I’ve always been amazed by how lousy most company blogs are compared to personal blogs. It’s been something that I’ve noticed since I started my blog 3 years ago. However there has been one company that is an exception and I think many other startups could learn from their example. When I kept seeing co-founder Leo Widrich’s name every single day in my social streams and guests posts from him on many blogs I read, I immediately thought “who is this guy?” That’s how I ended up at the Buffer blog. The guys at Buffer get content strategy on a level that I think other technology startups and even large companies don’t. When I asked Joel about content marketing for Buffer, he told me the following:
“Content marketing is perhaps one if the most effective and yet underutilized ways for early stage startups to gain traction. We did content marketing with Buffer with zero knowledge or experience of blogging or getting press, and it is the single biggest factor that led us from zero to 100,000 users. What’s more, it’s totally free and only requires hard work and persistence.” – Joel Gascoigne, Co-Founder Buffer
I found some interesting things that separate buffer’s content from other technology startups
1. Strong Personal Brands
The Buffer guys both have strong personal brands. They’ve made it a point to continually invest in their personal presence as well as the company presence. I knew them as Leo and Joel before I knew them as the Buffer guys.
- Joel has a fantastic personal blog that I enjoy reading even though I don’t fit the mold of a typical startup founder.
- Leo does an amazing job curating some of the best content the web and as a result his personal brand has grown. He also writes killer content for many blogs across the web. .
I think other startup CEO’s (particularly early stage ones) could do a better job with their personal brands.
2. Great Storytelling
One thing that I think has made Joel’s blog so interesting is that he tells great stories. He gives us a behind the scenes look at what’s going in his life and his company. The key here is to tell great stories but also make them useful to the person that is reading. He makes us feel like we’re part of the Buffer journey and as a result we’re all rooting for him to succeed.
3. Embracing the Blogosphere
What really blew me away was just how many guest posts Leo wrote when Buffer started. I saw him EVERYWHERE. So it was only a matter of time before I had him here as a guest on BlogcastFM. Leo did several things really well
He connected with 100′s of people with no intention of getting anything from them. He didn’t just see the blogopshere as army of public relations outlets that he hoped would write about his product.
Leo provided high quality content for a wide variety of people. He didn’t limit himself to tech startups. I saw his posts on marketing blogs, personal development blogs, and many others. He didn’t write about Buffer in any of the posts.
The first time I met Leo was at Blogworld LA. I’ve seen him at every Blogworld since. Obviously the target audience for Buffer is bloggers, but most companies I’ve seen simply setup a booth in hopes that bloggers will talk about their product. These guys are on the ground talking to everybody. They get that it’s about relationship marketing.
4. Write Content That’s Not Just About Your Product
This is where nearly every company that makes a product falls short with their content efforts. All they do is talk about their products. So the blog really is no different than a marketing brochure or PR puff piece. It’s something I harped on quite a bit when I spoke on the Art of Digital Storytelling. For far too many companies the blog is a checkbox on their marketing to -do list, but they get no value from it.
The thing that I absolutely love about the way the Buffer team has approached content is that it would be interesting to read even if you were not a user of their product. Take a look at this recent post on Buffer’s blog. It’s useful even if you don’t use buffer. Then look at how many people shared it.
This seems counterintuitive, but the result of this is you attract potential customers who might have never otherwise have heard of you. I kept reading their articles (most of which had nothing to do with Buffer), and now I’m not only a paying customer but a huge advocate of their product.
5. Connect Your Peers to Each Other
In our chat with James Altucher he mentioned that one of the best things you can do is introduce people who would benefit from knowing each other. I try to do that a few times a week. Joel was really smart in that he created The startup founders Facebook list. He made himself the bridge between 100′s of people.
6. Killer Culture and Happiness Heroes
Part of what makes these guys so good at content is that it’s not something they do. It’s who they are. They hire happiness heroes instead of customer service people. Their employees wear the fact that they work their like a badge of honor. Take a look at Alyssa’s post on how she went from customer to team member. Because this way of showing up in the world is in their DNA, it’s infused into every bit of content they put out into the world.
The guys at Buffer don’t just have customers. They have a tribe.
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