Keith Hernandez leads revenue efforts and global expansion for BuzzFeed advertising. New York-based, he was in charge of opening sales operations in Canada, the UK, Australia and Latin America while also educating agencies and clients about the BuzzFeed platform. In Singapore for Social Matters, Hernandez is now on a mission to identify business opportunities in Asia.
Now that BuzzFeed has announced plans to launch in Japan and India, what other markets are you looking at?
We are not open for business yet in Asia on the advertising side. We are here investigating, so brands should reach out if they want to talk. We want to learn from the community and find out what they care about. Everything is leaning to us coming to the region. On the business side, Singapore and Hong Kong make the most sense. Outside Asia, Brazil and Mexico are big and we’re also trying to figure Germany and France.
Our reason for launching in India was simple. They are a predominantly English-speaking nation, and following the elections are at a progressive moment. The younger generation is more active than ever so it made sense to open there. Setting up in Japan was about being in an Asian market hub.
How has traffic grown in new markets?
We found that when we have writers in these countries, people respond quickly. We have about 6 million monthly users in Asia, and our largest markets in Asia are India, Philippines, Singapore, Japan and Malaysia. Year on year we have more than doubled, but it’s still too early to share growth in India and Japan.
Social is the new starting point. People don’t wake up in the morning and go to Google. They open up and look at Facebook and Twitter to see what their friends are talking about. Social is a huge driving force.
How are advertisers receiving BuzzFeed?
We’ve seen that there is a real appetite for brands to have one-on-one conversations. We’re now at a point where brands can be a part of conversation that our readers will read.
What’s the formula for creating a viral story?
It’s not a science, but there are certain pillars. It has to be humourous—people love something that makes them smile. Some of our best content are DIY (do-it-yourself) articles. Also, be inspirational and do stories about humanity. Being a cultural zeitgeist is important. When news came out about the coup in Thailand, our newsroom shifted its focus. If one can tap into what people are talking about, it will be shared. You have to be globally consistent and locally relevant. You need to be in tune with what the culture is talking about.
What advice do you offer to advertisers looking to create content that can be shared?
Be human. Think like a reader. We have this amazing opportunity with social. Take advantage of that. Don’t be the main person talking—something that’s really hard for brands.