It is our greatest marketing asset.

And we just keep changing it.

Kevan Lee, October 2015

And now things have changed again. We’ve flipped the switch, and our new design is here.

From where it started with Leo over five years ago to where it stands today, the Buffer Social blog has evolved a great deal over the years, and we’re extremely grateful to have built up a great reputation and sizeable audience along the way.

The Buffer Social blog now attracts over 850,000 readers and averages over 1.1 million sessions per month. But it certainly didn’t come easy, and it took some trial and error before we found a recipe that started to pay off.

The Google Analytics screenshot below, helps to illustrate our story:

GA-data

Towards the end of 2015, we revealed that we’d lost nearly half of our social referral traffic. And the discussion around this post made us realise that if we want to continue growing, we need to see change as a necessity. We need to continue to push ourselves and figure out how to keep reinventing ourselves to stay ahead of the curve. 

This new design is our latest experiment and in this post, I’m excited to go into detail about different sections of the new blog design and share some of the thinking behind our content strategy.

Let’s jump in!

What’s changed

Here are some of the new elements to look out for:

Homepage Discover Block

blog-home

We have over 900 posts on the Social blog, and next to a visual refresh, the main goal of this redesign was making content more discoverable. We felt that a lot of the great stuff we’ve published in the past can get a little lost and that we need to signpost better where particular types of content can be found.

A brainstorm during the retreat gave us the idea to approach the social blog as a toolbox. A reference blog and knowledge hub. And the Discover block at the top of the homepage is aimed to make it as easy as possible to find what you’re looking for when you come to the blog.

You can use the search bar to discover content based on keywords you’re interested in learning about, for example, “Twitter Marketing” and you can also click on any of the categories below the search bar. Popular categories have also been added to the bottom of the homepage to make it easier to discover content about your favorite topics too:

categories

Two-column layout

two-column

Under the Discover block, we’ve transitioned from a one-column layout to two columns, highlighting more than just the latest piece of content and guiding you through our latest articles on subjects like social media marketing, design, and the latest news and trends.

Adaptable content: Toolbox and Magazine articles

As we thought about the various blogs we have here at Buffer (Social, Open, and Overflow), we realised that they served very different purposes, and a one-size-fits-all post style may not work across the board. Sometimes our content has an editorial flavour, and sometimes it has more of an educational angle. The new design allows us to tell stories more effectively with the help of a couple of article formats.

Toolbox articles

toolbox-post

Toolbox articles will mainly be used here on the Social blog. They’re geared up to support our social media marketing and content tips articles.

Magazine articles

magazine-post

Magazine articles have an immersive heading with a full-width photo as the background and will mainly be used on the Open and Overflow blogs, as well as on any more editorial-lead posts here on the Social blog.

Behind our content strategy

In October 2015, we shared our marketing manifesto, and we’ve now evolved a section of the manifesto into our Editorial Mission Statement:

“Treat every piece of content with the utmost care. Every single piece of content is the only one that matters.

Every single piece, we have to feel like “this is going to be the one.” Not all in the same way, but all in their own unique way of redefining excellence for their own area. And then, only some of them will be the true breakout hits and most of them won’t. But that’ll be the only way for us to truly create a space of excellence.”

– Buffer Editorial Mission Statement

Mission Statement

This mission statement will serve as a constant reminder to be vulnerable and create content that we truly believe will stand out and attract everyone’s attention. It’s also a promise to every reader of the blog, whenever you visit us here, you’ll know that we’ve put everything into the post you’re reading.

The five questions that shape our strategy

In a previous post we discussed the five ways that a blog can change and grow (though there are probably more) and our content strategy is largely based on answering these five questions:

  1. Topic: What will we write about?
  2. Audience: Whom will we write to?
  3. Style: What types of content will we publish?
  4. Depth: What level of depth will we approach a topic?
  5. Behind-the-Scenes: How will we organize ourselves to get the work done?

Below, I’d love to guide you through how we’re currently approaching these challenges.

1. Topics

On the Buffer Social blog, we strive to deliver content that helps readers solve a problem or challenge they face in their everyday work environment. This can come in many forms: sometimes it’ll be a “how-to” guide on using the latest social media tools, other times it could be a list of great blogs or marketers to follow.

We tend to break down the topics we cover into four types of posts:

  1. Definitions – Here’s what this means
  2. Tools – Here’re the tools you can use
  3. Workflows – Here’s how to get it done
  4. Future – Here’s where it’s headed

How we find topics to write about

Keeping a pipeline of posts we feel can break through the noise and stand out can be quite a challenge. Kevan has covered our idea curation process in detail before, but I’d love to share quickly how we keep our editorial Trello board full off (hopefully) great ideas to write about.

  1. Looking at our data: Google Analytics can be a great tool for content ideas, I love to keep tabs on which posts and topics are performing well. For example, posts on social media images and design have performed well for us recently, so this feels like a great topic to write about some more.
  2. Taking inspiration from others: What are certain people in our niche talking about? What are people sharing and writing? Outside sources are a huge inspiration for us. We come across articles that we love and want to dive even deeper into. We find headlines that grab us, and we repurpose them for other topics.
  3. We save every idea: I have tons of notes on my phone, scribbled down in notepads and saved in our Trello board. Sometimes, all it takes is a phrase, link or few keywords to get us started on a topic.
  4. Listening: An incredibly valuable source of inspiration is you, the reader. We listen to blog comments and to conversations on Twitter to see what you’d like to learn more about.
  5. Sharing our experiences: Sometimes, the most relatable posts we publish are the ones where we share our experiences and challenges.

2. Audience

As Buffer continues to grow and evolve, so does our audience. We’ve not been too persona focused thus far on the blog, but it feels like our audience has changed a little over the past 6-12 months.

A while ago we shared a breakdown of who we felt our current and future readers may be:

It now feels like we’re learning towards the ‘future’ vision of who we’re writing for. During the coming months, I’d love to spend some more time on customer research for the blog to identify who our readers are and what content they’re particularly excited for.

3. Style

We feel that a blog post should be as long as it needs to be. For us, this tends to be ~1,500-2,000 words per post. But we use the word count as a target, more than a restraint. If a post is 1,200 words and filled with great content, excellent, let’s not expand on it just to fill a word count quota. Likewise, if a post is 3,000 or more words and fully covers an in-depth topic, that’s great too.

We like to go into detail and give customers everything they need in one place. We include details on functionality, how things work and how to implement any ideas or strategies we discuss in the post. We love for our readers to be able to read and post and instantly know how to use what they’ve learned to benefit their business.

This is the recipe that has been proven to work for us. But we need to continue to experiment and try new types of content to push on and continue to grow the blog.

Over recent months, we’ve experimented more with news and trends, alongside our more traditional in-depth pieces on social media marketing and had a few spikes off success:

  • A post on Twitter Polls (published the day after they launched), grew our search traffic by 25% – from 26.5k sessions/day to 33.5k/day. This spike lasted for a couple of weeks and got us super excited for the potential of timely, actionable content.
  • We published a series of posts focused on Facebook’s F8 conference during the week of the event and brought in around 60,000 visits to these posts.

Our news experiment has provided us with some great learnings and intuition about which topics and trends we should jump on and write about as soon as they break.

Some areas I feel we could do more with include:

  • Video
  • Short-form / snackable content
  • Opinion and thought leadership

There’s always a bit of unease and discomfort in trying something a little out of the ordinary when you have a recipe that you know can work. But we’re excited to continue trying new things.

Talking point: I’d love to hear what you’d like to see more of from Buffer? Please let us know in the comments below this post.

4. Depth

After over five years of writing about social media, you’d have thought we might have covered every topic in as much depth as possible. But the great opportunity with depth is that social media continues to evolve as does our perspective on social media and marketing.

We’re seeing many of the established social platforms switch from organic to paid networks. We are continually having to learn new things and test new techniques. Everything changes, constantly. First, it works, and then it doesn’t.

We have a lot still to explore when it comes to depth. Maybe we need to expand beyond our blog posts; create more downloadable guides, more videos, more courses.

What would you like to see from Buffer? Let us know in the comments 🙂

5. Behind-the-Scenes

The way we approach creating content on the blog has changed a great deal over recent weeks. We’ve switched our editorial board to focus more on our workflows.

Here’s how it used to look (with a column for each different category of content):

And here’s our new board:

trello-board

With this new board we’ve tried to reflect the editorial process a little more, and as posts transition from idea to finished article, they progress along the board. We also use Labels within Trello to signify the category of each post.

Trello labels

Thinking like a publication

One of our key focuses during Q2 2016 and beyond is to ‘think more like a publication’. For us, this means:

  • Increasing publishing consistency and aiming for a new post every US workday at 8 am EST (this is very much work in progress, but I solid goal for where we want to be)
  • Commit to having the content calendar scheduled at least three weeks ahead of publishing
  • Create editorial guidelines and style guide for guest posts / new writers
  • Be more transparent about how we run the blog and publicly share monthly reports

Often, it’s the small details that take a post from good to great. And by ensuring we have the correct editorial system in place throughout the process from pitching to publishing feels like a great way to ensure we feel like “this is going to be the one” every time we hit publish.

We’d love your thoughts…

Thanks for reading! If it wasn’t for you all, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do and have such a blast managing this blog. I’d love the chance to learn from your experiences here and to know how all of this feels to you:

How can we keep improving the Buffer blog for you?

What do you think of the new design? Is there anywhere we could improve?

Feel free to drop any thoughts at all in the comments. It’d be great to hear from you!

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Written by Ash Read

Content crafter at Buffer. I’m fascinated by storytelling, entrepreneurship, and travel. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me on a football pitch or basketball court.

  • As a person in a company that is going through a bit of a new content strategy and rebranding ourselves, this post was incredibly insightful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Kyle, thanks for stopping by. Glad you found this one useful, would love to hear how you get on with your new strategy 🙂

  • Sandra McCann

    I think there’s an audience option not covered by your current and future target audiences. These are the crafters so to speak – individuals who have a need to brand themselves and perhaps draw people to their individual ‘product’…where product is maybe their etsy account, or authors/musicians etc who want to raise their visibility and potential target customers. I think your price point for ‘Awesome’ individual is ideal for these independent crafters. I can envision an author who has her own account, then some select accounts for each of her books or book series. The ability to have multiple social accounts like this, with batched content creation (create on a Monday and have the content stream out all week long).
    There is likely a broad reach for this of people who know they need social media, but don’t necessarily know how to use it best for their individual product or brand. If you could show the value of the Awesome plan for these people, it is certainly within the ‘struggling artist’ price range. Thinking about this though, I haven’t felt there was a lot of content based on this self branding and reaching your target potential customers as an individual crafter.

    • Hey there Sandra, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. So grateful to have your insights here – independent crafters, writers and business people have been such an important group for Buffer and I’d love to ensure we still create content with these people in mind. 🙂

  • Congratulations for the new blog design! It looks beautiful and easy to navigate, I really appreciate that.

    • Thanks, Alice! That’s amazing to hear 🙂

  • Ash,

    Great news, and I actually like your new Blog home page redesign… It still hurts my head a little to see that void with nothing more than navigation, but it is important to make it super-easy for a visitor — especially the first-time visitor — to find articles they are looking for…

    I am currently in the process of a mini-redesign for my website, so this is very timely information… I can’t quite yet bring myself to such a minimalistic page design (for my own website), but I can certainly see its effectiveness!

    I actually stopped finding Buffer pertinent articles of the “usual” (read: former) interest level (to me) about the time of that late-2015 discovery of your social traffic drop… I get your email every day but the topics just no longer seemed pertinent to me!

    I’m an independent freelancer, and solo worker (as I have said in many of my previous comments on your articles). I only use 4 social platforms, so when an article mentions one the other many social platforms I do not use, or when it emphasizes “team” over solo, I just don’t have the interest in clicking through.

    I hope your re-design will also re-focus…and include some articles for us freelancers/solopreneurs! I really loved articles by Kevan in the past. Buffer’s thoroughness in providing many of those 2,000- to 3,000-word in depth articles have been especially useful, and are archived in Evernote. Since I train others — most of whom are true “beginners” in regard to most things web, including social media — these articles are highly useful for citing in my classes and in my articles on my website.

    I also highly recommend Buffer to both students and private coaching clients, as I use it myself. Freelancers are notoriously swamped with wearing ALL the hats in their business, so anything that really works as well as Buffer is an invaluable tool, especially for the solopreneur! 🙂

    Good luck with the redesign! 🙂

    • Hey Karen, thanks for your detailed comment. It’s been great to read and digest your thoughts. It’s amazing to hear you like the design, we’re keen to test and iterate until we have what feels like a great experience for readers. Love your openness about our content not being quite as appealing as it used to be, that’s really great to know and I’d love to think more about freelancers/solopreneurs and how we can get back to providing so high-quality content for you as well.

      Thanks a million, Karen 🙂

  • Tania Clarke

    Maybe a deep dive into some case studies and industry examples for social media marketing? Or content? More interviews? Love the Buffer content though. I’m a regular reader 🙂 PS. I’m in your (Future) category 😉

    • Hey Tania, thanks a bunch for sharing these content ideas. We’ve been sharing a little more case studies recently but interviews could be super-fun! Anyone in particular you might like to see interviewed on the blog? (Awesome to hear we’re connecting with someone in the ‘future’ persona group)

  • I like the new design, but when I click on “Case Studies” from the home page, it takes me to a 404 which reads:

    “We can’t seem to find that – so sorry!

    It looks like nothing was found at this location. Maybe try one of the links below or a search in the search box above?”

    • Hey Wesley! Great spot on the Case Studies link, apologies for that experience. We’ll jump right on it and get a fix in place.

      Great question too, we actually played around with a few different post widths and had some discussion around it internally. In the end, we went with our gut feeling on what felt best to read (and also checked the widths of some of our favorite sites). Excited to see how else we could try to enhance the readability here. Love the idea of experimenting here, too. Your comment has me curious about how width / image rations may affect our data.

      Thanks, Wesley.

  • Another freelancer here – I want to echo what Sandra and Karen have said and request more content for individuals marketing their own product. The articles I find most interesting and helpful are the ones that show me how to use social media more effectively, like the articles about timing posts or creating images. I’d like to see more of that kind of content, with easy-to-implement tricks and tips that don’t cost much (or anything)! I’m looking for things that will help me level-up my website and attract the right audience.

    That said, Buffer has made managing my social media so much easier, particularly because my audience is split across the United States and United Kingdom – scheduling posts means I don’t have to be up at 4 am 😉 I also recommend it to everyone who will listen to me!

    • Hey there, thanks so much for your sharing your thoughts here. It’s amazing to hear you find value in our posts around using social media more effectively and tricks and tips that aren’t too expensive to implement. Would love ensure we keep delivering that type of content 🙂 Thanks a million for using a recommending Buffer, means the world to us!

  • AliWil22

    I think it’s great, Ash! You guys have certainly put out loads of very useful and user-friendly information and this makes it way easier to find. As content editor, I have to power through heaps of info daily, and then I get those “saw it on Buffer” moments – so this should make it child’s play to find articles I’m looking for. Well done and keep up the awesome! 😀

    • Hey there! Thanks so much for your comment. Hope the new layout continues to make it easier to discover the content you’re looking for 🙂

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  • Tim Marshall

    This is a great post. I’m enjoying the discussion below, but more than anything, I’m impressed at your truly behind-the-scenes look at the development of your blog. One could debate the content approach and audience segmentation, but there is much value in seeing a real-world enterprise lay out its plans for its content hub. I’ll be assigning this post in the undergraduate classes I teach on digital marketing and social media.

    • Hey Tim! Glad you enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look into our content strategy, I’d love to continue sharing more here and being as transparent as possible. Thanks a bunch for passing this one on to your undergraduate classes – if any questions pop up or there’s anything I can do to help out, please feel free to reach out 🙂

  • Ash and Bufferers, I love the redesign. It’s much easier to navigate to find specific content. Great idea! As a social media marketer and entrepreneur, I enjoy a bunch of your content and can almost always find something useful to my formula. In moving forward, I’d like more posts about video (editing, marketing, best practices for social, etc) and some more on content marketing and how SEO is related to posts and social media. Overall, I really enjoy reading your blogs and learning together as we continue to find our place on the internet. Enjoy a terrific Tuesday and I’ll be sharing this with my network today. 🙂 Steve @HedstromMedia
    (P.S. thanks for the follow and likes on Twitter)

    • Hey Steve! Love your comment 🙂 Glad the blog feels a little easier to navigate now, that was a key focus for us. Love the suggestion for more video-focused content, too. Feels like we could do a ton more there, especially and the importance of video in marketing continues to rise. Thanks for dropping by, Steve 🙂

  • It’s very close to the Medium approach, in which the entire page is dedicated to just the content and nothing else. The minimalist look works well, I quite like it there and I quite like it here. The one thing I’d add though, is that perhaps you should have more “elements” or “layouts / widgets” for content. Perhaps embed more Facebook posts, perhaps a different layout for quotes, a different way of showcasing screenshots, something to break the mould from text and photo so that the page is dynamic.

    The second one has nothing to do with design. I miss content from people not from the Buffer team. It was always good to come here and see content from various people from across the planet with their own viewpoints, experiences and tips. It added a lot of variety and colour to the Buffer blog, and I think you’re missing out on that a fair bit.

  • Congratulations for your team efforts. I really appreciate that. Best of Luck!

  • Marta Olszewska

    Love what you guys are doing and the transparency around your strategy! We’ve gone through a very similar process with our Piktochart blog (even our Trello board looks identical!) and have drawn similar conclusions (about the topics, depth of articles, processes, frequency). One thing that really interests me though is: how do you measure your blog success now, after this revamp and after your new focus? You’ve talked about your ideal audience, your processes, topic sourcing, but is there a data-driven answer behind those decisions? Is it pageviews, blog subscribers and ultimately sign ups and conversions you’re after? I’d be very interested to know more about that funnel and how you measure the effectiveness of each pillar of content you’ve now created 🙂

    • Hey Marta, thanks so much for your comment. So awesome to hear a little about your processes with the Piktochart blog. Great question on what success looks like for our blog. This is something we’ve debated a great deal internally as well. With many company blogs, I think there’s a constant battle between pages views / sessions and sign ups. For us, at the moment, we’re looking to test out a new CTA on the blog – driving Buffer for Business trial starts. At the same time, though, we would love to keep our traffic growing. Right now, I’d say sign-ups are #1 with traffic growth a close #2. Sometimes it feels like the two go hand-in-hand though. Maybe we should write a post about how Buffer approaches marketing funnels and metrics. 🙂

      • Marta Olszewska

        Thank you for your response Ash! The new CTA around business trials sounds like a good experiment! For us it’s also mainly pageviews, newsletter signups and platform signups but conversions (to PRO) and retention are still not easy to measure. I think you definitely SHOULD write post about funnels and metrics! I’ll be the first one to read it!

        • I second these topics, Marta! I’m especially interested in funnels and CTAs, and strategies others are using… Again, as a solo operator, some of Buffer’s strategies might need to be tweaked, but discussions would be anyway!

          • Hey Marta & Karen, amazing to hear your feedback here. I’ll put this idea into our list and think about how best we could approach it. 🙂

  • Naveen Rao

    I’m behind a healthcare thought leadership publication on Medium, and I’ve spent the last 3 months learning the limitations of their platform. If Buffer ever goes in that direction with industry-specific channels, would love to chat! All of this looks great – good luck.

  • Interesting approach to making sure you care about each piece of content. Everyone should feel this way about their work. Back when I taught karate, we always said, “Your favorite student is the one that’s in front of you right now.”

  • Focusing on the layout of the blog itself, everything seems fine except some choices in fonts… as in too many in use. In addition, be body text font might be re-thought for something with a slightly wider default character set. Merriweather just isn’t working for 100% first scan legibility at all times. Either set a css adjustment or test out something like “Lora” to see the difference. Avoid mixing so many faces in one page. We counted at least 9 (by visual only); that’s too many.

  • Elle Zee

    I really enjoyed this article, getting an in-depth view of what you WERE doing, and changes you’re implementing is super informative (and inspiring). Thanks.

  • Ash Read, may I first say that I as a faithful buffer user and big time referrer am very much in agreement with Sandra McCann, GFTracy, Karen McCamy, etc. I too very adamantly think and hope that you guys DO NOT do what everyone else has done and is doing by switching over to catering to the big time Marketers. There is way too much stuff out there based on their perspective already. I can completely see that everyone wants to put their focus in that direction because that’s where the “money’ is, so to speak. HOWEVER, let’s be honest here, it’s us, the freelancers, writers, small time marketers, etc who are truly the faithful among your users. The big time marketers may drop by to read a breaking story or try out a new feature but they will also move on as soon as the next field looks more opportune.
    Secondly, i am disappointed to notice that you found the time to reply to all of the comments left by the “Marketers” and none of the comments and concerns left by the people who I just mentioned and others with similar comments. This, despite your repeated request for feedback on the above article. Strange.
    I wonder, shall I receive a reply? A posted reply?
    Feel free to contact me, I have an account under @surprisinglives

    • Hey Amanda, great to hear your thoughts and cool to hear you’re in agreement with others in this thread about the type of content we produce. It feels like even if we were to lean towards marketers, there’s still room to create content that appeals to (and hopefully helps) freelancers, writers and individuals and I hope some of our posts will appeal to both audiences. It’s been great to read through this thread and take in everyone’s thoughts and feelings about Buffer and our content. We always learn so much from our readers.

      I’d also like to apologise if it feels like some comments may have been missed. It’s been my goal to reply to everyone on this thread and I’ve not been as good as I should be with jumping in here.

      Thanks again for your comment, Amanda.

      • Thanks Ash, for your response both to myself and a few of the others that I referred to in my comment. I also appreciate your tweet following up on my related tweets. Buffer has been and I look fore ward to it continuing to be one of my top tools and sites.

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