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For BuzzFeed, understanding how their audience find, interact with and share their content is key.

It is an understanding of the rise of social sharing and discovery which has helped to drive its shareable content model, for example, along with an awareness of the growing mobile audience which now makes up more than half its traffic.

Speaking at the Digital Innovators' Summit today, Scott Lamb, vice president of international at BuzzFeed outlined the different ways data on content discovery and sharing is used by both editorial and advertising teams.

Making social 'the starting point'

He explained that by understanding how social media is "the starting point" for many online, the site can then apply this to themselves in how they "create content and think about our readers".

Therefore, in a general sense, by getting to grips with the data, the site can ensure that its content, and its delivery, works hand-in-hand with audience behaviour online.

Such audience behaviour has led BuzzFeed to identify a particular group of people as a key audience for BuzzFeed's shareable content, what Lamb defined as "The Bored Network", whether that's 'bored-at-work', 'bored-at-home' or, driven by the growth of mobile, the 'bored-in-line' network.

And after creating and publishing content aimed at engaging the audience, an important part of BuzzFeed's work is to dive into the data and take lessons from it.

The analytics dashboard

Lamb explained how content creators for BuzzFeed have access to an analytics "dashboard".

"We are very focused on data for the editorial team," he said, "but not because the editors get paid more if they get viral hits, more to think of everything they publish as an experiment".

This data can then be used to "optimise promotion of content around the site and on social feeds", he explained, and give the journalists an idea of how their content is being distributed across the web and make more informed decisions about where it is most worth pushing.

Audience data is also used to "optimise the platform itself", he said, explaining that online media outlets should "use all the possible data that's coming into you from your readers".

BuzzFeed, for example, noticed it was getting "increasing amounts of traffic from Pinterest" so they decided to try re-organising the "share bar", which featured the Pinterest 'pin' button on the right of other social network options.

Following "some A-B testing", the site found that by moving the Pinterest button to first in the line of sharing options there was "a huge improvement in the click-through rate".

This illustrated an example of a "small tweak we made based on data", he added.

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