How PR failure led Buffer to content marketing

If you want to find a content marketing success story, look no further than Buffer. Best known as the web app for scheduling tweets, Buffer has one of the most successful blogs  in the tech/social space.

It covers a wide variety of tech-related content. This includes social media but strays into other areas such as lifehacks and tips. And its posts regularly receive thousands of shares.

The interesting thing is that it started by accident.

Launched in 2010, the company’s blog was born out of an inability to secure coverage with top tech sites such as Mashable and TechCrunch.

In response, founder Leo Widrich said: “That was the realisation for me. It was like, ‘Well, if all this power of marketing something lies with the writer, then maybe I need to become a writer myself.’”

After months spent churning out social media-related content, Buffer realised it was doing the wrong thing. It was writing for existing customers, rather than potential customers.

To overcome this it decided to create content that might be picked up by other blogs.  Simple as it might sound, the strategy caused a fundamental shift in output.

What Buffer Blog does

Consider for a moment that it started off discussing social media tips. According to BuzzSumo, its most popular content over the past year includes:

  • 15 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Who Earn Income on Social Media (15,000 shares)
  • This is Your Brain on Emojis. Here’s How to Use Them in Your Marketing (6,700 shares)
  • 15 of the Best Free Marketing Tools for Startups (8,100 shares)
  • The Psychology of Facebook: Why We Like, Share, Comment (15,000 shares)

It is worth looking at what it puts out, too.

In terms of word count, its content is an advert for long-form. The best-read content is over 3,000 words long. In fact, 10,000-3,000 word articles received on average 4,000 shares. Compare this to 1,000 words or less, which gets fewer than 1,000 shares on average.

As for network, the vast majority of Buffer’s content is shared through Twitter. Indeed it has more shares than both Facebook and LinkedIn combined. The most successful subject matter is list-based with how-tos following behind.

Over the past year it has had 498,000 shares from 208 pieces of content. If you consider that much of this is long-form, it is a huge undertaking.

How PR failure led Buffer to content marketing is part of Content24, the online magazine for London content marketing agency FirstWord.