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Published October 18th 2016

Why Did These Popular Buzzfeed Images Go Viral?

Shareable images are key for content marketers. When we publish any type of online content, from blogs to videos, we include branded images for visual appeal, resulting in better comprehension, SEO benefits, and better shareability.

Buzzfeed is one online media company that has mastered images that go viral. They capitalize on emotion, aesthetics, and a few psychological tricks to perfect the art of creating, sourcing, and sharing images that go viral online. We used BuzzSumo to find the most popular Buzzfeed images and their total share counts, so that we could analyze why exactly they went viral.

Summary: images that go viral online tend to provide meaning, incite emotion, are well designed, and are easy to share. Apply these insights to your own content marketing efforts to help your blogs go further.

Relatable: 18 Photos That Won’t Make Sense to Sisterless Families

Erin Chack / Buzzfeed[/caption]

This image comes from an article about sisters that got 1.1 million shares. These Buzzfeed images went viral because they’re humorous and relatable to multiple people; anyone with sisters. They may also appeal to people who are curious about what it’s like to have a sister. The quality of the images aren’t terrific, since they’ve been sourced from amateur photographers from around the web, but the images get their meaning across.

Interesting: This Pregnant Dog Did The Best Maternity Photo Shoot You’ll Ever See

Terri Pous / Buzzfeed[/caption]

Lilica, the pregnant dog who had a maternity photoshoot, quickly went viral online. These images are appealing; they were taken by a professional photographer and the lovely subject seemed more than happy to comply. The result is an interesting, amusing, and adorably shareworthy photo. According to BuzzSumo, this Buzzfeed article got 87,900 shares online.

Feel-good: 28 Pictures That Prove 2015 Wasn’t A Completely Terrible Year

amroyounes / Tumblr[/caption]

This Buzzfeed collection of heart-warming images was shared 408,900 times online, going viral so easily because of how it makes readers feel. The article capitalizes on emotional drivers, with photos showing real-life human kindness and compassion. The photos cover everything from a child meeting his unlikely heroes, to an elderly dog who goes on walks in a wheelchair. The photos aren’t particularly high-quality, but they include touching captions that explain what’s happening.

Practicality: 31 Gorgeous Furniture Upgrades For Your Grown Up Apartment

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed[/caption]

These photos of furniture upgrades for a grown up apartment are so popular because they’re affordable, practical, and look good. They’re great ideas, ranging from painted wire baskets to wallpaper backsplashes, and come with instructions on how to replicate the results. It also targets a specific demographic of young adults starting their careers and moving into a new era of responsibilities and adulthood.

Creating an image like this is surprisingly simple. Canva’s interior design collage templates are incredibly similar to the one above, or if you work in another niche of field we also have a range of collage templates for you to choose from.

The photos received 51,500 shares online according to BuzzSumo.

Ideas: 17 Gifts Only Grammar Nerds Will Appreciate

Amy Sefton / BuzzFeed[/caption]

Good ideas are always happily shared, as evidenced with this Buzzfeed article on grammar nerd gifts, which got 310,300 shares. It combines humor, good gift ideas, and a rocking cover collage that’s beautifully designed. The article features fun t-shirts, judgmental mugs, and a grammar police necklace. Something that makes this image easier to share is a beautiful cover photo and professional product shots, which can be flipped onto Flipboard, pinned on Pinterest, or shared on other social sites.

Tips: 17 Scandinavian Kid’s Room Design Ideas You’ll Want To Steal

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed[/caption]

These Buzzfeed photos show a beautifully designed room and went viral. It was shared 20,900 times, and boasts a subject that is creative, interesting, and evergreen.

Passion: 34 Of The Most Beautiful Book Covers Of 2015

Chris Ritter / BuzzFeed[/caption]

These photos of beautiful book covers earned 12,500 shares online thanks to a large base of people who identify as “readers.” The photos went viral because they literally say something; the titles of novels you can check out. The article contains well-designed covers that are lovely to look at and interesting to look up. Like many of the other successful image articles, this one opens with a nice image collage.

Community: 26 Pictures Only “Harry Potter” Fans Will Think Are Funny

Felman / imgur[/caption]

This compilation of photos are all about the popular Harry Potter franchise. They got 214,200 shares, thanks to a large fan base. These photos piggyback off of the popularity of Harry Potter, contain an element of exclusivity, and offer plenty of humor involved for all who are familiar with the stories.

Humor: 21 Tweets About Getting Old That Are Funny Because They’re True

Amy Dillon / Twitter[/caption]

Something all humans have in common is that we all get older as time passes. This universally shared experience is something that anyone can relate to, and these Buzzfeed photos add some humor to a usually serious subject. The photos aren’t particularly interesting outside of what is being said in them through Twitter, but they got so popular thanks to the relevance and humor. It was shared 117,800 times, which makes sense because every photo makes you laugh.

Awww Factor: 27 Cat Pictures That Are Never Not Funny

catasters.tumblr.com / imgur.com[/caption]

These cute cats got 63,000 shares thanks to the aww factor. This Buzzfeed article featured cute, cuddly, mischievous cats who were snarky as they were funny. Photos that incite an “awww” from viewers are fun to share, as emotions shared online are contagious. The photos are also relatable for many pet owners, as well as people in their network.

Nostalgia: 32 Iconic Chandler Bing Jokes That Will Never Not Be Funny

NBC / Via aminoapps.com[/caption]

These photos of Chandler Bing jokes from the hit TV series FRIENDS incite a feeling of nostalgia for those who have watched the series. This audience is fairly large thanks to the popularity of the show, as evidenced by 66,700 shares. The photos have a few things going for them, including humor, familiarity, and the remaining (still large) following of this classic situational comedy series.

Inspiration: People Can’t Handle This Over-The-Top Gorgeous Dorm Room

Lindy Goodson / Twitter[/caption]

This photo of a gorgeous personalized dorm room went viral online, getting shared 33,600 times online and earning so much attention that the person who tweeted the before/after pic had to set her account on private. She sent out what the room looked like before (plain, standard furniture, poor lighting) and after (customized, classy, great lighting). The simple dorm was transformed into a bright, elegant room that looks like a high-class hotel. This photo contains ideas and inspiration for anyone thinking about college, and is likely to be shared to people who are going to be dorming soon.

Bonus: Tumbles

As a special addition to this post, meet Tumbles, the two-legged puppy. This is a video that went viral, getting 628,000 shares on Facebook alone. We found the most popular Facebook posts from Buzzfeed using BuzzSumo’s Facebook Analyzer tool, and Tumbles caught our attention near the top. This video was such a success thanks to how adorable the puppy is and how he perseveres despite a handicap. It’s a story of both hope and comfort, since we see that Tumbles has a happy ending.

The elements of a shareable photo

From the case studies above, we can see that a shareable photo with good potential of going viral accomplishes most, if not all, of the following:

  • It communicates meaning. An image should serve a purpose, whether it’s to emphasize a blog post or shed light on an issue.
  • It’s beautifully designed. A great photo has a good balance of subjects, isn’t too busy, and draws the viewer’s eye to the main subject effortlessly.
  • It’s high quality. No one likes squinting at grainy images trying to make out the details. Pay attention to your image resolutions.
  • It incites an emotional response (laughter, hope, surprise). A shareable photo makes the viewer feel something, whether it’s amusement, anger, or shock.

We collected these highly shared Buzzfeed images using BuzzSumo to see total share counts. Here’s how you can find the most viral photos on Facebook, so you can see what gets shared and why.

  • Create a free BuzzSumo account
  • Navigate to Content Research > Facebook Analyzer
  • Search by keyword for popular posts from a certain industry or topic
  • Search by page to check out what your competitors top posts are, or analyze your own Facebook page to see what resonates with your fans
  • Analyze the type of content (photo, video, text), voice and tone, and substance
  • Apply what you learn to hone your own photos and optimize them for sharing

The 12 case studies above of Buzzfeed’s most popular photos, and BuzzSumo’s Facebook Analyzer reveals what gets shared the most online. Utilize emotions, design, humor, and meaning to make your own photos go viral too.

Interested to learn more about BuzzFeed’s content marketing strategy? Check out why BuzzFeed’s most shared content format is not what you think it is.

Anna Guerrero is a Growth Marketer at Canva, the fastest growing graphic design platform with over 12m users.

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