A Student’s Perspective: Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed CEO, discusses the state and future of our social world

Donovan X. Ramsey is a student at Columbia’s School of Journalism and one of ten students providing on the ground coverage of SMWNYC.

Jonah Peretti, Founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, took to the stage at Social Media Week NYC recently to discuss online trends and the future of content sharing. With Facebook going public and the relative success of new sites like Pinterest, it’s an important, big question and one that Peretti might be qualified to answer. In a packed auditorium at the Hearst building in Manhattan, he rolled out his vision.

“There’s a big shift happening and we’re at the beginning of it,” he said. “There are still industries to be disrupted. You need to think from the perspective of a user that wants to share something…The real key to a lot this stuff is emotional intelligence.”

Peretti cofounded the Huffington Post, a site that has revolutionized blogging and news online by mixing the two. Now he runs BuzzFeed, a hub for headlines like “Goat Massage” and “40 Things That Make Corgis Happy,” based on a type of emotional intelligence. In his address, Peretti referred to BuzzFeed as a “giant content site for the social world.” He described this world as one identified typically through social networking sites Facebook and Twitter but getting more social by the minute.

The socialization, so to speak, of content online happened in stages, according to Peretti. The first stage was that of portals like Yahoo, which catered to a general audience. They were the sites, with big home pages and categories, through which users had to go for content. The next step was the search stage. Think Ask Jeeves and About.com. Users began finding content by requesting it. The Internet was opening up and users were starting to have an influence on the creation and promotion of content. That led to the social stage.

He said one of the most interesting trends he’s spotted in the social stage is the tide of users who go to BuzzFeed looking for something to share on their Facebook pages. He said it represents a shift from how content was consumed before. It’s a sign that the audience sees themselves less as just that. They’re aware that they’re more than an audience. They’re participants.

Peretti’s big prediction was the streamlining of content online. “Facebook is the best example of content expanding from friend updates,” he said. “As Facebook matures, there’s news now and people are getting comfortable with a social world where everything their friends care about is mixing together.” In preparation for this, BuzzFeed has made changes like the addition of ex-Politico writer, Ben Smith as editor-in-chief. Their first scoop with Smith was Sen. John McCain’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. According to Peretti, BuzzFeed beat CNN by 30 minutes.

His strongest case study seemed to be his own company. BuzzFeed, with its simple headlines and variable content, is mostly directed by the interests of its users and their reactions to content all over the World Wide Web. In fact, the site goes as far as to organize content into categories based on users’ reactions. With one click, you could vote something as a “fail” and with another, browse a lists of “wins.”

During the presentation, Peretti brought up a slide of basset hounds running, their droopy folds flapping in the wind. He said such content is decidedly shareable because of its common appeal. It can go onto your best friend’s Facebook wall or be sent to your grandmother in an email. The key to creating sharable content in the social age is finding material that defines a moment, said Peretti. “Let the user become invested in the story…People are the gatekeepers in the social media world, not Google’s algorithm.”

See You Wednesday! A Guide for Day 3

Day 3. It’s the middle of Social Media Week, and it’s only getting better. With 2 days down, we think these events might be the right fit to vary up your schedule for this week!

9-9:30am at Big Fuel: The Guardian Interviews with Rachel Sterne, Chief Digital Officer of NYC

9-11am at Hearst: Keynote: Chris Kaskie, President of Pitchfork Media followed by SoundCtrl’s Creating Music for the Social Web

9-11am at Birch Coffee: Get Bold! Creating a Social Business Agenda Coffee talk and Book Signing with Sandy Carter

10-10:45am at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness: How We Did It: The Sanofi Open Innovation

11-12pm at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness: Keynote: Dr. Pam Peeke on Rx for the Sitting Disease – Medicate with Movement

12-12:30pm at Big Fuel: Digital Fireside Chat: Joe Fernandez on Klout

12-2pm at Hearst: How Street Style Blogs Affect Retail and Design

12-2pm at Digitas: Social Media Week at Digitas — What’s Your Secret Weapon in Social: A Panel and Luncheon Discussion

1-2pm at Big Fuel: Global Influence

1:30-2:30pm at Thomson Reuters: Crowd Sourcing Human and Monetary Capital for Social Impact

1:30-2:30pm at Hearst: Reflecting on the 54th GRAMMY Awards – Digital Partnerships, Social Media and Innovation

3-4pm at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness: The changing face of technology: Click Here For Beauty

3-4pm at Hearst: @HAHAHAHA: How to be funny in 140 characters or less

4-5:15pm at The Gerswhin Hotel: AgencyWare: Agency as maker

4:30-6:30pm at Thomson Reuters: Email and Social Media: The New Rules of Engagement

4:30-5:30pm at Hearst: The state of curation: An examination of the human element and the promise (and drawbacks) of algorithms

6-7pm at Thomson Reuters: The New Face of Social Good: How to Make Your Own Social Media Magic

6-8pm at JWT: A Quizzical Evening in Social Media

Make sure you swing by the Shoutlet Power Station to recharge your batteries and then end your day with a Happy Hour, courtesy of Big Fuel. See you Wednesday!

Featured Partner Events: Yahoo! Gets More Social

Founded in 1994, what was once the invention of two Stanford Ph.D. students David Filo and Jerry Yang, has become a major internet brand with search, content verticals, and other web services. Yahoo! More than just email, Yahoo! is a company that now incorporates search and social marketing into its core. And they’re here to share with SMWNYC. Glean from their experiences, and talk to their team. You can find them here:

Social Television: Opportunities for Broadcasters & Advertisers on Wednesday, February 15 at 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM at our Global Society Hub will tackle Internet connected television and mobile multitasking. With names like Beth Reilly of Kraft Foods, Edwin Wong, Director of Market Research at Yahoo!; Patrick Albano, VP, Sales of Social, Mobile & Innovation at Yahoo!; and Edward O’Keefe, Executive Producer of ABCNews.com on the roster, this event will explore social apps and the future of TV.

Then head over to our Advertising & Marketing Hub on Thursday, February 16 at 3pm for Harnessing the Power of Social Content for Advertisers. Yahoo! will present their ‘Five Rules for the Next Generation of Social’ gleaned from original research, hands on experience, and advertiser case studies and have everyone talking content.

You can keep up with the Yahoo! team on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to give them a SMWNYC hello.