A little over two years ago, I jumped into an epic adventure while still in college. My friend, Joel, had just launched a small app to help him post better on Twitter. Joel had called it “Bfffr.” He quickly changed the name to “Buffer” a few weeks later, after he realized, that was much easier to spell.
Fast forward two years into today. We were incredibly lucky to see Buffer thrive. Just this month, we crossed 650,000 users and $100,000 in monthly recurring revenues.
When we published our latest numbers, I got an influx of emails from people all around the world. They asked, “How do you go about marketing, especially social media? What is your strategy for getting new users?”
I often replied with a few bullets and tried to jump on a few Skype calls to help budding business owners with their marketing strategies. And yet, nothing seemed to quite paint the full picture.
So I thought, What if I could share my best tips on here?
So, without further ado, here are the five most important blogging and social media marketing tactics we used to help grow Buffer to more than one million dollars in revenue over the past two years.
- Make use of smart images and scientific studies (blogging). Around one year ago, we significantly changed our approach to blogging. We started to publish and share articles that were a lot more science-driven. Any argument we would mention was backed up by actual, reputable academic research.
Derek Halpern, one of the most famous conversion gurus out there first encouraged me to do this. He uncovers how adding the right images to any claim add credibility and make sharing an article or other piece of content easier:
Since then, we’ve started to find the right images for each article we’ve written. Here are some examples, where adding the right images was immensely powerful:
- Talking about body language: showing the actual poses to perform:
- Talking about social media studies: Featuring the actual graphs:
- Talking about neuro-science: Featuring brain scans:
Now, of course, the key question that comes in next is, where do you find all these studies? Here are my top three ways to find relevant studies for any type of article I write:
- The Reddit Science section: They have a huge amount of well-curated, high-quality scientific insights you won’t find anywhere else.
- Add “brain,” “study” or “research” to your Google searches: This is the most obvious, but seems to have helped the most people that asked me. Whatever it is, simply adding those terms helps to get to the right content fast.
- For Social Media content: The best sites I’ve found with great studies and research are AdWeek, Dan Zarrella’s blog and Brian Solis’ blog.
The result for us was that we tripled the average social share amount per article from 250 to 1,000.
Adding better images and backing up your arguments with real science, makes a huge difference to how content gets spread.
- Recycle Facebook posts in different formats: links, images or just text (social media)
The general idea about posting to Facebook is that you can post a link only once. And I think that’s generally true.
What we’ve found and what helped us to significantly increase our Facebook engagement on articles is to use different formats on the same type of content.
Especially since the shelf-life of a link being posted to Facebook is only three hours, there is no way that all your fans will see it. In fact, only a small fraction of them—around 10%—will ever see your post.
The way we go about this is to tear up the article into different, smaller stories and post them individually to Facebook:
- Utilize the power of guest posting: quantity over quality (blogging)
This is probably my most controversial piece of advice that has helped us the most to grow and scale Buffer.
Especially when you are getting started, there is nothing better than going for quantity over quality.
This quote from Ira Glass puts it best:
The most important, possible thing you could do is to do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap
In order to scale your guest blogging, there is one key lesson I’ve learned. You need to send more pitches than you will have accepted for posts. In my case, I arrived at a 30–40% ratio. Out of ten emails for guest posts I had sent, around three to four would get accepted.
In terms of outline of the pitch, there are three important elements:
- Opening: Make it clear to the blog owner that you know their blog and audience (first two lines)
- Pitch: Have a clear pitch for a post that you’ve already thought out and drafted (second two lines)
- Social proof: Show them articles that received lots of traction before (last two lines)
Here is an example of a real pitch I’ve used in the past:
- Leverage the power of social reading services (social media)
Here is something very new and recent that I’ve seen emerging. Most of the articles you write won’t be read on your blog. Instead, most of them will be read by the emergence of new social reading services.
Here are some examples where the Buffer blog received most traffic from in terms of social readers:
This means that no matter how well your blog is optimized for conversion, there is no way for any of your visitors to convert.
To solve this, we’ve recently started to experiment with in-text calls to action to capture more readers who aren’t reading directly on your blog.
Here is an example of this from our recent article:
Most importantly, track each of these links with services like bitly.com, so you can have quick experiments letting you know if it worked. In our case, we confirmed exactly what we thought would happen. People clicked on the link who weren’t reading articles on the actual blog:
Feedly and email make up the biggest chunk:
- Study how to write great headlines—the techniques we use (blogging)
Here is the last tip I have for you. This is something I learned from one of the best bloggers I know, Andrew Chen.
His strategy for writing the best headline and for even validating whether an idea will work out is simple:
- Tweet an insight, idea, or quote.
- See how many people retweet it (or engage with it).
- If it catches, then write a blog post elaborating on the topic.
I found that this is the best way to validate an idea, before you spend hours producing a post that no one wants to read. Here is a graphic from Andrew Chen how he used this technique to validate one of his most popular articles:
On top of this, even after an article is live, you can still test the headline using Twitter. Here is how:
- Tweet out the article three times throughout a day with a different title each time.
- Measure the engagement and reactions.
- Change the title of the actual post to the one that spread the farthest.
For a recent article we wrote, this was absolute gold and helped us turn the post into the most popular on the Buffer blog. This was the headline after testing multiple ones that worked the best:
For this article, I wanted to really dig out some of the lesser known tips and tricks for you to make your blogging and social media strategy work. After all, these are the key tactics that really moved the needle for us at Buffer.