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Sprints and Traffic and MozCon, Oh My! What Buffer Marketing Is up to This Quarter

Jun 9, 2016 9 min readReports
Photo of Kevan Lee
Kevan Lee

Former VP of Marketing @ Buffer

A (1)

The transparent monthly reports from Buffer were one of my first introductions to the company, and I’ve loved them ever since.

Before I joined the Buffer team, I waited like Christmas morning for a new report to come out so that I could take a peek behind-the-scenes into the way Buffer worked. Once I came on board, I eagerly anticipated each and every new report and the chance to share with and learn from the awesome folks who took time to read what we were up to.

I’d love to get back on a regular schedule of sharing allthethings Buffer marketing!

Since our last report over a year ago, so much has changed for our marketing team. There are more of us, doing more things, in more places. We’re also noticing that there are just so many more channels we want to explore, ideas we want to bring to life, and projects we want to complete together.

We’re excited to be pushing ahead on some amazing projects right now, and I’d love to loop you in. Come check out everything we’re working on as a marketing team.

The entire Buffer team at last month’s all-hands meeting

Buffer marketing in May 2016, by the numbers

Here are some high-level numbers of what we’re up to with marketing. These aren’t necessarily our team-wide goals (more on those below), rather just some facts and figures that feel great to share.

If there’s anything missing from this list that you’d like to see, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it in!

Our current team: 6 people

  • 1 marketing lead
  • 1 blog editor
  • 1 PR
  • 1 social media manager
  • 1 engineer (just joined, in bootcamp)
  • 1 full-stack marketer (just joined, in bootcamp)

How marketing contributes to signups

  • Buffer Social blog – 3,348 signups in Q1 (January thru March)
  • Buffer Open blog – 840 signups
  • Buffer Overflow blog – 54 signups
  • Syndicated articles – 851 signups
  • Medium – 47 signups
  • Email – 343 signups
  • Social media – 561 signups
  • Paid advertising – 211 signups

How marketing contributes to reach and awareness

(all numbers are for the past 30 days)

  • Social blog traffic (sessions) – 1,080,467
  • Open blog traffic (sessions) – 146,833
  • New Email subscribers – 1,456

    • Buffer Blog List: 672
    • Buffer Open Blog List: 784
  • New Twitter followers – 39,842
  • New Facebook page likes – 3,583
  • New Instagram followers 843
  • Snapchat score increase – 138
most popular blog posts

How we set goals for marketing: OKRs (and how we’re doing on them)

Since the start of 2016, each team and person at Buffer has been using OKRs to track goals and results. We set them on a quarterly basis —  every three months — and we’re midway through the second quarter of the year now (April thru June).

You can see all of our Q2 OKRs here.

Buffer marketing OKRs

They are (in no particular order):

Reach a larger audience with our tips for social media

  • Double-down on content flipping by updating the date & content on our top 25 posts by impression
  • Grow average sessions per new post published within 1 month by 30%
  • Run 8 experiments to grow traffic towards the social blog
  • Measure and grow average comments per post by 100%.

Bring more blog readers to using our products

  • Track and understand the conversion flow for every post and CTA on the social blog
  • Focus on Buffer for Business trials first and foremost with CTAs, establish trial starts baseline and set growth rates

When people think about companies that are some of the best on Medium, they should name Buffer as the #1 brand that comes to mind

  • Grow our monthly reads by 60% MoM
  • Create a content calendar via Trello of 3 posts published a week with having content scheduled 2 weeks in advance at end of May
  • Run a new experiment on Medium every 2 weeks and track progress in a spreadsheet
  • Secure and active domain and make designs and landing page improvements by May 15 (, if you’d like to check it out!)

Turn the Open blog into the #1 publication people go to for advice on company culture, transparency, and company building

  • Figure out team setup by 25th of April
  • Set down a clear editorial calendar of at least 3 posts a week with 2 weeks of posts planned out by end of May
  • Run 1 experiment a week to grow Open blog subscribers to 20,000 and blog sessions to 175,000/month

Experiment with new marketing channels

  • Attend or make plans to attend 3 marketing conferences with booths/speaking opportunities and track/measure results
  • Publish 6 specific landing pages to help explain Buffer, feature key content
  • Run 1 sprint for a mini-engineering project

I’d love to pull out a few in particular to chat through, and you can definitely feel free to ask about any others in the comments. I’d welcome the chance to chat about any of them!

Get more traffic to new posts

OKR: Grow average sessions in the first 28 days by 30% for each new post published

We find a lot of great traffic to the blog comes from SEO and search, particularly for the evergreen posts we write. It’s often the case that we’ll write something, feel it didn’t really take off the way we hoped, then check back a couple months later to see its traffic graph soaring!

ideal image sizes
Traffic graph for our Ideal Image Sizes post

We’re grateful for all that long-term, long-tail traffic.

We are also eager to see what we can do to boost traffic early on in a post’s life.

For this quarter, we’ve been tracking the performance of all new blog posts to see the traffic they gained on Day 1, the first 7 days, and the first 30 days. It’s been really fascinating to see! Here’s a look at the chart; green squares are those that are on pace to go above and beyond our 30% growth goal.

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 6.26.32 AM

(We’re also tracking comments on all posts, hoping to boost commenting by 100% this quarter.)

Here’re a few things we’ve learned so far:

  • Writing about Facebook’s F8 developer conference was a hit! Seems like if we can find the right timely content to cover, we can gain a lot of instant traffic to the blog from trending topics like these.
  • Write about what we know! Many of the best-performing posts in this list have come from the work that Brian, our social media manager, is doing on Buffer’s social accounts. Instead of sharing “how to” posts, we flipped the perspective a bit to be “how we’re …”.

Dipping our toes into conferences

OKR: Attend or make plans to attend 3 marketing conferences with booths/speaking opportunities and track/measure results


Can you guess where we’ll be headed this fall?

Yep, Mozcon!

We’ve signed on as a conference partner for Mozcon in September. A number of us will be in town to meet and greet as many folks as we can, to share some Buffer swag and happy vibes, and to welcome you to a pretty cool booth (details are in the works).

In addition to Mozcon, we’ll also be a partner at CTA Conf, hosted by Unbounce and taking place in just a couple weeks — June 19-21 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

We’ll be hanging out at our Buffer booth, and we’ll be on stage even: I have the honor to share a bit about social media lead-gen tactics.

(You can get a $150 discount on the conference by signing up with the code BufferSentMe.)

This is all brand new territory for us, sponsoring big conferences like these. Do you have any tips? One of the things we’re mulling at the moment is how best to track results from events. Here’s a taste of what we’ve come up with so far (very much a work-in-progress):

  • Number of email addresses collected
  • Number of new leads who are not current Buffer customers
  • Mentions on Twitter
  • Mentions on Facebook
  • Sentiment
  • New Twitter/Facebook followers


OKR: Run one engineering-as-marketing sprint

This quarter, we’re keen to make a standalone, mini-marketing product for you!

And we’re excited to consider building it over the course of a single week, with a team sprint. Here’s how the sprint might look (in theory), according to a framework we’ve loved from the book Sprint:

How to do a sprint

We’ve never done anything like this before. Our teammates on Pablo have experimented with this style of fast-paced building, so I’m sure we’ll take loads of inspiration from them. Have you tried this method?

As for the idea itself, we’re open to anything! It’s still early days on what exactly we’ll build. We’re hoping to make something along the lines of an engineering-as-marketing project — something like HubSpot’s website grader or one of Moz’s many free tools, then to use the product to help spread the word about Buffer.

Here’s a short list of ideas:

  • A benchmarking tool to help you easily see how you’re performing on social
  • A WordPress plugin for easy social sharing or headline testing
  • A Facebook News Feed algorithm forecaster

Any of these catch your eye?

Moving from crafters to marketers

It took me a very long time to call myself a writer.

When I introduced myself to others, I never knew what to say. I couldn’t tell them I was a writer, right? Writers are people like Ernest Hemingway or Elizabeth Gilbert.

Well, no. Writers can be anyone, whether you’ve published 20 novels or 20 blog posts. I finally embraced this for myself, that I could call myself a writer because the bulk of what I did at Buffer every day was write. Writing was baked right into my job title: content crafter.

Now I’m learning to call myself something different.

I’m in the midst of transitioning from crafter to marketer. Most all of us on the team are making the move. We’re no longer hiring crafters; we’re hiring marketers. We’re no longer bringing people on solely to write blog posts; we’re bringing people on to do crazy marketing things and then write about what they’ve learned. We all hang out in the #marketing Slack channel, and only the blog comments remain in the #crafters channel.

It’s a subtle shift, but it’s been a big one for me.

I felt a certain level of comfort in the scope of my role as a writer. There was something quite enchanting and unique about being so singularly focused on words and content every day.

So much of marketing is still about writing. But there’s also so much more. There is the strategizing, brainstorming, analyzing, iterating. Writing is now just a single tool in our toolbox — granted, it’s my favorite tool and the one I keep on top pretty much all the time.

But it’s no longer the only thing that any of us do.

Does this resonate at all with your experience in marketing?

We feel that this small change is one that we’ve noticed happening in lots of places, as so much of the valuable content we discover and read about comes from the work of marketers who a) do the marketing, then b) write about what they’ve done. It’s been a recent change for us, and I’m not sure we have it 100% right.

If you have any advice on it — pro or con — it’d be awesome to have your input.

Thanks for reading! Your thoughts?

Thanks so much for spending time to take a look at our report. It’s really amazing to have your support. We’d love your thoughts and ideas, too!

Feel free to leave a comment here, and I’ll respond right away.

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