Aswini Anburajan is director of partner development at BuzzFeed, and she, better than most, understands the importance of quality content in successful, scalable native advertising programs.
BuzzFeed’s partner network has over 200 sites that represent more than 460 million unique visitors, including everything from The Huffington Post and the New York Times to Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated. Each site carries BuzzFeed tracking code. “We possess unique algorithms that can predict when stories will go viral,” says Anburajan. “We inform partners when their stories are taking off. We help promote them and give them a set of analytics.”
Anburajan and her team, in collaboration with BuzzFeed’s data scientists, produce a proprietary social intelligence report each month that is shared with publishing partners. “It’s like comScore for content; it’s a benchmark to understand what is working in terms of the content we’re producing on social platforms,” Anburajan says.
“For example, in our August Social Intelligence report, we discovered that a brand-owned site with our tracking code had five of the top 20 most popular stories on Pinterest from our network. That means their content was equally or more popular than stories from major fashion and design sites. It shows that branded content can be just as compelling and shareable as editorial content,” Anburajan says. “Great content finds an audience, no matter where it comes from, and brands are succeeding at becoming publishers.”
She adds, “At BuzzFeed we put as much time into thinking about where we want to distribute our content as we do into creating it. The story that you tell on Facebook may not translate as effectively on other social platforms, such as Pinterest or Twitter.”
RTB is also an incredibly effective distribution tool for branded content. Premium ad units like the Rising Stars have proven to be a powerful vehicle for rich, dynamic branded content that can be placed programmatically across screens.
And speaking of “across screens,” how well is mobile working for BuzzFeed? “With mobile, it’s more social. The equation is not ‘mobile plus something equals social,’ but simply, ‘mobile equals social.’ Mobile increases sharing, full stop,” Anburajan says. “We’ve seen it on our own site, through our partner network and aggregation of sites: when you’re on the go, it’s easy to share. If consumers encounter native advertising and a clean site that doesn’t have a ton of banner ads or pop-ups, they are going to have a better mobile experience and consume and share that content more.”
What’s more, great branded content is delivering awareness and interest in the appropriate context. “That’s why our native advertising on BuzzFeed does so well,” Anburajan says. “We’re helping brands tell their story by creating the kind of content that users wants to read and share.”
While BuzzFeed is a master at scaling native, the lessons learned in real-time branding can be applied more broadly to programmatic: Use great content, invest equal time and attention to distribution channels, and track and optimize each channel individually. Whether paid or earned, great content can yield great success.