How BuzzFeed Makes Health Shareable

BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith, Editor in Chief, and Casey Gueren, Health Editor, kicked off M.6 with a conversation about BuzzFeed’s place in the health industry. They talked about BuzzFeed’s strategy for growing health content and how they partnered with new platforms and communities, which allowed them to provide meaning and support to their readers.

They both spoke of the change that happened around three years ago, when people began feeling more comfortable sharing stories about health on social media. Conversations became “I’m sharing this content because it’s important to me.”

BuzzFeed, deeply rooted in social and what people will share, wanted to not just entertain, but to connect emotionally and to be a place for trustworthy information. To help people live their lives. “BuzzFeed is making identity-centric content about mental health issues…nobody else is doing that,” said Casey Gueren.

The content created activism among BuzzFeed’s readers. They wanted to know about more than the major health issues like stress and anxiety, but also ones that were more stigmatized. They were sharing, saying things like ‘I learned something’ or ‘This helped my life’ to their different networks. That’s because people started reading these articles and saying to themselves, ‘This is so me.’ Readers shared one particular mental health article over 900,000 times. BuzzFeed has learned that a well-researched article that was still full of memes becomes much more shareable. Ben Smith put it, “People were using the content to combat stigma.”

The theme of the M.6 conference was “Partnerability” and how innovation can come from unexpected partnerships. This was a great example of that with BuzzFeed editors sharing how they will combine internet memes with respected health information to create engaging content, reporting that “This new take on health content online didn’t just connect with people, it created advocates,” explained Casey.

Casey and Ben continued describing the new strategy for BuzzFeed’s health content online. “It’s not about getting six-pack abs in 6 days anymore” said Casey, “it’s not aspirational fitness, it’s accessible fitness.” And how does BuzzFeed create the kind of content that leaves people saying “That is so me” to their social networks? The editorial team will brainstorm articles by looking at what’s in their browser history. Casey noted that “if we’re searching for these things, so is the audience.” That’s why BuzzFeed sets the bar so high for their content during Mental Health Week and Sex Ed Week. “We want to make articles that are accurate…that they aren’t getting anywhere but are searching for,” Casey continued.

BuzzFeed wants readers to get something out of it, not just making content for clicks. It’s about being fun, but precise. Relatable, but responsible. It’s about making trustworthy content — with research and care — that can highlight new apps or products or innovations and allow the reader to make an informed decision.