photo (2)Originally community manager, now the editorial director for BuzzFeed, Jack Shepherd understands both content and community.

Community has been essential to the way BuzzFeed thinks about editorial. They create content that involves community in editorial in a way that’s not common. They know what they’re doing editorially, but they have the pleasure of being able to experiment and have fun with community to add another, more engaging layer to their content through crowdsourcing.

For his talk, Jack walked us through six principles for crowdsourcing content.

1. Actually tell your community manager what your goals are

When Jack started at BuzzFeed in 2008 as a community manager, he quickly realized his role was actually to build a community, as the BuzzFeed community did not yet exist. In order to build or manage a community, you must know what your company’s business, content, and community goals are.

2. Think about the feedback mechanisms you have available to you

The most useful thing BuzzFeed did when building their community was to think about the feedback mechanism within the community. They had to figure out how to get the trend spotters to interact with the site (the people who find the cool cat video two weeks before anyone else). Making it easy for them to provide feedback was the answer. Through that, they learned that community feedback allows you to experiment and evolve the platform. They got into the habit of incorporating community into the platform.

3. Play

Another way to get community members involved with BuzzFeed content was to add collaborative features, to incorporate the spirit of play.

The community began to drive BuzzFeed to make its content more interactive. In order to create a “bigger playground” for the community beyond basic editorial content, they built collections around an experience or an emotion, such as “Happiest Pages on the Internet.”

4. Practice with different levels of response

Equal levels of response can be obtained through a few different approaches.

  • For Its Own Sake (volume of response). This approach as a low barrier to entry and often results in a large volume of response, and therefore many opinions. This doesn’t always see the highest return, but it can if executed creatively. BuzzFeed likes to play the Ctrl+V game, where people paste whatever is saved to their clipboard in the comments section, making a For Its Own Sake post highly entertaining.
  • For the Product (quality response). This involves thinking about the actual design of what your posting to encourage quality responses. One example is recreating a photo from your childhood as you are now.
  • For the Story (narrative around response). These posts have a community story behind them. For example, the BuzzFeed community helped one man propose to his wife by turning him into several entertaining memes. The real purpose was to create a meaningful story around it and a memorable experience for the couple.

5. Be honest with yourself about what you actually want from your community

BuzzFeed learned that you need to think about the community that you have, not what you want the community to be. Once realizing this, BuzzFeed began encouraging their community to create articles for their own purposes that may be directed to one other person, or city, or school, or region. They allowed their community to build and leverage things that specific, smaller communities identify with.

6. Keep an eye out for the outliers

Keep an eye out for outliers and things that people may not expect. This both creates a pleasant and entertaining experience for your community, and attracts the trend spotters BuzzFeed originally identified as their target community members. Example: Disaster Girl.


I personally loved hearing that Jack Shepherd believes that it’s a myth that no one reads long form content. Their long form content has gone viral as well.

Also, BuzzFeed is looking for a Director of Community.

You can now watch the entire talk from CMX Summit:

Subscribe below to get more articles like “Jack Shepherd of BuzzFeed on Crowdsourcing Content” in your inbox.

Shannon Byrne

Subscribe to the CMX Weekly

We review the top community industry news, trends, jobs and resources every week, so you’re always in the know.