Crafting Viral Content

Featuring Buzzfeed Video Producer, Daysha Edewi.

  • - Hey everyone, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today. We still have a few people trickling in for today's Master Class, so we're going to give it a couple more minutes before we get started. We've got a great event in store for you, so please stay tuned. Alright everyone, for those of you who are just joining us, thank you so much for tuning in and welcome! I'm Amanda Zantal with the HubSpot Marketing Blog and today's master class is brought to you of course by HubSpot Academy, HubSpot's official learning resource, and the leader worldwide in inbound marketing and sales education. HubSpot Academy offers free certification courses that will help you not only grow your business, but also grow your career. Today I am absolutely thrilled to be joined by Daysha Edewi, a video producer with BuzzFeed, who is here to teach us about crafting viral content. Daysha has produced over 100 videos for BuzzFeed in only two and a half years, and in that same pretty condensed period of time, she's managed to amass over half a billion views, that is billion, with a B. And of course over here we are no stranger to the importance of creating content that is remarkable, so we're very excited to dive into the many ways that we can get our content shared and drive more awareness for our organizations. So, without further ado, Daysha thank you so much for being here today and welcome!

    - Hi everyone! I'm Daysha, I'm a video producer at BuzzFeed, and yeah I'm so excited to be here and just chat with you about everything that I've learned over these past few years.

    - Girl we're really excited to hear it and dive into it, we were joking earlier about how I put this on my Instagram and all my friends were freaking out and saying oh my god Daysha we love her! So I am, the world it seems, is very excited to have you here. So let's dive right in, I think a good place to start actually is I'm curious how you and BuzzFeed really define viral content?

    - So for me, when I think about making viral content I see it as creating content on a trend or conversation that is rapidly circulated in a short period of time. And so with thinking about that definition, I would break it down into three key points to think about. So the first thing is time, you want to be thinking about how many eyes are getting on it in a short period of time. So a video that has a million views in a year, I wouldn't call viral. But a video that has a million views in 10 hours, or three days, or seven days, like that constitutes virality. The next thing I would think about is relevancy, so with relevancy it's thinking about, how do I compel someone to watch this video in this moment? So not tomorrow, not when they get off of work, not like saving it, because we all know that when you save a video on Facebook you're never going back to it! But watching it like right then and there. And then the last thing I would think about is sharing. And sharing gets into a good point that I wanted to make, if we really get into a nuanced discussion about virality and sharability. I definitely think that there is a slight but important difference between the two. So with virality, I would say that in a lot of ways, it's not that hard to get views. And I say that in that there are some platforms that register watching a short amount of your content, so like 10 seconds of your content as a view, and so that's not necessarily, your content is not really impacting anyone if they're only watching 10 seconds of it. So with virality, it can sometimes be a little cheap. But with sharabiliy, and sharing, it's very rare that we watch videos, or that we share videos that we haven't watched entirely, or at least a good chunk of. And so with sharing you know that not only have you stopped someone and like compelled them enough to watch your content in that moment, but that they felt that it was so valuable and impactful enough, whether that meant that it was humorous, or that meant it was educational, whether that meant it was a really good serious video, but it meant that they felt like they needed to share it with people within their networks. So with thinking about viral media, sharable content can be viral, but not all viral content is sharable, if that makes sense.

    - Yeah that's a really interesting but significant differentiation, and it's interesting that you bring up the metrics side of it as well because there's definitely some distribution platforms and channels that I've gotten into a little bit of trouble for misrepresenting and maybe miscalculating the viewing metrics but I do want to dive into that sharability piece, which it seems like is a pretty important part of what it is that we're here to talk about today. What is it that you think ultimately makes content sharable? So whether it's a video or something else, what are some of things that make people want other people to see this content?

    - Yeah, so for me I kind of carved out five just like brief little bullet points when I'm thinking about making sharable content, and so the first thing that I carved out is, you really want to be thinking about the story and the characters. So, a lot of people think that stories and characters and that kind of stuff is only relegated to scripted content, but honestly how you approach unscripted and scripted, it's very, very similar. You really want to be thinking about defining a clear narrative with the story that you're telling, you want to make sure that you're kind of hitting the three point structure in a narrative, so making sure the story has a clear beginning, a clear middle, and a clear end. And with that I guess I can walk you through a video example. So there was a video I did last summer or two summers ago it was a woman wearing a bikini for the first time, and so with that video, you'll see at the beginning I spend a lot of time kind of carving out her story, so this is an unscripted story. And so I carve out her background why she is the person that we want to be seeing go through this journey and then we get a little background about her history and her hometown and her family and like how the relationship she has with her body. So that's kind of like the beginning, and that's like setting up who she is, why we want to watch her. The next part of the story, which is the middle part, and so the middle can be cut into a variety of different chunks, but it should still be clear, articulated chunks. So the first chunk of that video, she is picking out a bikini, and she's having a conversation, like oh do I want this bikini or that bikini? And it's kind of like a check-in point for the audience, where like they can go and say, and for herself, so it's like oh man I can't believe I'm doing this, I'm picking out the bikini, as well as giving the audience to be like oh do I like that? Do I think that's gonna look good on her? Just kind of like giving the audience a chance to kind of again attach themselves to her story. And then the next chunk of that video, I also like didn't show the audience which bikini she ended up choosing, but she tries on the bikinis and so then you really get to see like oh, you know do I actually still like that one, or maybe I like the other one? And then the next part of the video is now her at the beach, so we're kind of getting into the climax, rising action portion of the video. And just thinking about, again she's having another check-in point like oh man I'm really about to expose myself and go on this very emotional, revealing journey for myself. Do I want to back out, do I still want to keep going? Because I think at the end of the day, when we think about stories, it's all about making choices and what compels someone to want to make a particular choice and if they don't make a choice, what does that say about them? If they do make a particular choice, what does that say about them? And so that's something that you really always want to be thinking about, is with the story and the characters, what are the choices that you are gonna compel them to make throughout the narrative so that at the end we can say how does them a different person? So that's story and characters, the next point that I had was thinking about the stakes that you create for your characters. And with stakes I really want to make a point that organic stakes are key. So it's not like in the bikini video I had her walk across a fire pit in order to get the bikini. I you know just had her go online, just like how any other person would, but it did increase the stakes of oh man, now I'm actually going to have to do this! So you just want to make sure that with whatever you're doing, you're building suspense to the climax but you're also staying true to the narrative and you're not doing anything kind of funky. Oh, go ahead!

    - Oh no, please finish.

    - I think another example of a video that I've done where I was working on that was, so recently I produced a video where it was men try birth control, a simulation for 30 days. And within that video, so I was the producer on it and I had setup different rules for them to really mimic the situations that women go through when they're dealing with getting their birth control. I had them come to the pharmacy, with talking with someone after I'd given them the rules, we were having a conversation about insurance. And I was like, oh my gosh, this is such an important part of this conversation, and so through that I build in another stake, which was adding in like insurance cards and telling the guys that they had to bring their insurance cards in order to pickup their birth control. So again, like you want to build the stakes, but you want to make sure that it's staying true to the story so that it just doesn't seem like out of the ordinary and you're just kind of doing something to do it. The next point that I think about when I'm making sharable content is the buzz. And so with this I like to think about it like how you would think about a gas stove. So you can't light a gas stove without the gas, and so you can't create something that's sharable or viral without there being some sort of buzz underneath there. And so with thinking about that, the buzz doesn't necessarily have to be a breaking or trending topic. It can be something that you create, but it has to be rooted in something that is familiar to people's everyday livelihoods. It has to be, it has to be moments in which you're almost kind of like making people stop and realize that they actually experience something or they actually have conversations about something and they didn't even realize it until they watch your video and it kind of put that in their perspective that oh I do kind of, I think about this, or I have conversations about these things. And then the next thing to think about would be honesty and authenticity, and so that kind of touches on like when we think about stories and organic stakes, like you really want whatever you're painting for your audience is to be rooted in some sort of authentic experience. Especially working in digital and on platforms like YouTube. I was listening to a podcast recently about female entrepreneurs. And one of the entrepreneurs she was talking about how she's noticed with her audience and consumer base that they want girlfriends, they don't want gurus. They don't want people who are perfect. They want people that they feel like they can have coffee with, or people that they could invite into their home and like have conversations with. And so, I would say when we think about the two realms of scripted versus unscripted, with unscripted I would lean into the imperfections. So you know, if you're doing a video where someone is trying out a diet product or something for the first time and they cheat on the diet, that's real! Like everybody cheats you know!

    - Not me! No I'm just kidding. I definitely cheat.

    - Oh you're perfect. Lord knows I've definitely had a cheat meal or two sometimes. And so you want to lean into that, because if you just show someone who's like perfectly going through something, and then somebody else tries it and they fail, or they you know, they do something that's not necessarily perfect. Then you know they, it just makes the product feel very unrelatable to them. And then in the scripted realm, just because like you know if it doesn't sound good, or if it's not lit good, like people aren't necessarily gonna be happy about that, but the way that you would lean into the imperfections in that realm is like moreso about, so I guess a great example of that would be, I did a video about two years ago, and so I'm also a spoken word artist and at BuzzFeed I've done a variety of different successful spoken word videos, and one of the videos that we did, it's called "Things I Wish I Could Tell My Mom" and basically that video is--

    - I love that one by the way. Like that's one of my favorites!

    - Thank you! And so with that video in particular, it's kind of talking about how the struggles that women often have interacting with each other, that starts with the relationships that we have with our moms, and the way that we talk to each other, and so if you watch that video. So it starts as me as the daughter presenting my mother with a letter. And then as she's reading the letter, we kind of bring the letter to life. And then at the end of the video, we were really debating about this particular scene, and so initially how we shot it, was that the me and the mom, so she's reading the letter, she looks up at me, and then we had her scripted to come and like hug me and we embrace and we're like everything's gonna be okay! But as we sent it out for notes, a lot of people who watched it, they said I love this but the ending is something that doesn't sit well with me because it feels very cookie cutter. And like given the seriousness and the weight of the poem in the letter, I don't know if a mother would particularly get up and go hug her daughter right after that. And so we were really going back and forth about how to do it but ultimately at the end we decided that we should just kind of leave it on the lingering stare, so that it's up to the audience to decide like what happens next. So I think that that's a great example of like leaning into the imperfection and not necessarily feeling like you have to tie everything up with a bow, which is something that can often happen when make scripted content, is that you feel like you have to create this perfect scenario or environment or if there's any kind of tension, there has to be some sort of resolution. And I think that in life, like there's so many tense moments that we go through where like there is no clear cut resolution. So I would lean into that, and that is another great way to make your content really relatable.

    - Just to add--

    - You gonna say something?

    - Yes, just to add some context to some of the folks who are watching who are a little bit newer to this realm, when you talk about stakes, how would you define you know this element of stakes within the video and how that places and sharability, how would you define that for somebody who's a little bit new to crafting this kind of content?

    - So with stakes, so again honestly I would sit down whenever you have the idea that you want to turn into a video, and then just carve out where the beginning, the middle, and the end is. And so the beginning usually in most, like especially in unscripted stuff, is like introducing us to the person and the journey. So what is their story, who are they, why do I care about them? So the middle is where the stakes kind of come into play and where it can seem a little intimidating. So I think another good example of how I like to approach first person narratives, so I have a really strong background in first person narratives and that can be somewhat intimidating because it's just like I'm just charting someone going through something, how do I make this a three point narrative? And so, a video that I did it was, "How I Learned to Love My Cellulite". And so I took a girl who was having like really intense times with her cellulite and we decided that we were going to create three different check-in points for her, so three different activities that she had to do and each activity was gonna be harder than the first one so at the end it was kind of building to this place of oh can I do this really intense thing? Like if I'm having a hard time with the easy thing, and a hard time with the middle thing, am I actually gonna have the courage to want to do the hard thing? And like we carved that out for the audience. So like at the beginning, we establish who she is, her story, like why loving her cellulite is hard, and then we explain to the audience with a very quick soundbite that so she's going to be going through three different activities to kind of test how she can learn to love her cellulite. And so, yeah sometimes it's just as simple as like just saying to the audience very quickly that, sorry, saying to the audience very quickly that these are the stakes that the character is going to be going through. Or like you don't necessarily, if that feels like it's too heavy handed, saying to them like right then and there you can just kind of more, what's the word I'm looking for? You can kind of gradually build it in, kind of like how I did with the bikini video, where I didn't necessarily say that like okay now she's picking her bikini, now she's trying it on, now she's going to the beach. Like I just kind of like let it organically flow together, whereas with hers, I felt like it was more important to articulate to the audience that these are three different challenges that she wants to put herself in to see if she can learn to love her cellulite. So with stakes like, I would honestly just script it out. And I would just sit there and think about what are moments in which I can challenge my characters and like make them either grow or like maybe take a step back and like really think about whether or not this is something that they actually do want to embark on or not.

    - It sounds like there's a tremendous human element underlying here to a lot of the content that you're creating and a lot of what makes it sharable. What suggestions do you have for finding the human talent for videos and you know making these humans feel comfortable in some of the really kind of complex content that you're creating?

    - Yeah. So I would say, it's interesting there's a variety of different approaches that you can take to finding talent. But at the end of the day, as I mentioned, you have to think about what is authentically going to do well for the story. So at BuzzFeed sometimes we'll send out casting emails and we'll say hey I'm doing this video, does anyone want to be in it? That's a little bit, I don't necessarily like to do that anymore, I definitely think that if you're doing a video that's like very intense or something that maybe people might not want to do, then that's like kind of like a last resort just because you're getting such a mixed bag of people. You can't really vet like how invested they're going to be in really wanting to give you a good story. So what I like to do is I actually like to seek people out, so if I know that there is a particular video that I want to do, I will go to someone that I have either had conversations with about a particular thing and I'll say, hey I think that this would make a really good video, would you be into it? Or if I'm doing a video that's more like a taste test oriented thing, so a taste test is just kind of almost like a reactionary thing, you have two people on a backdrop just kind of giving their opinions. And I think that two people would work really well together, like I'll go and seek those people out for that. I will say though that if you do send out a casting email, it's not the worst thing. And one of the ways in which you can try and like vet as much as possible is just kind of like asking them, hey like I'm looking for this, this, and this, and the type of story that I want to tell. Like do you feel like you embody these characteristics? And that's actually something that you can put in your casting email is, I'm looking for someone who doesn't have experience in this, I'm looking for someone who doesn't have experience but is really excited to learn, I'm looking for someone who maybe thinks this is going to be the worst thing in their life so that like you have a variety of different stories that the audience can latch onto. So there's casting emails, you can seek people out yourself. Sometimes people are just talking to me and they're just saying such a good story and I already see the video in my head and I'm like we gotta, if you're comfortable, I would love to make this a video.

    - Yeah you know one of the things that I was hoping to ask you today is where these ideas for these fabulous pieces of content and these fabulous videos come from? Is it an autonomous process for you? Or do you have things like team brainstorms? Or is it a combination of both?

    - Yeah I would say it's a combination of both. And so, it is interesting because when looking at the question and seeing autonomy, I want to say that we do have autonomy, but I don't wanna make it seem like we can just make whatever we want cus that's not necessarily the case. Wouldn't that be a great world if we could? But I will say that what we do have, it's almost like a weird hybrid of autonomy so, you're aligned with a team, that for the most part speaks to your interests. And then through that team you guys will have team brainstorms, we also love to do topic brainstorms, so like we have a mental health week coming up very soon. In May I do believe we do a body positivity week, so we'll have brainstorms around that. We've also had company wide brainstorms, we invite people from all different kinds of departments and we'll just mix everybody up, and then we'll brainstorm in that way. So we definitely have a wide variety of different brainstorming styles. And then I would also say though too, you can pitch ideas to your manager, and I would say for the most part ideas get approved. It's just that you want to make sure that you have a very solid pitch. So if you really put in the effort to say this is my character, this is their story, this is why I think it would be relevant, for the most part they're going to say yeah, go ahead. But it's really just taking the time to really think about what the story is and why you want to tell it.

    - So that actually kind of brings up the idea of streamlining this whole process into just that, a process. And you know it seems like BuzzFeed and your team, you publish a lot of content, quality content, in a pretty short period of time. So what are some of the time management and efficiency tips that you might be able to share? I mean how do you get so much done and produce so much quality content in you know each month for example?

    - Sometimes I honestly don't even know how I do it, I just kind of feel like robot at this point!

    - Oh yeah! Yep.

    - Let's see. So it's interesting because when I first started we were required to make six videos, like that was just kind of it. And so what that broke down to was that you would make one and a half videos a week, and so that meant that you were always in a project. Or you were in two projects at once. And the ideal kind of time frame that we had back then was you were shooting, editing, and packaging a video in three to four days and then you were onto the next thing. But so now we're more so on the vein of people make between four to five videos a month, and so now there's more of the wiggle room to kind of work on one project from beginning to end. But even then I still feel like a lot of people, you're often, your hand is still in two or three different projects at once. So with that, I would say trying to think about what I do. So one of the things that we used to do back then was that we would have banger days. So banger days was challenging yourself to get out one video in a day. So you would get to work, you would script it, shoot it, edit it, and have it like in final review by 5pm.

    - [Amanda] Banger Days. I need a couple of those.

    - Yeah because it's really, one of the things I think I really value about my time at BuzzFeed is that you know you can't spend more than a couple days on a project. And I think about in college, my senior thesis, I spent months on that project! And I could never imagine spending months on anything here. And so it really forces you to trim the fat and really think about what are the key things that a video needs or requires in order to go up? And nine times out of 10 when we have more time than necessary to think about it, we'll add in so many random, unnecessary things to tell a story that just aren't needed. So it really forces you to think about the important things that are needed to tell the story accurately and authentically. Banger days were something that we used to do. I'm trying to think for myself. I really like to do preproduction days. So I will take one day out of the week and just slate out what I want to accomplish for the month and then think about what are locations in which I could shoot two videos at once? I remember there was one time I shot a video and I ended up getting four videos out of the same footage.

    - [Amanda] Nice!

    - Yeah! And so really thinking about how much you can get out of one shoot day I think is another thing that we like to think about as a time saving tip. Can you repurpose the same footage in different ways? I'm trying to think about something else.

    - Well you know I do, if you don't mind me interjecting here that brings up something I was thinking about earlier when you were walking us through the character development of some of these videos, especially the bikini video. Just out of curiosity, what was the total length of that finished product?

    - So the bikini video I want to say was four to five minutes. And that actually I'm really glad you brought that up because that was the last point that I was going to talk about in terms of what I think about when I'm creating sharable content is length. And so with length of your content, you want to make sure that you're not undershooting or overshooting. You want to make sure that you're giving your content the right amount of time to tell a good story. And you want to make sure that you're not putting in random scenes just because you think they look nice but because they actually add something to the story. And.

    - Right.

    - You know it's interesting, so YouTube has had this really interesting evolution where when I first started, so the ideal length to hit was two minutes and 30 seconds. And if you were lucky you could get away with three minutes, but anything that was longer than three minutes tended to underperform. And so that was kind of the sweet spot. And now I feel like just because we were much newer back then and now we have an audience that is older and has evolved with us, there is definitely so much more wiggle room for a longer form content and if anything, they're craving it. And you'll see a lot of videos now that are seven minutes, 12 minutes, we had a series, they did an episode that was 45 minutes long that went viral. Excuse me, so yeah there's definitely I think that as long as you're building a very strong core audience, like they'll be there for the long form content. You just have to make sure that you're creating valuable content that will make them invested in whatever you are then gonna create that's longer form. But yeah, I think a great example again with the birth control video, I remember I was really nervous about that video because it was 12 minutes long and I was just like I don't know if people are really gonna wanna stick in for 12 minutes to watch this video. But when I went to the trimming board, and I was like what can I cut? I was like I can't think of anything that I would take out of this that wouldn't, I can't think of anything that I would take out that would make the video better. I felt like everything that I had in there was really important to tell an authentic story. And luckily I was right! Because the video had two million views in a week. And so that's where I think it's really important to make those good judgment gut calls, where it's just kind of like, is what I have here right now something that is important to the story? And if not, you can't get precious, you just gotta cut it. It's just gotta go. Yep, and I think that that's something that I really loved and a skill that I've really developed here is not getting precious. And making sure that I'm doing whatever does justice by the story.

    - I think that that's something that so many creative professionals struggle with, I certainly struggle with it in my writing all the time that I never really heard don't get precious with it assigned to it, and so I'm definitely using that in my next editorial session is, Amanda don't get precious! So thank you for imparting that wisdom to me, I think it can be applied to content creators beyond the realm of video. So I'm glad that you brought up YouTube as a platform and how it's evolved along with you know your audience and your brand. You know one thing that I wanted to ask you about is YouTube for example as a distribution channel, you know two of the main distribution channels that we talk about the most are YouTube and Facebook. Are those your primary distribution platforms, and do you treat them differently at all? I think we may have lost Daysha.

    - I can hear you now, can you hear me now?

    - Yes! Oh good, I'm glad you're back. I was about to bust out my showtune repertoire, I'm sure the audience is very happy that we spared them of that. I've been asking you actually about about YouTube, you brought it up and its evolution as a distribution channel and how it's changed along with your audience and with your brand and I'm just curious, you know if YouTube and Facebook are the primary channels for you and if you treat them differently at all?

    - Yeah for sure. So yes, YouTube and Facebook are the primary channels that we distribute to. And we for sure think about them very differently. You'll notice on YouTube, so for instance we have a channel called Boldly, and Boldly, their audience is much more about beauty, fashion, style, and empowerment. We have BuzzFeed Blue which is much more of a male centered, extreme try, extreme sports kind of audience. And even though we distribute the same content on YouTube and Facebook, the audiences that we've cultivated on both platforms are very different. So for instance a video that you'll find on Boldly, so we don't have Boldly Facebook page. And the reason for that is that on Facebook, I think that it's a lot easier to get more niche about the identities and the people that you're talking to. Facebook is a platform that I think really thrives on marketing to very specific individuals. And so for instance, a video that would go up on the YouTube Boldly page, it could go up on the Story of My Life Facebook page that we have, and so that audience is very much more like small, relatable, beats, and moments, and everyday life kind of content. A video on Boldly could end up on Top Knot. Top Knot is our beauty and style page. We do have a BuzzFeed Video Facebook page, but just because something goes on the BuzzFeed Video YouTube doesn't necessarily mean it's going to go on the BuzzFeed Video Facebook. Just because we have all of those different types of people that we cater to on Facebook, and understanding that Facebook is definitely a place where you can be more specific towards an audience. Whereas on YouTube, there's so much maintenance that comes into the maintaining a channel that we only have a certain amount of channels and really kind of bridge all of those unique voices on Facebook together in an overarching channel. So you know I think that a lot of the people who are watching they might be coming from small to midsize companies, and while in a perfect world they would love to produce videos on you know what it's like for men to go through the process of getting birth control, and battles with cellulite, and things like this, that's just not, that's not really their niche. And it's almost kind of built itself into this myth that business to business equals boring to boring, but it's a myth for a reason. So I'm just kind of curious what some of the practices are and some of the things that we've talked about today, how that can be applied to that audience and how they can use those things to create buzz worthy content?

    - Yeah, so with that. It's interesting only because at the end of the day like a business isn't like a giant entity that you're talking to, like you're still talking to a person. And so while you can't necessarily do topics like how I have done, I still think that the framing and again thinking about the character, making organic stakes, having a buzz, and making sure it's something that's relevant in people's everyday lives. Making sure that your content is honest and authentic and then really curtailing the length to whatever does justice by the story. Like that's all stuff that I think can be taken away and applied to content that you would make for businesses because at the end of the day you're probably talking to like representative of a business. And so you have to know how to impact that person, and a lot of the tips that I shared, that's stuff that at the meat of it is about impacting the consumer. And so you're just trying to use an approach that will now impact a representative, but they're still a person. And it's interesting so I was reading a marketing book and I can't remember because I've been reading a lot of them, but I think what's been really cool for me to learn and see happen is that it was saying that so consumers don't really trust brands. They trust their friends or other consumers, and so the way that you get to reaching outside of your audience and thus getting on virality and making your stuff sharable is about impacting individuals. So if you can impact the person that comes across your brand, like the desire to want to spread that content to their friends, already makes you that much more reputable to the person that they're then sharing the content with. And so at the end of the day I think it all just comes down to making sure that you are thinking about impacting a person, and not necessarily like a giant audience. I think when I'm creating my videos, it's actually kind of funny, when I'm making my videos I don't think about them needing to be viral, because for a long time I used to think that I was always looking for a viral formula, and I was trying to say oh if I have X plus Y, that's gonna equal viral. And that has just never worked out for me in any capacity. I remember there was a point in time where I was like oh if I have pregnant women and I have cats and I have cookies, I'll have a viral hit! And like, those videos always

    - The Trifecta!

    - Yeah! Who doesn't love babies and animals and food! I had the three major points, and those videos would always underperform whenever I thought that I could do those things. But when I found that the videos that I made where I was just kind of like wow, this just sounds like an amazing story, and I just really want to authentically tell the story. Those are the videos that would like blow it off the roof in terms of numbers. And so now when I'm making videos, I don't even try to think about trying to be viral. I just try to think about telling a good story. And I think that if you can do that, the room for impact that you have is so much grander than going after views, which at the end of the day are kind of empty. Like if you don't know why you want the view, which is also something I feel like I try to mentor new creators at the company to think about, like it can't just be about getting a million views, the million views have to represent something to you. Otherwise, as I mentioned it's not that hard to get views. And a good analogy I was thinking about yesterday was when we think about like making money. Like you know in reality it's not that hard to make money, you could rob a bank, you could sell things you shouldn't, like it's really not that hard to make money. But the thing is that we all want to make money in valuable, contributing to society kind of ways. And so you should take that mindset towards views and you shouldn't just want views to just want views because it doesn't mean anything, you should want to get views because it signifies to you that oh I really touched on a conversation that I didn't think people would care about, and now it's opening me up to a whole different community that I didn't even know was there. So the views always have to be rooted in something, I feel like.

    - It's interesting what you said about how you never enter into creating content with the intention of okay this is gonna be viral! That was actually a question that we had from a member of our audience named Robert, who asked do you set out to make viral content or is it the number one goal to just make the best content possible, but it sounds like you already answered that. But you know, there's this human theme, this theme of the human element keeps coming up and so you know one last thing that I want to ask you before we turn it over to our audience is you know what is like to work at BuzzFeed?

    - BuzzFeed, I mean I feel like everyone just has a sense of what it is. It's a wild time, and I mean that in the best way possible. I would say for the most part, I was trying to think of a word that wasn't negative, because I feel like there's a negative connotation when you say this, so it's really chaotic but in a good way. Like you always have something to do, you're never bored there's always some sort of cool project or something that someone's working on that you can jump onto like, it truly is, it's a wild time but in a really fun way, you're always doing something.

    - If you have one piece of advice that we haven't covered yet today that I have neglected to ask about or anything like that for our audience, you know I love the fact that you brought up your mentorship of young creators for example, I think we have a couple of them in audience as well. What is the one key thing that you think we haven't really touched on today?

    - Let's see. I would say that one of the tips that I had to keep in mind is that so we live in a scrolling culture. And so as you approach making viral media, you have to remember that, you have to keep in mind that people are gonna want to scroll past your content. I think everyone, and you know we all got a little ego, we're like I'm pretty cool, I'm pretty dope, like who wouldn't want to watch my stuff? But for me like when I'm making my content, I'm like oh my gosh, someone's not gonna want to watch this, what am I gonna do to get them to watch it? And if you approach it in that way, I think that it really forces you to kind of get a little scrappy about what you're going to do to sell this to people. You definitely want to, you wanna when you're making your videos, you kind of do want to pull your ego in a little bit. A tool that I really love to do and that you'll kind of see in a lot of BuzzFeed videos is that we use cold opens. And so with a cold open, like that technique is basically giving the audience a three to 10 second sample of what the video is gonna be about. To kind of say to them, oh I actually do want to watch this! Because sometimes a title might make the video seem more boring than what it is, and so you don't want to just rely on a cool title. Like you kind of want to think about everything as like a really great and solid package. So we think about the title, we think about the framing, we think about like cold opens and stuff like that, we think about so many different pieces. So I would never assume that just because you're doing a topic that's relevant or important or that looks nice, that that's what's gonna compel people to want to watch your content. And I would definitely just try and just like pull your ego back and think about like how do I sell this to someone? And cold opens have a really great advantage on Facebook because Facebook has Autoplay, so that's automatically giving you like a good three second lead in, so take advantage of that! I would also say so yeah again like with the scrolling culture, I would always assume that someone is gonna scroll past your content. So like you have to think about like what am I gonna do that's gonna force them to stop? And I think the biggest point that I couldn't stress enough is that a viral video doesn't always mean a good video. And good video doesn't mean a viral video, so you have to figure out what's important to you and what do those views signify for you? Quite essential particle you're talking about today how you can't just seek views and this again for a lot of content creators, even outside of the realm of video. It has to have meaning. I'm so glad we have a question, and I'm so glad that somebody asked this because this is just such a cool story for those of you who haven't heard it. How did Tasty come about, where did that idea come from?

    - Tasty, you know it's so interesting, because Tasty's such a juggernaut now. And I remember when they were just kind of fooling around in the back like on a set just trying to like just making cute little food content and now to see it become this huge thing is insane to me. But so back in the day, and we still have this department, but it was called Vid Labs, and it's now called Motion Labs, and it's basically like that is the heart, that's the experimentation pod. So those are the people that are trying to like tweak and perfect like what kind of frames and things that we can make into bigger things. And so Tasty kind of came out of that where they were really trying to figure out like how do we master food? It's so interesting because Tasty I would say their audience is so largely Facebook and once they realized that there was a really huge audience for Facebook and food and short form content, they kind of like pushed into that direction. I remember there was video that someone did, it was the best way to sort through chips, like to get the best chips. And it was literally a 30 second video of him like shaking a chip bowl, and it has like the most dislikes on YouTube, people were so upset. And we realized that on YouTube, content that's under a minute doesn't particularly do that well because when you think about ads, like you don't know if someone's getting a 30 second ad, you don't know if they're getting a 5 second ad, so if they had to sit through that ad and then they felt like oh this wasn't worth sitting through that ad, they're going to get really upset. So I guess that's something else that you can take into consideration is with monetization and ads, you really want to make sure the content is worth it because if somebody sits through it, especially a 30 second ad! Like if I'm sitting through a 30 second ad and like I'm not necessarily blown away by the content, of course you're going to be a little perturbed.

    - Yeah the ads piece has gotten a lot of mixed headlines over the years especially recently. So that's an interesting point about you know not wasting somebody's time when the majority of the content is going to be taken up by an ad.

    - Yeah, but yeah so on Facebook we realized that 30 to minute kind of content could thrive, and so it's actually cool. So I was on Motion Labs and now I'm doing a residency with Tasty for two months because they're actually now trying to beef up their YouTube content and do more like long form, serialized shows. So I've been working on a show, it's called Tasting Our Roots, and we've just been profiling chefs across America that don't necessarily get the profiling that they deserve. And that's been like super fun too, I've definitely. And I think this speaks to and like not assuming that all audiences are the same because the way that the Tasty audience acts, even though it's all BuzzFeed, they are very different and they want very different things than what a typical BuzzFeed audience would want, and so that's been such a huge learning point for me over the past couple of weeks and being on Tasty. And just kind of perfecting new skills, like with Tasty it's all about the food shot and really getting that nice pour shot, or getting that nice panning shot, or plated shot. And on Motion Labs, because I was doing first person narratives we're just like running and gunning, you know you want a good shot but the way that I would qualify good shot for a first person narrative is very different than what would qualify as a good shot for a food show.

    - It's interesting that you bring that up because we actually have a question from the audience about that. You know Tasty is a really good example of the types of videos where there isn't that human element, it's not about a person. You see the person's hands but that's about it. Aleena wanted to know, first of all can you make viral videos without the human element, which I think that you guys have you know sort of proven by putting it into practice, and you know if so how? What's a good way to make that work?

    - I think that's a really good question. It's honestly something that's again, being on Tasty has really thrown me for a loop these past couple of weeks because again my background is in the human touch. And so I know how make videos with people go viral, and that's something that I'm also learning for myself being on Tasty is that with this chef series for instance, they hate the human element! They're just like I don't want this talking, I want to see the food, I want to see how it's being made! And so for me that's something that I've definitely been trying to adjust to, is like figuring out how do I tell a story that doesn't have people in it? Because I'm so used to using people and to me that's just kind of how I relate to people. But there are some people that don't relate to people, and so I think it's about really thinking about the audience that you've cultivated and what they're used to seeing and then using that to figure out, like I still think though that the elements that I brought up in terms of being authentic to the story, and like you want to make sure that you're walking through the process of the cooking video, getting those beautiful shots of like how the food is being prepared. I wouldn't, when I think about stakes, I guess the stake would be in terms of getting that nice pour shot, like there's a lot of pressure that goes into getting a good pour shot if you only have so much food so I mean there's stakes there. But yeah I would say it is definitely possible to create sharable content without that human element and lot of it is again thinking about that story and having that clear three arch structure, beginning, middle, and end. Because even with cooking, it's like I'm establishing what ingredients I'm making, I'm showing you the process in the middle, and in the end I'm giving you the beautiful shot of this is what you get when you go through all of this labor. So everything still has a three point structure.

    - I think we have time for a couple more questions, you know kind of going into a different direction on this one, what would say, if a at all, is the difference between a person, an individual, going viral, and a brand or a company going viral?

    - Let's see. I guess. Could you clarify I guess a little bit more as to, I guess I'm just trying to understand the meat of what would be an example of a brand going viral, like is it like a commercial? I guess versus like a.

    - Sure. You know I think one that occurs because it came from our audience so I only have so much context, but when I see a question like this one thing that immediately comes to mind to me is something like an influencer, who is an individual. So for example, an influencer on Instagram for example, is different from a brand like BuzzFeed, which I think if you look at the growth trajectory of the BuzzFeed brand I would arguably say that that's a brand that's gone viral. As opposed to somebody who became an influencer because of the person going viral. So that's how I look at the difference between those two things. I don't know if that provides any clarification for you, but if so, how would you define the difference?

    - Okay, I would say again when we think about that point that I made that consumers more so trust other people than they do brands, so you really want to think about how to reach out to the consumer and impact them in such a way that they want to share it to other people. That's kind of like your key into being a viral brand. Like BuzzFeed touches so many people and has become a viral brand because of the way in which we've impacted certain consumers that have then brought in their friends and their friends have brought in their friends, and I think a really great example that I wanted to bring up of a viral commercial that is still to this day like in my head is the Extra gum commercial. So Extra I believe a year or two ago did a commercial where the guy basically proposes to his girlfriend because every moment that they had together in which he gave her a piece of gum, he drew that moment on the back of the gum wrapper, and then created this gum wrapper shrine of all these moments was like will you marry me and you just melt into a puddle, everyone should watch that commercial. And I bring that up because prior to seeing that commercial like I didn't care about gum! Like if I was at the store, like any gum that was at the front counter would do. And now because of again like the time that they took setting up the characters, building in these organic stakes, making these, spending time getting these really organic moments, in people's lives and like capitalizing off of buzz of like you know people falling in love, that's a story, that's something that everyone can relate to. Really setting up like the amount of time needed to tell that story right, by the time you get to the end, you're just so impacted by it that you're like Extra gum, that's it for life. I'm an Extra gum girl for life. And so again like as I mentioned, that story also I don't think there's any words, so that's also a great example of ways in which like you can get in the human touch without their necessarily being words there. But yeah I think that if you can stay true to those points that I kind of articulated, you can see it in almost every kind of viral video that if you take those points and go back and look at them you'll find elements of what I was talking about. And with Extra, I think a great example is like if he had started that video with the gum shrine, you'd kind of just be like, this is kind of weird, like why would you propose to your girlfriend that way? Verus having the context, yeah right! It was like on that like Helga Patki, Hey Arnold level that I'm not ready for! Because they take the time to say no we have to establish why this gum wrapper shrine is important, and you see him so it's not always clear what he's doing with the gum wrapper. And that those moments in which he takes the gum wrapper, they're organic moments, they're not random moments. It's not again like walking over a fire pit kind of moment, it was them kind of like hanging out in the car, them like just doing, hanging out in their everyday life, I think that that's a really great way of integrating a product in so organically and in such a relatable story that it just touched you in such a way that you didn't even know that you could feel that way. I never knew I could feel that way about gum before! So Extra opened my mind in like a totally different way that I hadn't thought about before.

    - That's a really great way of looking it. That shines a certain light on the idea of a company and a brand going viral, as opposed to the people, and the human piece that we keep talking about so that's an opportutnity on both sides. I think we all kind of have a story of brand that we've seen some kind of content that really had nothing to do with the product, at the end of the day that it kind of raised our awareness and drove that awareness for us in that way. So thank you for taking the time to tell that story. Speaking of time, that is about all we have for today unfortunately, I feel like I could talk to you for hours though! So thank you so much Daysha for being here and for joining us today this has been a lot of fun. I've learned a lot, and I'm sure our audience has as well.

    - Yeah this was super fun, I really enjoyed this. I love getting to share what I've learned. And I feel like I'm always learning stuff, so there's always, and how the internet and the audience reacts is always changing and it's always fun to see how things evolve. Yeah this was great, I loved getting to do this, so thank you!

    - Awesome, well if you're ever in New England, please come see us and we'll do this again.

    - Yeah for sure!

    - Thank you Daysha. This class is presented by HubSpot Academy, HubSpot's official learning resource and worldwide leader in inbound marketing sales education, offering free certification courses and tools to not only grow your business but also to grow your career. Again, not to sound like a broken record, I want to thank my guest today, Daysha Edewi, and thank you to our audience for joining us today. We will catch you for our next mast class. Have a great Thursday and a great weekend.
  • Amanda Zantal-Wiener

    Amanda Zantal-Wiener

    Senior Staff Writer, HubSpot Marketing Blog
  • Daysha V. Edewi

    Daysha V. Edewi

    Buzzfeed Video Producer

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