This is a little tough to admit.

I’ve been failing at social media marketing.

It feels weird admitting this, too: We as a Buffer marketing team—working on a product that helps people succeed on social media—have yet to figure out how to get things working on Facebook (especially), Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

And that’s super scary to admit.

What’s happening? I wish I knew! We’ve got lots of theories as to what’s behind our decline, and we’re in the midst of new experiments to see if we can move the needle on social media. Moreso I have some thoughts on what’s at play here for Buffer on social media—and maybe for you, too.

We’ve lost nearly half our social referral traffic in the last year

Yep, you read that right!

Almost half as many people find our blog from social media as last year at this same time. 

social referral sessions change

Twitter is down 43 percent.

Facebook is down 53 percent.

LinkedIn is down 45 percent.

Google+ is down 72 percent.

Here’s the overall traffic graph for social referral traffic, with the orange line representing last October and the blue line representing this October. For 29 of the 30 days in the period, last year outperformed this year — and often waaaay outperformed!

Social referral traffic year over year All told, we’ve lost nearly 100,000 people who no longer get to the Buffer blog from social media.

What happened?

My best guesses at what’s going on here

I don’t have the answer for what’s gone wrong. I wish I did!

I’ve run through so many different scenarios about what could be at play here.

Maybe we need to hire a full-time social media manager to really devote some time and energy to doing great work on social media. (I often fail to prioritize social media sharing and treat it as an afterthought, which is no good at all.)

Maybe I’m no good at social media marketing. (Impostor syndrome to the max!)

Maybe our sharing ratio is off: Too much  content, not enough conversation.

Maybe everyone else is failing, too! (I sure hope not.)

Maybe we need to post more often.

Maybe we need to post less often.

Maybe, maybe, maybe …

It’s quite the spiral!

A pretty significant change we’ve made to our social media sharing is a move away from the productivity and lifehacking content that did so well on social media in the past (articles like The Origin of the 8-Hour Workday and Ways to Be Happier). We now share mostly social media tips and strategies, which are great and helpful but maybe not quite as virally shareable.

The one area that seems to stick out most in my mind is that maybe social media itself is changing and I’ve simply not yet figured out how. Could be, right? Technology changes so fast and social media changes even faster, with new networks popping up constantly and new strategies being discovered daily. I’ve noticed that the best practices we share and research studies we report on for many of our Buffer blog posts can be old news almost by the time we dig them up.

And if it’s true that social media is changing, my hunch is that the center of these changes lies one thing we tend to create a lot of here at Buffer: content.

The content crush and what social media is doing about it

There is just so much content out there now.

Consider the hundreds of thousands of quality blog posts that are published daily (on WordPress sites alone last year, the daily average was 1.5 million new posts). Then add in all the multimedia content: photos, videos, GIFs, and graphics to support the original posts.

And then add all the user-generated content as well. Status updates and personal pictures shared to social networks sit right alongside Buffer blog posts and BuzzFeed articles in your timeline.

It leads to scenarios like this:

Every time someone visits the Facebook News Feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and Pages for them to see.

And this stat is over two years old. Imagine how things have grown since!

Mark Schaefer of the {grow} blog has called this content shock, the idea that we’ve passed the point where content consumption has peaked and content creation has continued taking off.

economics-of-content2

And it seems we’re feeling this so acutely on social media now.

This crush of content eventually leads all social networks to a huge decision:

Should the feed be filtered with an algorithm?

Facebook arrived at this point years ago and has been fine-tuning its algorithm ever since. This Time article has a great way of explaining the algorithm:

automated software that tracks each user’s actions to serve them the posts they’re most likely to engage with

In essence, Facebook is guessing—highly sophisticated, very educated guessing—about what you’ll like.

And they’re guessing because they have to. They’ve found it to be a really tough user experience when people log on to see what’s happening with their friends and end up sifting through dozens of page posts to see the ones they most care about. Likewise with those who just want to see what their favorite brands and personalities are up to.

Facebook reached the point where it simply couldn’t show you everything.

Other social networks are getting there, too (if they haven’t already).

What this means for the future of social media marketing

Whether it’s a highly-filtered feed with an algorithm at its core or an overflowing feed full of anything and everything, it’s getting harder and harder for traditional social media marketing to keep a foothold with its audience.

And rather than blame the algorithms for my poor performance on social, I think a better way of thinking about it is this:

I’m failing on social media because I’m failing to adapt as fast as the social network themselves are adapting.

I see a couple roads forward:

  1. Pay for more reach on social media.
  2. Get better at connecting with your audience.

The first one sounds easy—costly, but easy.

The second one feels enormously difficult—free, but hard.

1. Pay for reach

You can improve your reach right this minute with just a few dollars. For $5, we reached 787 more people on Facebook—less than a penny a person!

Reach seems easy.

And that’s often the road that many marketers will take by default. If organic reach is down, then paid reach can help fill it back up again.

By the same token, there’s so much more at play here. Paid ad professionals are worth every dollar they earn because doing paid ads well—advertising to people who aren’t expecting you, and getting a positive reply—is so tough.

Watching our steady decline of social traffic to the Buffer blog, I’d prefer to get more engagement along with more reach on a Facebook or Twitter ad. I’d love for people to not only see our post but also to click on it and to engage with us.

So my option becomes learning how to do social media ads really well—messaging, tactics, technical, everything.

2. Get better at connecting with your audience

These are a couple of my dreams:

What if we had a Twitter feed so compelling that people wouldn’t just hope our tweets showed up in their timeline but they would go directly to twitter.com/buffer all day every day to see absolutely everything we tweeted?

What if we had a Facebook page that felt so uniquely valuable, personal, and intimate that our posts arrived in the News Feed as frequently as birthdays and baby announcements?

I truly believe it can happen.

(And I truly don’t know if I’m the right person to make it so!)

There are examples of pages and brands who are succeeding on social media without needing a paid boost. How? Why? Where? I feel like I’m watching a magic show, and I’m so inspired and stupefied at how it all happens.

But it does happen.

Brain Pickings has over 3 million likes to its page.

Brain Pickings

Gary Vaynerchuk gets over 7,000 views per video.

Gary Vee show

I believe there is a way to get organic reach on social media, and as soon as I figure out how I will race to share it with you.

We’ve seen it in fits and starts with some of the strategies we try. We’re going to keep trying more and more (paid ads included). Here’s a plan.

What we’re going to try

Everything is on the table for us at this stage to try. We’re hiring a full-time social media manager, which we feel will make a huge difference. In addition, these are a few actionable tips we’re looking to implement:

1. Make it easy for people to share our content

This involves showing share buttons to both desktop and mobile visitors (HT: Sumome plugin for the mobile buttons). We’re also looking at adding “Click to Tweet” quotes in new articles.

 

2. Design beautiful, shareable visuals

Have you seen the social media share numbers on the Canva blog? They’re knocking it out of the park!  This one, for example, has been pinned 26,000 times!

Canva blog post

Seems like we could make a lot of headway on getting our articles share-ready for social media by asking for some design help from the Buffer design team. I may have maxed out my design skills!

3. Share just to share

This is kind of a weird one. Whenever I look through the stats of some of our top users at Buffer, I notice that so many of their great social media updates are simply photos and text. No links. No cta or purpose other than to connect with their audience.

In the short term, this won’t do much to change the social media referral traffic (we won’t be getting any traffic from non-link updates). But maybe it’ll be enough to support the community and build a more engaged audience over time?

What are you trying?

Does this decline in social media engagement resonate with you at all?

What are you currently up to on social media? What’s working? What’s not?

It’d be amazing to have the chance to learn from you here. Feel free to leave any thoughts at all in the comments below, and I’d love to jump in and join the conversation!

Image sources: Pablo, IconFinder, Unsplash, {grow}

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Written by Kevan Lee

Director of marketing at Buffer, the social media publishing tool for brands, agencies, and marketers. We’ve got a new podcast! 🍟

  • Crystal DeCnodder

    Great topic. Great article, Kevin. I think for small businesses they’re really feeling this pinch. Getting the right content in front of the right audience either has to be exceptional creative and copy (completely share-worthy) or you need a budget you can put behind your content and the right tools in place like Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel or the suite of Twitter’s remarketing tools.

    • Hi Crystal, thanks so much for the comment! Completely agree here. It’s kind of an interesting place to be in – seems like both exceptionally creative copy and paid ads require a good bit of time to do right, and time seems to be one of those things that so many marketers (small biz, for sure!) can always use more of. Would love to hear if you end up finding any tips or strategies that work for you! 🙂

  • Kaila Prins

    TBH, I don’t really ever see Buffer’s social media, but I read your blog everyday because I subscribed to your daily newsletter–on purpose. I know I’m not going to miss anything that way, whereas I view a lot of stuff shared on social media as an accidental “stumble upon.” Most of the blogs I care about, I make sure to give my information outside of social media so I’ll be sure to see them.

    • Tiffiny

      I’m the same! The emails have such compelling headlines that I don’t even bother looking at Buffer’s Tweets. I enter frequently from the emails. Plus, in my own case, I have ample awareness of the blog that I frequently wander in either from an RSS feed reader or just by typing Buffer into my Chrome address bar and letting the autofill take me here.

      • Thanks, Tiffiny! Super helpful to hear how you get to the blog. Really great to know that headlines are a big draw!

    • Marianne At Fielding

      I’m with Kaila here. I used to find your blog on social, but now I subscribe so the notification comes straight to my email. New viewers might still be finding you on social, those of us who have come to appreciate your consistent and valuable posts are subscribing not clicking on tweets.

      • Thanks so much, Marianne! Such a great distinction to make with subscribing – that’s something you can’t quite get as deliberately by following someone on social! 🙂

    • I also read the Buffer blog through e-mail every day. So I don’t really need to read Buffer tweets and so forth. In fact, it never even occurred to me to follow you via other media channels. What the Buffer blog provides is stuff that needs to be given and read in big chunks. Tweets, FB posts and what not would not be as helpful.

      • Hi Maureen! Thanks, this is so interesting to hear. Really great to know your thoughts on how the particular style of Buffer content fits on social media vs. blogs vs. email. Such great insight!

    • Hi there Kaila! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s so helpful and encouraging to hear your workflow with reaching the blog. 🙂

      I’ve got a huge affinity for email marketing and content. I tend to get my must-read news from newsletter also! Thanks for mentioning this great point. 🙂

  • My take: It’s the content focus. In some ways, you’ve done the opposite of what others might have done. You started out with content that was widely applicable (“productivity and life hacking”), and it got a lot of pick up. We may know a few people that handle social media for their organization, but we all know many more that would value the kind of tips you used to provide. Your earlier approach was also consistent with your brand promise of a more efficient way to manage the deluge that can be social media.

    Lots of companies wouldn’t have figured that out. They would have started with narrow, product-focused and category-focused content and found themselves competing with every other social media startup out there. After much analysis and brainstorming, they might have eventually hit on the idea of where you started, which was really clever. After all, as that content was shared widely, people found out more about Buffer, not as a narrowly-focused social media tool, but as a take-your-life-back-and-still-do-social-media tool.

    This is an easy hypothesis to test, by the way, since you already have the content. Simply do a roundup or top ten piece.

    • Hi Lee! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s amazing to hear your thoughts on this. 🙂

      Love how you’ve described things here, almost like a reverse funnel strategy where we (accidentally, I believe) reached lots of people early on, established authority, then honed the content to fit the niche. I don’t think I would have ever put that together without your helpful perspective here!

      Awesome idea to test. I’d love to work something up!

      • I really admire what you folks at Buffer have done and continue to do, from the innovative approach to disclosing business results and expenditures to your global virtual team.

        As far as my hypothesis, glad it’s useful as something else to consider. And of course it’s often easier to see something like this from the outside, when you’ve not been in the middle of everything for months or years.

        In terms of a test, two ideas you might try, neither of which requires creating much in the way of new content: (1) Run an earlier post that did pretty well. No changes, other than a brief mention at the bottom that it ran earlier and was popular so you’re running it again. (2) Gather existing content and do something like a “Top 5” or “Top 10,” perhaps with a theme. Could even do something along the lines of, “Here’s the Buffer Blog Pack for People Who are Looking for a better Work-Life Balance.” You can recycle content by adding an intro to the piece or each link.

        And again, congratulations to you and the entire Buffer team.

  • Kevan, when you say ‘social referral traffic’ do you mean Organic social traffic, UTM traffic, or both?

    • Hi Erik! Great to hear from you! Yes, the charts and numbers above are for organic social traffic. Would be so interested to hear what trends you’ve observed at SME!

  • As a single metric, it doesn’t look good. And if the sole purpose is social media referral, definitely not good.

    But what is the overall outcome you are trying to achieve? Is that up or down? You may be getting lower social media referral but it may be the better part. For example, with email lists. Having opt-outs may not be a bad thing if those opt-outs are never going to buy from you. You have just weeded out non-performers.

    So without understanding where those social media referrers fit into the overall objectives it may or may not be a bad thing

    • Thanks for the comment, Paul! Great point. We’ve seen pretty steady traffic overall to the blog, which is great. Our main focuses are traffic and signups to Buffer, so you’re right: social media referral’s aren’t our top priority, just a factor in the overall success of our marketing efforts. 🙂

      I think personally (and tbh probably with a bit of ego also), I want to be successful with social media marketing! It’s an interesting one since it’s a huge focus for what our product serves, so it’d feel great to be doing well. Maybe goes back into impostor syndrome a bit again!

      • I hear you! I can’t echo most of the other comments enough about email subscription being a strong indicator people are purposefully interested vs hopeful social media referrals.

        We did some work recently in re-looking at the numbers and what they mean. And after spending some time decided to go back to the ultimate outcomes which were positive and decided the change in types of traffic were not a problem. But, like you, wanted to understand the true meaning. I think your reasons are correct. Whether it is a problem is something else.

        But thanks for yet another interesting article to take me away from the heads down work to thinking about it a bit.

        Cheers

  • Hey Kevan! One of the things I’ve seen is that despite the gamut of social sharing tools out there, very few of them implement what us social pros know to be “optimized sharing”. I’m sure you’ve written DOZENS of articles about how to get more engagement on your social posts– but the BIG problem is there aren’t any social sharing plugins that allow your READERS to share the most optimized version of your posts.

    What if there were a way to make it so that when your readers click your social share buttons they shared the hand-crafted (and platform specific) version that you want them to share?

    Well I’m happy (and shameless) to say that Social Warfare is a WordPress plugin that I’ve helped co-create and it does exactly that. In fact, it’s the social sharing plugin that Canva uses. 😉

    It’s unfortunate that you caught a screenshot of the brief moment where the icon font was being updated– lol, doh! But you’ll find it’s both a beautiful AND highly effective way to get your content shared in the most optimal way.

    • Hi Dustin! Awesome to hear from you. I’ve heard such amazing things about Social Warfare. Thanks so much for putting it back on my radar! Totally open to exploring anything and everything here – will give this a look!

      • Looking forward to your feedback Kevan. Let me know if I can be of any assistance. (P.S. We’re actually planning a Buffer button now– or at least making it possible.)

        • Woop!

        • So glad you are considering it again (a Buffer button that is), Dustin!

    • Do you see good usage of social sharing buttons on your website? A recent study found just 0.65 of desktop and 0.2% of mobile users have ever used a social sharing button. That’s not to say there aren’t some sites where those numbers are higher, but it sure seems like very few use them.

      • Everything is contextual right? I’d want to know more about that study and the types of users that were surveyed. The real question would be “Do you see usage of social sharing buttons for your target audience.” In our case (and I assume Buffer’s case) the answer is a resounding YES.

        Even then, it’s not just a matter of how many people are using the buttons, but what is the result of people using the buttons. If 1,000 people click your buttons how many people visit your site because of it? We’ve built Social Warfare to be able to integrate into Google Analytics in such a way that you can see the results of the button shares.

        On my own personal blog for example, I can see that about 3% of the traffic to my blog is coming as a result of shares made through my sharing buttons specifically. I can further see that the traffic coming from those visits is converting (newsletter subscriptions) at a rate of 3%. From a campaign perspective, it’s the 4th highest converting source.

  • Kevan,
    I completely agree with Kaila! I have subscribed to the Buffer newsletter, something I do NOT do without much consideration! As I have said in my comments on other Buffer articles, the Buffer Blog is the ONLY one I read every time new content is published! 🙂 It’s that good…useful…helpful! And, I also recommend it to my WordPress 101 students. That’s how much I think of it!

    I’m sure I’m not alone… And, the (rhetorical) question I would ask about Buffer’s concern about social media referrals is WHY? Now, of course I’m not aware in any measure of your internal goals, but unless your bottom-line business is also dropping, are you after overall referrals/leads from social media, or are you after qualified leads? Perhaps a comparison of NL subscribers and social media referral stats would be revealing???

    Just my 2 cents! 😉

    Love your continued transparency and awesome business philosophy!

    • Hi there Karen! So good to hear from you. Thanks so much for the food for thought here, I think you bring up some great points! Social media referrals have kind of an in-between role for us, I’d say, in that they bring in traffic (a big goal for the blog) but aren’t our only traffic source. I’d love to get better at social media, personally, so I can share tips & strategies with more confidence!

  • Another issue is many people are switching from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat, which offer almost no referral traffic (i.e. a little from the Instagram profile page).

    • Great point! Yep, we’ve been really interested in learning how things work on Instagram/Snapchat and it feels so different there in the type of content you can share.

  • Lisa Jordie

    Kudos to you, Kevan, for thinking outside and beyond the ROI of the ‘penny per person’ pay for reach. While paying for reach is sure to increase numbers, depending on the algorythm, in the end we just circle back around to wondering what is actually changing and if these algorythms we are paying for our added reach on are adapting as well. Organic reach is obviously a big dream for you guys (and I sure don’t know the answer, and if I did at one point, I’m not sure it’s pertinent today!) However, if anyone can make it happen, it’s Buffer.

    I think there’s a lot to be said about the type of content here. You’re right: The Origin of the 8-Hour Workday and Ways to Be Happier IS highly pinnable, shareable content. People love lists. They love easy. I do, too!

    And for the most part, my Facebook feed is full of family, friends, and coworkers. I’m also much more likely to share lifehacking-style posts than I am posts about social media management. (Out of my few hundred friend, zero are social media managers, but all could benefit from Ways to Be Happier.)

    That being said, maybe the right people are coming to the blog now. The kinds that will benefit from using the SaaS model of Buffer. I know it’s hard to quantify the type of readers coming into your blog, and that’s a huge loss from social media referrals. I’m curious – did the site traffic go down overall as far as total time on the site? I would be surprised if it did, only because I suspect the ‘lifehacking’ readers may have jumped off sooner after they were done with that specific post. Maybe, in the end, it comes down to fine-tuning the content to who you want on your site and who will find the overall content relevant. (But it’s hard to let go of the lifehacking posts, they are so fun to write and start conversations over as well!)

    I’m also really excited and think it’s a fantastic idea that you are going to focus on your visual content. This is a such a HUGE part of blogging, and we all know it. Content is king, but we all know a winning blog pairs that content with striking visuals. I recently decided to make a couple posts that focused on the visuals that were actually just ‘list’ posts, and I’ve found certain, more ‘beautigul’ images from the post get shared more often than others (but they all link to the same content!) That felt like a huge success for me. Here’s one where I made an image for each city on my list: http://bit.ly/1NqgHgb And another I made for inspirational quotes, similiar to your Canva example: http://bit.ly/1MGVADk

    In my personal opinion, the content shift was part of the dip, and I think it’s VERY smart to focus on your images. Inside the blogosphere, these highly pinnable images are essential. Thanks for being so open and honest on the stats, I enjoyed reading this! Best to you and Happy Thursday.

    • Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for the comment. Wow, so many great thoughts here!

      I’m with you on the dip from switching to social media content from lifehacking. It’s interesting – overall we haven’t noticed a dip in traffic as search traffic has continued growing and keeping people coming to the blog. Time on site has grown, too – which was kind of what we were hoping for with targeting the content more toward what the Buffer product helps with. 🙂

      Love what you’ve done here with visuals. 🙂 My sense is that we might move in a direction where we have a full-time designer working on the blog, helping with both the blog design and with graphics for posts. Seems like we have a host of popular images from the past that could probably spread even further with a keen design eye!

  • Miro

    I rely heavily on Feedly and my RSS feeds to get updates the websites I would otherwise check regularly.

    I came across this article because I subscribed to the Buffer newsletter, and it came straight in my inbox (which is admittedly, full of e-mails that sit there unopened).

    Ultimately, the sites I glean valuable information and content miss out on page views from me, but I’m digesting their content. I also share posts often, but as I’ve experienced, my twitter feed is often overwhelming, and exposure on Facebook posts is rather low and I’ll only see a handful of posts.

    Another issue is that it’s much more difficult to market a company/brand on social than it is a person – it’s a challenge to humanize and really connect. Buffer has great virtues and transparency helps, but it’s tougher. The fact that someone at Buffer replies (and signs their name!) to tweets is HUGE win and helps me connect with Buffer (and that team member), but as I’ve learned at my current job, replying and building a community on social is a full-time job, especially when you’re also trying to promote content and the brand.

    Thanks for sharing Kevan – social media marketing is ever evolving, and I relate and appreciate your honesty in this post.

    • Hi there Miro! Thanks so much for the comment. Really love your point about marketing a company/brand vs. a person. I think that’s such a great insight!

  • Piotr Burzykowski

    The question is whether you are in the production business (making cars, creating content) or in the utilities provision business (building roads, creating content sharing tools).

    Doing both well is untenable. Either you go for car enthusiasts/fans of lifehacking or structural engineers/marketers.

    Of course, your social reach is also naturally limited by

    1. the absence of any localization effort (as a localization specialist I have attempted to reach Buffer several times, but to no avail)

    2. the lack of integration with the main non-browser applications (no reaction to one of my suggestions so far)
    3. the lack of community- and brand-building strategies.

    There are other points I could make, but as a somewhat unhappy former paying user I don’t think you care as much as you used to do when I signed up.

    • Hi there Piotr, thanks for the comment. It’s really great to have your perspective on this, and I’m really sorry we’ve let you down in these areas! I can see how this would definitely play a part in the lower results we’ve been seeing on social. I’d love to see how we could improve here (and to assist with anything for you if I can!)

      • Piotr Burzykowski

        Please hit me up at locworks on gmail. I’ll forward my previous emails to the Buffer team.

  • Jamie King

    First, congrats on your honesty. I feel compelled to comment and your candid reveal prompted me to follow you on Twitter. Second, I think you might be dealing with a case of Quality vs Quantity. Yes, you can catch more views with broader topics on how to improve your life but this is just riding a trend, (that’s fading now,) and does it bring you any real value? I read your blog because I want to know how to use social media to sell more video games. I find great value in your content, I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve started to use Buffer for my posting. Perhaps you face the same problem many of us face with freemium business models – users are great but how do we actually make money? I don’t know the answer to your problems but CTA’s have always been vital and this becomes a product design issue. Check out the ‘Lean’ movement and make a lean canvas. So many startups fail because they don’t understand what it actually costs to acquire a customer. Maybe it’s true when people say “Twitter died, Facebook got old, Tumblr tumbled and who the hell users Google+ anyway? Perhaps the cool kids are all on Snapchat and Periscope.” (Yes I’m a social media noob, so flame away if that sentence upsets you.) At least you have identified people and content that are getting the traffic. That means there is hope for you and as most successful people will tell you, ‘it ain’t magic, it’s 95% hard work and 5% luck.’ Hang in there. I have faith in you.

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement, Jamie! It’s super helpful to see your perspective here, as a Buffer blog reader. It really helps in knowing we’re on a good path with the content – and that the social stuff will come as we keep on working!

  • Maggy

    I’ve noticed a similar pattern. I don’t know if this is the case, but Facebook and Twitter have little incentive to “allow” a popular post to go viral if they know you’ll pay to make it so. I fear that the more we pay to make our content go viral, the harder it’ll become to make it so organically.

    • Hi Maggy! Thanks for the comment! Really interesting point. Feels like a great one to keep eyes on!

  • It’s two fold. Quality vs quantity as the real test is whether your social media traffic makes you money and the second might be you are now big enough to need a dedicated social media management team or leader 🙂 #justsayin

    • Thanks for the comment! Yep, I’m thinking more and more about the latter (growing a dedicated team). Have you found there to be a particular point when this type of growth makes sense?

  • Of all the headlines in my inbox this month Kevan, yours took the Oscar. “We’ve Lost Nearly Half Our Social Referral Traffic in the Last 12 Months” Stopped me dead in my tracks. I read every last word, and followed all the links. I almost never do that. This post is not only informative and insightful, but sheer genius.

    • I came here, because I use Buffer for my fashion photography blog posts. I couldn’t help but to to reply to your “134,000 closest friends.” I do interpret to be an insult to the real “closest friends” in one’s life, who would accept you (and your family) if your house burnt down or some other unexpected emergency.

      If you’re truly and irrevocably lucky to be blessed with “134K closest friends,” then I’ll shut up. Until I’m proven otherwise, my first interpretation remains.

      • Ronald.

        Re Twitter: Of course I don’t have 134k close friends!

        Surely you understand that was a joke? The joke style is known as “irony”. [Quoting Google “Irony: the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect”]

        • I’m an immensely stoic individual, most humor and irony are lost on me. Perhaps if you used closest friends as “closest friends,” then I’d get it. I’m not trying to be negative. I was irked, when people throw the “closest friend” around like it’s meaningless.

          Anyway….I acknowledged the missed irony. 🙂

        • Alex

          Poe’s Law 😉

    • Hi there Jonathan! Wow, so great to hear this one resonated with you. Thanks so much for the encouraging comment, makes me feel really glad to have shared this with you!

      • PapaaSG

        It’s humanizing and very humble of you to admit fault. That’s one thing I always admired about buffer. From the CEOs coming down to the entire team. You’re a very honest group of people. Why don’t any of you guys run for POTUS?

    • Daven Sprattling-Mathies

      Yup, so much this. Maybe you just need to share more posts with “scary” headlines like this? 😉

      • Aha! You’re onto it Daven.

      • SubUrbs Marketing

        I don’t think it’s the “scariness” of the headline – it’s the honesty of it that works.

        • .my classfellow’s younger sister making $97 in one hour Online….……Last weekend I Bought A Brand new McLaren F1 after earning 18,512$,this was my last month’s paycheck ,and-a little over, $17k Last month ..3-5 h/r of work a day ..with bonus opportunities & weekly paychecks.. it’s realy the easiest work I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months ago and now making over $83, p/h..Learn More right Here….
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      • Allison

        I think it really humanizes the brand, because there ARE people behind every brand and company out there. Story is so powerful, and so is vulnerability. Look how many people this post resonated with, you know?

    • Same here. I’m now 10 minutes behind my schedule 😉

    • Same here!

    • Great post! @kevanlee:disqus, teams that test their headlines and images before posting to fans are overcoming the saturation issue you mentioned. Lot easier to engage when you get messaging right every time :).

      Facebook’s unpublished page posts, aka Dark Testing, is perfect for this. The technique is fairly easy to pick up. I’ve attached an infographic for reference on how A/B testing Facebook works.

    • +1 on that. Maybe Kevan just got his mojo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mojo_(African-American_culture) back.

      Confession time:

      – I am not a Buffer customer, but have loved their content for some time, whether life hacking or technical items.

      – I unsubscribed from the Buffer blog months ago because the “fluff” to signal ratio became too high.

      – I came to this post via the Moz newsletter (weird, huh?)

      – This post makes me want to be back the Buffer blog, however I’m still hesitant.

      More things like this will sway the balance. Keep it coming!

  • Jev2DaMaximum

    Go back to the last high point in traffic and find out what you changed, then unchange it.

    • Love it! I’ll see what I can spot 🙂

  • This is a great post Kevan, and as others have said, I applaud your openness on this topic.

    I use Buffer every single day, and yet I have found myself visiting your blog less and less because the content, and style of promotion, has turned me away. I may be wrong, but I feel that the number of Buzzfeed-esque listacle posts have been increasing.

    Tweets and posts that contain messages such as ‘and you can too!’ or ‘how this will change your life’ just make me think that the posts will be largely uninteresting. The titles bear too much resemblance to all of the other BuzzFeed style sites and indeed, end up resembling lots of trashy lifestyle magazines (“At last, a diet that *really* works!!!”).

    Just because more people tend to read listacle type posts, and more people react to images in posts, it doesn’t always follow that every post/tweet should take this approach. I feel that Buffer is becoming a slave to trends/styles that increase engagement *on average* at the cost of not having a clear, unique voice.

    • Hi there Keith

      Thanks so much for the candid response here. I’m so grateful to hear how the blog content has felt to you lately! Really apologize we’ve gone down a bad path with the headlines and sentiment of the articles – that feels like an area I can really improve on.

      Curious to know how this headline felt to you? We’re in the midst of going through a 15-20 headlines per article exercise and it’d be so helpful to know which types of headlines tend to feel best. 🙂

      • Hi Kevan,

        Firstly, it may only be me that feels this way! So no need to apologize. It may be that your choice of headlines and blog post topics have nothing to do with the reason for the decline.

        The headline of this post appealed to me because it is candid and sincere. This fits exactly with Buffer’s values of transparency and openness. It is also factual…no promises or implications for how it will make the reader ‘feel’.

        When you mentioned that you are considering so many headlines per article, I’d be curious to know how many people have input into this. The danger is that you may end up with a camel (a horse designed by committee).

        Regards,

        Keith

  • I’d be curious to see where your newsletter/blog subscriptions are on increase/decline for the same period. With the social platforms changing their algorithm ongoing and making it more challenging to show up in our social feeds maybe you’ll find we are going to the blog/articles directly or from your emails in our inbox as we are more confident to see ‘everything’ compared to very little on Facebook for example.

    So, what’s your direct website traffic & subscription uptake like compared to social traffic for the same periods?

    • Hi there Trent!

      Thanks so much for the comment. These are great questions. 🙂 We’re seeing a small growth in traffic every month, mostly from long-term SEO efforts and search traffic. For blog subscribers, we switched out all the CTAs on the blog to Buffer signup CTAs, so there are very few places to join the newsletter list now. Growth on the list has been flat for awhile now, I’m guessing because we’ve stopped promoting it much. We might be changing that around soon!

      Would love to know if this sparks any thoughts!

  • Adrian Chira

    Hi Kevan, there are several things that I would try. First I would look through the data to see if I really want to have all that traffic and if that converts in users for Buffer. If this is the case then I would optimise the posts for sharing. Since you are using WordPress I would try Viral Headlines plugin to optimise the headlines for sharing. I’d also try to re-share the old articles (it doesn’t matter if they are old, good tips are still good tips especially the ones in the life hacking category). Second I would redesign the sharing buttons. My guess is that you have too many choices. I would go for 2-3 buttons and I’d A/B test them in terms of design and placement. In the end I would re-share at different hours the posts that have the higher share ratio (this can be automated).
    Thanks for the openness of the topic and wish you good luck on nailing the cause and getting back on track.

    • Hi there Adrian! Wow, these are such great & actionable tips! Curious, do you recommend a good WP plugin for sharing buttons?

      • Adrian Chira

        Dear Kevan, thanks for you kind words. Regarding sharing buttons I like the looks and customisation offered by Mashshare but before I’ve used AddThis Sharing buttons and I’ve tried Shareholic that offers other tools too. Now it depends a lot on what other plugins you have installed and your theme because they can interfere with the new plugin functionality or the page speed so here is another thing that I would test before going site wide.

  • Kevan,

    I’ve been an on-and-off reader to the Buffer Blog, because I use Buffer and connect my Twitter and LinkedIn to share my photography blog posts. Someone recommended about presentation and style for the blog. Have you (and your team) consider using another theme? Right now, the blog looks—well, “blog-gy,” if that made sense. Any visuals and content you upload are placed vertically without any room for customization or placement in composition.

    The text (information) area looks like 980 pixels. We’re in the age of widescreens (retina resolution) and broadband access. As I read your blog, there is a lot of negative space on both sides. Perhaps try to find a theme with an option to increase the width? You can make texts slightly larger and more legible on screens with retina (HIDPI) resolution.

    I do think that giving your “blog-gy” blog a theme makeover would be a good try. Perhaps, you could try out the themes internally and see what your team thinks, before pushing the makeover live to this blog.

    Ronald

    • Hi there Ronald! Thanks so much for the comment, this is really helpful to hear! A blog redesign seems like it could make a lot of sense. I’d be excited to find ways to make the blog’s content more discoverable, too, if perhaps a redesign could help in that area as well. Are there any sites out there that you quite enjoy from a design standpoint?

      • For a fashion photography blog, “Devoe” http://themeforest.net/item/devoe-fashion-entertainment-news-theme/11228746 is fantastic. It takes advantage of the fluid state of widescreens. My monitor size is 23″ and the site, content, and text occupied in a pleasing composition.

        I don’t know how the Devoe (for example) would be applicate to the Buffer Blog. Perhaps you can demo the Devoe theme by clicking on the “Live Demo” link. Check out the templates for Full-Width page. Notice how “relaxing” it feels to the reading, when the typography is composed stylistically.

        • I’m sure I’ll get some “grief” for these comments, but I the whole point of this post was about social media referrals to the blog/ Any theme is just “eye candy.”

          In my WP101 classses I strongly discourage (more accurately “warn”) my students about marketplaces such as themeforest! There is virtually zero quality control, since they simply sell themes from independent theme authors.

          Buyer beware!

          I think the Buffer design is minimalist and doesn’t get in the way of the excellent Buffer content!

          And, aesthetics will always be subjective…so you can’t please everyone or you’d be changing your theme and your fonts every 2 minutes!

          I think the bigger questions are those that have already been raised here by many of us: quality of “referrals” vs. quantity, comparing subscriber vs social analytics data, and policy decisions on topic areas.

          • Hi Karen,

            Like everything else in life, “caveat emptor” applies to just about anything and everything. I recommended a cosmetic suggestion for this blog to change it’s style to be more attractive. Let’s face it, “pretty things” tend to hold people’s attention more and increases the chances of reader retention.

            Concerning the independent theme builders of the business model of ThemeForest was on-point. It’s easy to tell, if the designer is good at tech support by looking at the comment section for responses. If customers asked for help on changing font color and it has been weeks or no response at all, don’t buy the template from that designer.

            If, on the other hand, the comment section shows activity from the designer helping their customers, than it’s a good sign of customer satisfaction.

  • Doug Collins

    As someone who is building my companies social media plan from scratch, I understand your frustration with engagement. Part of the problem is the huge shift we are in right now with the current generation.

    Have you seen this? http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/10/16/survey-finds-teens-prefer-instagram-snapchat-among-social-networks/

    While your specific audience doesn’t necessarily reflect the article above, it does show that Facebook is only relevant to a point, Twitter has been losing money, and Instagram just keeps growing.

    Part of me feels like I need a little more experience to be able to give legit advice, but I’m creating something right now, and it will be bold, and testing my plan will let me know if I will be able to help you guys in the future.

    • Hi there Doug! Exciting stuff! I’d love to learn from you on how the bold strategies go. 🙂 Thanks for the WSJ article. Super interesting!

  • Thanks so much, Kyle! Totally agree with what you’re thinking here. Great point!

  • Definitely a good one, Kevan, thanks for sharing! I am curious about the idea of exponential content creation for all eternity… surely that can’t be possible, as there’s an upper limit to the creative capacity for all humans? Anyway, we’re definitely fatigued from content (especially bad content, which is EVERYWHERE), and I’m curious to see where the Buffer team goes next (also, that reminds me, I’m long overdue to apply to be part of your team!).

    • Hi Valerie! Thanks for the comment. Haha, yeah I’m not sure about “exponential” creation, my hunch is we’ve yet to hit the content ceiling though! Would love to hear from you on the hiring page. 🙂

      • I think there’s an upper limit to quality content for sure — bad content though? There might be exponential growth there for quite a while 😛

        Thanks for your support! Need to craft the perfect resume to stand out before I’m willing to take the leap. Can I say it’s a little intimidating to apply to a company you encounter every day? 🙂

  • Well…It certainly looks like you’ve hit the “hot button” with this topic, Kevan! LOL! It’s obviously something LOTS of us are truly invested in figuring out…

    What I’m truly shocked about is the negative feedback about the Buffer blog…from topic “evolution” to the fonts and colors on your blog… :-O

    I have always felt…and still do…that Buffer is the epitome of transparency & business ethics! No one hides behind some corporate veil; everyone is highly reachable, not only through comments, but also via email! I find that quite refreshing and very uncommon in today’s busy “content marketing world!”

    I do not feel your topics have strayed from your core business at all. As I said in an earlier comment on this post, I find them deeply researched, very detailed and extremely useful…or I wouldn’t keep recommending the Buffer Blog to my students!

    I think you are certainly NO failure! the “quantity over quality” metric can cause things to appear that way…but it depends upon your long range goals…and only the internal buffer team can evaluate those…

    I have faith in you and your team… Business ethics will always triumph in my book! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the kind comment, Karen! It’s been awesome to learn from the comments here, I feel like I’ve got tons of new ideas to try!

  • Nick Van de Veerdonk

    Brass balls. Kudos.

    • Haha, thanks Nick!

  • It does resonate. Also, the relatively low value of users who come from social traffic – that’s definitely widespread AFAIK. Thanks for such an honest post 🙂

    • Thanks! Yes, feels like we could do a lot better understanding what happens to those social visits once they land on the blog. Great idea!

  • Insightful post Kevan–really appreciate the honesty and the tips.

    My two cents–I read every one of Buffer’s blogs, but I get them through email subscription. I find social media too noisy to find quality content and rarely click on any articles I see in social media feeds. On that note, I rarely share social media posts for 2 reasons: 1) because doing so would (in my mind) add to the clutter on social media feeds, and 2) the content I read is so helpful and insightful that I don’t want to give away secrets to my “competitors”.

    Just a couple of thoughts on my end. Hope they help!

    • Hi there Suzi! Thanks so much for the comment. Super helpful to hear your perspective on this. Seems like email is a popular medium for a lot of folks – me included!

  • Aurora

    Again, truly inspiring with your transparency Kevan! I actually miss the days when you included the blog post in the email. Most of the time I find myself adding the mail to “To Read”, as I’m not sure if I want to read it yet. When you included the post, I saw if it was relevant or not. Why did you stop including it?

    • Hi there Aurora! Thanks so much for the comment. Awesome to hear you enjoyed the full post in email. I think we might be going back to a hybrid of that. 🙂 We went away from it recently because we saw that it didn’t improve clickthru or open rates in a significant way. Would love to keep testing, though!

  • Hi Kevan,

    Thanks so much for writing this post. I’ve been ruminating about the same thing for months. In fact, last weekI wrote a post entitled “How Social Media Can Hurt Your Business” (not a plug). A lot has changed in the past few years.

    But what hasn’t changed is that the people in our industry still share what we learn with each other and that makes us all smarter and better at what we do: serve our clients and customers.

    Right now Instagram and Snapchat are “working” so let’s all run over there and flood those platforms with our content! I don’t think that simply diving into the next new thing is going to affect the big picture.

    And hiring a full time social media manager, that’s not an option for most small businesses. If they want to use social, they’ll have to pay or leave. And even when they want to pay, it can be an exercise in frustration (Facebook’s ad platform is a disaster as far as I’m concerned).

    But if we put our heads together and keep sharing our successes (and failures) we may be able to figure out how keep social media marketing viable for another few years.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Betsy

    • Totally agree, Betsy! I feel really fortunate to be at a place with Buffer where we can throw resources into things like hiring and social media management. I realize that’s not a possibility for many others!

      I have a tendency to want to rush into Instagram/Snapchat, too (or whatever the latest thing might be). I love your sentiment about rushing perhaps not being the wisest move. It would feel great to gain a deeper understanding from a higher level of social media and see what happens when we apply it to wherever we are. For sure I’ll share any insights I come up with along the way!

  • Delta_26

    Have you A/B tested any of the titles/images/descriptions? Try testing with paid and you will quickly be able to find a winner. How are y’all coming up with titles/topics? Sometimes it helps to step away or get a fresh set of eyes on the strategy to see what is going wrong.

    You can also use Amazon Mechanical Turk to test headlines and see what wins before posting. We have also had some success with AMT folks coming up with headlines that have done pretty well. You can poll your FB users and see which topic/title they would be most interested in.

    • Hi there Brian!

      Wow, these are excellent ideas. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Currently we write 15 to 20 headlines per article and send them around to the team to get thoughts and input. AMT and FB ads could be great routes to gain some more feedback, too!

  • Wow, that scared me for moment, since I use buffer on a daily basis for inbound and outbound networking to distribute my blogs to FB, G+ Linkedin and others. When I stop using it my page views drop over 50%. Great headline which I am sure got everyone’s attention and creative marketing. Thanks…worked better than my defibrillator

    • Hi Gary! Thanks for the comment. Sorry for the scare! Wanted to be as transparent as possible with the headline. 🙂 And thanks for passing along how helpful Buffer has been for your pageviews. That’s awesome to hear!

  • MuchoAroha

    Hi Kevan, I’ve followed Buffer for a long time now – I remember reading about you joining the team. What I’ve always valued is the openess and willingness to share mistakes, admit shortfalls, ask for help (even when you’re susposedly the expert on the subject) and talk about what you’re learning on the journey. This post is a perfect example of this. And these sorts of posts are much rarer and for me they are far more interesting and valuable than tips on social media of which I countless emails and social post about. In saying that, I find Buffer’s posts with social media tips to be well structured, thoughtful and helpful – it’s just that I feel bombarded with emails and posts that offer advice in that area.
    Personally I really admire your (all people within buffer) ability to be true to yourselves and share your successes and failures and everything in between. Social media is too often a fake representation, to project an ideal (perfect) image of oneself or company. By sharing your shortfalls, your uncertaintanties, mistakes and by asking for help you are making others feel better about themselves and their businesses as why realise it’s ok and normal. And we can all learn from each other if we let ourselves.

    • Hi there Lani!

      Thanks so much for the comment. It’s really encouraging to hear how these posts resonate with you. I’m totally up for sharing more along these lines! I think we’re excited to make posts like these a regular part of our content moving forward – there’s lots to share and learn from together!

  • Krista Wiltbank

    I must be the rare bird here, as I followed the Facebook poster to this article. I follow Buffer everywhere I can because I find the content on the social and the Open blogs so valuable. Buffer is one of two companies I follow so intently, and in both cases I don’t much care where I find the content so long as I do find it.

    I wish I had wise words/questions that differ from what has been discussed in other comments. They’ve got it mostly covered. I would ask what Buffer’s overarching goal is with social media marketing (awareness? sales/new customers? email sign ups?) and how are your social efforts working towards that goal.

    Thank you for the awesome piece, Kevan.

    • Hi there Krista

      So cool to hear you arrived from Facebook! Curious, what is the other company that you follow intently? They sounds like a great one!

      And yeah for our goals for social media, I think traffic and clicks have always been the key metrics there, though my hunch is we might rethink things here shortly and see what makes the most sense (would love to report back with any thoughts we have!0

      • Krista Wiltbank

        To answer your question, the other company I follow this intently is Social Media Examiner. I think Buffer’s on par with their quality of content.

  • All these fancy solutions & social media marketers will come out of the woodwork now – you simply need to provide a platform of discovery & engagement for the industry (not just your customers).

    Give them an open platform to voice their opinions as a community, let them share & discuss your content/product – I suggest discourse.org is a good agile feedback tool to start. This will also drive buy-in & viral coefficients. Internally, gamification & NPS needs to be part of your daily growth metrics.

    – @kaymackgee

    • Hi there Kay!

      Thanks so much for the comment. Love your ideas here. 🙂 We use discourse internally at Buffer, and it’s been amazing! Really cool thought to extend this to our community. 🙂

  • Mallory Phillips

    This article is so heart-felt! Totally resonates and I think you hit the nail on the head with whole second point about connecting better. Your “what-ifs” were spot on. Best of luck… to all of us!

    • Thanks so much, Mallory! Means a ton to hear this one resonated with you. 🙂

  • I don’t think visuals have ever been a challenge for your guys at Buffer. I love the stuff you create… But yes Kevan, the old ‘Open Buffer’ posts where you wrote about happiness and productivity are missed.

    There are many blogs which write about productivity, but I think there are 3.5 times as many that write about social media and content marketing. That’s not to deny that your posts are not awesome – the Medium post on social media sharing was especially useful. But I think that by publishing about productivity and life hacks, your audience once again expands to every person in the world who is online. And whoever is online will also use the most popular scheduling tool – Buffer.

    I hope I made sense 🙂

    • Hi there Vishal! Thanks so much for the comment. Yes, totally understand what you’re saying here. It’s been an interesting journey to pivot the blog in so many new directions. Thanks for your support!

    • Hi Vishal, lifehacks and productivity are something I would be most interested in, too :). I loved the recent blog on the Pomodoro technique – very useful! Irina

      • BigCitySteph

        Love the Pomodoro technique… will have to find that blog post about it! Another supporter here for lifehacks and transparency posts. In fact, I just signed up with Trello and saw your sample board on there, Kevan,… reminded me I needed a little Buffer fix- and here I am. 🙂

  • Ross Hudgens

    The thing I’d love to see listed here is the conversion rate of this year’s social traffic versus last year. I’m guessing it’s much, much better and may even make up for the loss in traffic proportionally. How did it differ?

    • Hi there Ross

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂 We’ve not tracked social traffic all the way through the funnel like we should have, which I realize is such bad practice! I’m not sure we’d have the numbers to compare, though we’re working to keep these stats moving forward. You’re totally right, this kind of data would really help paint a fuller picture!

  • Ross Quintana

    Bold and highly transparent post. There are so many things going right for Buffer as company and culture, I have been a fan for a while. There are I think blindspots and some strategic leadership issues though. There are no gimmes in the social world and the landscape shifts.

    I actually applied for a community manager position a while back and was kinda surprised when I was not hired considering I am easily qualified and was listed in the top 3 influencers of Bufferchat. Part of me was thinking, why would you not hire someone already engaging and driving your community forward? Still a head scratch on that one.

    You guys have some really good things going for you, but that is not enough and you need to continue to grow through hiring talent not only in execution, but in strategy and positioning. I personally saw a big disconnect on that one besides it being me but even from a business perspective I considered that a major failure in your hiring process as I was not even interviewed.

    • Hi there Ross

      Thanks so much for the comment. I really appreciate your insights into the strategy and leadership of Buffer’s marketing. Really sorry for the poor experience we caused during the hiring process. I know I’ve personally made a lot of mistakes there and have let a lot of really awesome and talented people slip past. Thanks for your support and perspective on the thread here, it’s much appreciated!

  • We have noticed a similar trend as well, despite having a larger following on all platforms, and working harder than ever to create good social media content. However, one thing you didn’t mention is visitor retention (bounce rates, view time, page views etc.). To us this matters even more than amount of social referrals. Yes 50% less is shocking, and definitely something that can be address, but maybe we have less control over this than we think with social networks…especially Facebook. What we do have control over is engaging the people that would care the most, and providing valuable content for them while they are on our site or blog. These are the people we create content for, these people our our community and supporters, and these are the people that matter. This is what we’re focusing more on now days, and less on actual social engagement and referrals, and it seems to be working…though some things just aren’t measurable unless you ask people directly, like satisfaction enjoyment, value, quality, etc. It doesn’t matter how much traffic we are sending to our blog, if they don’t enjoy the content we sent them do, and don’t feel the value is there enough to stick around and read more, sign up for our email list, or even purchase some of our courses and t-shirts then that matter less than sending less people who are more engaged, care more, read more, and support our business. Something that works for us is focusing on community building. These people are our core group of fans and supporters. Facebook groups are a great way to engage people without having to pay for reach. Create a group based around an interest. This is your tribe. Invite people there from your page and share some content you don’t share on your page, and invite your group to share as well, participation and contribution are key to feeling like part of a community.

    • Hi there Alissa

      Thanks for the comment! These are such great points. 🙂 I really appreciate your sharing so completely, I feel like I’ve gained so many wonderful ideas!

      In answer to your question about deeper stats, I just took a second look at the numbers and see that

      time on site down 8%
      new visits up 12%
      bounce rate down 3%
      pages/visit about the same

  • Amber Kim

    To give you some encouragement, I often see your posts on my newsfeed probably because I visit your pages all the time (Facebook and Twitter). Also probably because I sometimes comment or reply as well.

    I would suggest creating videos. Some that would be useful like tutorials or a storytelling commercial, some maybe more feel good and community building. I see a lot of videos being shared about feeling better about ones body image or solving homelessness or other world problems. Some companies make it a point as well to have community/cause involvement and advertise it like car companies.

    I could see you making a series of commercials about putting down the phone and spending more quality time with family by using buffer.

    • Hi Amber! Thanks so much for the comment, it’s so great to have your ideas here. 🙂 Video is definitely an area we could improve and explore more, thanks for the wonderful suggestions!

  • Rajesh SIngh Saharan

    Traffic down from Google+ is quite understandable, you have not able to get a grip on that platform. Compare to your Twitter page (most prioritized), your response time and engagement is low there.

    I believe, it’s just my assumption, the traffic from pro users have declined, and there can be couple of reasons for that, 1) Lack of diversity in your content style, users who used to click and read you articles in the past know your style and the way of presenting your content is always the same. It’s time for trying new things in your blog posts, a different approach via different authors.

    2) While writing about social media marketing tips, there are posts which don’t go well with the experienced users, like “the best time to post on social media”. These user don’t need the best time advice because they know their audience so well. So they will never bother to click and read your article.

    It’s not surprising actually, the traffic from existing users always go down with time, it’s a natural phenomena. That’s why we target to acquire new users all the time.

    At last, I don’t see the traffic decline from social media as a failure, your email subscriber may have been increased, as it is mentioned by lots of users in the comments. Your branding is increasing all the time when you interact with your audience on social media, show them love and care. And that is helping you in acquiring new customers.

    And finally, content shock is a myth. Yes, the amount of content produced is huge but so is the amount of rubbish content. Now it requires more effort to provide unique and interesting content.

    • Hi Rajesh

      Thanks so much for the comment and for taking time to read this one! Really appreciate your insight into things – the content style and content topics make a lot of sense. I’d love to get more disciplined with writing to personas and experimenting with different styles of posts. Is there any style in particular that you quite enjoy? 🙂

      • Rajesh SIngh Saharan

        Hi Kevan, I don’t read much social media tips these days, but personally I would like to see less outbound links, and sometimes a post looks like stretched unnecessarily. Occasionally, a post which is short that quickly get to the points can be really useful, like some posts from social media examiner I saw in the past.

  • Rikki Ayers

    Great article and very compelling title! Buffer is the king of useful, attention-grabbing content. I’ve been experimenting a bit on social and find that more personal, branded content (image + text, no link) is what people are responding to. I love your blog, though unsubscribed from your l

    • Hi Rikki! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s amazing to have your insight on this – really cool way you use Facebook!

  • Good discussion here. We have to keep updating our strategies pretty much every day Kevan. What did you do today that was different? For example i am adding Tailwind, Social Quant, Social Bro, Medium, Linked In Pulse and Blab to my must do every day things today. I have often offered to help Buffer with social media and have never really pressed the point because I think you guys are doing OK. We could nearly all be doing better

    • Thanks, Michael! Really appreciate your thoughts here. Love how you’re pressing the edge with the new tools and networks – that’s definitely an area I could improve!

      (p.s. how are you liking Blab?)

  • Colum Donnelly

    Ciao Kevan, what an enlightening post! You went through a perilous path: the headline caught my eye, going through the comments makes me think you may have found the way to work out those losses.
    Actually, I read the blog because of the updates I subscribed by email. And I have noticed how the blog has changed: I’d love to read about happiness and productivity, which are two precious topics I miss.
    And by the way, this is the first time I comment a post, even if i’ve been enjoying reading Buffer’s blog.

    • Hi there Colum! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s really good to hear from you, and I’m glad to know a bit more about where you stand with Buffer content. 🙂 I appreciate your support!

  • Sylvia

    As great as this article was (and I completely resonate with feeling like there’s always so much catching up to do with the shifting landscape of social media), I think the comments have been so wonderful to read! It’s amazing to see great minds come together to share expertise and unique insight. Kevan, it was brave of you to share about this “failure,” and I admire your ambitious perseverance as you set out to face this new challenge! And kudos for Buffer for truly embracing transparency and encouraging their team to continually grow and take risks!

    • Hi Sylvia! Thanks so much for sharing this. Agreed, the comments have been fantastic! I feel like I’ve picked up so many great ideas and learnings from the wonderful conversation here. 🙂

      • Sylvia

        Kevan, you’re awesome for taking time to reply to each comment! Again, thanks so much for sharing this article…really great to see the community come together to support you, Buffer, and each other! We’re all learning!

  • Hi Kevan,

    Firstly big admiration to you for your honesty and been so upfront. For someone who wants to grow my audience it can get very daunting when you see all these influential streams showing massive follower and share counts and I have the odd tumble weed stopping by but your honesty shows that even the best in the business run into that brick wall. I get the buffer blog to my Feedly account every day and personally I think you and the Buffer team do a fantastic job in providing what I feel is key when providing content, relevance. Nearly every post I read will help me on my digital and social journey and I know it is relevant and matters to my audience. Yes, we are completely bombarded by so much content and with new channels such as Periscope and BLAB even I get overwhelmed and get enticed to try them out. As you have said in previous posts constantly test what you are doing. I do think you will always have numbers of people who just fall off but I have no doubt like me you have a devoted base of fans and advocates. I use Buffer for all my social scheduling and have linked it now to TwitShot so that I can schedule tweets and posts to Twitter and my Linkedin feed which attaches an image from the article I want to share.

    Final thing Kevan. If you think you are doing a bad job then god help the rest of us. Respect and sincere wishes from Ireland 🙂

    • Hi Phillip! Thanks for the comment, this is so great to hear! I’m really grateful for your sharing how things go for you as well, it definitely feels like we’re all in this together. Excited to keep churning out useful articles for you and others – I’d welcome any thoughts, any time!

  • Its about talking TO people, not talking AT people, that is why video streaming is so important…

    • Chris Barrows

      I’m not sure Blab is going to drive social clicks – but the audience is right since it’s still mostly marketers on it.

  • Hold a Blab and see what happens…

  • Hi Kevan, thank you very much for such a thought-provoking article. You are raising many important issues which are topical for millions of businesses around the world. That is, how to stop the loss of social traffic with all the most recent algorithm updates and other similar issues.

    Can I just humbly add several points here. These are only my personal opinions, nothing else:

    1. One of the biggest reasons why I chose Buffer is because it is an excellent and simple tool to use that easily stands out from the crowd. I have spent time looking at maybe 7 – 8 social posting tools. Buffer came at the top, hands down. I believe Buffer’s founders stick to their instincts and intuition every time a big decision has to be made. Keep doing it. It works – at least for people like me.

    2. I fell in love with the Buffer Blog! I try to read every single new post on your Blog, for their informational value and presentation in a calm and peaceful way, avoiding traditional internet-marketing hype. In a world where everyone tries to “scream and shout”, the way Buffer presents its information is super-valuable for people who simply want to learn.

    3. Consider quality of social traffic versus its quantity. Obviously, you want more traffic because you want to boost your income. My example: the last two months of this past summer I spent doing a huge social boost to my Facebook page. I used a very good tool that gave me a chance to see the top content from Facebook which I could then share to my followers. I was posting something like 7 – 8 posts per days, shared from other popular FB pages. I had many likes to them from my fans. And it was great to see my engagement rates increase. However, this approach: 1) took a lot of my time, 2) was sending traffic to other FB pages, 3) generated only a few extra likes to my own page, 4) virtually didn’t increase income to my business.

    4. My main lesson from point 3 above is: I LOVED engaging with my fans. But most posts weren’t “on message” and weren’t “on target”. And not promoting my products per se. So, all the time I spent was pretty much great fun, but little monetary value. So, it is important to know what we are trying achieve by boosting our social traffic.

    5. It is great to see lots of inspirational quotes floating around Facebook. After doing it for around 2 months or so, I do feel there was a great overload of it for me personally and I have now moved away from it. I only follow several pages, like David Wolfe and Lissa Rankin, who I resonate with personally. And try to avoid most others.

    6. My personal opinion: there is a lot of self-righteousness and “moralicity” in many social media posts who are meant to be popular and increase engagement. In other words, these posts touch upon human emotions (but sometimes in a very preaching way). But they can also drive people like myself away. I am here to learn in a calm and hype-free way on how to use Buffer to promote my business :).

    7. I used Canva for several months and it is an excellent tool. But it does take time to create images there. I love the fact that you can save your designs in Canva and edit them later.

    8. I absolutely love Pablo for its simplicity! It is spot on. It is genius to limit the choices of tools we have and focus on the message itself, not the design. Interesting that you brought up an example of Brain Pickings. I love that page! Maria uses very few design tools with very simple graphics. Yet, her posts are very popular. Probably, because her true fans love it the way it is and don’t want anything different.

    9. I have read so much criticism of Twitter recently. And yet – I like them the way they are. Maybe, their founders also follow their gut instincts when taking big decisions. They don’t want to become another Facebook – because what is the point? Twitter fans love it for the way it is, not because it is trying to emulate Facebook or any other social network.

    10. Following on from point 9 above, I love Buffer the way it is. You are unique in your own way. And maybe that is the reason you have been so successful so far. Make sure not to break something that works :). Because your fans love you for what you are. Not for trying to copy whatever others are doing :).

    These are only my persona opinions, of course!

    Hope this helps,
    Irina

  • I really like and agree with a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk’s ideas about social media and how it has changed the dynamic of communication.

    I do believe that shifting the way we tell stories and what we share have a large impact on engagement.

    I think Buffer has a really good concept of how to communicate with people and how to share ideas. It is quite evident that you follow your own teachings, from A+B testing posts to personalizing responses in social interactions and including buffer team member names.

    I see these practices and the culture that you are developing around the brand as very unique strides in the marketplace, a style that seems to be adopted by some of the most socially active companies.

    Buffer adds a lot of value through their content and I think that is one of the things that is very apparent and keeps people engaging.

    The coolest part is that you genuinely care what we have to say and are excited to use our input to develop your products and services, true engagement.

    • Hi there Joe! Thanks so much for adding your thoughts here, this is really great stuff! Love how you mentioned Gary Vaynerchuk’s approach – he’s definitely one that we take a lot of inspiration from!

  • Hi Kevan, Thank you for writing this and being so honest! I am curious to know if the drop in social traffic also corresponded with a drop in new customers/reduced conversion? Lots of traffic and views are nice but meaningless if they are not contributing to gaining new customers/retaining existing ones.

    • Hi Victoria! Thanks for the comment and question. 🙂 We’ve not seen a dramatic dip in conversions from the blog. Things have been pretty steady there, and maybe even slightly on the rise!

  • John 316 Books

    The reason I quit using buffer was because it wasn’t posting the photo or picture with the post and almost all of my twitter posts have a photo.

    • Oh, yikes! So sorry for the trouble we caused there. That’s no good at all and definitely something we’d want to fix for you. Have you found another solution, or is this something we can look into again?

  • Matt Aunger

    Really interesting, and humanising post Kevan. As someone who has struggled for years to find the most effective way for brands to work organically on social, I absolutely understand your concern and frustration here.

    If I can be honest for a moment. I think one of the biggest omissions on Buffer’s social activity might be the ‘social’ aspect. I bet if you studied your stats you’d find that your most engaged time of the week on social is Twitter, on a Wednesday during #bufferchat.

    If it were me, I would try to find ways to engage real people in that way, all the time. Social can’t just be about broadcasting, it’s a two way street. You have to find ways to show people you care, and to get social on social.

    I hope that makes sense. Hit me up if you have any questions, or want me to clarify anything. You know where I am, and I’m always happy to help!

    • Great point about #bufferchat, Matt! That’s a really interesting one – it’s almost like the intersection between community and marketing, or maybe it’s all one and the same!

      • Matt Aunger

        Deep!

  • Agreed, these kinds of scary proclamations catch people’s attention because it’s all scary! It’s all real. And it’s good to face reality and what we can do about it. You could have gone with the usual “how to”, but you didn’t. We must not hide or deny our failures. It helps others to face their own. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Violeta! Great to hear your take on this (and totally my fault on omitting a pinnable graphic!). Yes, definitely still seeking answers and “how to” for this one. We’ll report back with anything we find!

  • Mike Bygrave

    As others have mentioned, this headline stopped me in my tracks; surely that in itself is revealing!

    There’s a lot – too much – generic social media advice around, so it’s tough to convince readers that what you’re saying is somehow different. I’m almost scared to visit my Pocket list nowadays – I’m filling it up far faster than I can read it!

    So, for me at least, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from your post:

    Firstly – the shockingly (in a good way) honest and personal headline has just worked. So perhaps a little more personal insight and a little less general advice is the way forward.

    Following on from that and your comment about how some previous less targeted posts worked well, perhaps it’s time to move on from listicle-style “13 things you really should try” content into smaller, more personal, broader-spectrum posts. They offer something a little bit different, which in the current climate of content-overload is both refreshing and noteworthy.

    I always value your advice, but in this post I’ve valued your opinion. It’s like when we say sell benefits instead of features; you’ve just resonated with me and (I guess) thousands of others who sometimes feel like we’re floundering in a sea of good advice, by showing that you face the same problems and uncertainties that we do.

    Anyway, good luck with your quest! I’m already looking forward to a post saying “Remember that problem I had? Here’s how I sorted it out”.

    • Thanks, Mike! Can’t wait to write that post myself either. 🙂

      Really appreciate your thoughts and ideas on this. The personal/advice-driven posts have been something on my mind a lot these past few days. Would love to continue hearing from you about the content that resonates for you!

  • Hey Kevan – let me know if you want to have another call. Shoot me an email 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Peg!

  • Thanks for this, Kevin.

    Seeing a decline in social media referrals is always difficult, especially when you can’t explain why. I think you’re right with most of your assumptions as to how you can improve your referral rate. Your vying for the attention of your community with so many other brands and people, it’s tough to stand at out. As with all aspects of marketing, your content is so important. This includes the blog post, the status on social media, and the visuals appearing on people’s timelines. Social Media users are very quick to scroll past content these days, so not only do have to grab their attention, but you also have to show them that what you are sharing has value to them. Not an easy thing to do with a limited number of words / characters.

    I think Facebook’s paid reach is so powerful and will absolutely increase your referral rate if you get your targeting right. I think pushing Pablo 2.0 on Facebook would be huge, especially if you targeted writers, who are always looking for visual content to accompany their writing online. Native video seems to be the most effective way of reaching people organically at the moment, but this won’t necessarily lead to increased referrals as they user stays within the social media site. This could increase referrals / new customers in the long term though.

    Thanks again for sharing this post. It’s not easy to talk about one’s failings but you’ve got a community of wonderful people with great expertise who I’m sure would be happy to help and give some great advice.

    Best of luck with your experiments to increase your return from social media.

    Mick

    • Thanks so much, Mick. Your insights here are so helpful!

  • Spot on, Kevan. We also noticed this trend (our clients are publishers & blogs) as well. We also might have cracked the issue partially through a series of specific, data-driven promotion tactics.

    We saw mind-blowing growth (80%+) in social sharing activity even for largest magazines.

    In a nutshell they track how stories spread from one sharer to another and when a specific pattern emerges in the data, they hit the big red button and promote. Kinda like a small-scale Buzzfeed strategy.

    Happy to share our insights & see if it’s applicable.

    • Hi David!

      Wow, that sounds incredible. I’d totally love to learn more from you on this. I’m at kevan-at-buffer.com if email could work?

  • Rohan Ayyar

    “We’re failing on social media because we’re failing to adapt as fast as the social networks are.”

    No! You’re failing on social media (actually, you just think you are but you aren’t) because you’re falling prey to what’s known in the SEO industry as “chasing the algorithm.” The social networks are themselves trying to adapt to changing social behavior, but algorithms have a long way to go before they crack the anthropological code.

    So Buffer, why this new-found obsession with vanity numbers? Instead why not try and zero in on how much revenue social traffic is bringing in? And see how it compares to other traffic sources on that front?

    Then there’s the question of the meaningfulness and significance of content, social or otherwise. Kevan, you mused that “What if we had a Facebook page that felt so uniquely valuable, personal, and intimate that our posts arrived in the News Feed as frequently as birthdays and baby announcements?”

    Exactly! Birthdays arrive just once a year (per person); baby announcements, even less. If you want your posts to be as special as a birthday, write once a year. If you want them to be as dear to someone’s heart as a baby, post once in a lifetime! (Okay, twice or thrice.)

    Not to throw stones at glass dreams, but don’t forget that the birthday posts in your feed are from *different* people. A person can never give all that importance to just one other person, far less a brand. Read that again.

    Instead, think “What if every time someone thought of creating an original post (as opposed to re-sharing) on social media, they recalled an insight or two from our blog and used Buffer to create and schedule the post?”

    You talked about those 5 or 6 “Maybe” scenarios. Maybe this, maybe that. But maybe you ought to stop placing so much importance on connecting to a larger audience and start focusing on connecting more closely with a segment of it that is more receptive.

    In 1758, a scholar named Samuel Johnson wrote, “Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are negligently perused.” That was two and a half centuries before @markwschaefer realized the same thing about content.

    Wherever a product is involved, “content” becomes synonymous with “advertisement” because with all this content production, what you eventually want is for people to use your product. That’s why they call it content “marketing.” So, just like advertisements, content consumption “peaked” long ago. Or maybe, it never peaks. And there’s no guarantee that “beautiful, shareable visuals” won’t.

    Just maybe, social sharing itself has peaked (thankfully, I am seeing less cat pictures). There is a limit to the size of new audiences that will be interested in Buffer’s content and maybe people are getting better at finding good and relevant content (such as Buffer’s) overall using more pertinent, less noisy media than social.

    Because people consume only what they want to, when they want to.

    In a nutshell, there isn’t a solution to your problem. But then, maybe, you don’t have a problem.

    • Hi Rohan! Wow, this could be a blog post all its own! Thanks so much for the awesome advice. I feel tons better having read your thoughts here. This is amazing!

  • Ryan Magner

    Even though the “Share just to share” type of post doesn’t have an explicit CTA, it does have a link, and that link is to your profile. And on your profile is a link to your site. Give people some no strings attached value enough times, and they’ll start digging deeper for more.

    • Great point, Ryan!

  • Julie Scheurer Graff

    Love the transparency here, sacrificing yourself in an attempt to be more helpful to your audience (and no doubt bring in truckloads of traffic). I’ll be watching to see what works for you guys. Everyone thinks social media is easy, but you are proving that it’s not!

    • Hi Julie!

      Thanks so much for the feedback on this one. Yes, it’s been really great to see the response and the comments! Excited to try some new things here. 🙂

  • Maybe you’re measuring the wrong thing? Is ‘reach’ really what you want? Better to find 10,000 potential customers of Buffer than reach 100,000 people who won’t ever buy…

    • Another way to look at this… when you create more generally helpful stuff, maybe it goes viral and you get more traffic. But it’s not deep content (so it’s not super useful to your actual customer base.)

      Or you create content that IS super helpful to your actual customer base, making your product more valuable to those who actually pay for it (or would pay for it.) But that content isn’t super interesting to the general (non-paying) public.

      Those who are, or could be, customers are happier with the newer stuff. But it doesn’t get nearly the same reach.

      If this is your situation, you’re doing it right, even if you’re referral traffic is cut in half.

      • Melissa

        As a paying buffer customer, can’t say i agree with this theory. I used to enjoy the old topics more than the new, more specific ones. I commented in more detail above but essentially — i use buffer because it helps me manage social because social is not my entire job… i want to be efficient and quick with my social updates and buffer helps me do that. While im very into marketing and productivity, im not a social media geek. 🙂

        • Great to know this Melissa! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

          • Melissa

            Absolutely. Question – you’re working on your “audience,” have you considered (or are you already) doing one-on-one interviews with readers/customers?

          • Great one! Not currently, though I’ve thought a lot about taking a customer development approach to the blog (Qualaroo surveys, 1-on-1 calls, outreach, polls, etc.)

          • Melissa

            I can’t emphasize enough how valuable it was to do even a small handful of one-on-one interviews in addition to wider surveys. You’d be amazed at what you learn in a conversation that might never come up otherwise.

            I’ve led this kind of project at several companies now, and am always pleasantly surprised by how much you learn actually talking to customers 🙂

          • Yes, this! I’ve been applying the methodology from Ryan Levesque’s, “Ask” book to both a new market we’re looking at and with our existing customers. It has been really awesome for me to hear in their own words what their challenges are, what their day is like, etc. It has completely removed the stress of coming up with content for a vertical I really don’t know anything about.

      • Great one, Scott! Yep, I’d say we’ve leaned more toward the deep content with the hope that it would be more useful for social media marketers (a core demographic for us). One risk of that was reduced reach, which it appears has arrived!

        (We made the switch about 18 months ago)

        • Rachel Speal

          Kevan, I know this article is bit old; I actually use Buffer but almost never go to the blog. I found this article through Buzzsumo.

          Anyway, what Scott is 100% right. Nothing matters except ROI. While you’ve changed the angle of your blog, I think you’ve failed to tie your content to your users/prospects specific social marketing problems. And possibly your headlines aren’t strong enough.

          I think you need to go back to the blackboard and check who your real customers are, vs who you think they are. Perhaps the demographics have changed since you began.

          Once you know that, you can get a better handle on what problems they have, and connect your connect to that.

          Anyway, hope that doesn’t sound harsh. I am a customer of Buffer, and have been for many years. So I am happy with you guys…I just don’t see how the blog adds any value to what I – as a copywriter and marketer- need.

    • Stephanie Mulrooney

      My thoughts exactly – losing traffic isn’t necessarily a bad thing if that traffic wasn’t adding any value to your bottom line. Life hack content might go viral, but does it really convert people into Buffer users?

    • Jon Hogg

      No answer from Kevan…strange.

      • Seems to be responding in fits and starts. Most (but not all) answered of “earliest” comments. Not mine (yet), though…. Switch Disqus feature to Oldest and see for yourself.

        • Haha, yep, trying to get through them all! Sorry it’s taken me so long, thanks for hanging in there. 🙂

          • I deleted my five-day-old comment(s) from here, as my thoughts did not appear to be of interest to you (the post author). But yes, this one (from yesterday) remains.

    • Hi Scott! Great point, love the way you’ve phrased it. I’d say that sales/conversions have remained consistent if not risen slightly in the same timeframe.

      I think perhaps selfishly (ego-driven maybe?) I’d love to figure out social media reach as it’s a question that comes up quite often for us. And I seem to be learning through the great conversations here that maybe there’s nothing to figure out? Or that maybe figuring it out simply means seeking the 10,000 targeted folks rather than 100,000 general ones?

  • James Davidson

    I believe the recent Facebook experiment with letting all your friends and digital acquaintances see every like and comment may be responsible. It certainly curtailed my online activity. People are sensitive to their grandmother tapped in to every conversation or socially expected response they make. Go figure.

    • Makes sense, James! I think I’m right there with you. 🙂

  • Thanks for the reference to Content Shock. Most likely your problem is caused by a a complex cocktail of causes but information density is almost certainly part of it. Content Shock it is not a theory, it is happening everywhere and fast.

    It’s easy to see why Facebook referrals are down — Overall Facebook visibility for your content is probably dramatically down. The average organic reach for most businesses declined by more than 30 percent in 12 months. That’s cataclysmic. Why did this happen? FB expalins that the average user can see more than 1,500 stories a day. FAR too much and it is growing worse. So, they have no choice but to severely edit what users see — starting with businesses like us. That is an accutrate and compelling example of the current econimics of content and Content Shock in action.

    As a marketing strategist, I have been obsessing over a solution to this for the past two years and the result is a brand new book called The Content Code. This is the antidote for Content Shock (and it features Buffer by the way!). This book has been helping thousands of people and it woudl gve you a good start. I would be happy to send you a copy to help you and my friends at Buffer get back on track. It will help you define the problem and introduce you to six possible solutions.

    • Hi Mark! Thanks so much for checking this one out, it’s so great to have your thoughts on this! Really appreciate your kicking off the content shock conversation. That’s been so helpful for me in so many ways with blogging, social, and much more.

      I’d love to check out The Content Code! Sounds like it’s full of some really amazing insight – can’t wait to learn from you and see what we can implement and test on our side!

  • Barry

    First off, I love Buffer. Second, how is it you, of all companies, don’t have someone full-time on managing paid and free social? I would taken that as a given.

    In both realms, I’ve found that, like everyone else, social engagement (free and paid) is about story telling. Whether it’s sharing small parts of your larger story using content you created or content created by others, it has to connect. For me, Buffer is tool that allows me to do much more on social channels than would be able to do otherwise. Getting that message across to prospects should be a goal that is high up on the list for you.

    • Hi Barry! This is so great to hear the value of Buffer for you. You’ve put it so well – your quote could go straight on a landing page. 🙂

      Great point on the full-time roles, too! We’re moving fast in that direction currently (hiring a full-time social media manager and a paid ads person). Excited to share the impact those new folks make!

  • Larry Kim

    well, the loss of google+ traffic might be related to the decline of that platform. Google+ is the only social platform that we decline on traffic every month (see attached) So that huge decline on G+ probably has nothing to do with your efforts.

    • If you don’t know what you are looking for, as a new business Google makes it impossible to even find the post feature. I was hoping collections would take off but not true. Though it’s declining it’s still some of the best traffic for Avg session duration.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Larry! Makes complete sense, G+ has definitely been on the decline for us. I think we’ve shifted quite a bit to focusing on other networks!

  • @kevanlee:disqus, I’m here because my friend @markwilliamschaefer:disqus shared the link to this post on Google +, yes you read that right, I said Google +! People are there despite it being deemed a ghost town complete with tumble weeds rolling through it. I’ve always been a huge Buffer fan, and continue to use it on many of my accounts. The number one thing I love about Buffer is transparency, you guys rock! Honesty is always the best policy no matter what. Please tell Courtney hi, I met her when she worked for Raven.

    • Hi Jason! Welcome! So glad you were able to check this one out. 🙂 I’ll pass the good word along to Courtney!

  • Jay McCauley

    Great, honest, transparent post Kevan – Just like always 🙂

    This was very surprising to me when I saw the headlines, seems like traffic from your social channels was your bread and butter. But after looking at some of the comments, I wonder if it does have something to do with the number of email subscribers you’ve got. Would be interesting to see a comparison between traffic driven from newsletters vs. social.

    Also, I do miss the productivity/life hack posts as well. That was sort of the icing on the cake, because you already share so much great stuff about social, those other types of articles were sort of like ‘we know you rock at social media, but look at this other awesome stuff they know so much about too’.

    Also, seems like I’ve been getting more and more notifications that there’s a new post on Medium from Buffer – is that something you’re putting a bigger focus on at the moment?

    Cheers,

    Jay

    • Hi there Jay! Thanks for the comment. Great questions here. 🙂

      Social is still a huge source of traffic for us, second only to SEO. Here’s the chart from Google Analytics (see attached), I’m not fully sure that Email is being reported correctly (my hunch is that some email traffic might be in the Referral section, too). Currently it’s 100,000+ from social, 3,000+ from email.

      And yep, we’re excited to ramp up our Medium strategy also! Currently it’s a lot of republished content from the blog. We’d love to see how that goes over and maybe expand from there. 🙂

  • Great to see a company willing to share their challenges and data on something like a social media traffic drop – especially considering the business you’re in!

    I’d say that it’s probably a combination of factors all occurring at once.

    1. Content overload, as you say – it’s one reason for the resurgence in email newsletters, and summary tools.

    2. The switch in the content you’re sharing – from general productivity which would have an almost endless potential audience, to content which is more targeted to marketers.

    3. Content shock/Twitter becoming an endless broadcasting medium rather than one for discussion and following links to interesting articles, plus the switch for a lot of people to ‘just’ being on social media and not reading blogs/articles as much.

    4. Google+ declining, Facebook organic reach declining and more visual/video content, which also works better on mobile (if you’ve got decent connectivity).

    • Those are great ones, Dan! Thanks so much for laying it out here so clearly. Totally agree with the points you’ve made here!

  • This is a great post, I notice that this was going on for a while but nobody talked about it, I guess this is the kind of post that you mean when say that content so compelling to go directly to url twitter.com/myacount , right?

    • Haha, I hope so, Francisco!

  • Leos Stehlik

    Kevan, in my view Buffer’s blog is one of those I enjoy reading most nowadays, and that is even more true for your posts.

    That said, I am not (and most likely never will be) a regular reader. Additionally, as much as I enjoy Buffer’s blog content, it is not enough to make me engaged in commenting, sharing, or even just give like on Facebook or Twitter – which is something I do impulsively if I feel like it.

    Let’s be honest – social media in my case are – and I’m sure that’s the case with many other founders / CEOs – probably on 3 – 5 % of my time to focus at? And for those up to 5 % of my attention span, boy there’s some tough competition!

    Reading all the above you may wonder, so why you comment now?

    First and foremost, to show you support. The content on your blog is unique, and a lot of value there. I see from Buffer’s other posts, you are now obsessed with metrics a bit more than usual. You will see going forward whether or not this is the right thing or not for your company.

    Second, this post itself resonates with. Our non-profit organization was (still is) way down in terms of reach / engagement / number of sessions / unique users compared where we were 2 years ago – we’re down almost -90%.

    What did it mean for us? In our market, we were down from a small online media to a niche player. And that was a good thing in the end, it helped us discover who we really were.

    • Hi Leos! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s so great to have your support here, and thank you for sharing so transparently how things have gone for you. This is all so helpful! Excited to reflect on this and see where we can go from here!

  • Blair Warner

    People like stories. I was attracted to read this post because the title sounded like I was going to read a story, and I was not disappointed. Keep it up!

    • Awesome! Thanks so much, Blair!

  • Hi Kevan — I find that posts that talk solely about social media tactics are among the least interesting to read. Perhaps others are feeling the same way. It used to serve a purpose, but now it’s like talking about your TV rather than what’s on it.

    Social media is part of life now — people know how to use it and for those who don’t, there’s bucket-loads of content already out there. The examples you give about those who are knocking it out of the park, Brain Pickings and Gary Vaynerchuk, both have a unique voice and deliver it in a unique way. This is what it takes nowadays IMHO — and doing it in service of a well-defined audience that you need to reach to push your business forward.

    • Great stuff, Paul! Love this line: “it’s like talking about your TV rather than what’s on it.” That’s such a great analogy!

  • You are so, so not alone. We contemplated deleting our Facebook page (like Copyblogger did) because it just seems like a dead zone. But then again we do have some referral FB traffic and have been playing with ads. Let us know how the improvements/tweaks go (like adding in Click to Tweet) in an updated post: I’m all ears! You guys are awesome to be this transparent, BTW. I’ll be sharing.

    • Thanks so much, Julia! Would love to report back with anything we find. It’s great to have your support on this!

  • Have you considered the possibility that you may have just reached a saturation point with your target audience? There are only so many professional social media practitioners in the world. And those people only have so much bandwidth for reading content about social media marketing.

    Once someone has made the decision to use Buffer, or not, how likely hare they to continue to engage with your social media marketing? They might click on a link to a post or two. Or they might share a Buffer marketing post with their network because they are exciting about their new shiny tool but that wears off rather quickly.

    I suspect that Buffer’s business is starting to mature. The land grab for the business of social media practitioners is nearing an end. Anyone who needs a SMMS has chosen an SMMS. It’s possible that you’re now entering a new phase where you need to pull customers away from competitors or develop a new, adjacent product, if you want to continue to grow.

    This is just a hunch of course as I have no idea what your KPIs look like for the business. Food for thought though.

    • @mikelangford:disqus you make a great point here!

      I think at some point have seen enough from a brand and they don’t need anymore to be convinced to buy from them or “Like” them.

      We all know who Coke is so seeing their posts on social is kinda “in the way”. But if they can do something cool and disruptive that’s where they stick out.

      I think of the guys at Will it Blend (Blendtec). Horribly boring product, but they’ve made it exciting to see posts.

      In social media there are so many of us saying the same thing that I think people in our space are sick of seeing the same thing over and over.. hmmm

      • Great point, Scott! Love what Blendtec has done and I think I can learn a lot from the approach they take! (not specifically with blending things but rather with a novel, unique way of doing content) 🙂

    • Great stuff here, Mike! Thanks so much for sharing these ideas. I’d love to think on them, my hunch is that a lot of this could be at play with what we’re seeing on social referral traffic and Buffer Social content in general!

    • Rhiannon C.

      Yes, I was going to ask how your traffic from other sources is doing. Maybe people are now invested in the blog and don’t need a FB notification or something to get there. They just have it in their daily tabs they open or on a feed or something. Maybe lower social media isn’t a bad thing, if everything else is increasing.

  • JK Mikals

    Although I appreciate Buffer, and especially your articles, Kevan, I find myself not reading things Buffer sends me nearly so much as I used to. Why? Well, overwhelm is a big reason. I really don’t need the stress of being told I have 21 Things I Must Do on Monday, 10 Things I Messed Up On on Tuesday, and 100 Tip Top Suggestions I should pay attention to on Wednesday, more on Thurs, Friday, etc. etc. Less can be more. And I would love less.

    • Thanks so much for this feedback, JK! Super great to know this. 🙂

  • @kevanlee:disqus But what about your organic traffic? How’s that doing? It doesn’t take too much fuel to invest in the fire of organic.

    • Hi Nathan! Great one, yeah we’ve seen organic traffic rise, a lot of which is through organic search. 🙂 Definitely one we’re excited to continue with as it seems like a great source for us!

  • Radhika

    I don’t find your content anymore. My thought also says people have less time to read it should be more ” shoot to the point” where they get a tip or update to engage them….

    • Makes a ton of sense, Radhika! Thanks so much for sharing!

      • Radhika

        Like the new calendar , waiting to try it

  • Here’s another maybe:

    People found your blog through social media (say last year) and then subscribed to it. They read it from elsewhere, have it bookmarked in their browser or whatever so they are no longer clicking from the social media post.

    I think your blog is great and clearly Buffer is growing so I wouldn’t get too down about it.

    xoxo

    B

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Bridget! That’s a great point about direct traffic – I know I visit a lot of sites that way myself!

  • Dustin J. Verburg

    An honest and heartfelt post if there ever was one. It’s tough to keep up with all the changes, especially when your audience themselves can’t really identify the changes, either. I love frogs so I don’t like this metaphor, but I think it’s akin to our amphibian friends in pot slowly brought to a boil. We might not know what’s happening until the moment has passed.

    “Sharing just to share” is a fantastic idea I need to take to heart, as well. It’s easy to plug a link, but tougher to create great content specifically for a social media platform.

    • Hi Dustin! Really great to hear from you. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this one!

      The frog metaphor rings true for me – I find myself worrying that I’ve missed the next big wave and it’s too late! I think there’s probably a bit of that fear in this post where I’m not sure if maybe I’ve missed something big. Feels great to have all the comments here to learn how others perceive things. I’ve picked up a ton of insight!

      • Dustin J. Verburg

        I gained some great insights from these comments, too. Certain trends and little twists/turns might pass us by, but we can’t let the FOMO (as the kids/listicle sites call it) keep us from forging ahead, etc.

  • For regular businesses, I see a lack of reciprocation.

    So Buffer, CopyBlogger, et al have become trusted sources. There’s not a whole lot of promoting you need to do for people to find and share, IMHO.

    But small businesses and bloggers do too much promoting and not enough time plowing.

    Does that make sense?

    We can’t all expect to have an instant audience. We have to plow the ground (like other people’s posts), plant seeds (comment and share their posts), before we can expect them to also read and share our things.

    This is especially true because of what you pointed out — a mass of content.

    But we have relationships with people. When we care about people, they will care about us. When we invest in people, they will invest in us.

    This is something that I think Buffer excels at. There’s no reason why you’d have to answer every tweet, host a chat, or even send out swag. We pre love you. But when Nicole or Oscar or whomever replies to our tweets and now even Facebook posts, then we feel heard, recognized, and appreciated. It’s the Maslow’s hierarchy.

    And so now what happens is loyalty and that goes beyond logic; it’s emotional.

    You can’t possibly spend an hour a week on Facebook then expect people to share your business posts. It’s not going to happen.

    xoxo
    B

    • Thanks for this, Bridget! Makes a ton of sense. I think it’s really smart how you’ve laid out the distinction between small biz and larger ones!

  • Kevan, you son of a bitch! What a great and honest article. The title really grabbed me because I already respected Buffer. Now I’m sold.

    I had two overwhelming thoughts:

    One. Kaila nailed it. People subscribe if they adore content. Pocket has a theory that the Internet needs a Save button. (https://medium.com/@nateweiner/the-internet-needs-a-save-button-db6c8c416038#.xthtmjso8) People can’t devour all the content when they want. They’re distracted, busy, scattered. Ever consider shifting back to snail mail or forward to analyze saved numbers from Pocket?

    Two. Sharing link-free content makes me think of Vaynerchuk’s jabs. (Especially since I’m re-reading it for my own business’ good now.) Give without asking for people’s time to click out to your blog. You’re right-hooking more than people can stand.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Awesome thoughts here, Dan! Love the idea to look forward to Pocket shares. I see that we’ve got that as an option in our floating share bar, looks like 362 folks have saved this article! 🙂

      Totally understand with the right hooks, too. That makes a ton of sense. It’s a super interesting one as clicks is such a key metric for us on social and when there’s nothing to click in a tweet or update, well, haha I’m not sure! Maybe it’d be good to rethink the metrics that matter to us for social!

  • Kevin, it has always been true that MANY people “share” (via various social media sites) the posts of what I characterize as their friendz. Often they don’t read/review before sharing (because their is a quid pro quo factor in there).

    Ergo, when you get a person who (at least initially) faithfully read all of the “shared” posts from a perceived “influencer” (whether that person’s or those of their friendz) who starts to say, “Hey. This post isn’t that great. Why is s/he sharing it, given it’s of a lesser quality”….the “belief” that the “influencer” is looking out for your best interests (particularly from a business point of view) starts to fall off.

    I share a LOT of posts from the Buffer blog (both on my own accounts and via @PRConversations). But I don’t share all of them. Not because they quality is less, simply because I curate primarily for a public relations and communication management perspective, so the ones oriented towards (straight) marketing or sales, etc., are of less interest.

    I do think you could stand to “engage” more–particularly with people you don’t know (who compliment you on your thinking or writing and tell you how they are going to implement ideas into their own organization). Don’t fall into that trap of only engaging with The Internet Famous. Look to the (actual) clients or potential Buffer users, instead.

    • P.S. Personally, I am NOT a fan of “Click to Tweet” quotes within an article. I find them disruptive to my reading (scroll) AND I don’t like being advised what to tweet about (within an article).

  • Vignesh Subramanyan

    Hi Kevan,

    Great post and like many others have already stated the title truly did stand out as it appeared in my inbox. I think there is a slight decline in social media referral traffic in general just because of an excess of “noise” (just an opinion, so take that with a grain of salt). Personally I’ve been a huge Buffer fan and I get most of my content delivered via email nowadays because Twitter has become “less optimal” to curate content.

    – That being said, I think your point (#2 I believe) about engaging with your audience could be a great starting point. I’ve found that most brands that spend the time having conversations (rather than primarily sharing content) tend to see great results. Not to suggest that Buffer doesn’t engage on social, but maybe you guys have to really crank up the volume?

    It would be interesting to test more engagement and less content on Twitter for example. Try it for a few weeks, and measure the results. One of the brands I worked with in the past had someone engage only on Twitter 4 hrs a day and it yielded terrific results.

    – Another possibility is that social tends to get so crowded that maybe people favorite or “save” the content for later and just never come back to it. One of the reasons I switched to subscribing to blogs is because I have a designated folder that I can always go to when I’m ready to consume content. Whereas on social, I may find a great article but I’m not willing to step away from my task at hand and I just never get back to it.

    I can’t say this is a widespread practice (using email to subscribe) but I would be curious to see how much your email subscribers have grown in comparison to social referral traffic. Maybe Buffer posts so much “dynamic” content that folks prefer to sign up for it via email and don’t depend on social channels as much.

    – Lastly, bite size video content is always a great way to catch people’s attention. I’ve always seen excellent tips / tricks on Buffer’s YouTube page. But perhaps the “all work and no fun” trend of videos isn’t appealing enough. By this I mean, adding some variety to the videos you publish.

    A previous comment talked about how the “life hacks” content was a refreshing change of pace. Maybe something similar in video could work just as well. A short 30 sec clip that’s fun, informative and engaging could work wonders on Facebook for example. Snagajob does a great job of striking a balance between fun and informative video content (https://www.youtube.com/user/snagajob).

    These are just a couple of possibilities to check out, but I’m looking forward to seeing the results that you & the Buffer team share in the future. Cheers!

    • Wonderful ideas here Vignesh! Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts. I totally get the “save” idea you’ve mentioned, that really resonates with my experience too!

  • Just a suggestion you may not have considered yet: your analytics might not tell you the entire story. In-app sharing and the following traffic is often not properly measured by analytic tools, so you Google Analytics may be dealing with more and more ‘dark social’ traffic, which they don’t recognise, and tag as direct traffic. See also: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/29027/dark-social
    If you don’t have the SEO/Analytics expertise inhouse to deal with this, feel free to reach out.

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Erik! Totally hadn’t thought of that one yet, super interesting. We’re currently hiring for a full-time SEO, so that could be an awesome project to tackle first!

  • Ross Richendrfer

    I continue to digest Buffer’s content frequently and find it as high-quality as ever. However, I don’t tend to generate much traction when trying to start a conversation about that content with the Buffer team. Not sure if that’s a parallel issue, a me issue or part of the problem you’re facing. Even so: it’s worth mentioning that Buffer seems excellent at thought leadership and experimentation, but there’s still room to grow its footprint in conversations–real back and forth–on those topics it has so much to share on (especially on Twitter where much of your content that I comment on is, well, Buffered, so you aren’t always around to follow-through on the response your post generates). That’s a tough challenge as the lifestyle element is a key selling point of Buffer–go live your life, we’ll help run your social while you’re doing so–but ultimately from a corporate POV, I’d encourage you to seek out space for that deeper, more reciprocal form of engagement.

    Let’s face it: Buffer is cool! And people want to feel like they’re a part of the culture Buffer champions. I know I do. The more you can let people in, the more brand ambassadors you create and the more people you get who are invested in your content and its success.

    Buffer isn’t just a company anymore, it represents a culture, a lifestyle that’s on the cutting edge of the new age of work. That’s increasingly tangible and attractive to people. It’s a bummer that your traffic has dipped, but ultimately your USP has a durable appeal. I’m fully confident that the Buffer team will continue to generate enthusiasm among its followers. You guys do great work, keep it up and the people will come.

    • This “I don’t tend to generate much traction when trying to start a conversation about that content with the Buffer team.” is true for me as well.

      I’ve noticed that what I get out of Twitter (or any other social platform) is what I put into it.

      If I am not there to engage, thank, respond, people stop sharing, retweeting, etc. as well.

    • This is really, really great for us to hear, Ross (and @MeetAna:disqus!); thank you so much for sharing this feedback with us and encouraging us to rise to this challenge. Deeper, more reciprocal engagement feels like a great standard for us to meet!

    • Thanks so much for the comments, Ross and Ana! This feels like a place I can improve a lot with. That’s such an interesting point, too, about how the Buffer product fits with the emphasis on followup and conversation! Such a big topic to unwrap! Thanks for kicking off that part of the conversation here. 🙂

      • Ross Richendrfer

        Any time! Happy to be part of your feedback loop. Best of luck moving forward.

  • Maybe the better question is, how are your conversions doing to Buffer? If that has dropped, it might be time to seriously get busy with improving your social media traffic. If not, you may just be creating the kind of content that may not go viral, but hits home for your customers and thus, your business.

    • Great point, Kristi! Thanks so much for sharing that insight, I think you’re exactly right. We’ve not seen too big an impact on conversions, which is great. I’m maybe a bit slow to allow myself to be okay with social traffic declining! Really appreciate your perspective on this. 🙂

  • Hello Kevan,

    Great post and, once again, thank you for being so transparent.

    One idea I have for the blog is this. Your posts are too long. I stopped reading Neil Patel’s content for that exact reason. And many people seem to agree.

    Your posts are awesome but, as a curator and a social media coach, I know most of my clients and readers don’t have time to spend 20 or 25 minutes digesting them. So, I don’t recommend them as much as I used to.

    Now, if you broke down your content into two- or three-parters, you wouldn’t have to come up with new ideas as often. However, you would still be able to publish with the same frequency. The result? You would build more momentum and loyalty and have more time to engage with us or spread the word.

    There is too much content out there and people’s attention spans are getting shorter. You need to cater to that change if you want to continue enjoying the success you deserve.

    • Hi Cendrine! Really great to hear from you and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here! I’ve been thinking lots lately about article length, feels like such a great one for us to consider. Thanks for the nudge

  • Chris Barrows

    While the value of clicks cannot be understated – it’s important to consider the engagement (or – shall we say – conversation) component. Empowering through ambassadorship programs is something I’ve always preached and I think it holds true here.

    Based on the response to this blog – it’s clear you have a group of people willing to share and converse – give that to them – and they’ll drive your content more than you can possibly imagine.

    • Chris Barrows

      I’d add that there’s also a LOT of missed opportunities at conferences (in particular, you’d make a killing in higher ed – as I’ve suggested prior).

    • Hi Chris! Thanks for the comment. This is really great stuff. I’d love to understand a bit more about how your ambassadorship programs have worked in the past. Curious to learn what those have looked like?

      • Chris Barrows

        Ambassador programs can take many forms. I’ve utilized them for my work at NYU – as well as for my podcast. At the core of the idea is the fact that you empower your community to share your content – while providing value in return.

        It’s a win/win – and it helps grow your overall social influence and reach.

        • Sounds fantastic! Thanks for the additional detail, Chris. 🙂

  • Hi Kevan! This is a super tough thing to admit having happened but I am sure it’s not you (re: imposter syndrome!!) It’s so brave of you to share this, thank you! I’m not a business user of Buffer, for me it’s about improving myself through becoming a source of knowledge on coding stuff, and I chose Buffer because I identify with your values of self-improvement and live smarter, not harder, and Buffer helps me do that. So, I love your productivity/lifehacking articles and felt they were easier to share than social media marketing based ones because they would add more value to my followers (who are mostly keen self-improvers too, and because people seem to want a vision of how to be themselves but better). Just my two cents. Keep up the awesome work – I know you’ll turn this around! 🙂

    • Hi Katie – thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. That makes complete sense about the types of content that are easier/harder to share 🙂 Really appreciate the chance to connect with you here!

  • Ryan Hops

    Love the openness and wouldn’t expect anything less.

    I’m curious if the number of conversion from social to buffer users has remained flat (or grown) despite the fact that traffic has fallen. Buffer’s content has become VERY targetted towards SM and away from some of the more fun/sciency topics. Wonder if you’ve just lost the extraneous traffic and not your core base?

    • I think that’s a great observation, Ryan! We’ve seen conversions stay pretty solid despite the drop, so my hunch is that we’re attracting possibly a more targeted group of folks, which is exciting!

  • The one thing I miss here is has the decline in traffic resulted in a decline in the key action(s) you want visitors to take ? It might just be that the “right” people are finding you now. I’d also want to know if unique visitors were growing or repeat traffic was down ? There are so many levels to delve into, which I am sure you guys are doing.

    Thanks for sharing this, though. I think it’s important that those of us who work with marketing share the downs with the ups; it’s part of pushing the conversation forwards and trying to find ways to succeed together. To be social, if you like.

    • Hi Jon! Thanks so much for the comment. Yep, we’ve seen pretty good numbers on unique visits still, and the repeat traffic has stayed pretty consistent also. 🙂

      Really happy to have been able to share this and for the great chance to connect with you and others on the topic!

  • So many great comments. I apologize if I’m echoing something that has already been said.

    Are you happy with your blog stats overall? Are you still getting as many views as last year (or more)? We all want to be great on social so that we can reach our audiences. Why bother trying to be great on social if you’re already engaging with your target right here on your blog?

    I come straight to your blog for news (plus I get your newsletter). I don’t look at the Buffer Facebook account because I know that it’s probably just going to direct me back here (where I want to be anyways). In terms of the Buffer Twitter account, my interaction comes during #bufferchat.

    Between the blog (and blog comments) and the Buffer slack community, I’m getting everything I want in terms of engagement.

    Who are you trying to reach on social? New people or returning users? I bet if you polled blog readers, you’d find that a lot of us have you bookmarked.

    We all want to be good at social media. Sometimes we forget to ask ourselves, to what end?

    • These are such great questions, Allie! Thanks so much for adding this to the conversation. I think I can improve a lot in thinking through these and coming up with good answers – it’s not something I’ve spent enough time with in the past! Really useful to hear your flow with Buffer blog/#bufferchat/etc, too!

  • Lisa Irby

    I’ll admit. I don’t read a lot of social media marketing posts these days because many seem to be recycled.

    I prefer the more vulnerable posts like this where I know there’s an actual human on the other side and not some machine just pumping out content. So congrats on a job well done with this post. It’s refreshing to see this from a website that has such an established presence. This is rare. So maybe there’s a lesson there for future posts, eh?

    I think people who have been following social media marketing blogs for awhile now are probably getting immune to all the same content and there’s sooooooooooooo much out here now, it’s hard to absorb everything.

    But I can tell you one thing, if you guys continue to post real stuff like this, I’ll probably read, share and comment more. I just shared on Google Plus, by the way!

    I’ve learned from my own blog that people tend to enjoy revealing posts that talk about failure because they seem more relatable. Thank you so much for being honest and upfront about your experience with social media recently. Really enjoyed this, Kevan.

    The revealing title alone is what got me here (from Twitter).

    • Thanks so much, Lisa! It’s great to hear from you, and I love the sentiment you’ve shared here. Feels like I’ve learned tons from the response to this one, and we’re really excited to carry this forward with future content!

  • I’ve been running into the same issue – it’s becoming a struggle to get any traction for any of my clients lately. Personally, I think social is changing. Not only has Facebook become a completely different beast, but people don’t seem to be engaging with brands or publishers on Facebook as much as they were a few years ago.

    Strangely, I’ve had the most luck simply pinning blog posts to Pinterest. It became the #2 source of traffic (after SEO) for a popular career blog I managed.

    • Thanks for the comment! Really interesting strategy with Pinterest, so cool to know it’s worked out for you!

  • LaughingBubba

    Hi Kevan, congrats on yet another quality article. I’m curious, do you track rss readers? What are they doing? Why? Because I’m one of them and I note Feedly recons you have 27K followers this way.

    I was also able to quickly find and compare the equivalent post for this time last year ( https://blog.bufferapp.com/optimal-length-social-media?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=optimal-length-social-media ). Yes the shares are down 50% but comments are up 100%. Isn’t that a better measure of engagement? An indication you’re doing something right?

    I thought it interesting you chose to highlight Brain Pickings (another one I follow on rss) as an exemplar of organic growth but Ironically doesn’t engage in discussion or analysis even on FB.

    I will say however Maria is the master of resurfacing her previous content by picking themes and referencing older posts this way without being “If you liked this post, try these …” in your face about it.

    On this subject, have you considered stitching together an e / Books based on some of your well presented and thoughtful content? A lot of that stuff is timeless unlike the click bait junk posted by many sites.
    Cheers

    • Thanks so much for the thoughts here! Great point on the RSS readers, we have the 27k followers and about 10 percent of that are actively reading the posts, which is awesome. 🙂

      Thanks so much for digging back into the post from a year ago! Super interesting! Yes, the new engagement does feel really good to see. That’s an awesome perspective to have. 🙂

  • Sherman Smith

    Hey Kevan,

    I’ve noticed a big decline this month in blog traffic compared to earlier this year.

    But I believe you are on to something. Ealier this year I was engaging much more compared to now. Opportunities started to come my way and leads started piling up.

    But last month I took a couple of breaks from engaging and that’s when the traffic add started to drop. So now I’m pushing myself to get back into the engagement rhythm plus other changes I want to make.

    Thanks for sharing! I thought I was the only one.

    • Great plan, Sherman! Thanks so much for sharing your experience here so vulnerably, that makes a ton of sense. Wishing you the best with the engagement and traffic!

  • What if everyone is automating their social media feed and no one is listening?

    I really think it is the social media platforms algorithms pushing businesses toward having to pay for reach… outside of Facebook Video – because they are going after Youtube’s market share.

    • Interesting stuff, Rich! Can definitely see that being a possibility.

  • Kevan

    Thanks for your insightful and thought provoking post.

    I think Mark Schaefer nailed it with his book about content shock (The Content Code). There is just too much good content to keep up with and too much bad and sophomoric and repeated and repurposed content blocking the way.

    For my 30 or so favorite influencer blogs (Buffer is one of them), I try to read as much of their content as possible. I have them in segmented folders on Feedly, I have them in segmented Twitter lists, I have liked their pages on Facebook, and I connect with many of the authors on LinkedIn.

    I do all of these in hopes that I won’t miss a post. But, I still do. The feeds and the streams continue to overflow and make it difficult to filter out the “best of the best” given the limited time I have to read.

    So, as a backup, I also subscribe to my favorites by email. Getting your readers to subscribe to your posts by email seems to be the holy grail of connections. However, my gmail runneth over, too.

    These emails are not spam. I do not delete them until read and possibly shared. However, they are bacn. I asked for them but still don’t have the time to open and read them all.

    In fact, with all the things I do above to try not to miss the wonderful blog posts from Buffer, Grow, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger, and many more, I find myself more often turning to Flipboard to let their algorithms show me what to read based on what I have read before. Then I get the “best of the best” and the “best of the rest.”

    And, I don’t think shorter posts are the answer. Shorter posts may provide fodder for ideas, but their lack of depth does not provide me the how-to and an advanced education in social media. And, that is what I seek from blogs about the social web and that is what you provide with the Buffer blog.

    Thanks. Keep up the great work!

    • Hi there Denny

      It’s really amazing to have your thoughts on this. Your workflow with checking those blogs is really fascinating to learn about – I’d never really considered Flipboard before!

      And great point about the length of posts. It’s so interesting to think on both sides of this one, seems like there’s lots of pros for both! Would love to hear how the content continues to feel for you if we end up evolving one way or another!

  • I think the quote by Mark sums it up – there’s just a TON of content, it’s flooded, the content expansion is really too much. You need to have absolutely amazing, breathtakingly valuable content to get out there. Why? Because everyone else is, PS. You guys do, so I was shocked by this. – J Hunter

    • Thanks, J! Yes, Mark has such a good feel for things here. Excited to keep learning on how we can improve!

  • Ben Morel

    I always love the transparency of Buffer articles and this one is no exception. But I do have one big doubt.

    You worry that you’ve lost nearly half your social referral traffic in the last 12 months, but note that you’ve moved from general lifehacking content to social-media specific content. So, essentially, you’ve moved from appealing to a broad audience to a niche one who are much more likely to want to use your product. My doubt is that this is a bad thing. I’d be really interested to know how engagement – bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit – are looking.

    If you’re getting to more of the right people and getting to fewer of the masses it may just be that this huge reduction in traffic is actually a good thing.

    • Great point, Ben! Yep, I think we made the transition with this very thing in mind: moving toward well-qualified traffic for what Buffer the product can do (and seeking for the blog to be known as a source of social media info).

      Interesting about the decline, we made the content topic transition about 20 months ago, and the full decline was evident within the past 12 months. Not sure if maybe we were still seeing some residual social effect of those past posts or if something different is afoot!

  • Marti Mendenhall

    Dear Buffer: I love you! I reguarly retweet your tweets and ready all about you from you. I have two ideas on how to get referral traffic, at least from Buffer-lovers like me.

    1. Every once in awhile – ask your fans (like me) to recommend you to others. I do this anyway – but if I knew my tweet/post would make a difference for you – I would gladly help.
    2. Regularly connect with users like me! Every time you reply to a mention, or a tweet that I send about you, or tag you – I THRIVE on that contact. It makes me feel like you are the company that cares. It connects a true connection. Perhaps ask each of your fabulous team-members to read your followers daily, find out what your users do – and tweet back to them – to someone on a daily basis. FOLLOW them! Why? Loyalty – Recommendations – A sense of Family. Then ask us to sing your praises!

    Just sayin’ – Marti Mendenhall #MusicBizPdx #PdxJazzSinger

    • Hi there Marti!

      Thanks so much for the comment. These are really great ideas! I love the thought to reach out proactively to the people that follow us, that seems like such a wonderful way to connect with an audience. I know I’m always tickled whenever someone I follow mentions me directly!

  • There is definitely a saturation of content, publishers are getting better at making better content but there’s also a definite update in video. If I have the choice to read or watch a video with the same instructions. I’ll watch the video. The new social/seo is video.

    • Great point, Carlos!

  • C’mon Kevan, stop fishing for compliments 🙂 The competition for attention is getting harder an harder. Yet while you stay true to your company’s philsophy of openness, others have lost 90% of their referral traffic and still keep selling social media success stories… would be interesting to have some comparison. Maybe this kind of openness inspires others like your postings usually do 🙂

    btw: I deeply believe that “treating social media actions as an afterthough / prioritizing them lowly” is the right course. Users do good share content anyways.

    • Thanks for the comment! Makes a ton of sense, I think we’re still lucky to be in a great place in terms of the volume of traffic we continue to see from social. Would love to learn how others are faring, too – I think the topic is a really fascinating one to uncover!

      Super interesting about the “afterthought/low priority” mentality. I’d love to reflect on that one!

  • Betsy Finston

    you probably started losing traffic the moment you bought ads. Facebooks alorithim seems to respond to % of engagement. Facebook itself does not sell fake traffic, but the clickfarms send so much traffic to cover their tracks, that as soon as you buy clicks, it floods you with everything. this feels great, until you tank your engagement % and the alorithim squashes your distribution. social marketing seems kinda like a catch 22 right now.

    • Super interesting point, Betsy! I don’t know too much about ads just yet, so this feels like a great one to keep in mind as we explore this further!

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  • Lisa Van Engen

    Love your honesty. It’s encouraging to me.

  • Oren Barzilai

    What about the average / total shares number per post? meaning if on average each post use to get 100 visits and now it’s getting 57, is it for the same number of shares? or the shares ratio also declined in a similar ratio?

    • Oh, good point Oren! Yeah I think the ratio has dipped slightly – we see fewer shares per post while traffic has stayed steady.

      • Oren Barzilai

        So if traffic stayed ~steady per post, maybe you should focus on improving the share ratio. Also since it went down across the board it’s not fb new algorithm or something like this.

  • augieray

    I really respect the transparency here. What marketers need to understand is that organic content in social media is a terrible marketing channel for most verticals. We keep chasing success and it keeps getting further away. We shouldn’t be surprised–social is a channel where the consumer is in charge, and really, how many consumers visit Facebook or Twitter to hear from brands rather than from friends, family, peers, celebrities and the like?

    People want to tell me all the time how wrong I am, so I ask them to participate ina simple exercise: Estimate how many brands are in your life on a monthly basis. How many are in your refrigerator? Your cupboards? Your closet? Your medicine cabinet? Your devices? Your desk? Your vehicle? What would you guess–500? 700? More? Now, out of that number (and excluding media and entertainment brands where content IS their product), how many of those would you welcome a content-based relationship? How much time will you make for branded content in social media and your email? I have never had anyone tell me they’d regularly welcome content from more than ten brands–and most of those overlap from person to person (Apple, Android, GoPro, etc.)
    We keep acting as if our brand’s content will be better and more engaging than every other brands’ content, but we’re not competing against other brands–we’re competing against our customers’ friend and family in social media. It’s no wonder brands cannot compete. As a result, social media reach for brands is dropping. Traffic from social to brand sites is dropping. And this means marketers are wasting a lot of money chasing pipe dreams.

    Maybe it’s time to get serious about what customers want–really want–and what is actually available to brands in social media. What consumers want is responsiveness, not broadcasted marketing messages. They want customer care, not one-size-fits-all sales-generating posts. They want brands that care about its customers, not brands that use social media only to acquire prospects.

    I’ll get off my soapbox, but if you want a data-driven approach to what is wrong with social media and what companies need to do about it, I invited you to read: http://www.experiencetheblog.com/2015/08/burn-it-down-start-from-scratch-and.html

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here, Augie! Really interesting stuff! I think I’m right there with the others – I probably would only welcome content from 5 or so brands!

  • Sarah Goodall

    Great post and I don’t think this trend is specific to you guys. In my experience, brands sharing content via their own brand channels is in decline. It comes down to trust. People trust content from their peers and like minded experts more than brand channels. I believe that advocacy is the long term strategy here. Enabling brand fans to share content = further reach, better engagement and more clicks. Just my humble POV

    • Great point on advocacy, Sarah! That seems like such a valuable path to go!

  • senios

    I think you touch all the reasons. Your blog and service obviously was dominant in the scene when there was not enough content or even not enough good content. Obviously, everyday, more and more blogs and posts about social media are created. That means more sources about the more and more who are interested in social media.
    I see it from myself. Lets say i want to share 3 articles. Before a month i was following less sources so i was doing higher number of shares per single follow source i have.
    I also think that people constantly do a fair rating of content that comes through their eyes. Everyone has to keep improving to hold his position in the social media universe.
    I also deal with small business and there is a war of small and relevant vs the big and irrelevant. There is a swift worldwide to smaller more localized services and products that are more relevant to what is happening to everyone’s local universe. There is enough literature to share and link in every language now. There is no real need to share English posts for worldwide consumption of social media needs

    You had a big part of the pie. Now despite the pie is bigger you just have a smaller part.

    • Makes a lot of sense! Thanks so much for the followup here!

  • Tad Miller

    First question. Any correlation with traffic declines and switching to a secure site (https) ?

    Second question: Any correlation with increases in Direct traffic at about the same time as the declines in social traffic?

    • Hi Tad! Thanks for the comment. These are great questions:

      1) Traffic has stayed steady and increased slightly

      2) Seems the biggest change has been a surge in search traffic 🙂

      Would love to know if this additional context brings anything to mind!

  • Melissa

    Hey Kevan,

    As a long time buffer fan, I’ve got some thoughts to share 🙂

    1. You’ve probably done a pretty good job of penetrating the market. I’ve been following buffer since the early days, use buffer both personally and professionally (have been the reason 2 companies signed up for paid accounts!) and advocate it to anyone who will listen. But whereas i used to read every single blog post buffer shared lately…. i don’t. Social media isn’t my whole job, and whereas the other topics could be applied to other parts of my life and other parts of my job, social media specific topics limit how applicable they are to me.

    2. You asked, “What if we had a Twitter feed so compelling that
    people wouldn’t just hope our tweets showed up in their timeline but
    they would go directly to twitter.com/buffer all day every day to see
    absolutely everything we tweeted?
    I’ve done this for only one twitter feed ever (@TFLN) so that’s a high goal to aim for 🙂 that said, if anyone can do it, you can!

    3. You said, “What if we had a Facebook page that felt so uniquely valuable, personal, and intimate that our posts arrived in the News Feed as frequently as birthdays and baby announcements?”
    I follow several pages and groups like this on facebook these days. They’re almost all around my hobby (dog training) rather than my job — but the groups i follow get hundreds of posts a day and comments on almost every post. Threads with 200+ comments are common. Like, really common.
    A local dog trainer (yay small biz!) has also had a good traction getting seen by students – because they care about what she’s talking about. She’s nailed social media in the traditional sense – people care, so facebook shows the content.

    Not sure how helpful that all is, but still thought I’d share! I’d be happy to talk more about any of it, if you’re interested. 🙂

    • Really helpful to read all this, Melissa! Thanks! I’m so glad you went into depth on the “what if” scenarios for the post. I wasn’t quite sure if either of those were even attainable! So awesome to hear the examples from @TFLN and the FB groups of how success has worked there. 🙂

      Tons of great food for thought here! I’m excited to soak it in and see where we can take things. 🙂

      • Melissa

        Happy to share more on either, if you’d like. Feel free to reach out – melissa.breau@icidigital.com – and we can chat. I can even make intros, if you were to do a case study or wanted to profile some companies making it work (which would do double duty! you’d learn more about it AND could share the story on the blog).

  • Honesty is important and valued, but you know what else is valued? Deep connections.

    And you don’t get deep connections because you seek out deep connections. You get deep connections organically, almost (but not always) by chance.

    Human nature can only be algorithm-ed so far.

    Buffer, I respect your culture. I like hearing about how you’re open and respectful of each other and sensitive to diversity. But that’s me. Others may not share my interest.

    You need to pick an audience of one, and speak to that audience. Whether you get one reader or one million readers, that is your deep connection. Get to know them. Don’t just ask for their input – inspire them to respond.

    • So great to hear this! Thanks so much for the inspiring words. Deep connections would be amazing, and it’s so cool to get your thoughts on how these connections happen. 🙂

  • Your posts are too long, way too long – breaking the rules you’ve laid out for others many times – and you’re not focusing on the right things, but just numbers.

    • Makes sense! Yeah we’ve definitely strayed from best practices for content. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on what feels good as a reader and for what we could be focusing on with the numbers side!

  • Another explanation may be that that the more Buffer becomes a thought leader on social media and content best practices, the more competition you’ll automatically have.

    If every marketer starts using Pablo for their social media pictures, for example, what once was a good way to make your post stand out suddenly turns into the exact opposite, especially if the content you create targets that same industry you’re giving away your secrets to.

    Does this equal failure? Not at all! Thought leadership is a lot more valuable than that 10% of referral traffic!

    • Great point, Federico! That’s such a wonderful example on Pablo. I think we’ve seen that in some ways with a lot of the best practices and types of content that we write for the blog! Excited to keep iterating and improving what we put out there. 🙂

  • One reason followers go elsewhere might be that they’re bored, simple as
    that. I see more and more social accounts that used to be entertaining
    and interesting becoming advertisment machines with no personality.

    It might be time to stop with the clickbaits and robotic chase of followers.

    • Great thought, Martin! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  • “I’m failing on social media because I’m failing to adapt as fast as the social network themselves are adapting.

    I see a couple roads forward:

    Pay for more reach on social media.
    Get better at connecting with your audience.”

    Um….dur.

  • Adrijus Guscia

    What about Facebook Retargeting? Are you guys collecting Audiences and then showing articles to them? That would keep traffic from it coming and would get shared to new people.

    • Hi Adrijus! Thanks for the comment. That’s a really great one – we’re just getting into the paid ads side a bit more, and retargeting is definitely on the agenda! Would love to report back what we find to work. 🙂

      • Adrijus Guscia

        You mean you haven’t yet used Facebook Pixel to tag the audience? With that kind of traffic already? Jesus.. no offence but that is just huge mistake and doesn’t show you guys being good marketers.. writing content is just part of it.. real marketing is more than articles…

  • opedmkt

    Google Analytics can be finicky when it comes to accounting for source traffic. Just make sure you’re including t.co (Twitter) and the mobile version of Facebook and other platforms in your numbers, as mobile browsing is way up.

    I believe social media traffic is down across the board, but down 45% seems an awful lot. I say this because a lot of your posts from last year should be ranking higher for certain keywords, so when people Google these keywords and land on your blog to read them, a lot of readers will also share these blogs on social media, thus compounding your social media traffic for this year.

    Before you try to rethink content strategy, I’d just have someone dig deep into the data to make sure there’s not something skewing the numbers.

    • Thanks for the extra thought here! Makes complete sense on the Google Analytics side, I’ve always wondered how mobile traffic might fit in there! Would love to take a closer look at things and see what we can dig up. 🙂

      • yaacov goldstein

        Just to add to this (great post by the way) GA doesn’t necessarily recognize referrals from apps.
        This means that any social traffic originating from mobiles apps rather than social sites will be classed as Direct traffic not Social.
        If Direct is up and social is down, you may not have performed as badly as you may thing

  • Katy Melancon

    I’m not a social media expert, but I know that the best way to skyrocket your “reach” is to post interesting content for your influencers (the autority companies or bloggers that will refer your services or content). Writing for your customer is a good way to “keep your customer loyal”. Writing for influencers is a good way to get “shared content” and “new clients”. Sorry for my English skills, I’m a French copywriter.

    • Great stuff, Katy! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Nash Fargo

    A couple years ago I started a blog, and according to Alexa, brought my traffic into the top 1%. But even though my content was popular, I spent a lot of time guest blogging and commenting on other sites. Otherwise, regardless of how good my content was, I was quickly forgotten without constantly reminding people and driving traffic to my site. I believe it’s exponentially more difficult today.

  • RRSnel

    I follow Buffer on Twitter as I am trying to learn about social media sharing too. But my experience with Twitter, and Facebook, and LinkedIn is that I just don’t have time to read everything!
    I put off using Twitter for years and even now only follow a select few because otherwise it really is information overload. My Twitter checking goes like this: Quickly scroll down to see if there is anything really important that catches my eye. Feeling of relief comes when I get to the end and don’t have too many articles to read. Maybe it’s just me who actually doesn’t want to have to read much! So headlines such as this one will catch my eye as it is honest and very unexpected. Normally though I will read what Buffer have to say on the tweet, then scroll on :/
    Come to think of it, Social media has gotten too stressful!

    • Thanks for the comment! That’s such a great description of your social media flow – I feel quite the same when I read certain sites where it really is a bit or relief if I haven’t added too much extra to my Pocket account by the end!

  • Kevan— perhaps the key here is that people have forgotten what is fundamental and runs through the heart of what social media is about — not marketing our “stuff”, but being social, i.e. actually taking time to make connections and build relationships — properly — in the online world.

    Instead social media today has become yesterday’s banner ads — interruption marketing where every post about our content just adds more noise resulting in yet more ignorance of it.

    Perhaps if we took time to do the hard miles of making connections and building relationships of value, for relationship-sake, then social media would become social again — founded on the well-built bridges between us, not rickety structures we try to drive our bus across.

    • Well said, Peter! Thanks so much for sharing this. 🙂

  • Normally it’s coffee, but this was the jolt that sparked my morning today Kevan. I’ve been having similar thoughts about Social Media’s evolution but you broke it down concisely to the tee. Thanks for this amazing post. Wow!!

    • Hi there Al! Thanks so much for the comment. So glad to hear that our story resonates with you. Would love to hear any ideas you come up with for what to try next!

  • I am very interested in this conversation, as I just listened to Mark Schaefer opine on the Mitch Joel podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, this week about the effects of exactly what you all are experiencing here at Buffer. There’s a lot of panic from marketers and other content creators on the Internet right now, but I think that a lot of the content shock issues that are arriving, will be overwhelmed by one of two things : One, consumers of content will stop paying attention and “bad” or poor quality content will cease to be produced. Or, two there will be a tech innovation (algorithm or something) that will open up more of the infinity that the Internet really is.

    • Really interesting predictions, Jesan! Those seem totally likely, I’d personally be super curious to see an algorithm that makes sense of all the great content that’s out there. The thought about consumers turning away from content makes me slightly nervous, though I think that could ultimately be a great thing too as the quality content will continue to be valuable for people (and more easily found)!

  • Refreshingly honest. Admittedly I am one of those “lost” audience members. I used to adore Buffer’s content and I am still an advocate of the app, but I hadn’t fully considered why I had stopped engaging. Here are my thoughts: onsite content saturation & lack of time to engage (fewer click-throughs or social interactions because I knew I didn’t have the time to spend onsite so I have paid less attention to social posts), text preceding over images, and the departure of Beth. I agree you need to have a dedicated SMM manager and I also think the blog needs some fine tuning.

    • Hi Nicole! Thanks for the comment. It’s so useful to get your thoughts on all this. 🙂 Thanks for the deep reflection on how the blog has changed over time, that’s incredibly helpful. Do you feel that the topic or focus has led to any dip in interest for you? The length of the articles or the publishing frequency? Sorry for all the questions here, I’m really eager to learn what you think!

  • Here are two graphs that visualize the data. You can see how not each author garners the same amount of shares (each dot is a posts). Over time the amount of shares per social site (facebook, twitter, google+, linkedin, pinterest).
    *i pulled the data from buzzsumo and recognize that shares do not equal traffic but do not have access to the actual traffic data. Also who shares is going to make a difference but do not have that data either.

    • Now you need to take each post that has the most shares (ideally traffic as well) and promote it on that platform. Then when they do come you retarget those people. Then spend the money to promote the next several top posts to those people. Use the content you have and let it work for you more.
      When they get to the post make it much easier to find the next post. I shared this with http://tomtunguz.com/ and you will see that he has a next post after each post. This allows for discovery and thus more shares per visitor as they/we will find more content. The more you can make the next post relevant the more likely that a person will go to it. Until you have a method just put your best content (see data for this answer) in order.
      When you have a new post you need to also seed it to the marketplace with those who do the sharing of your content and have the biggest reach when they do share. Call them influencers or whatever but make sure you are getting in front of them at the start of your contents life.

      • Hi there Jonathan

        Thank you so much for the comment! This is amazing to see, and I love the strategy you’ve laid out here. Retargeting and “next posts” sound like awesome ideas to try. 🙂

  • Hello @kevanlee:disqus, it’s great that you’re streamlining the content shock/crush happening in the industry. It’s now humanely impossible to keep up with content production out there. Content is king, if you have the money to pay for its distribution.

    I’ve been talking and writing about this for some time now and ultimately am doing business with it. We’ve customers spending up to $2M per month on content distribution and we’re helping them handpick the best stories to feature, promote and invest on social media, based on their organic virality.

    I think most content businesses will become unsustainable in the short term, should they not find sustainable ways to acquire, monetize and develop their audiences.

    Let me know if I can do anything for you and your content team. Cheers.

    • Thanks so much, Joao! Really appreciate your sharing here. 🙂

  • María Tatay

    Hi Kevan! Nice article as usual. Two things I recommend to connect with your audience.

    1) Engage visually: I’ve noticed that DesignTaxi has changed the way they share their articles on Facebook. Instead of sharing the link and Facebook automatically adds the cover photo, they are uploading pictures with links on the description of the picture and it definitely works! People are caught by the picture and then they click on the image. I’ll think it’s worth giving it a try. 😉

    2) Have you though about translating the content of Buffer? 32 % of internet users are non-native English speakers and as a English into Spanish translator, I know English can be a huge barrier for countries like Spain or LatinAmerican. It is a pity that Buffer is missing this target!

    Thanks again for sharing your experience!

    • Hi there Maria! Thanks so much for the comment. Really cool to see DesignTaxi’s approach. Would love to experiment with that!

      That’s awesome to hear about Spanish content. Curious, do you have any recommendations on how to possibly go about that? Do you have a separate url for blog translations?

      • I plus one this idea, IMHO you are knocking a wall and translation is an easy way to multiply the audience. Spanish first, easy then German (largely spoken in Europe, easy), Chinese (complex but huge population, incl outside Mainland)

  • Do what Gary V is doing. Post awesome to the point videos. I’ve noticed this trend as well in a couple of industries and I’m glad you made this post. It’s not always that easy to explain it to c-level execs with no understanding of digital marketing but heard the catch phrase “…content marketing” somewhere.

    • Thanks, Anton! Great point to look to Gary V for inspiration!

  • Love this post. Thank you for sharing. It is a true reflection of the Buffer brand as I’ve ever seen.

    One specific tactic I suggest is paying very close attention to what is working right now across social. What content is being shared now?

    My critical tools that I use 24 / 7 are +

    – CrowdTangle
    – Buzzsumo
    – action sprout

    These tools show me what audiences are responding to right now!! So I can re share or create content that fits with the trends.

    PS – I had 3 of the top 25 facebook posts in 2014 for non profits, including the number 1 post in the world.

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Shaun! CrowdTangle and Action Sprout are new to me, can’t wait to check them out!

  • As a small-press sci-fi author with a day job who’s trying to promote his work, I’m pretty much burned out on social media. I’m tempted to say “screw it” and focus entirely on blogging, writing my next book, and engaging with my small fanbase on Google+ (for that creamy SEO goodness).

    Social media in general is just digital sharecropping at this point, and I don’t see the point.

  • Kevan, amazing transparency! You might try looking back at people who’ve shared previous Buffer pieces and developing relationships with those fans. That way when you have new content coming out, they may be more apt to see it and share it with their friends.

    • Great idea, Ayelet! Sounds like a potentially quite powerful method! 🙂

  • carribeiro

    Hint: think about the “WTF factor” that inevitably accompany each and every social post. I mean WTF in a bad way, like “why are these guys sending this to me?”. Post and stories have to feel authentic. Anything else creates less engagement.

    • Great one! Thanks so much for sharing that perspective. 🙂

  • I miss your old Open Buffer, productivity, transparency and happiness posts, too, and here are a couple reasons I think the move away from them is contributing to the decline.

    1. They were awesome. Some of the best I’ve ever read about productivity or happiness.
    2. If you want to stand out, it’s often a great idea to write about something closely related to your core topic, but something that is not your core topic. Like when you add spices to a meal. Zappos founder Tony Hsieh ends his Delivering Happiness book with a chapter on positive psychology (research on happiness). That chapter is the part of the book I remember and like best.
    3. Simon Sinek in his golden circle and Start with Why book says that once you know why you’re doing business, everything you do is just a demonstration of that why. I think why Buffer does biz is that you want to make social media marketers happier. Your app is a demonstration of that because it makes its users more productive and successful. Your Open Buffer posts were another demonstration of how you make social media managers happier, because they gave them unique inspiration and information. You were leading the transparency movement.
    4. One of the best pieces of biz advice I ever received was that I should be big in somebody else’s niche. Like a biomechanics clinic that’s huge in the pilates community. Or a marketing agency that’s huge in the travel industry. You can be a productivity-transparency-happiness blog that’s huge in the social media community. That doesn’t just mean people who don’t do social full time, like Melissa below; I think that means all of social media marketers. And if you strive for a niche that’s highly relevant but not the same as what all of your competitors pursue, you may avoid the saturation point as mentioned in comments below.

    I definitely think there’s just floods of amazing social media marketing content out there, and that what you were doing before helped you cut through the noise. I don’t think a year or a year and a half ago, social media was thaaaat much harder than today. I think the bigger difference was between some three years ago and a year and a half ago.

    Big ups to you for asking your own community about what you should be doing different, and good luck 🙂 !

    • Thanks so much for these great thoughts, Branko! Makes complete sense. Love how you’ve laid it out so clearly. It’s got me pretty excited to explore “other people’s niches” – seems like some cool opportunities there!

  • Buffer is great in creating and sharing “toolkit” content. Anyone reading your content will learn more about social–whether trends and statistics, new tips and techniques to try out and experiment with, and new angles to expand their thinking about it. You’re great about passing on information about your company, culture, and its people, too.

    What about giving us some success profiles outside of Buffer? I’m thinking about people who use Buffer or its content or who have done something that ranges from interesting to amazing in social. Not everyone has to be a big gun in the industry. It would add interest for me if they came from different niches, but social was important to them. It would be neat to learn more about your Buffer users, see their smiling faces in posts, and get some inspiration and new ideas from them. Maybe they could be found by your team members who interact with them in different social platforms?

    • This is an awesome idea! It would be really useful to see how others are utilizing Buffer…and if you decide to do this, don’t forget us solo users out here! 🙂 Buffer is really invaluable to solos, because we **don’t** have the teams to share the workload! 🙂

      • Thanks, Karen! I like how you built on my idea emphasizing solo users. I’m a solo user as well. 🙂

        • Hey, Beth Ann… Absolutely! Your idea was *so* pertinent and “spot on” brilliant, I’m surprised no one else suggested it!

          As far as “building” on your idea, it was truly spontaneous on my part…just seemed like a natural direction I would like your idea to take…no pre-planning on my part! 😉 LOL!

    • Hi Beth Ann!

      Thanks so much for the comment and the great idea! This would be so fun to share. I’d love to see what we can do here, reminds me a bit of case studies I’ve seen from other sites – I’ve always really enjoyed them, especially if it’s a tool I currently use (I take tons of great inspiration from those!)

      • Kevan,

        You’re welcome! I’m glad you found the idea of interest!

  • Cue Connect

    Just wanted to share, the blogs could be shorter, shorter the better with more videos and info-graphics …rest great

    • Thanks so much for the tips!

  • Neela Bell

    Hi Kevan! I use Buffer for my business and couldn’t survive without it. I don’t know your demographics, but I’m wondering if a great deal of them are like me. I’m a small business owner, and not running a social media site. I read your excellent articles and advice but wouldn’t share them because it doesn’t fit with my niche (elearning). Unfortunately, there is nothing you can tweak to have me share social media content on my channels aimed at teachers. The important thing, I think, is that I AM buying your product every month and telling my personal friends who run small businesses how terrific Buffer is. Just a few thoughts! Have a great weekend. 🙂

    • Hi there Neela! Thanks so much for the comment and for sharing your experience with Buffer and the blog. 🙂 We’re really grateful to have you as a customer and community member – it’s awesome to hear your perspective on all this!

      Thanks, too, for using and sharing Pablo. Would love to see if we can make it easier to spread the good word there!

  • It seems to me, consistency and quality is the key to having any chance of being (or trying to be) top of mind with your audience on the social web. Having a knack for using hashtags that sync up well with your Tweets is a skill worth developing and using the Buffer queue to schedule at optimal times makes sense too.

    Its a daily task that must not go unchecked if you want your content curation and sharing to have any chance of rising above a very loud content noise level.

    • Great stuff here, Neil! Thanks so much for sharing these tips (and the cool graphic!)

      • Like most, I’ve been a big fan and user of the Buffer Queue for a long time Kevan. Your Chrome extension and the hover over image routine is a daily endeavor I favor.

  • Allison

    So this may sound crazy, but because it’s so difficult to work with Facebook’s continuous algorithm for Pages and our posts showing up in the News Feed, a lot of entrepreneurs have begun relying on creating Facebook Groups. They give you the benefit of 1. Having ALL of your posts within the group be seen. 2. Other people in the group have all of their posts be seen (unless you have a moderator and crazy strict rules about posting). 3. Having awesome engaging conversations within the group – which actually creates a community that evolves around a specific desires or need.

    • Hi Allison! That’s a really great point! Would love to know how this has gone for you. 🙂 How have you found it for gaining group members? Do you end up promoting the group just as you would the FB page?

      • Allison

        Hey Kevin! Yes absolutely. It’s been going well! It really depends on the person running the group as to what’s allowed for promotions. I allow promotions in my group, but a lot of women really don’t promote or spam anyone. And I usually try to keep some content exclusive to the group. It’s more about community and support, giving people something exclusive within the group that they can’t get elsewhere. Members post about all sorts of things! They share successes, support each other on rough days, ask questions, ask for feedback, review each other’s websites, soft launch products like ecourses, and sometimes create partnerships. We create daily prompts and tips that are shared daily, and when it’s appropriate, I’ll share some free promotions or invite everyone to a live call to get tips on a specific topic that I’ve seen coming up over and over (like managing time and avoiding overwhelm when you’re an entrepreneur, or creating sales funnels – yep that super sexy phrase comes up a lot). I’m all about free content to create trust and build my funnel, so that is largely what I share.

  • Hi Kevan,

    Social media traction is hard to crack. IT always surprises me how some things you expected to work don’t and others go viral without a clear reason.

    One thought I have regarding your “mystery” is that maybe people have grown to trust your content so much that they now share it without even bothering to read. This is why you may see the same amount of social shares, but less people actually clicking?

    I’m not a fan of automation tools, but I do know many people use them to automatically share content, and since your blog is known to always post great content, people might even be automatically sharing it – but again, without actually reading.

    This might explain some of the gap.

    • Really interesting theory, Yael! I hadn’t thought of it from that angle yet. 🙂 That’s definitely one we’ve seen perhaps as a larger trend – people sharing without quite reading, which could definitely explain a portion of the traffic dip. Thanks so much for the interesting food for thought!

  • Duddioman

    It’s because the social media platforms are in a race to monetize their product. We used to have a bigger reach with fewer followers on FB, and now we have to pay to ‘Boost Post’.

  • Wow that headline made me read this article. I have had quite a drop myself before. Thanks for writing
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  • Kate bourland

    Doesn’t this correspond with the time frame where you were discontinuing your recommended posts in the buffer app? Seems to me that that’s your answer. I don’t think that it’s a clean comparison. Could be wrong, but it makes the most sense from where I’m sitting.

    • Hi Kate! That could definitely be part of it! I seem to remember we had slightly higher share numbers per post back when we were using content suggestions. Would love to dig into the timeframe there and see if things match up!

  • Katy Davidson Monnot

    I wouldn’t dare try to speak for every network, but Facebook’s algorithm in particular seems very volatile right now–changing as much as every two weeks. While I appreciate their dedication to excellence, I know that it has created dramatic ups and downs for my traffic as well. I’ve started looking hard at other ways to bring in my traffic because it’s so unreliable.

    • Hi Katy! Makes a ton of sense! I think we’re in the same boat in a lot of ways. Would love to hear if you’ve found any solutions just yet! (One interesting idea I picked up from the comments here is about starting a Facebook group) 🙂

      • Katy Davidson Monnot

        I’ve seen people do both and end up liking their page more, but it’s certainly worth a shot. I’ve seen people have huge success creating an event page around a particular theme–perhaps a series of blog posts with a related topic would work for that format.

        I find that very precise scheduling helps with Facebook a lot–same time of day each day exactly–down to the minute. Also, spacing posts the same way consistently. And video is big right now with Facebook–shooting a thirty second into to your post with a link works better than a link by itself.

  • Fav

    you guys should start periscoping your office to be honest. that’s very personal, short and entertaining. 🙂

  • Jeff Domansky PR

    Kevan, your post prompted me to share. Just over a year ago, I took a few weeks off from blogging. A few weeks turned into a couple of months. And that became six months. A year later, I look back and wonder… I’m still getting subscribers. My Alexa rank is lower but still respectable. I still receive proposals for ads. Of course I still get weekly bad pitches for guest posts! Arghhh. Don’t they read? Go figure.

    Fact is, our readers have changed. They’re bored with listicles, tired of sameness, fed up with formulas, and suffering from “filter failure.” I’m certain more marketing on more social channels to create even volume, even if it’s great stuff, is definitely not the answer. I do promise I will start blogging again when I have the answers. Thanks for a very brave post!

    • Hi Jeff! Thanks so much for the comment. Really interesting stuff! Would love to hear what answers you end up with! Sounds like a really worthwhile experiment. 🙂

  • Check average time spent / number of pages visited. Maybe social algorithms are just getting better at directing the right people at the right places. Lower traffic, higher engagement means they are doing their job right 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this Kevan, I always loved how honest the Buffer team is, now I like you guys even more 🙂

    • Thanks, Adam! That’s a really great point! Will definitely check in and see how those numbers compare. 🙂

  • Brilliant Post Kevan! I’ve never seen anyone admit to having a problem. That’s what drew me to this article. I felt that I’m not alone in this dilemma Everyone else is telling me how great they are doing and how they are ruling the social world. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much, Steve! Yes, very happy to share where we’re at with things – definitely not ruling the social media world just yet! Thanks for the support and for giving this one a read. 🙂

  • Andy Macy

    Great article! Very informative. Your visuals are definitely improving and caught my eye. Thanks from one social media person to another.

    • Hi Andy! Thanks so much for the comment. It’s really great to hear that we’re headed down a right track!

  • Thomas

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  • You’re doing great, guys! Obviously way better when many of us 🙂 My only suggestion is adding Click to Tweet into your posts. That certainly improves sharing and increases traffic. And I’m not a big fan of your sharing buttons. They look outdated to me, sorry. Have you heard of Social Warfare? I could really see it working its magic on your blog. Really neat design and it comes with built in Click to Tweet functionality too!

  • Sayed Shourav

    Kevan this a great article. However, I would not recommend some of the tips you mentioned like paying facebook to reach out people. There are a lot of other ways to retain, reach and increase your social media traffic.

    Nevertheless, pretty elaborative and on point article. Well done.

    Regards,
    Sayed Shahnur
    http://www.zestapps.com

  • Wow. What a statement and admission that traffic is down, and what a good way to kind of counteract this. I like it that you guys at least admit this concerning the traffic – while most other people boast of growth, you admit things are not going that well, and you’re going back to the drawing board, ready to experiment, try things, and start all over.

    Thanks for the tips.

    Learning to connect with the audience – while at the same time be viral – may be impossible to achieve, but if you have this attitude toward things, you will have it. Great stuff!

  • Victoria

    It’s refreshing to hear how you’re feeling about this issue. Being self-critical is useful, but I believe the more important thing going on in this post is hearing how you’re working towards self-awareness. You’re lucky to work for a company that supports honest reflection and transparency. From my point of view, as a Buffer blog reader and customer, I want to hear about what’s making you itch or squirm or think deeper. I want to read about these uncomfortable or new states and how you’re working through these moments to improve or learn. Thanks for not being perfect Kevan and for sharing your thoughts! It’s clear that you care about what you do, enough to take the risk of being open about your blind spots. This piece is a great show of character.

    • Victoria,

      This is so eloquent! And, I’m sure this represents how so many of us Buffer “faithful” feel…about Kevan and the entire Buffer company!

      Just had to say “Thanks!” for crystallizing it for many of us! 🙂

      • Victoria

        Thank you for the compliment Karen! ☺️ I’m happy to hear you felt the same way.

  • Marston Gould

    Kevan – one of the things to ask yourself is – are you fishing in the same pond you were a year ago? What I mean by this is this:

    (1) Do you know if Facebook (and other social networks) are referring as much traffic to your category? I’d go look at where you sit competitively

    (2) If they are referring as much traffic in total, are there simply more competitors out there and have your competitors changed their strategy at all (frequency, content type, etc.)

    My guess is that this is where you will find your real issue. One of the things I always do with my clients is we track not only our performance, but the performance of our key competitors all the time ( and we’re constantly on the watch for who new entrants into the competitive field). We set up accounts and start tracking both the raw count side of things, but more importantly we start diagnosing their content publication vs. our content publication. We’ll start asking ourselves (and visitors we might have lost or maintained) why they are or are not engaging with our brand and content.

    I don’t know if this process will help you – and I get that recreating what your competition did months ago can be hard (or impossible) but its well worth understanding what is really going on.

  • Love the honesty, we’re all feeling it!

  • Joey Sargent

    Kevan, you write all about “how,” but not “why” you’re using social media in the first place. Do you want to win new customers, build awareness, engage with existing customers, create thought leadership – or all of the above? If you go back to your strategy and look at social media in context with other marketing efforts, are you succeeding? That’s what matters.

  • Thanks for the honest post Kevan! Interestingly I’m seeing a decline in social referral visits in GA, but an increase in engagement within the actual social platform analytics. It’s a significant discrepancy. Anyone else seeing this?

  • Kait Labbate

    THANK YOU for sharing this Kevan! I feel you’re pain and all of these thoughts resinate completely with the challenges I’ve been facing both in my work and in my personal blogging endeavours through social media. But at the same time I feel my social media habits changing too. I’ve decided to follow the second path you described, to build more meaningful and fluid ties with my audience. I think it will be much more productive long term and so much more rewarding. This article really gave me confidence as well, that it’s not just that i’m unqualified or don’t know what I’m doing (imposter syndrome) and that really it’s just a volatile and changing market that we need to get creative with again and remember that it success isn’t a hard science.

  • Jeffcatl

    “In today’s world, according to a UCLA study, we are processing the equivalent of 174 newspapers daily. This is five times more information than just 20 years ago. Go with timely and relevant content, your option #2. Peanut buttering the web with “stuff” simply won’t work, using paid will just cost $$ and piss guys like me off. Do the hard work and get targeted with useful stuff.

    OR… keep doing what you did in this post! Appeal to a “primal” instinct or our intuition. It’s not “click bait” if the topic hits you in the gut. It’s a tactic to separate your stuff from the 174 newspapers worth of stuff where folks are forced to take the time form a logical reason whether or not to engage.

  • willegan

    I think this article just fixed your problem.

  • Hesitate to suggest, but maybe you’re asking the wrong question. Rather than ‘how can I get more referrals back to my content from social?’, perhaps it should be ‘how can I get more eyeballs on my content?’.

    For maximum reach, blogging’s moving away from solely publishing content on your own blog, to systematically repurposing that content and publishing it where your audience already is. For example, see Mitch Joel’s post at https://www.facebook.com/notes/mitch-joel/the-end-of-blogging/10156135218305506

    Interested in your own thoughts on that?

  • WalKnDude

    what is happening is that your money and corporatism is NOT welcome here. give it away, no copywrite, OR GET THE F*** OFF THE NET.
    have a nice day.

  • WalKnDude

    what is happening is that your money and corporatism is NOT welcome here. give it away, no copywrite, OR GET THE F*** OFF THE NET. have a nice day.

  • Kia

    Hi Kevan, I’m not sure if I’m just being a surly Brit here but one thing that always comes off as shallow when ‘brand representatives’ engage on social media is their overuse of exclamation marks.

    Saying ‘Hi Kia, thanks for the comment’ seems more genuine than ‘Hi Kia! Thanks for the comment! : )’ It’s a subtle thing and purely anecdotal but may be worth considering.

  • Jessie Beck

    We experimented with the click to tweet links awhile back — not a needle mover, and kind of time consuming to add into all of our quotes. Would be interested to see how it plays out for Buffer!

  • I’ve been doing a lot of “share just to share” because I feel like accounts that do that are more personable and relatable… but no word yet on how it’s actually affecting traffic numbers. I’d love to know if you guys see any results from it.

  • Michele O’Briain

    Have you directly actually asked your social media traffic for their opinions on this – it might provide some interesting answers?

  • This is what I miss from the early days of blogging: more posts which are “I’m wondering” aloud – no clear answers, no 3 step action plans, but ideas and honesty. Thank you.

    You mentioned your social referral traffic has roughly halved in the past year. What’s the trend like for your non-social-referral traffic?

  • RaffleRabbit

    I wanted to sharte this picture on my twitter but it was too hard. Why aren’t you using the sumome image sharer? https://bufferblog-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/economics-of-content2.jpg

  • There is a tectonic shift in Social Media led by Facebook. If the SM of 2014 was used by brands to drive traffic to their web/mobile properties, the SM of 2015-6 is no longer be intended for that purpose. At least not from the SM platforms perspective. From their perspective, they want users to remain within their web apps, which is what they are – very large web apps. They probably did what all software as a service companies do and measured their usage and drop off rates and came to the conclusion that users that spend more time within the app make them more money.

    Why drive traffic out of the app? Instead we’ll make brands stay within our platform and engage their users as far down the funnel as possible w/out having to leave. That’s why Facebook also introduced lead forms to their advertising options. This takes away the need for external landing pages and websites. Expect less and less traffic from Social and don’t take it as a sign that you suck at social….

  • Kevan, I absolutely love your honesty, in-depth insight and candid look at a situation that plagues many businesses (and individuals). You are not alone. And, simply by bringing up issues that we all face, you’re going to grow your audience (hopefully on social!). I think the key is keeping it real and showing your fans you’re human, not a business logo. My top performing social media posts are selfies of me at my keyboard, pictures of my dogs sleeping in my office and posts about actionable writing tips. Pressing on! ~Angela

  • @CarbonOllie

    A truly open and honest piece, thank you! It’s refreshing to read. Social media seems to be changing daily, but here’s what i think are the two main things to nail to ensure you’re keeping things healthy (which you mention in your post). 1. Paid Social (they’re advertising platforms after all), 2. Community Management. Here’s my piece on this: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/two-sides-social-media-youve-got-master-oliwer-kmiecik?trk=mp-author-card

  • Patrick White

    Maybe try the old ‘less is more’ approach? Consumers are so used to more, more, more; maybe the best course of action is a concentrated, infrequent dose of pure awesome?

  • Kaylynne

    Kevan,

    This is a fantastic post and I’m very impressed by your honesty (but then again, that’s what I’ve come to expect from Buffer: transparency). I think it’s also a brilliant idea to be straightforward about it in order to crowdsource ideas.

    I just wanted to share my $0.02.

    I think there are two big questions you should ask yourself here:

    ** What is the purpose of our social media? – What is your primary objective with social? Are you raising awareness? OR Are you trying to get more customers? OR are you trying to accomplish something else with your social efforts?

    ** Who is our target audience and who is our actual audience? (I feel like even larger marketing agencies/departments often fail to truly understand their actual audience and their target audience). You might have a large audience of people interested in organization but your target audience is made up of social media managers. When the two don’t match up, you have to figure out which to pursue and/or how to leverage whomever is currently following you in order to reach your target audience.

    By considering these two questions you can begin to answer other questions:

    ** What would success look like for us?: More engagement? More followers/likes? More shares? More customers?

    ** What other ways (beyond the ‘traditional’ social media) can we connect with our audience?

    Sometimes you just need to take a step back and really consider your goals and objectives.

    I will say that if you’re really looking for engagement, perhaps using something like Blab.im or Periscope could make a big difference. These are real-time, creating a sense of urgency and gives audiences more opportunity to ‘chime-in’ and share their views and thoughts.

    This is a very interesting challenge to tackle (and one of the reasons I love being a social media manager) – I’ve applied to become Buffer’s social media manager so I hope to have the opportunity to discuss this even further with the Buffer team.

  • I’ve just stumbled across your post, Kevan – appreciate the raw honesty and openness. If it’s any consolation, I think everyone is experiencing exactly the same thing – just no-one is prepared to admit it publicly like you have. The key, I believe, is to shift from a “sharing” mindset to a “gifting” mindset. I can’t explain it any better than this recent post on Medium: Sharing, Gifting, and the Moral Evolution of the Social Web: https://medium.com/@timrayner01/sharing-gifting-and-the-moral-evolution-of-the-social-web-8cf75495da66#.4mfe4ff78

  • The Fat Milton Story

    Buffer, please still your natural impulse to get angry at my next few sentences, they are written with good intentions and you have a world of time to think abt them!..then discard with as much vain self-righteousness…

    1. Social media, by definition, is for SOCIAL use. You are trying to harness and influence that process… Why not just BE SOCIAL in doing it? (Be real, comment, criticize, laugh, cry and post doggy pics (lol)

    2. The time when the internet belonged to the USA is over. Smart money says that the new markets (China etc) hold the key..have a look at what BG and MZ are doing about Microsoft and Facebook

    3. Buffer (in my modest opinion) doesn’t offer an attractive INTERACTIVE option in the admin console. (maybe add a wizard sliding scale to measure POSSIBLE reach..etc)

    4. Being a human myself, I like to be impulsive… make mistakes, refuse to admit them and then think about how others make stupid mistakes… This one is a tough one to write in a short reply…so in a nutshell… if you look at the worst results, perhaps the secret to the best results will become clearer 😉

    I hope you have managed to get through that and will now realize that you’re human…after all (lol)

    Regards

    #FatMilton
    @FatMilton_Story

  • Nick Reynolds

    Great headline!
    My best guess at a solution would be to look very closely at your two examples of success: Brain Pickings and Gary V, among others.

    One could argue their content appears to be of higher value. While I admit ‘value’ is relative, perhaps a harsher word might be ‘quality’.
    In the case of Brain Pickings while I am often (by no means always) interested I am always struck by what appears to be the sheer amount of work, intelligence and craft that goes into her work. A trite summary might be quality over quantity.
    I don’t mean to demean the quality of your talented and hard working content crafters but overall the sense one gets is that of a sausage factory. Good quality sausages sure, but there’s a hell of a lot of them (I get full pretty quickly) and there’s not a great variation in flavor.
    To this last point, although Buffer is all about social content perhaps it’s worth looking at more unique stories. Your case-study style posts stand out in this regard because it’s not all about you.
    What about different media and spheres of interaction? Video and or audio interviews/ podcasts? International seminars/ workshops? Mini ‘state of the social nation’ un-conferences? Talks at existing arenas of influence?
    And finally, although the sands of the social media landscape are ever shifting how about trying a more opinionated, outspoken stance. Take a stand. I’m thinking about voices like Jason Fried at Basecamp and, of course, Gary V.
    To misquote Jason Calacanis who said something along the lines of: ‘If all you look at are numbers then all you’ll see is numbers’. The best content takes care of itself.

  • Seems to me that if you’ve so dramatically changed your content, moving away from life hack stuff to only social media strategy tips, then you are dramatically shrinking your potential audience, which will lead to a dramatic shift in your traffic. I don’t think that’s bad or good…it just depends what you want out of your social media. Is Buffer a tool for social media technicians who work for companies, or is it a productivity tool for people who are looking to free up time? Or is it both? If its the former, then write posts about social media and expect to only get readers who are interested in social media strategy. If its the latter, then continue to write broad content that encompasses ways to be more productive overall, and your topics will have wider appeal. If it’s both, then write both. It really sounds to me like this is a question of audience, and matching your content to suit who you want to communicate with. What if you looked at the numbers from a few years ago, and compared “Lifehack” posts to “Social Media” posts, to see if you had dramatic traffic differences? That would be a way to test my theory…

  • This is an old post though, I’d like to add a different perspective. Did you really lose 100k visitors or they shifted elsewhere? For example traffic from G+ will most definitely reduce because the platform’s use is dwindling. Now some people who got introduced to your blog via G+ do find their way back either through email, direct traffic, etc…

  • Late to the party but just read the post “The Consumer Isn’t a Moron…” on Medium, which referenced this post.

    I have to say that, for Web Marketing Today, the site I manage as editor, referral traffic from social has never been more than a few percentage points relative to total traffic. We produce one piece of practical content per day, which we share on social but see few results. As such, we place a lot more emphasis on vying for organic search ranking.

    I do agree with Mark Schaefer that we’ve reached a saturation point where there is so much content to choose from (particularly web marketing content) that consumers have a plethora of choices.

    Also, I think we live in a Buzzfeed world where shock value plays a role.

    As to a remedy, identifying a marketable niche with a focus on addressing their concerns seems to be one answer. Our companion site, Practical Ecommerce, has done an excellent job with that.

    The site targets smaller online businesses as its audience and has built a substantial following as a result. Web Marketing Today, not so much. Our content is less audience specific – we’ve tried, with a focus on local small businesses – but it’s not proven to be enough.

    In the end, I feel it’s best to think of social, not as a channel but as a “layer” that integrated with other marketing formats.

    Ultimately, there is no easy answer. Sometimes, we just get lucky, and see an article get a huge increase in social shares. All I know to do is to continue experimenting and trying to grow organically as much as possible – plowing the row every day by making our content as useful as possible.

  • Chris Garrison

    Kevan, I linked through to this post from Leo’s excellent blog about treating every piece of content as if it’s the most important one you’ve ever done.

    I enjoyed this piece in its entirety, but what I appreciated the most was validation of my own thoughts that content quantity had reached its zenith, and a loose theory I have that the current trend is that people are actually being much more selective about what they read, and from whom. Part of that is the notion that there are just too many shared items, as you allude to in your piece. I first noticed this in my own Facebook timeline, when I had the realisation that there wasn’t a single post that wasn’t a shared item.

    In response to this, I wrote a Facebook post that was nothing but my words. No links. No images. No videos. The subject was about returning to the roots of social media, when it was a place for people to share thoughts and ideas, before the advent of food pictures. The post itself was incredibly well received by my followers, and elicited many comments about how my post made them realise what timelines had become, and an appreciation of the fact that I took the time to say *something*.

    I also appreciate your honesty in this post. I’m a believe that you can learn as much, if not more, from things that don’t go well, as you can from things that are a great success.

  • Sudesh Madusanka

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  • eternal

    Are your axes mislabeled on that Content Shock graph?

  • Alt Agency

    Absolutely spot on, i’ve had these thoughts in my head and couldn’t really put them down clearly, but this is exactly it!

    Paid reach and making it super easy to share, thats key, well, we’ve found it to be key anyway!