The Skrillex Way of Content: Build and Drop for Better Blog Balance

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Skrillex Way of ContentWhat does Skrillex have to do with blogging? It took us awhile to put the pieces together ourselves.

We’ve been thinking a lot about the optimal way to produce content for the Buffer blog. We’ve pivoted the blog multiple times before—the latest came just in the past two months when we shifted from lifehacking and productivity to a purer focus on social media. The blog is both a huge driver of conversions for us and an ongoing experiment.

What kind of content works best on the blog? And, more just as important to us, how does our blog content make readers feel?

We think maybe Skrillex can help provide an answer, unlikely as that sounds.

Waiting for the drop

A hallmark of the Buffer blog is our emphasis on deeply-researched blog posts—complete guides, scientific guides, beginner’s guides, etc. We aim for thorough, complete coverage of each and every topic we write about.

Now let’s compare that to club music. (And you’ll have to bear with me on this one because my musical tastes hew less toward the club and more toward Austin City Limits.)

Dubstep is a genre of electronic music known for a steady build leading into a frenzied “drop.” (Remember Harlem Shake? That was a type of dubstep.) Skrillex is one of the most popular dubstep producers around.

Dubstep doesn’t work if it’s all build and no drop—listeners would end up wanting more and frustrated. Likewise, you’d probably grow weary of dubstep that’s all drop and no build.

There must be balance.

Do you see where I’m headed with this?

We’re beginning to put that same balance concept to work for the way we blog at Buffer. There should be a rhythm to the type of posts we publish. The blog should build and drop, ebb and flow.

A quality blog is a balanced blog.

Quality Balance

 

Seeing things from a reader’s perspective

When I was a kid, I wanted Christmas to come every day. So my parents sat me down and read me a story about a girl whose Christmas-per-day wish came true. And would you believe that little girl grew tired of Christmas pretty quickly?

I can understand her plight now. You can have too much of a good thing.

Would you eat filet mignon every day of the week? For awhile maybe, but then …

Could you binge watch Mad Men every day for a month? Not likely.

How does it feel to come across a blog whose articles you want to read but you just can’t find the time?

When everything is amazing blog content, is anything amazing blog content?

We think that a Skrillex content strategy might be the optimum solution for our blog readers. Sure, it’s great to be able to produce amazing, all-consuming content four times a week, but perhaps there’s something to be said for taking your audience’s time and energy into consideration.

You may marvel at how a blog produces the amount of content it does. We marvel at how you make the time to read it all.

A better solution: Build and drop

OK, back to Skrillex.

The build and drop of dubstep, we think, is a great model to follow when it comes to planning the content we produce on the Buffer blog. Each dubstep song has a build and a drop. When you look at the waveform of a dubstep album—pictured below with Skrillex’s Recess album from Soundcloud—you can see a great snapshot of this ebb-and-flow balance that we’re aiming to achieve with our content. (Want to hear it? Click on the screenshot to go to Soundcloud and play the album.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 6.04.38 AM

Does the waveform look familiar? It reminds me of ultradian rhythm.

We’ve written about ultradian rhythm before on the blog. It’s the biological rhythm for our body that helps guide our productivity. Our body thrives in complementary states of activity and rest. This rhythm is essential because our mind can focus on any given task for 90 to 120 minutes before requiring a break of 20 to 30 minutes.

Build and drop is hardwired into our genes.

Ultradian Rhythm

Now, let’s apply ultradian rhythm to blogging. If our body works in cycles and we need periods of rest between periods of activity, then perhaps the same can be true for the content we produce on the blog. Readers may not be able to focus on a series of blog posts that all hit the same epic notes. Some restful, bite-sized posts could be key.

Waveform of blog

How we define Skrillex content: What constitutes good balance?

Of course, once the idea of Skrillex content is in place, there still comes the necessary element of applying the theory. What does a good balance of content really look like on a blog?

We’re still experimenting and thinking on the answer to this ourselves. Initially, the thought might be to track balance by analyzing the word count of our blog posts. Here is what the past three weeks of blog posts look like in terms of word count.

Word Count chart

In terms of word count alone, it appears that our blog is on the upward trend toward higher word count (helped along by a recent 4,500-word blog post!). But is word count where we should be looking?

It’s possible that word count could be the right measure for well-balanced content; after all, we know that a 1,500-word blog post is ideal, if you can manage it. However, word count has never been a huge focus for the Buffer blog because of the types of research-heavy posts we write.

So let’s take blog balance one step further.

Perhaps it’s best to find your balance when you’re finding ideas. So instead of considering word count on each story, what if we considered the scope and breadth of the articles we’re writing?

Here’s how the past three weeks look like on the Buffer blog with scope in mind. I’ve highlighted the posts that have a “complete guide” feel or a “how to” aspect, as those tend to be the ones that readers might choose to save for later.

Big content

This feels like a better way of approaching Skrillex content. Now we have a way to seek ebbs and flows in the types of post we publish.

It would seem that the secret to finding good balance is to begin with ideas. Is our week ahead filled with back-to-back “complete guides to” or “everything you need to know about” posts? If so, we might need to throw in a “build” post so it’s not all “drop.”

All blog posts should be awesome. Not all can be epic.

We’re hoping to achieve this awesome-epic rhythm with a 70-30 split of all-encompassing social media content versus more introspective, micro content (like this post, for example).

Will science and club music really be good guides for what we write on our blog? We’re excited to find out. The in-depth, research-intense posts will remain a big part of the day-to-day content at Buffer, and we’re hoping these posts shine even brighter and appear all the more appetizing with a good balance of “build” content to balance them.

What do you think?

We’re excited to see where this idea takes us and how it might resonate with those of you who read and share our posts.

Do you feel the benefits of balanced blog content? How do your favorite blogs operate? I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice on the topic. It’d be awesome to hear from you in the comments!

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like The Ideal Length of All Online Content and The Origin of the 8-Hour Workday and Why We Should Rethink It.

Image credit: Merlijn Hoek, idonethis

 

  • Marina Mednik-Vaksma

    I’m curious, how did you decide on the 70-30 split rather than the 80-20 split that’s having a moment right now or, say, 60-40? Anyway, love the insight about awesome vs. epic and the idea of building & dropping in general. Though maybe I need to see a graphic of how that applies to a post, where that build stops and the drop starts exactly.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Awesome question, Marina! Hmm, I may not have a very scientific answer for you. I love your thoughts about being purposeful on how we choose our split, and that seems to be a good area for some deeper thinking. Maybe a future blog post even? Haha. The 70-30 split is kind of our Goldilocks rule for testing out content on the blog. 80-20 might skew too heavily in one direction, and 60-40 could pull too much attention from our main area of focus. 70-30, for now, feels just right.

      What’s been your experience with splits like these?

      • Marina Mednik-Vaksma

        Thanks for explaining Kevan. The 80-20 split I hear of most often is in the nutrition realm. It could be a misinterpretation of the Pareto principle about 80% or the effects stemming from 20% of the causes. The way I see it applied, people hope to get most of the results by adhering to a dietary approach 80% of the time. Would be fascinating to see a good study about that.
        I do see your point about how 80-20 could skew too heavily in this case. It’s actually comforting to know that with all the metrics Buffer uses, sometimes you guys just go with your gut!

  • http://meancreativity.com/ Mason Pelt

    I read the buffer blog, because of the quality and research that goes into the articles. ReelSEO.com used to be amazing when it was a small hand full of really killer blog posts a week. Now it has a lot more filler content and I find so little value that I rarely read it anymore.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks for this perspective, Mason! Sounds like there might be an intriguing balance between killer and filler? I’d be keen to hear if we stay on the right side of this for you. :)

      • http://meancreativity.com/ Mason Pelt

        Just no weekly list post and you’re on the right track. As of this moment I consider the Buffer blog to be the best marketing content online. This includes marketingsherpa.com. I like having a place to go were all the content is an A+.

  • http://inturact.com/ Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

    Very innovative and fun blog entry. I’m a fan.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Haha, thanks, Nichole! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • http://talkkindnesstome.com/ Jane

    I’ve found Buffer posts to be timely and interesting to read. I pay far more attention to topic and how enticing the writer is through lively text and applicable stories. You can apply all this logic and I will be a fan whether you practice it or not. Now that I think of it, my comment is probably not all that valuable since I have no strong opinion about how your posts align with Skrillex – but then I’ve never heard of them until today either. Just keep up the good work. You post. I’ll read. Happiness in the buffer.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      This is so great to hear, Jane! Thanks for commenting. :) Sounds like tone and style and delivery are big factors for you. It’s great to hear this perspective!

  • http://katrinamitchell.com Katrina Mitchell

    Great post! I think this is true of many things in life — ebb and flow. I love how the context is always awesome, but it is the depth of the article that rises and falls. Danielle LaPorte does this really well in her communication by balancing a big, meaty post with a just as wonderful poem or teaser. All are high quality, but they have a different rhythm, and they require very different kinds of energy to digest. Thanks for the comparison to Skrillex. Analogous insight is the best.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks, Katrina! You’re exactly right. The ebb and flow is something we’re excited to play around with. Thanks for the tip on Danielle LaPorte! I’ll go look her up. :)

  • http://www.scurrytails.com/ Jeffrey M. Bishop

    This jibes with my realty: I think for some of us who manage personal social media ventures after a bill-paying 9-5, we rely on a Skrillex-esque model out of necessity: simply to meet demands for regular recurring content. A piece of short fiction with supporting line art requires more time and energy than a random intervening post — say a photo and caption or a quick-and-easy “how to” piece … helps feed the beast and sustain engagement!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Skrillex-by-necessity! Love your insight into this, Jeffrey. :) It was rather meta writing this post because it is exactly the type of energy shift we are mulling over: both in terms of what readers will see and how it feels to create. Best wishes as you feed the beast!

  • http://forewardsapp.com/blog Jason Dea

    Skrillex and content marketing… I apologize I have nothing much of value to add here today other than. Congratulations on merging two of my passions into a relevant blog post! Well done sir! Just a request. Please no Avicii :)

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Right on, Jason! We’ll save Avicii for another industry. :)

  • http://www.roichecker.com/ Lucas E Wall

    Can you share your stats of traffic next to those word counts? That’d be interesting to see. Is there reading saturation among us readers? Just as anecdotal info, I do get the feeling that you are giving us a lot of detail and good content. And I know where to come when I need something. Are you becoming a content firm? I think you are… Cheers to more buffer success!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks for the comment, Lucas! We’re pulling some stats together now for our monthly report on our Open blog (http://open.bufferapp.com). Hoping the numbers there will be what you’re looking for. :)

  • http://daveshrein.com Dave Shrein

    Excellent post Kevin. Thanks for sharing.

    I must confess, as much as I love you guys, the longer posts are harder for me to consume. I have so many applications that I’m working on now that to dedicate the mental energy necessary to digest, much less apply some of the massive research content y’all post is scary to me. I mean don’t get me wrong, I WANT TO, but can’t. I like the idea of this build and drop because it gives me the capacity to leverage some of the more immediate practical solutions as I continue to work on my own epic drops.

    Thanks for sharing the thought process. It shows y’all value authenticity.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks for this comment, Dave. I really appreciate your honesty! It’s exactly in line with what we’re hoping to achieve with content here, and I’d love to know how things feel to you after a couple weeks. :)

      • http://daveshrein.com Dave Shrein

        I will chime in after a couple weeks. Thx Kevan… (and sorry for spelling your name wrong).

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  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    That is the nature of it though isn’t it? There’s a natural ebb and flow to so many things in life — the circadian rhythm, the seasons of the year, the waves of the ocean, or perhaps dancing to Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Very creative post, Kevan.

  • Agnes Dadura

    I’m trying to read all the Buffer posts daily, because they’re all pretty good. It’s hard to think of more awesome ones. I do like to read about social media, but I guess I will always choose lifehacks and productivity over, as ultimately who doesn’t want to be happy :) The blog post made me think of the SNL dubstep video :D Don’t kill us with the epic drop ;)

  • http://www.hippressurecooking.com/ Laura – Hip Pressure Cooking

    I just started reading this blog in the last month – and I find all of the posts very information-dense and unique. I devour them when I can, but sometimes I say “I’ll read that later when I have time” and I never get to it. I love the focus on social media, also a big fan of SEO but.. if you asked for my opinion having a mix of information-dense posts and shorter, lighter, faster-to-devour nuggets. I guess those would be the drops?

    Anyway I appreciate your “no fluff and all stuff” posts – when I do dedicate the time to read them I come away with action items to get my website, content strategy, social media plan into shape.

    Ciao,

    L

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks, Laura, for your thoughtful analysis here. Glad the information you’re finding here is helpful for you, and that we might be able to make the mix even better in the future!

  • Skip Michael

    I am fairly new to marketing, in fact I’m really new. This system, or marketing approach makes sense. Looking forward to learning more. I want to be an expert in this method. Being a retired detective in search of a new adventure and income this sounds exciting.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Awesome, Skip! Wishing you good fortune with your new venture. :)

  • Zetong Teoh

    Excellent insights, Kevan. This ‘build-and-drop’ theory also resonates with the theory of ‘consistency-and-surprise’ for the brand marketing.

    Just a question, if the focus of buffer blog is to provide complete and in-depth guides, shouldn’t the “complete guides to” or “everything you need to know about” posts be more of a build post, while other posts to be a drop post?

    Also, could you illustrate an example of what constitutes a build and a drop for a content marketer?

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  • Magnus Olafson

    This post must have been the drop.

  • Dan Shure

    I love the idea of thinking of your publishing in a linear “programatic” format rather than isolated vertical posts – without any sense of flow from one to the next. Probably because music was my first profession :)

    But I have to nit pick a tiny bit on the wave form. All album wave forms are going to look like that – simply because we’re just seeing the space between songs for the most part. This isn’t the build / drop of dubstep as a style – it’s all albums broken into songs.

    Dubstep songs have a large variety of waveforms – like this individual song from that album: https://soundcloud.com/killthenoise/skrillex-kill-the-noise-fatman?in=max-mayeri-nhu-new/sets/skrillex-recess-album-stream

    Maybe I’m getting a little too literal – and I don’t intend to miss the bigger point – just wanted to clarify that on the music end of things :)

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