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Why We’re Uniting Our Community and Marketing Teams

Aug 4, 2016 8 min readReports
Photo of Kevan Lee
Kevan Lee

Former VP of Marketing @ Buffer

Marketing Report July 2016

This past month, we announced Buffer for Instagram to the world (go team!). We ran Facebook Live videos and Snapchat takeovers (we’re @buffersnaps for any Snapchatters out there). We set some exciting, audacious, fantastic goals for what we want to achieve between now and October.

And oh yeah, the decision was made that community should combine with marketing, so in the span of 24 hours our marketing team doubled in size!

Phew! Wow! ? ?

We’re so very grateful to be aiming for some high and lofty goals with the support of a bigger team. Three of Buffer’s community champions joined us on the marketing side in July, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.  We’ve always felt a close connection between community and marketing —  now we’ve made the connection official!

How are we finding our feet with our newly-doubled marketing team? Good question! We’ve hit on a few strategies that I’d love to share below, as well as all the latest happenings with the Buffer marketing team in July. Hope you enjoy! Feel free to AMA (ask me anything) in the comments.

Key stats:

Here’s a look at the numbers for July, with month-over-month growth in the percentage below.

Buffer signups* Buffer for Business trials** Social blog sessions Email subscribers NPS score***
1697 266 1,000,708 43,412 58
+33% -2% -5% +136%**** +1%

* = These are signups attributed directly to marketing efforts (last-touch).

** = These are trial starts attributed directly to marketing efforts (last-touch).

*** = NPS stands for Net Promoter Score. It’s a product happiness metric that we’ve inspired to monitor and impact with our marketing efforts. (HT: Slack)

**** = More on this below.

Why we combined community and marketing (and how we think it’ll work)

When I received the call from Leo, I barely had the brain to contain it all.

We were in the midst of launching Buffer for Instagram (yay!). We were in the midst of planning Q3 OKRs.

And, all of a sudden, our marketing team was growing from me plus three others to me plus six.

Our marketing team doubled in 24 hours.

I was ecstatic, delighted, hopeful, and curious. What ways could we find to make our bigger team achieve bigger results? How could we balance the newness of rapid growth with the importance of everything else?

But I guess a good place to start is with “why.”

Why were we combining community with marketing?

It’s a good question. Smarter people than I am have written about the topic. The group at CMX, especially, has some really keen insights on where marketing ends and community begins.

Marketing is how you get them in the door.

Community is their experience once they’re in the door.

That’s a really lovely distinction. You can see how marketing may own metrics like leads, traffic, and signups where community might own retention, referrals, and happiness. No doubt this split works really well for a lot of companies.

One of the marketing philosophies I’ve been exploring lately is the concept that any interaction someone has with a brand online should be viewed as marketing.

This might be putting it too broadly for some folks. For us at Buffer, we feel this could be a really neat way to holistically approach a customer’s journey with us — and to ensure a consistent, warm experience from awareness all the way through to loyalty.

Mckinsey customer funnel - awareness through loyalty

(There are some points to figure out before fully arriving here. For instance, where does customer happiness fit?)

When Buffer was first starting out, our cofounder Leo did all of the marketing and all of the community outreach. He wrote blog posts and sent thank you letters. He was a one-man incarnation of what we felt our seven-person iteration of marketing/community could look like.

With the more natural, organic leaning of Buffer marketing — we’re content-focused, no sales team, few paid ads — the ties to community still felt strong. We were keen to see what we might achieve together by removing any barriers completely.

For instance:

  • More resources (design, engineering, copy) for community initiatives
  • An even bigger reach for the awareness portion of the marketing funnel
  • Greater context on community projects and signups, trials, MRR
  • More collaboration and ideas among the (bigger) team

And once we figured out the why, then we could tackle the how.

The change to a bigger team happened just after we set our OKRs for quarter three (July through September). In hindsight, this was great. We knew exactly where we were hoping to head as a marketing team and then — poof! — we had three additional, amazing folks to help us get there.

Alfred, Arielle, and Bonnie — the community team who joined us — had projects and areas they had been working on, and many of these continued after the merger (Nicole, Buffer’s first Community Champion, suggested it was like the Avengers assembling. Yes!).

I brainstormed a bit about marketing/community fit for everyone. We each chatted together about his/her role. And this is what we landed on:

Alfred – Create a space for meaningful social media conversations to happen within the Buffer community and beyond. Spark conversations with high-quality, actionable content; authentic 1:1 outreach; and best-in-class community management.

  • Content management on Medium and UGC
  • Community management
  • Outreach/promotion

Arielle – Create buzzworthy/memorable experiences online and IRL for our Buffer community, and organize unique & innovative events to help Buffer reach new audiences

  • Event planning
  • #bufferchat
  • BufferLocal

Bonnie – Provide a VIP experience for Buffer customers, brand evangelists, and social media influencers. Delight people with gifts. Innovate with social media + swag.

  • Swag and social media
  • Customer evangelism
  • Buffer store

(Nicole, our first Community Champion, is now part of the People Ops area, working to support the Buffer team.)

Now we’re excited to go for it!

Here’s the new-look Buffer marketing team (with the recent addition of David, who’s working on data analysis).

Buffer marketing team - July 2016

(From top left, clockwise: Alfred, Arielle, Ash, Brian, Kevan (me), Hailley, David, Bonnie)

We’d love to hear how this new setup sounds to you. It feels like community and marketing can be an interesting puzzle to unlock at a lot of startups and businesses.

Any tips for us?

Any stories?

It’d be great to hear your experience, and we’ll look forward to keeping you updated on how it goes in the coming months.

July’s highlights from Buffer marketing

1. We launched Instagram!

Buffer for Instagram was one of our all-time most-requested features (it had been #1 on our Uservoice forums since before I can remember), so we aimed to make a big splash when it was ready.

I feel we did pretty great!

In the first week, there were 23,000 people who connected Instagram profiles in Buffer. In less than a month between launch and today, we average 11,000 Instagram updates sent daily.

These are always fun charts to see: up and to the right!

Buffer for Instagram launch data

The launches themselves seem to get bigger and bigger from the perspective of all the marketing time and resources we pour into them. Here’s a 5,000-foot view of what goes into a major product launch at Buffer:

  • Pitch and messaging
  • Launch graphics
  • Screenshots
  • Video
  • Blog posts
  • Email announcement
  • In-app notifications
  • Uservoice / feature request communication
  • Paid social ads
  • Organic social media promotion
  • Email to investors
  • Press outreach
  • iOS App Store outreach
  • Product Hunt promotion
  • Landing page
  • Data tracking and analysis
  • Unlaunch plan

This is all done in one Paper document, which needed quite the table of contents by the end. Paper has this neat feature where you can see the word count of any particular doc. Here is the count for our Instagram launch doc:

Dropbox Paper words and emoji

? indeed!

2. Facebook Live videos and Snapchat takeovers

One of our goals for Q3 is to do more video, and I’m grateful to teammates Brian and Hailley for helping lead the charge in that area.

Brian has kicked off a weekly Friday Facebook Live Q&A segment, taking audience questions live via Facebook. If you keep an eye on the Buffer Twitter and Facebook profiles this Friday, you can catch the time of the next live event.

He and Hailley have been sharing the hosting duties on Snapchat, delivering some super useful social media tips in a super fun way — even picking up some appreciation from a fan on Instagram!

Buffer on Snapchat on Instagram

Brian and Hailley spent a day last week sharing tips on Shopify’s Snapchat account in a Snapchat takeover. And similarly, Bonnie from our marketing team took over the Buffer Snapchat account for a day last week. We’re hoping to do even more takeovers in coming weeks; you can stay tuned in by following us at buffersnaps on Snapchat.

3. Email list cleanup

I was joking with Courtney about writing a blog post titled “How we grew our email list from 40,000 to 100,000 in 4 hours.” Quite a headline, right? And the numbers are true! The numbers also require a bit of explanation.

Yes, we grew our RSS blog subscriber list to 100,000 people this past month. We did so by consolidating many, many different lists in MailChimp, then emailing all the new list members to let them know.

Before the Great Consolidation, we had 28 different MailChimp lists, 186,337 subscribers, and were paying $850 per month.

After, we now have 10 active lists, 128,019 subscribers, and we’re paying $625 per month.

The consolidation saved us $250 per month, or $3,600 per year.

Many of our 180,000 subscribers were duplicates who had signed up for multiple lists. Many others were sitting dormant on lists that we never sent to. Combining them gave us an active email user base of 100,000 (up from 40,000).

If you want any further info on how did this, feel free to ask below. It’s all fresh in my mind, and I’d love to share our lessons!

Looking ahead to August

We have a few big things planned for Buffer marketing in August. Here’s a sneak peek:

  • Launching a social media podcast!
  • Partnering with Campaign Monitor for a social media webinar
  • Working on a few big pieces of content: Coding for Marketers, A Guide to Curation, Facebook Ads 101, and Social Media Analytics Crash Course

What can we share that would be helpful for you?

If you have any questions at all about our marketing plans or projects, I’d be so happy to chat with you here in the comments. Feel free to share any thoughts or questions, and I’ll jump right in!

Check out more of our July 2016 monthly reports:
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