by an investigative team led by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Schoofs – is long-form, with articles of between 5,000 and 7,000 words.

"People will share that content before they read it," revealed Perelman.

"I know that because of where they're sharing it from and the time on page and the fact that they haven't scrolled at all."

Key to BuzzFeed's strategy, he said, is to create content with a strong emotional or informative appeal to readers, who are then more likely to share it because it reveals something, whether consciously or subconsciously, about their own identity.

"We create media that is meant as a form of communication, not simply as something to be consumed," he said.

"We want to create something that speaks to somebody, to who they are. Almost better than they can say who they are themselves."

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