Augusta Falletta, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’13, Fashion Merchandising Management ’11

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade, you probably know about BuzzFeed, the insanely popular news and entertainment website whose viral stories, lists, videos, and quizzes generate 200 billion views a month, about three times that of The New York Times website. Augusta Falletta, senior beauty editor at BuzzFeed, manages a team that creates service-oriented pieces, tests products, publishes makeup tutorials, and comments on trends. She offers a behind-the-scenes look into what makes those articles just so darn addictive.

  1. BuzzFeed’s beauty reporting is deliberately inclusive. Falletta’s team gears content toward people of color, men, trans women, and anyone else who isn’t well represented in traditional beauty publications. Even people who hate makeup.
  2. Editors get feedback in real time. Immediately after posting an article, Falletta can see how it’s doing. Within a day, she knows if it’s a success. Her first post for BuzzFeed, “15 Drag Queens Who Are So Pretty It Hurts,” racked up a million clicks in its first day. The flip side, of course, is that…
  3. The flops offer important lessons. If the post isn’t compulsively shared, Falletta tries to figure out why. Was the thumbnail picture not compelling? Did the headline not really capture what was in the post? “If you think you are not going to make mistakes, you’re in for a rude awakening,” she says. “We try to make new mistakes. As long as you keep making new mistakes, it pushes you to grow.”
  4. Success isn’t just about page views. If a reader takes the time to write a thank-you email, that’s almost as good as seeing a post go viral.
  5. Writing those trademark titles is not easy. The title, she says, should capture how someone would describe the story to a friend. “If you can’t come up with a headline, is this actually a story that’s worth writing?” They avoid anything that might appear in a women’s magazine: “10 Things You Need to Buy” or “How to Lose 10 Pounds,” for example. Oh, and it needs to fit into the 140-character length of a tweet.
  6. The best quizzes feel like magic. People love quizzes that tell them something about themselves without having to think. Recent trending topics: “Do You Actually Prefer Sex or Food?” “How Many Photos Can Your Brain Process at Once?” “Do You Actually Have Good Taste in Books?”
  7. The editors are not immune to internet trolls. After Falletta’s post “Here’s Why Men Need to Shut the Hell Up About Women Wearing Less Makeup” went viral, someone created a 13-minute YouTube video insulting every aspect of the post and degrading her. She was disturbed that this person would go out of his way to be cruel. “I love makeup, but I’m not under the delusion of grandeur that what I do is vitally important to the world,” she says. “If people are hating on my harmless world so much, good lord, what are they doing to women who are reporting on issues that are politically charged?”