3 lessons from BuzzFeed’s Twitter swarm during the Golden Globes

January 15, 2014
Category: Uncategorized

BuzzFeed wants to own the Twitter conversation when events of national interest take place, and Sunday’s airing of the Golden Globes gave the social news site another chance to hone its craft.

I spoke with BuzzFeed social masters Mike Hayes and Samir Mezrahi via phone about their strategy for covering awards shows and Super Bowls. Here are some lessons:

1. If you want to tweet fast, don’t wait for a link

Lots of news organizations use Twitter mostly to direct traffic to their websites. But during live events, waiting to post a relevant story to your site so you can have a link before you tweet sacrifices a certain amount of timeliness — not to mention instantaneousness, which is BuzzFeed’s goal. Or it means tweeting the same link to a live blog or a periodically updated story over and over again. That’s no recipe for engagement.

“To do something in real time, you have to be fast,” Hayes said. “If we waited for a post to go up before we started talking about something that happens, we wouldn’t be as involved in the conversation.”

The vast majority of BuzzFeed tweets on Sunday night — all posted by Mezrahi — didn’t link back to posts on the website. Instead, Mezrahi followed the Globes minute-by-minute with standalone, conversational tweets — some of which are indecipherable out of context:


(I think that’s when Jacqueline Bisset was doing her thing.)

BuzzFeed gained about 3,000 new followers during the awards show alone, compared with about 1,000 on a typical Saturday or Sunday.

2. Collaborate

That means being in the same room:


BuzzFeed had around a dozen people in the office for the Golden Globes. With an overwhelming amount of chatter about the Globes on Twitter, having a core group of editors and reporters in the same place allowed BuzzFeed to zero in on the best elements of the show and keep the tweets coming. BuzzFeed’s main Twitter account retweeted staffers and a few celebrities but didn’t mix it up with readers or stray far outside the core mission of blow-by-blow coverage.

Of course, staffers posted to the site as warranted. Some posts made their way to Facebook, and one staffer posted to Tumblr, a platform Hayes said didn’t achieve much traction on Globes night likely due to its younger audience.

But the staff was focused: “The strategy was really just to swarm Twitter,” Hayes said.

3. Use images and Vines (but maybe not GIFs anymore)

BuzzFeed’s most successful tweet of the night? This one, by Mezrahi, which was featured on the Today Show the next morning:


It’s well-documented that tweets with images draw more retweets than tweets without, and Twitter’s addition of in-line images to its mobile apps no doubt helps viral images spread. This one captured something anyone watching the show instantly understood, and echoed a tweet Mezrahi had posted from his own account that he noticed performed well.

Video is where BuzzFeed really branched out and tried something new.

“We really wanted to use the Golden Globes as an experiment to see how Vine resonated with our social media audience,” Hayes said. “We sort of feel like Vine is moving into an area where it could replace GIFs as the most prevalent short video online.”

Why? Vines are more mobile-friendly than GIFs, they’re well-integrated with Twitter (Twitter owns Vine), and they include sound — perfect for sharing one-liners from hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey or bringing a follower inside an event quickly and, often, intimately.


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