Visit BuzzFeed’s main page, and it’s a sure bet that you’ll spot at least one – or thirty – articles or quizzes aimed at a niche audience. With titles like “44 Things You Can Learn from Gilmore Girls Season 4” and “37 Signs You’re from Gatineau,” Buzzfeed writers know how to zero in on a specific audience and make a connection, and make people “feel like they’re part of something special,” according to Sujan Patel.
Consider this take from Patel’s excellent article “A Data Driven Approach to Going Viral” from earlier this year:
Buzzfeed landed on something big the day they started publishing articles targeting niche audiences. People like to feel like they’re part of something “different” and “exclusive” – it’s about standing out from the majority, while identifying with a close group of people that have similar ideas, views, or experiences.
At first glance, it may seem like they’re going against the grain by excluding 99.9% of the population with their content, but content that’s irrelevant to the 99.9% becomes even more relevant to that remaining 0.1%.
Patel takes the example of an article about attending Berkeley that was shared over 30,000 times. Niche topics get more shares and more comments, because people engage more when they believe they have an exclusive connection to the topic.
What small businesses can learn from BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed is one of the most highly trafficked websites in the world, and their content is specifically engineered to go viral. So it’s not exactly comparable to small business websites – but there are definitely some actionable takeaways.
Our very own Ammie Matte sums the broad vs. niche dilemma perfectly: “if you try to appeal to everybody, you appeal to nobody.” BuzzFeed contributors understand this mantra quite well, and the same logic applies to local business, international e-commerce stores, and more.
Let’s give a concrete example. If you’re brainstorming content for an Ottawa real estate brokerage, a few topics will come to mind: house hunting tips, home staging advice, best home renovations, advice on saving for a down payment etc. All of these are fantastic topics that could be very helpful to home buyers/sellers to read. However, the same advice could apply to home buyers in San Francisco, or Calgary, or Rome. It is unlikely that anyone would read a blog on these topics and feel special and exclusive.
The solution: targeting a niche audience
Instead, try to zero in on a niche audience. Write your article like you’re speaking to one person (or couple/family). Think about your current/potential clients, who they are, what they care about, where they live, and what problems they are trying to solve.
Narrow down your topics like this:
Real Estate → Residential → First-Time Home Buyer → Young Family
and narrow down your regional focus as well:
Canada → Ontario → Ottawa → Kanata → Bridlewood
Now write an article about why Bridlewood is a great neighbourhood for young families, or talk about the best undiscovered restaurants on Eagleson, or offer winter driving tips for navigating the Queensway.
No, the article won’t reach a million people – but you’re a real estate agent in Ottawa. What purpose does a reader in San Diego serve? Form a deeper and more meaningful connection with the right readers in that niche. The right readers are qualified leads, and could easily turn into paying clients.