1/6/2016: We’re excited to share an update to this article about our Snapchat strategy here at Buffer. All of the details are below. In short, we’ve felt encouraged to see the strides Snapchat has made with diversity and inclusivity initiatives, and we’re eager to return to the network!

How we came to the decision to rejoin Snapchat

In August of last year, we chose to take a break from Snapchat (details in the full article below).

Over the course of the last few months we’ve kept up with the team at Snapchat and their efforts to create a more inclusive and positive experience on social media. From what we’ve seen, the network has made some incredible strides in creating a positive social media experience for everyone.

At the recent Tech Inclusion Conference in San Francisco, we were inspired to see Snap Inc. as a sponsor and a member of the job fair, along with many other companies we admire.

We also got the opportunity to hear directly from Snap Inc.’s Diversity & Inclusion Recruitment Manager, Jarvis Sam, about how Snap is recruiting, partnering and programming its infrastructure with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

We learned that Snap is collaborating with groups like Women Who Code, Girls in Tech, the Society of Black Engineers, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow to build programs that facilitate strong workplace diversity at Snap, Inc.

We’re encouraged to see these initiatives put into place and hopeful that this is just the beginning.

Where we go from here

Now for the exciting part – where we’re going with @BufferSnaps!

Snapchat is a robust and wonderful platform for people and brands to share their unique story. They’re also blazing a new path in terms of technology and the way people use and consume social media.

We’d love to be a part of that journey. Starting today, we’re returning to Snapchat and will be sharing an inside look into our culture, the future of work, and all of the social media marketing tips and tricks we’re learning along the way.

Plus, we just picked up a brand new pair of Snapchat Spectacles! Stay tuned for a full review on Spectacles, including best-practices on using Spectacles and where we see the technology evolving in the future.

We’re on Snapchat at buffersnaps

Buffer Snapchat Account Code

We’d love to continue the conversation with you! Feel free to drop us a comment below with questions or just to say hello.


Original Post Published on 8/16/2016

Sometimes it’s easy to do the right thing, and you get all the pride and happiness that comes along with it.

Other times, doing the right thing is hard. It can take you away from what everyone else is doing, maybe even cause you to lose friends—or a platform for your voice to be heard.

During those times, is it still worth it?

As a team, we’ve decided that the answer to this is yes.

Doing the right thing—even when it’s hard or when no one would otherwise notice— is one of our 10 strongly held values at Buffer.

So when we face the choice between saying nothing and speaking up when we see something that feels wrong, we have to speak up.

Similarly, we feel a calling to be transparent about our decisions so that others can learn the “why” behind our actions. We share transparently not to bring attention to ourselves but rather to be true to ourselves, to share knowledge with our community, and to ignite conversation.

These values have been at the front of our minds these past few days as we’ve reflected on one of social media’s biggest stories. Last week, Snapchat users called out the social network for its recent release of an “anime-inspired” filter that slants your eyes, rounds your cheeks, and exaggerates your front teeth.

Snapchat tweet

We can’t know the intentions behind this filter, but we can know how the social media app’s option to superimpose stereotypical Asian features, or “yellowface,” onto peoples’ faces made many of their Asian and Asian-American users feel.

Mocked. Minimized. Singled out. Othered. Shamed.

In a statement to The Guardian, Snapchat said the “anime-inspired lens” has been removed and wouldn’t be put back into circulation, adding that “lenses are meant to be playful and never to offend.”

A removal and apology is a great step. We’ve made many missteps in our own diversity and inclusivity journey, and it feels good to acknowledge them and learn from them.

But what happens following Snapchat’s apology?

Only four months ago, the company released another racially problematic filter that superimposed Bob Marley dreadlocks and what many users described as a “digital blackface” on photos. These matters of race, diversity, and inclusion are ones that we’re all doing our best to navigate as we build products supported by a worldwide audience. We empathize with the Snapchat team; we’ve made mistakes at Buffer, too.

As fellow product makers, we acknowledge the hard work that the Snapchat team has done to build a product loved by millions. They all wake up every day trying to build something people love and will be excited by.

And having done so — having built a product with velocity and relevance — they’ve inevitably gained new responsibilities.

Those who are privileged enough to build our social media platforms have a hand in shaping our culture — for better or worse.

In an essay at The Atlantic, associate editor Robinson Meyer introduces an important responsibility held by the influential apps within the tech scene:

You are a small though extraordinarily wealthy technology company, afloat in a sea filled with other such companies. Some are larger than you, and some are wealthier. People in your industry use language that touches on noble virtues and planet-wide connection. But in practice, you profit from a society layered with different kinds of oppression and discrimination. You have to decide how to use your wealth and power in a world that consistently falls short. What is your duty?

One approach to this problem might be: Do no harm.

Snapchat is one of the most popular social networks in the world and is especially popular with young people ages 18–34. This gives the app an incredible amount of opportunity for shaping cultural norms and attitudes. It’s hard to reconcile that opportunity with filters like “yellowface” that normalize racism and othering, creating a climate of more division and less empathy.

Within the lens of social media, these outcomes of division run counter to our mission at Buffer. We seek to help people achieve a greater voice on social media. We believe that social media builds connections, encourages expression, and expands our world. Social media, for us, exists to bring people together, not drive people away.

As a social media tool, Snapchat has so much promise and we’ve enjoyed getting to know it. We have built a community there that we love.

But diversity and inclusion are not optional for us—they’re imperative. We want to align ourselves with people and companies working toward the positive change we envision social media making in our world.

We understand fully why users might delete Snapchat, and we support their decision. For those those who wish to stay, we respect your decision as well. At Buffer, we’ll be taking a leave of absence to reflect and determine the right path forward. As always, our decision is not the “right” one—our values are a guide for us but aren’t intended to be prescriptive for others.

We truly believe that people and companies can evolve and grow in their understanding of diversity and inclusion. We’re all still learning ourselves.

We’re hopeful that this will be Snapchat’s path, and we would be excited to aid their journey in any way we might be able to.

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Written by Courtney Seiter

Courtney writes about social media, diversity and workplace culture at Buffer. She runs Girls to the Moon on the side and pets every dog she sees.

  • This calls for a breakup not a break with Snapchat. Thoughtless, disgusting racism should not be supported and a short-term slap on the wrist is not the answer to vile behavior that hurts and diminishes others.

    • Hi Zorka, thanks so much for the comment! Just jumping in here with Courtney, I wanted to share my gratitude for your thinking so empathetically with those who were hurt by these filters. A breakup is definitely something we mulled, though ultimately decided to allow for the possibility that Snapchat grows from these mistakes. I know we’ve definitely erred before and have been grateful for the grace extended to us!

      These are always quite tricky ones to get right. I’d love to know if these thoughts trigger anything else for you! Thanks again, Zorka. 🙂

  • “Those who are privileged enough to build our social media platforms have a hand in shaping our culture — for better or worse.” YES.

    I’m not a Snapchat user, but heard about the “anime-inspired” filter just this morning from this Medium article: https://medium.com/@katie/im-deleting-snapchat-and-you-should-too-98569b2609e4#.cp1krv3kg

    It’s so refreshing to see a brand take a calm and kind, but firm, stand against this. Thanks, Buffer team.

    • Thank you, Claire! Your support here means a ton. 🙂

    • It’s good to have this kind of filter for young users, and must be other “serious” side for business owners and brands who wants to represent them in another way, not trough “anime-inspired” filter.

  • Good for you, Buffer! Truth be told, I’ll say what you can’t. It’s a sucky social network designed to keep us even more disconnected from each other than we already are…so I’ve never seen the point. Seriously, conversations that “disappear”? WTF have we come to as a society??

    I don’t wish ill on many companies – bad karma, but these clowns have taken it too far. My medium post/comment on another medium post both sum it up pretty well:

    My Post: https://goo.gl/XrcZ3y
    Original Post: https://goo.gl/WpFkEB

    The most disappointing thing? Nobody from snapchat has stepped up…or I’ve missed it so they might as well be silent.

    • Hi there Roto. Thanks so much for the comment and for adding to the conversation! We’re really grateful to have your take on all this. That’s such a great Medium post you shared, we were also inspired by Katie’s stand and we took a lot of courage from the way that she spoke out.

      I imagine this one must be quite tricky for Snapchat to navigate as well – they’ve shared a few thoughts about the filter (which is now no longer available), and we’ll all be eager to hear if more comes out about any next steps or future changes that might prevent these situations from occurring. Definitely grateful that this is sparking so much conversation and that we can take a small part in that! 🙂

  • I’m a long-time Buffer fan, but this is reckless political correctness.

    I watch a lot of anime. Do the characters look Asian? Sure, sort of. Not exactly. Maybe you should be decrying the lack of cultural diversity in anime ?.

    But to jump on the “yellowface” bandwagon is needlessly inflammatory. It’s not an Asian filter, it’s an anime filter. Try it yourself and the distinction is obvious.

    Seems like a company can’t win these days. We need emoji of every color to show our cultural diversity, but when efforts at diversity are executed in a way that anyone deems insensitive, we jump to shame the perpetrator.

    Boo.

    • I understand your frustration and annoyance here, Brian. Initially, I also shared your “is this political correctness gone mad” stance, and soon realised it was because I was misunderstanding Buffer’s motivation.

      This doesn’t feel so much like the Buffer team are taking a “political correctness” position. They are reacting to the repeated failure of Snapchat in terms of racial awareness, and have become aware that this failure does not align with their own commitment to diversity, and inclusivity.

      As such, I can see how it would make sense, from a brand perspective, for Buffer to take a step back from Snapchat, perhaps to assess whether their continued use could amount to an endorsement of the platform, and it’s behaviour.

      • I hear what you’re saying Matt, and appreciate your reply. We will have to agree to disagree that introducing these two filters was a racial awareness fail. To me it’s a “haters gonna hate” thing. I mean c’mon, they released the second filter in partnership with the Bob Marley estate! If a filter makes you look like Bob Marley, and that’s racism because he’s black… ? Would it be okay to have a Skrillex filter, with the hair and the big black glasses? Of course – no problem!

        • Very happy to agree to disagree here, Brian. I do feel you’re underplaying the racial significance of Blackface, and Yellowface, though of course I could be wrong.

          • As could I! I guess it comes down to, does it strike you as offensive? Maybe I’m just not culturally sensitive enough, though usually I’m on the other side of these sorts of arguments.

            Fwiw, I was looking through my Instagram feed at lunch, and a friend had posted a pic of himself with the anime filter. It was cute and inoffensive – nothing like what was posted above. You have to purposely pose to get that look.

          • Here we go… Offensive or no?

          • I can see how that level of racial stereotyping could be seen as offensive.

    • LeoWid

      Hey Brian, just jumping in here and I wanted to share that your line here resonated a lot with me: “but when efforts at diversity are executed in a way that anyone deems insensitive, we jump to shame the perpetrator.”. We discussed this in particular quite a bit internally and it’s a really tricky thing to navigate and it seems that potentially we’ve not quite gotten it right and I appreciate you pointing out what kind of sentiment our statement might be causing.

      The way we see it is like this: We love Snapchat and we love and care deeply for the people that felt hurt by their filters. We don’t believe Snapchat intentionally wanted to hurt anyone here. We also believe that there are some deep issues with some of these filters. We’re trying our best to have all these statements live side by side without making any of it mutually exclusive.

      The last thing we want to do is shame Snapchat, but rather try and take a peaceful stance to help point something out.

      One other way to describe this is that we’re trying to give a good friend of ours a nudge, who’s done something that hurt others from our perspective. We still want to give them a hug after we’ve said it and we hope they’ll help us point out our own harmful actions, of which there are plentiful too.

      Would love your thoughts on this in case you find time!

      • Hey Leo, thanks for the clarification. Yeah, it’s tough to thread the needle here!

        I think Courtney did a great job of showing empathy towards Snapchat at several points in the article. So maybe “shaming” is an overreach on my part.

        Still, IMHO the filters are non-issues (see my reply to Matt below), so obviously I’d prefer to see Buffer support one of its partners by taking a stand *against* political correctness run amuck.

        (fwiw I’m a liberal and non-Snapchat user – though I did create an account to reserve my name!)

    • Tim Hur

      As someone born in the States and who didn’t even understand I was even Asian growing up (grew up in podunk areas) – Yellowface (or the snapchat filter) is not just “anime” – it’s a complete insult to the AAPI community. Sorry, it just is. Masking it under the guise of “Anime” doesnt stop that fact. Growing up with people using their fingers to squint their eyes to “look Asian,” – you can say it’s just ignorant or racist – whatever.

      Anyway, kudos to the team here for standing on their core beliefs.

  • Huge respect for taking a position here, Courtney (and the Buffer team).

    • Appreciate the encouragement, Matt! It’ll be interesting to figure out our next steps; I’m keen to share more as things develop.

  • Meg (Our Misadventures)

    This is one of the many reasons I love the #bufferculture!

  • Tim Hur

    As the Diversity/Inclusion Director for a mega company- this is kind of stuff makes me very sad. Acknowledgement and apologies are a good start but stuff like this shouldnt have ever happened. My company hired me not because we did something wrong but because my company is diverse and inclusive.

    The best day is where my company lets me go or realigns to a different role because we don’t need people to focus on diversity or inclusion because we ARE diverse and we ARE inclusive.

    I hope there comes a day where we dont need non-profits focused on the advancement of AAPI, Black, Hispanic, LGBT communities – because they already have a voice on the table and it’s just “normal”.

    My company understands they don’t want people like me soon.

    I love that.

    • Hey Tim! What an awesome comment; I love hearing about your role and that you define success by not being needed anymore. So inspiring! Really looking forward to that world. 🙂

  • Joshua Price

    I respect the decision that Buffer has made. At this point it’s a repeated mistake which likely means they have yet to learn their lesson. Especially given how blatant this last filter was. That’s not “anime” inspired it’s inspired by the racist cartoon impressions of Asians from the world war days.

    Kudos to the Buffer team for choosing to stand by their beliefs. It’s not always an easy path to walk but you’ve set a good example.

    • Thanks so much for these kind words, Joshua. It means a lot to have your encouragement as we navigate this one!

  • Arp

    Bravo.

    • Thanks so much for sharing with us; it’s been a unique one for sure!

  • And this is just another one of the many reasons I love Buffer. Courtney and team, thank you for your sensitivity, honesty, and transparency.

    • Awesome to hear from you, Sarah Anne! Thanks a million for the love. ?

  • Buffer team, loving the spirit behind your decision. I admire you as a brand to take such a mature and humane stand towards a better social media experience.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Anh

    • So appreciative of the encouragement on this, Anh! Thank you.

  • Brendan Foley

    I understand I’m late to the party on this post, but I wanted to chime in.

    The position Buffer has taken on the issue of Snapchat here is why I’ve come to appreciate Buffer and its culture so much. Brand is 90 percent what you do and only 10 percent what you say, and Buffer here is clearly backing up its “say” with “do.” It makes me feel good about using Buffer and makes me want to support it how I can.

    I also appreciate the tone of discussion here. It’s so… civil! Kudos to the Buffer team for jumping in, providing context to their decision, and engaging with the community in ways that inspire discussion and sharing of opinions.

    • Hey there Brendan, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here! Totally agree on the tone of the discussion; Buffer commenters are some of the awesomest people ever. ?

  • The culture of snapcat and its inherit immaturity was always my main concern. But even here on Buffer few posts back and all the other social media platforms were yelling how its a great way to get eyeballs and engagement. Glad to see someone has put a culture of the company and principles ahead of fast profits. Kudos for that.

  • Dear Buffer… And this is just one reason I decided to maximize Buffer and get the paid version. You honor your values and prove it by responsible actions. Some of the snapchat filters are funny. Like the bunny rabbit. But many of them could be interpreted as put downs or demoralizing, especially to young people who don’t have the experience or emotional intelligence to get past an intended joke. I applaud you for being brave, and doing the right thing based on your values. Invest in enhancements and making Buffer better. Don’t be a me too. Don’t ever settle for what everyone else is doing.

    • Wow, really appreciate your kind words and great advice here, Jane. Such a great point about a younger audience, too; that’s so key to remember!

  • Libby Muret

    “We truly believe that people and companies can evolve and grow in their understanding of diversity and inclusion. We’re all still learning ourselves.” Love this! When I graduate I hope to work for a company that shares similar values. As an avid Snapchat user myself, I was taken back when I saw those filters since they offer such a fun experience that other social media platforms don’t. I too took a leave of absence from the app, but once I saw changes and improvements with the filters I started back up again. With my generation being their main target, I hope they have learned from this mistake and move forward so that we can continue enjoying something that is so prominent in how we connect with one another.

    • Hey there Libby, thanks so much for sharing your story! Love that you took some time to reflect and then made a conscious decision to return; that gives me hope that we could follow the same path perhaps!

  • Ashif Sabrin

    Hey I am following your blogs for a long time ,Your blog about marketing in instagram was very good can you enlighten me with some insights about how to decide on what time to post ,based on our target segment