What Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and Cracked can Teach You about Social Content

Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and Cracked are pretty dang great at crafting social content.

The type of content that gets social media users buzzing. The type of content that challenges ideas.

These blogs absolutely dominated the social media landscape.

Since we first wrote this post we used these three as the big examples.

Cracked is going through a recent shake-up. Upworthy isn’t nearly as big as it used to be.

But Buzzfeed is still going strong.

Each gives us something to learn — something we can apply to our blogs and how we form this social content.

The interesting thing: There isn’t much difficulty with what they’re doing that you can’t do on yours.

Allow me to explain …

Link (Bait) and Switch (Sometimes)

The three sites are masters of the headline.

Funny enough a lot of these headlines are near replicas of the list compiled by Jay Abraham (a legend in copywriting) called “The 100 Greatest Headlines Ever Written”.

Top Headlines

Some years ago the blogger Maki, of the now extinct DoshDosh fame, gave his take on “the Cracked.com formula” of writing headlines. The site has since vanished but another great post that explains this type of enticing link bait has been compiled by Glen over on ViperChill.

Essentially, titles are imaginative and go straight to the core. Buzzfeed and Cracked rely heavily on lists whereas Upworthy goes for the hook.

They ask us those “wait a minute … I …” inquisitive type questions, pique our interest by teasing the subject and generally do the 180 from what we were expecting.

Take a look at some of these examples:

  • Bully Calls News Anchor Fat, News Anchor Destroys Him On Live TV
  • A Tea Partier Decided To Pick A Fight With A Foreign President. It Didn’t Go So Well.
  • 9 Out Of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact
  • If This Video Makes You Uncomfortable, Then You Make Me Uncomfortable

You can see some others on this list they put together.

A lot of the time the content doesn’t live up to the hype but it doesn’t matter because they’ve already got you. Interestingly enough is that you’re likely to at least dig around the site because there are so many other headlines that look exciting (even if you were turned off by your first visit due to a bait and switch).

Here’s what I would do:

  1. Study and practice writing headlines similar to the Jay Abraham list
  2. Test the headlines with your community and outsiders
  3. Keep a swipe file of what’s working on these big, three sites
  4. Try something different between what’s published and how it’s labeled on social media feeds

We’re not saying use linkbait headlines.

In fact, you shouldn’t because social platforms are cracking down on them.

But… use the format to make titles interesting — something to charge your social content vs hitting followers with dry, boring subjects.

social content

Curated, Multi-Author Content is King

The difference between their site and yours? Lots and lots of contributors.

These three big websites are able to pump out new content in near infinite amount because they have such a great range of contributors for their sites (and coming from their networks). They employ a staff that handles all areas of the operation – especially in the content strategy division.

  • Buzzfeed seems to pump out a couple of posts every 30 minutes
  • Cracked does a few big articles a couple times a day
  • Upworthy, too, does a few big posts throughout the day

Buzzfeed gets a little bit of a bad rap at times because they act as an aggregation website.

You will see entire posts that repeatedly list the contents like 1. This 2. This 3. This 4. 5. This … They give general credit for their sources but the site almost entirely relies on their contributor’s ability to quickly snag up popular content found on other community sites.

Say what you will about this practice … it gets the job done.

Cracked and Upworthy seems to be the more manageable of the three since there isn’t as much rush to continuously push out content but it doesn’t mean they’re slacking.

Cracked has extensive guidelines and workshops to train new and existing writers which is why their content is somewhat evergreen (meaning it remains educational and entertaining well into the future).

Upworthy goes through a long process debating which video is worthy of going onto the site. Their mission is to share something meaningful and irresistible.

Here’s what I would do:

  1. Seek out bloggers in your niche that seem to have hit a standstill in their work
  2. Propose a new multi-author website where each individual can take a piece of the affiliate cut
  3. Have each contributor actively seeking other guest contributors from within their network
  4. Strive to produce 5 – 10 new posts a day while aiming for 1 – 2 extensive editorials every other day

There are other, smaller underlying factors playing into what gets a normal post to become social content.

But, the two major ones (headlines and curation) are really the ones driving so much traffic to the sites.

If you could replicate just a fraction of their social shares and traffic you will find success in your projects. Give it a whirl. Try a few posts that utilize their type of hooks and roundups. It’s worth a shot.