How to use BuzzFeed (or any other site) to grow your platform and sell more of anything

A minute ago I was searching for images for a book cover.

That led to a cat gif, which led to a Buzzfeed article called “16 things only spontaneous people can relate to as told by cats.”

I spent a few minutes watching short cat gifs. What’s not to like?

They appeal to everybody (even if you’re not really “spontaneous”).

cat gifs

 

But when I got down to the end of the post, I saw this:

 

spontaneous

On the one hand – yes it’s a little strange. There’s a very tenuous link between being spontaneous and liking cats, and wanting to see a Bud Light advertisement.

On the other hand, this is contemporary marketing at its best.

And it’s what you should be doing too.

How to do it

If you’re trying to market your books or grow your business, telling everybody about your product rarely works (especially if you try to do it more than once or twice, then it becomes obnoxious).

Advertising in specific places can work – especially if they are already in the mindset to buy a book like yours, or searching for your business (if they are, then Google paid advertisements/sponsored search is the way to get in front of them).

But most of the time, people don’t give a damn about you or your business or your book.

They just want to do whatever they want to do, which probably includes watching stupid cat videos.

Rule Number One: find them where they are.

Don’t just blast on Twitter to your followers (they will stop following you).

Don’t just post on your Facebook page or on your blog (that nobody is reading).

Find out where your ideal clients or readers hang out, what they do for fun, what they enjoy.

Start noticing those things you see shared on Facebook all the time, from Buzzfeed or Bored Panda – you know, that silly stuff that catches your attention and gives you a little bit of fun; the stuff you can’t help clicking on.

Find sites that are being shared, that get a ton of traffic, then focus on a topic that will engage your target audience.

Rule Number Two: don’t talk about yourself.

Bud Light’s efforts would have been wasted if they tried to do something obvious like “16 tasty snacks to enjoy with a cold cup of Bud Light.” Nobody wants content that is marketing a product. Bud Light’s cat post only works because it has nothing to do with Bud Light; it’s only purpose is to be funny and engaging – it works. It’s disarming. It gets people to click and read.

Gifs work the best, but you could do any funny list (Cracked.com is a great place for these too).

Need to make a gif? Check out this Youtube Video to Gif converter.

A successful collection of gifs with a sentence of commentary can get millions of hits.

You’re allowed a final question and link to yourself or your site on the bottom of the post.

It takes some work, but one great native content article like this will bring you more traffic and visibility a lot of other marketing stuff you could do. Even if you don’t use BuzzFeed – these same principles hold for building your platform. Write blog posts that are useful and entertaining, that are clickable and shareable (not stuff that sells your book or service).

Your book or company should be a footnote, not the main event (which means, stop thinking about what you want people to buy and start thinking about what people might enjoy).

Write these articles and share them. Put some on your website, then share the link on Twitter, Reddit and LinkedIn. Put others on bigger blogs with lots of traffic. No, this isn’t “giving away your writing without getting paid for it” – this is “very cheap, easy and effective marketing that you’re lucky to be able to do”.

If million dollar companies are turning to this approach, surely they know what kind of marketing works these days, and what doesn’t. Don’t be an old-school marketer (spammer). Be entertaining and provide value.

PS) I’m going to work on a few BuzzFeed posts myself to see how hard they are to pull off, I’ll update this page later.

 

  • 10 ways to defeat writer’s block, as told by cats.
  • 10 ways to sell more books, as told by funny animals.

 

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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