Category: Social Media Advice

Why I Believe Employees, Not Customers, Should Come First

Why I Believe Employees, Not Customers, Should Come First

Typical business advice touts that the customer should always come first. Given that my title is hospitality director, you’d especially think that ensuring customers are having the best experience possible would always be my top priority.

And it is, but I’ve discovered a more roundabout yet incredibly powerful way of getting there: putting our employees first.

After helping open and run four restaurants over the past six years as co-founder of Destination Unknown Restaurants, I’ve found that focusing on employee happiness ultimately leads to better customer experiences and a stronger business. And while I’m speaking from the perspective of the restaurant industry, this advice applies across all small businesses.

For us, taking care of our employees primarily means ensuring they’re fairly compensated for their work. In 2020, we moved the bulk of our full-time staff from hourly pay to a salary so they no longer have to rely on tips or worry about scheduling when it comes to their income. We looked at what our highest-paid employees in each category made under a tipping system annually, then added 5% to determine their new base salary. The increase in cost for us is offset by a significant reduction in turnover and the associated training costs.

But more than the money, this move has transformed the way we relate to our employees, and the way they relate to the business. We feel invested in them and dedicated to their growth and well-being, rather than viewing them as people who could be replaced at any time like many restaurants do. They give this back to us in spades in their care for our company and customers.

Depending on the state of your business, giving your employees salaries may not be realistic, but looking for other ways to truly take care of your employees, be it through other benefits, professional development, or flexible work arrangements, will only benefit your success in the long run. Here are just a few ways we’ve seen this move improve things for our customers, for our operations, and for our morale.

It’s Built a Workplace Where Everyone is Working Toward the Same Goal

When employees feel taken care of rather than taken advantage of, it removes the “not my job” mentality and instead encourages a team environment where everyone is working to make sure every customer has a great experience.

At a standard, tip-based restaurant, servers are typically only worried about their section so they can make decent money for the day. At our restaurants, I see employees working together to make sure every guest has a positive experience. If a server has a slow section, they can help another employee out instead of stressing about their income. They run food to each others’ tables and are constantly checking guests’ faces to make sure they’re having a good time. I’ve also noticed everyone banding together to train new teammates since every person impacts the guest experience.

We’ve further incentivized this environment of working together to offer top-notch service by adding a bonus structure on top of employee salaries. Every month, our servers and bartenders are eligible for a bonus based on good reviews on Google and Yelp. If we get great press or an award like a Michelin star, there’s an additional bonus as well. This way, instead of just doing their one job well, each employee is focused on giving guests a great experience in any way they can.

It’s Helped Us Retain the Best Talent

Prioritizing employee happiness has saved us so much time and money on recruiting, hiring, and training. During a time when so many businesses are facing mass resignations and staffing challenges, we have very low turnover and have had no issues hiring.

During a time when so many businesses are facing mass resignations and staffing challenges, we have very low turnover and have had no issues hiring. – Kelly Phillips, Co-Founder of Destination Unknown Restaurants

Yes, it was stressful when we had to pull from our savings to make payroll during the pandemic lockdowns. But I was resolute that we didn’t let anyone go because I know I’m never going to find another Elmer, another Marco, or another one of the other outstanding employees who I trust deeply. Maybe I’ll find decent replacements eventually, but it’s certainly not going to be overnight, and not without a lot of work.

Longer employee retention also undoubtedly makes the business better. When people stick around for a year or more, they get to know everything there is about the position, they become more efficient, and they find ways to serve customers even better. Many of my employees are people who helped us open these restaurants, and I can’t imagine succeeding without them.

It’s Created a Relationship Where Employees Want to Reinvest in the Business

More than just retaining talent, I’ve noticed that investing in my team means they’re excited to invest back in the future of the business.

By nature of having a salary, they feel there’s potential to stay and grow here, to move up the ladder and make this role part of their career. I could see many of these people becoming managers or partners or spearheading the opening of another restaurant one day.

Obviously, this is a huge asset for us when we’re ready to grow and expand. But it’s also a huge asset now because employees are excited to work on the business rather than just work for it. For instance, I’ll notice on slow days, instead of just sitting around stressing about the lack of tips, my team will feel empowered to use the time to make small improvements around the restaurant or brainstorm new ideas. It’s exciting to have employees who want to help push the business forward, rather than just coming in and doing the bare minimum of their job.

It’s Reduced Stress to Create a Better Environment

Ultimately, I think one of the biggest ways putting our employees first has led to a better customer experience is by simply reducing the amount of stress our staff feels day to day.

When you walk into a business and the team isn’t happy, you can tell immediately. At so many tip-based restaurants in particular, servers are doing math in the middle of their shift to figure out if they can pay their bills, which takes away from their focus on the customer. Meanwhile, our staff has more peace of mind, and the guests can feel that, making them excited to come back again and again. You can see that in how our businesses are doing today: We recently had a record sales week, and Destino is one of the highest-rated restaurants in Washington, DC.

Your people really shape the identity of your business. – Kelly Phillips, Co-Founder of Destination Unknown Restaurants

Your people really shape the identity of your business. When they’re not well taken care of, that will reflect in how people feel when they interact with your business, even if it’s in unintentional or subtle ways. But when they feel prioritized, they’ll give that energy back to the customer.

This whole experience has been a powerful reminder to me that, yes, my job is to take care of customers. But, even before that, my job is to take care of my employees, because I can’t do any of this without them.

https://buffer.com/resources/employees-should-come-first/

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Question: Lately, I’ve been struggling to create content for all the platforms that I’m on and I found out about AI tools that help with writing. It seems like this would help me a lot with my marketing efforts, but I’m worried that it’ll come off as robotic and inauthentic. Should I consider using AI tools to create content?

GPT-3 is one of the hottest buzzwords in machine learning and artificial intelligence (see: this WIRED article and the handy graph below).

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?
Google Trends data for the search term ‘GPT-3.’

Picture this: what if you didn’t have to come up with copy for every single marketing asset you created? That’s one of the problems GPT-3 tries to solve. After all, as Olabinjo Adeniran, a digital and growth marketing manager, put it, “Computers have always assisted us in our jobs. It's only reasonable that they continue to help us achieve business goals.”

It is especially gaining popularity with the advent of tools that will provide you with an article, email, or social media caption after you answer a few questions.

Despite the excitement around these tools in the tech industry, most people, especially marketers, tend to lean towards skepticism when it comes to adopting AI in creating copy.


It’s also super controversial, with people divided on what circumstances warrant the use of GPT-3, which is essentially artificial intelligence, or whether it should be used at all.


In this piece, we’ll be diving into the different opinions on the use of AI in marketing, its various applications, and whether you should be using it to create content for your business.

What does “AI in Marketing” mean?

Using GPT-3 tools like CopyAI to create content for your marketing assets. GPT-3 stands for “generative pre-trained transformer 3.” It is the 3rd iteration of the project, released by OpenAI in June 2020.

The writer of this WIRED article pointed out that “GPT-3 can generate impressively fluid text, but it is often unmoored from reality.” However, ideas with a foundation in reality are essential for content development in marketing.

In addition to philosophical concerns about how GPT-3 develops ideas, there are also practical dilemmas. Marketers tend to worry about the potential for GPT-3 to only ever be able to create black hat SEO content – low-quality content created purely for a search engine’s algorithm.

Does AI writing actually work?

I asked around with polls on Twitter and LinkedIn, and the consensus seemed to land on — it depends. A small caveat here is that these polls aren’t a definitive data source, but are important for adding context.


Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?
The poll on LinkedIn

Many factors go into creating content, and GPT-3 could become one of those factors. While it’s not a perfect system and cannot yet create long-form content indistinguishable from humans, there are situations where it may be helpful.

One of the responses to the LinkedIn post was from Abdultawwab, a content marketer who said, “It depends. I’ve seen these tools as a way to escape writer's block. You know those minutes you spend staring at a blinking cursor without knowing where to start? GPT-3 will give you the juice you need to get started. But when using it to develop a full-length article, the content will just not sound right nor will it flow well. But that’s just for writing. For other marketing use cases, they’ll be almost perfect as chatbot agents.”

Even though AI can create content based on the facts and stats that it collects from the web, it can't develop empathy, creativity, and emotions. It doesn’t have the capacity for storytelling that humans have. Rejoice Obike, a content marketing strategist, shares this sentiment. In her reply, she shared, “It depends. AI tools can’t understand your business the way you do. People are your target audience. So copy should be as human as possible. AI can’t reach that emotive you want to achieve with your niche market.”

Essentially, whoever can figure out how to code that natural human creativity into AI might just take over the world – or at least the marketing industry.

Should you be using AI tools for content creation?

My gut instinct as a writer is to say no. However, part of my job is considering multiple perspectives when writing a piece — which changes my answer to “it depends.”

Adopting GPT-3 in your writing could definitely yield some benefits, some of which we’ve touched on in this article, from helping you escape writer’s block to generating content ideas.

Another scenario where it makes sense to adopt an AI tool in your marketing is if you’re a small business with a limited budget and team. If this is you, using GPT-3 for tasks like generating Instagram captions can allow you to focus your creative energy on other parts of your business.

Also, if you’re a regular person trying to build a personal brand and publish consistently, a GPT-3 tool might be a good companion on your journey. However, it shouldn’t become the replacement for your own voice by any means, merely an assistant.

On the flip side, if you’re working as an experienced marketer, AI tools should be left alone or used only for low-effort tasks. There’s no replacement for your innate creativity. As Tosin Onikosi, a content marketing specialist, aptly put it, “I personally think that great copy should be human in order for it to connect to the reader. If copy ideation/creation becomes fully automated, I would imagine that it takes the originality and creativity out of it. I just don’t believe that creativity is something that can ever be achieved by machine learning.”

Examples of a GPT-3 tool in action

To provide a relatively unbiased perspective, I used CopyAI to create content related to this article. The tool gives you several options to choose from, so I picked something that seemed relevant: a blog post intro.

I started by entering the information I had on hand as I was outlining and drafting this piece to see what would be different from my intro to the AI’s. I was also given the option to choose what tone I wanted the introduction to be written in and ‘Witty’ won over options like ‘Professional’ or ‘Empathetic.’

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

A few seconds after clicking ‘Create Copy,’ I was presented with several options for my new intro. Here are some of them in order from my favorite to least favorite.

Intro #1

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Thoughts: I actually like this introduction – it’s pretty straightforward and sounds like what a human would write for a post like this. My article is opinionated, so I’m not using a Pros → Cons → Effectiveness structure.

Intro #2

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Thoughts: This one started off pretty well – empathizing with the reader and mentioning things that the tool might be able to help with. However, it fails to connect the dots, and it feels like something is missing between the first bit and the thesis statement.

Intro #3

Ask Buffer: Should You Be Using AI for Content Creation?

Thoughts: No, it’s not October 2018 – this intro gets a deduction for misinformation. Some good points are made, but the AI also fails to connect the dots that let the reader know the point of the article. It also comes off more as LinkedIn influencer-speak than a helpful blog post intro.

Overall, I think this tool is a good jumping-off point for writing an article and can help spark some ideas if you’re stuck. Kenza Moller, a content marketer, pointed this out as well, saying, “They can be a great way to generate content ideas & speed up SEO content creation — but at their current stage, I think they're just an early starting point.”

Another snag with this tool is that it isn’t foolproof. The AI won’t have the full context that you do. You will also need to do a lot of editing to get it up to par with your other human-made work. So keep that in mind as you use these tools.

Want to give AI a go? Use it at the preliminary stage of your marketing efforts

It’s natural to be curious — which is probably why you’re reading this article in the first place. If you’re interested in giving AI a go or adding a GPT-3 stage to your marketing process, then go for it — with a caveat. Keep it strictly as a tool for getting ideas or handling the small stuff, and let your team’s creativity turn the initial loose threads into a well-made content garment.

If you’re curious about what AI can contribute to your marketing, consider CopyAI’s extensive options or Copysmith (the only tool to get a 4/5 star rating in this Writer article). The tool focuses on marketing for e-commerce teams and agencies but has several interesting use cases, including product descriptions, blog templates (not the whole thing), and ad copy.

And when you have your copy ready, at least for social media, you can publish it through Buffer 😉.

https://buffer.com/resources/ai-generated-content/

Why We Increase Our Team’s Salaries Every Year

Why We Increase Our Team’s Salaries Every Year

You may have already seen our salaries and our salary formula, but another part of our process is to annually review the benchmarks that we use in the formula. To do this, we look at the data source for our salaries and make sure that all of our team’s salaries are keeping up with current market rates. We’ve been doing this since 2018, and we never decrease salaries during a rebenchmarking. In the last two years, we’ve also ensured that rebenchmarking always results in an increase rather than no adjustment.

Here’s an inside look from our most recent rebenchmarking in April 2022, followed by a deeper dive into how we approach salary rebenchmarking in general.

The Numbers Behind Buffer’s 2022 Salary Rebenchmarking

This year, we adjusted with a minimum increase of 3 percent and a maximum increase of 6 percent to align with market trends and help with rising costs due to global inflation.

This resulted in an additional increase of $42,000 per month or $504,000 per year to our overall operating expenses.

With a minimum increase of 3 percent and a maximum increase of 6 percent, salaries were adjusted in total between $2,078 and $13,500 per person across the team.

How Salary Rebenchmarking Works at Buffer

Every year at Buffer, we do a salary rebenchmarking, where we look at all of our salaries at Buffer and adjust them upwards to keep up with the current market. This is not a merit increase or any indicator of an individual’s value or contribution to Buffer. These changes are strictly to keep up with the job market. There are no changes to any other benefit or grant as a result of rebenchmarking, and we never allow rebenchmarking to result in decreased pay.  

To go about this, we compare all of our salaries to the market using our trusted compensation data source, Radford. Radford benchmarks thousands of tech jobs around the world and offers extensive training for our team to make sure that the way we match roles aligns with the way other companies are matching roles in the market.

In our salary formula, we benchmark all roles to the San Francisco labor market based on tech survey data for the software industry.  For all positions (excluding the executive team), we use the data from companies of all sizes. For the executive team, we do add headcount filters to be sure we aren’t comparing to salaries of executives at much larger companies.

From year to year, it’s not uncommon to see some variation in benchmarked numbers, either up or down. Ultimately, benchmarks are a reference point, and we apply them in a way that makes sense within Buffer. We have the ability to decide when we want to be influenced by the market and when we want to disrupt the market. For an area like customer advocacy, for example, we continue to lead the market in pay because supporting customers is at the core of what we do, and we believe our pay should reflect that.

To smooth out the volatility of the data over time and to stay true to our overall strategy, the 6 percent cap during the re-benchmarking season ensures that future merit-based promotions and pay changes result in salary increases. This is a decision that we’ve made given the factors we see at play right now, but it is something we will evaluate as part of this process each year.

We reassess every teammate’s salary at Buffer during the rebenchmarking, but there are a few cases where some teammates won’t have their salary adjusted either because they recently moved to a new job code that already accounts for inflation or because a greater change around their role is currently in the works.

Over to you

Do you have questions about how we do this at Buffer or want to share how your company approaches compensation? Send us a tweet!

https://buffer.com/resources/increase-salaries-every-year/

How I Built a 15,000-Person Community In Under 2 Years

How I Built a 15,000-Person Community In Under 2 Years

The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I believe the same is true for dog parenthood. When I fostered my first puppy only to quickly find out he had fleas, I felt lost and in need of people I could turn to for trustworthy information, and as a dog mom today, I’m regularly looking for community support.

So, when I started Dog Spotted to help NYC dog parents navigate the ins and outs of living with these adorable pets, I knew that community would be a big part of it. I didn’t just want a platform where dog parents could come to get expert advice and find the best local pet businesses; I wanted a place where they could all support each other on their journey.

Of course, wanting a community and actually creating one are two very different things. The paradox of community-building is that it can often feel like you need community in order to create community. After all, nobody wants to show up to an empty party.

It wasn’t easy, but I made it happen: About a year and a half since launching, Dog Spotted has a thriving community of over 15,000 dog parents. Retrospectively, there were three main steps that I think helped us succeed—a process I hope other business owners can learn from when building communities of their own.

1. I Partnered With My Dream Advocates From the Start

In the early days, partnerships were our most powerful strategy for growing our community. We partnered with dog experts to create trustworthy content for our users. We partnered with dog influencers, both micro (as few as a couple hundred followers) and macro (tens of thousands of followers) to do virtual events that gave us access to their audience and aligned our community with a face people already knew. We even facilitated partnerships between the small businesses and influencers we worked with—the influencers would get free products, the brands would get exposure, and everyone would see us as a meaningful connector in the pet space, which propelled our reputation forward.

Doing simple Instagram Lives with expert influencers like @seniordogdoc grew our awareness among their audiences and gave us valuable, trustworthy content.

I think these collaborations succeeded in a few ways to help us gain momentum. Obviously they  built  awareness that my brand even existed among the types of people I wanted to create the space for. They also made it look like the Dog Spotted community was already thriving: If all of these influential pet parents were already involved, who wouldn't want to join in? Finally, they helped me build a foundation of trust amongst new members coming into the community. By partnering with experts that people already trusted, it built our clout.

Many people are afraid to partner with similar businesses because they think they’re a competitor, but I truly believe collaborations can only be a net positive. There’s more than enough people who are passionate about their pups that all of our businesses can exist together. Share what makes your business different, and people will be thrilled to support both.

Many people are afraid to partner with similar businesses because they think they’re a competitor, but I truly believe collaborations can only be a net positive. – Jamie Ruden, Founder of Dog Spotted

2. I Empowered Community Leaders Beyond Myself

I could see that our partnerships were doing a lot for us in terms of growing our site visitors, social reach, and email subscribers. But I could see that turning that into an engaged community was going to take a little something extra.

Around that time, I read the book Get Together, and it taught me the secret sauce: Building true community involves not only inviting people in to get involved, but asking them to take on a role. It can be so tempting as a founder to try and keep control of everything, but if I wanted to go from just being a source of information to being a source of community, I was going to have to pass the torch.

The first time I tried this was when we were planning a week-long walkathon to raise money for seven rescues in NYC. My team could have done all of the planning and promotion ourselves, but instead we pulled in “team captains”—community members who were really enthusiastic about the event—to help spread the word, get signups, and lead walks throughout the week. We gave them some guidelines around our community values and norms, then let them take ownership.

Letting Dog Spotted members like @goodb0ycody head up aspects of our walkathon event made them feel more community-oriented and authentic.

3. I Created Different Spaces for Different Community Members

Finally, to keep my community engaged over time, I’ve found it helpful to create different channels so that individuals can interact how they prefer and get exactly what they need from the space.

For instance, while we love offering events for our members to meet in person, some may just want to follow us on Instagram for a regular infusion of dog advice. While Instagram is our most popular channel, our email has really high subscriptions and engagement because it includes content that can’t be found elsewhere.

We’re getting ready to uplevel our community by building a stand-alone online platform where NYC dog parents, experts, and businesses can come together. While the goal in doing this is to centralize everything we’re doing in one place, I never want to be prescriptive about how people need to engage with the community. I think it will add value to most members to be able to get everything they need in one place, but some may prefer to stick to one of our existing channels, and that’s okay.

As a final note, I’m committed to ensuring every member of our community continues to feel valued and invested in over time. Just like a plant, you can’t stop feeding a community when it’s reached the size you’d like—it’s always going to need attention even when it’s grown to a healthy number. If anything, I feel like I have to invest more time and resources into my community the larger it gets.

But as much work as it is, investing in my community is investing in the future of my business. Competitors may come in and steal our ideas, but they can never take away the people who trust our brand because of the support we’ve provided and the connections we’ve built.

Competitors may come in and steal our ideas, but they can never take away the people who trust our brand because of the support we’ve provided and the connections we’ve built. – Jamie Ruden, Founder of Dog Spotted

https://buffer.com/resources/build-a-community/

How We Offer Async Training To Our Fully-Distributed Customer Advocacy Team

How We Offer Async Training To Our Fully-Distributed Customer Advocacy Team

Within the Buffer Advocacy team, we’ve experimented with a few different training formats including live training at meet-ups, training over zoom, lightning talks, and recorded trainings. Training together as a team often fosters a sense of community and feels energizing! In contrast, watching a training video alone can feel isolating, and we hadn’t quite cracked the code on following up with other teammates or the trainer. At the beginning of this year, we had a chance to explore new training ideas for our remote team.

Juliet Chen, a Senior Customer Advocate at Buffer, and I were tasked with creating a four-part training series to help the Advocacy team with strategies around productivity and organization. As the team has grown, we’ve widened our coverage across the globe. We now have teammates who have almost no overlap with each other, spanning from every timezone in the US, to Europe and Ghana, to our teammates in Dubai, Brunei, Thailand and Australia. This means that live training sessions over Zoom have become more challenging to schedule.

When planning the training sessions, we immediately recognized that four live training sessions might not be realistic and it would not be inclusive for the entire team. Asynchronous (async) training made the most sense for us.

But we also knew that many teammates would have valuable input to share with the team and we wanted to capture that. We recognized that there are no “correct” strategies for productivity and organization, so we wanted to be sure to surface different perspectives through this training series.

Also, how could we prevent the isolation people feel when training alone? We also wanted to give everyone an opportunity to interact with each other, feel a sense of togetherness and get excited about the training topics. We needed to find an engaging way to present the information and encourage participation.

To address all of these challenges, we had a few brainstorming sessions and came up with some formatting and participation ideas that we’d love to share with you.

The training format

While we have had one-off training sessions asynchronously in the past, we had never done a series of trainings with a set schedule of participation before. To kick off the training, we posted a short introduction Thread (Threads is the primary tool we use to communicate asynchronously at Buffer) to the team, outlining how it would be presented and how they could participate. We also shared all of the topics that would be covered and a schedule:

Jan 21 – Jan 31: Planning for a productive 1:1 sync with your Advocacy lead
Jan 31 – Feb 14: Keeping up with Buffer communications
Feb 14 – Feb 28: Leveraging performance reviews as your gateway to growth
Feb 28 – Mar 14: Preparing for product launches

Throughout the quarter, we offered a new training every two weeks that was part of the overarching theme of productivity, communication and organization. We hoped this would encourage the team to continue thinking through these topics and promote sharing and learning for several weeks.

Each training outlined any Buffer company or Advocacy team expectations and then the trainer shared strategies, techniques and tips. It was written out in an article-style format without a template or any specific guidelines or rules, which let each of us write in our own conversational style. We also offered screenshots, supporting resources (such as blog posts and articles from others in the industry) and even some fun gifs.

How we encouraged participation

At the end of the training, we opened it up for submissions from any teammate who also wished to share what has worked for them.
We asked the team to follow up on the training in two ways:

  1. Create their own submission with organization tips or strategies they use successfully
  2. Comment or share feedback on the training or on other teammate’s submissions

When we asked for submissions, we decided on the following parameters:

  • We encouraged (but did not mandate) that all Advocates participate in at least two of the four trainings.
  • The submissions could be submitted in written or video format – we wanted to give them the opportunity to share in whatever way felt most comfortable.
  • We gave a two week deadline for submissions as we planned to include them in our wiki with the training once the session was complete.
  • We asked them to submit right in the Thread so that everyone could see the training and submissions in a single place. We hoped this would also encourage conversation and feedback.

As the training sessions progressed, we saw some incredible submissions from some Advocates who had several strategies to share with the team. Some were very detailed, outlining an entire process, while others were simple (but effective) methods that really added value.

Other Advocates simply added a comment of praise or validation that they also used the same strategies to great effect or learned something new from the training or their teammate’s submissions.

These submissions were added (with credit) to the training when we moved them over to our internal team Wiki and it’s our hope that any new teammates who read these will benefit from the added submissions from their peers.

What we learned

Our most popular training was created by Darcy Peters, a Customer Advocacy Manager, on “leveraging performance reviews as your gateway to growth”. Hearing specific strategies and techniques from a manager’s perspective was invaluable for many advocates.

“Wow, I'm amazed by how thoroughly developed your system is, Darcy! You have thought of everything.”  — Julia Cummings

We were excited to see so many Advocates read through the trainings and responded positively throughout each training Thread.  We also received great feedback about the training series overall.

“I wanted to let you know that these trainings have personally been soooo impactful. It felt like each one landed with me just when I needed to focus on that area – for one reason or another.”  — Dave Chapman

“These trainings have been incredibly valuable and insightful!”   — Essence Muhammad

Formatting

In the past, we’ve identified that many of our teammates learn very differently from one another. Some learn best by listening to a speaker or watching a video, while others prefer to read, for example. This can be tricky when choosing how to best format training for the entire team.

Now that we’ve tried a purely written format, we’d love to experiment with more formats in future async trainings. Some ideas include offering a written post, but also including an audio or video version of the trainer reading the post, or perhaps even including a simple slideshow.

Another idea would be to share an overview, then add bite-size info to the topic each day for a week (like a Twitter thread). We’ll continue to survey the team to find even more ideas on how to be inclusive with all learning styles while also keeping the training creation as lightweight as possible for trainers.

Participation

While we did receive a lot of positive feedback, the submission participation wasn’t as high as we had hoped it would be. The inbox was very busy during these weeks and some people were feeling a bit of information fatigue with many new announcements and conversations that naturally happen in the first quarter.

Perhaps another reason some Advocates didn’t offer a submission was that they felt the their own strategies were equal to what we offered in the training. But if they didn’t have many strategies themselves and the training was indeed valuable, we had hoped they would share more about what they might try. We saw a lot of positive emoji reactions, but we still hoped more people would participate by directly replying to the Thread.

With this in mind, we plan to further clarify the “submission” definition to encourage more participation and togetherness. We especially want our teammates to continue to get a chance to share their thoughts and to learn from one another.

For future async trainings, we’ll ask Advocates to to simply “check off” that they’ve read the training, and then also choose one of the following ways to submit:

  • Add a new strategy or technique that works well for them
  • Or, identify a strategy we’ve presented that they’d like to adopt into their own workstyle and why they think it might work for them or how they will implement it.

We’re also going to explore ways to follow up with the team several weeks after the training to see how the strategies have helped them.

Looking ahead

We took a big chance by offering an entire series of async training for a full quarter, but we learned a lot and we saw some great benefits for the team.

Everyone had equal time to absorb the material and to participate, and teammates who wished to share their own strategies and tips had time to articulate those thoughts. It prevented us from adding four more meetings to everyone’s calendar — the team could schedule the training according to what worked best for them.

Lastly, the training and the valuable team submissions were easy to add to our wiki as resources for any new teammates coming onboard after the training session was over.

Overall, we’re excited about the future of async training for the Advocacy team and look forward to trying new formats and submission ideas!

What questions does this spark for you? Send us a tweet!

https://buffer.com/resources/async-training-customer-advocacy-team/

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business

You’ve probably never envisioned yourself as a blogger. After all, you’re a small business owner, and probably not a trained writer. But you don’t have to be the perfect wordsmith to write compelling and engaging posts. Creating a successful blog really just requires being passionate about a certain topic — a characteristic you already possess as an ambitious entrepreneur! A blog can also be a low-cost way to elevate your small business’s reach and also build credibility with your followers, making it a win-win situation.

Another benefit of blogging is your posts are “owned content,” meaning you have complete freedom to create your blog as you please without relying on third parties. All the material on the site will be within your control, ensuring the tone and style of your blog are consistent with your brand values. Building a blog from scratch takes some work, but this article will help you get set up with the basics, while also providing insight into the various ways other businesses blog.

Why start a blog for your small business?

When thinking about the content you want to include on your blog, the 80/20 social media rule is useful to reference.This popular social media tenet dictates that while it’s acceptable for businesses to devote up to 20 percent of their marketing strategy explicitly promoting their products, the remaining 80 percent of posts should be entertaining and helpful for your audience.

The idea is that instead of bombarding customers with promotional ads, you should enrich their experience through interesting, edifying, or educational content. You probably want to add value to your customers’ lives in some way, and a blog is a perfect channel to do just that! Sharing this content will not only attract more customers, but it can also open a dialogue with your existing followers, creating a stronger online community. Blog posts can also be repurposed on social media — generating more content for your business.

Here are some reasons blogging is a good investment:

Highlight your knowledge

Customers want to know that the brands they’re buying from are dependable and trustworthy, and blogging can be a great way to relay your expertise in your field. Through blogging, CEOs, founders, and other employees can also dive deep into thought leadership by expressing their learnings from their own career journeys.

Expand on your brand’s values and goals

Oftentimes, Twitter threads or Instagram Stories may not feel like the right platform for when you want to write a deep dive into your company’s mission. Blog posts, however, are the perfect medium for an in-depth look into your company’s principles as you can expand about your goals and aspirations as an entrepreneur.

Document and share transparently

Running a business is no easy feat, and recording the ups and downs of the journey can be a beneficial experience for both business owners and customers alike. Sharing some useful content to include would be a timeline of company milestones, quarterly reviews, and a post honestly depicting the obstacles in running your business and how you overcame them. Individuals who are building in public have seen many positive returns, like finding community and gaining brand exposure. Readers will also appreciate this candidness and it may even help them see the humanity behind your brand instead of just viewing it as another company.

Include keywords in your post

By writing blog posts that contain keywords relating to your products and services, you can start driving more traffic to your site. This is an efficient way to build up the organic search for your brand. Just know that it will take some time for your posts to rank high for SEO. Still, if you consistently generate solid content that is crafted with search engines in mind, your articles can eventually start ranking higher on Google and similar sites. If you are interested in learning more, here are some SEO tools that can help.

How to start blogging

Setting up a blog is fairly simple, but there are some logistics to figure out before you begin writing.

Choose a Content Management System

There are a ton of content management systems you can pick from for your blog. Here are just a few options:

  • WordPress —  WordPress is used in 41 percent of websites, and for good reason. The platform is simple to use while also offering more advanced features for those who need it. The basic version of WordPress is free, but most brands and businesses will probably require a plaid plan.
  • TumblrWhile Tumblr may be known as a social media platform, the user-friendly interface is perfect for writing blog posts. It’s also a great choice if you want to infuse your posts with trending memes and a more casual tone. Best of all, Tumblr is free.
  • BloggerA free Google product, Blogger has been around since 1999 and has been credited as being a game-changer in the online publishing space. Blogger provides simplicity, easy-to-use templates, and can be linked with all of your Google accounts. A plus? Google Adsense can also be integrated into your site.
  • Ghost At Buffer, we use Ghost for our blog and appreciate its intuitive dashboard, built-in SEO features, and the platform’s commitment to centering content at the forefront. Ghost Open-Source is a free version of the site, while the more advanced Ghost Pro starts at $9 per month.

Make editing easier

A blog post that is filled with typos and grammatical errors can be jarring for readers, which is why it’s important to ensure your content has been reviewed. Grammarly is a great editing tool to use, especially if you’re an ambitious team of one. While there is a premium version, a free Grammarly account should take care of most major grammar and spelling errors.

Implement a content calendar

Similar to how one would set up a social media calendar, you can also make use of a content calendar for your blog. The calendar would include pitches and blog post ideas, the timeline for completing each post factoring in the outlining, drafting, and editing process, and the publish dates for each piece. This will give you an organized look into your blog and ensure you're staying up to date with your posts.

Generate Ideas

You may have a few top-of-mind ideas for your blog, but are wondering how to churn out content on a regular basis. Feeling unsure of what to post is common, but there are several ways to develop new topics to write about. Getting your followers’ input on the content they’d like to see is always a good option as they can bring up important customer pain points they'd like addressed. Asking the rest of your team for pitches – even if their role isn’t directly tied to marketing or communications – can also provide an insider’s perspective on the blog. And finally, creating a mindmap of relevant topics and doing other brainstorming exercises can allow you to think outside of the box.

Running a blog can feel like juggling multiple tasks at once, but eventually, you’ll settle into a good rhythm of creating content. Getting started is the most important part, and remember, you can always adjust your blogging strategy along the way.

How other small businesses approach their blogs

The great part about writing a blog is that you can be flexible in the type of content you share. If you want more ideas for getting started, these examples from other small businesses can give you a jumping start.

Documenting their journey

Blogs offer the perfect medium for customers to catch up with important news and updates from brands.

Scotch Porter

Scotch Porter —  a black-owned business that makes hair care products for men — has a variety of posts on their blog aka The Scotch Porter Journal. But their core focus seems to be sharing company milestones like announcing their launches in both Target and CVS. And when they were featured on Nick Cannon’s talk show in late 2021, they dropped the exciting news via their journal.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Scotch Porter updates fans about exciting company milestones on their journal

Buffer

While it’s always nice to highlight your accomplishments, it can be just as rewarding to open up about the challenges and obstacles your business has faced. At Buffer, one of our core values is defaulting to transparency, which is why we document important learnings on our Open blog. In these posts, we don’t shy away from difficult topics but instead, get candid about areas we need to improve on and the steps we’re taking to do just that.

We’ve written about cultivating a better sense of community within our remote team, the challenges our engineering team has faced, and security breaches at Buffer. Our hope is that by sharing things transparently, we can inspire and help others on their small business journeys.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Sharing transparently is a top priority for us at Buffer

Highlighting products

While you may be used to advertising your products mostly through social media, a blog is a creative way to promote your products.

Glamnetic

Glamnetic, a beauty brand that sells press on nails and magnetic lashes, spotlights their products often on their blog but keeps it fun by connecting back to other trending topics including TikTok, celebrity culture, and popular beauty trends. Some of their articles include Want nails like Kylie Jenner?, How to remove press on nails — TikTok viral hack, and 2022 spring beauty trends you need to know about.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Glamnetic's blog contains trending beauty news along with product highlights

Passion Planner

Passion Planner similarly writes blog posts that tie back to their main products: journals. Their blog includes tons of ideas for customers who’re interested in journaling, like 42 planner ideas to give your schedule the glow up it deserves and The 7-day self-love challenge. Instead of focusing specifically on their passion planners, however, the tips in the blog posts could work for any journal or agenda. This makes Passion Planner’s blog feel less like another marketing ploy but instead a solid resource for readers.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Passion Planner's blog includes helpful tips for journaling 

Flow Club

Flow Club, a virtual coworking space, highlights their product a little differently by including user testimonials on their blog. In this article entitled, “How Hustle Fund co-founder Elizabeth Yin beats procrastination with Flow Club,” they hone in on one customer’s experience with their product, providing direct quotes and personalizing the service a bit more for readers.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Flow Club uses their blog to highlight customer experience

Demonstrating expertise

You know your stuff, and blogging about your experiences and knowledge is a perfect way to educate your readers about interesting topics related to your business!

Birthdate Co.

Birthdate Co. crafts their products with astrology, numerology, and tarot in mind, creating a unique candle for every birthdate. Naturally, their blog includes tons of resources about horoscopes and astrology, like: Gemini Guide: What Are the Traits of a Gemini?, Taurus Season Horoscopes, and What Are the Best Astrology Books To Learn Everything About Your Sign?

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Birthdate Co. shares atrology related posts

A family-owned business, Pacific Cookie Company keeps it simple by centering their blog around all things cookies. Their articles include posts about the best cookie and coffee pairings, recipes for air-fryer cookies, and other baking topics like making cookies without butter.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Pacific Cookie Company includes baking tips and other cookie related posts on their blog

Passion Planner

Along with writing posts revolving around journaling, Passion Planner also blogs about self-care and empathy. These principles directly relate back to their company’s mission statement as part of their business’s goal is centered around helping people fulfill their dreams and feel their best.

How To Start A Blog For Your Small Business
Passion Planner also blogs about their core values 

We hope this article gave you insights into how blogging can add all kinds of value to your brand, like connecting with your audience on a deeper level. Once you have your first few posts under your belt, the writing process should become smoother, and running your blog will become a part of your regular routine!

Do you already have a blog for your small business? Share it with us on Twitter or Instagram!

https://buffer.com/resources/small-business-blog/

I Run 3 Small Businesses—Here’s How I Do It All Without Compromising My Life

I Run 3 Small Businesses—Here’s How I Do It All Without Compromising My Life

Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are familiar with other people not understanding what the heck you do and why. Your friends ask, “You can make money doing that?” Your parents pester, “Why don’t you just get a ‘real’ job?”

Well, I’ve experienced this threefold because I run three small businesses: boutique accounting firm Gratiam Consulting, content creation company The Empowered CPA, and blow dry bar GLAMbar. I get questions not only from friends and family, but also from other business owners, especially when they learn my consulting business is successful enough that I’m turning away clients. “Aren’t you leaving money on the table?” they ask. “Wouldn’t it be easier to focus on growing that one business?

Maybe it would be easier, but I wouldn't have my work life any other way. I love getting to expand my impact through my businesses, helping different types of people in different capacities. Working on a variety of project types keeps me excited about my work by ensuring that no two days are the same, and makes it feel more fulfilling because I’m impacting so many people at different stages of their lives. Plus, I love knowing that I’ve taken a very rigid industry and molded it into something that suits me.

But this structure obviously doesn’t come without its challenges, especially since I’m not the type of entrepreneur who is willing to hustle for 80 hours a week. When I left corporate life, it was because I wanted to create more time for my family, my health, and my mental well-being. Even while running three businesses, keeping space for all of that is a priority.

I know there are others out there like me: multi-passionate entrepreneurs who have a wealth of business ideas and are determined to find a way to make them all work together. For those people, here are a few strategies that have helped me keep my three companies running (and growing!) without sacrificing the other things I value in life.

I Thought Carefully About My Business “Portfolio”

I’ll start off by saying that I think the mix of different types of businesses I have—and what they each require from me—is part of what helps me succeed.

For one, I didn’t launch three businesses from the get-go. Instead, I worked on my consulting business for a few years and got it to the point where it was fairly stable, with new clients coming in 100 percent from referrals and a solid waitlist, before I turned my attention to another company. I think trying to do business development for three new ventures at once would have been challenging.

I also thought carefully about how much each business would need from me week to week. As a client services business in a highly regulated (and deadline-driven) industry, my consulting practice requires the most attention from me and is the least flexible on time. If I tried to take on another business with similar needs, I could see myself burning out fast. Instead, my content creation business leaves me with a lot of flexibility to adjust my schedule when urgent needs come up for my other companies. Similarly, I have a partner in the blow dry bar, which means all the responsibility isn’t on me.

I Regularly Remember That Saying No to Some Things Means Saying Yes to Others

It’s an unfortunate law of the universe that when you add on another business, you don’t get to add on more hours to your day. Instead, I have to constantly remind myself that everything I take on is going to take time away from something else, and that means making hard choices about what I’m going to cut.

For instance, when I started my digital content company, I knew that I was going to need five to six hours per week to create this content. If I wanted to do that without sacrificing family or personal time (or sleep), those hours were going to have to come from somewhere else. So I made the tough decision to stop taking on any new consulting clients. That meant leaving money on the table, but I knew it was worth it to me to be able to help more people through digital content, build a more passive income stream, and do it all without working myself into the ground.

When considering running multiple businesses, you have to be really, really honest about your time commitments, not only with yourself, but with anyone else relying on you, like a spouse or business partner. Understand what you can and want to bring to the table, as well as what might need to change to make that possible.

I Make a Plan (With Plenty of Padding for When the Plan Goes Wrong)

It probably goes without saying, but good time management is the key to making all of this work. Each week, I sit down and look at what needs to get done, prioritizing things from least to most flexible.

Because they are so important to me, I always make sure I have time for my personal responsibilities first, planning out time for meals, activities with the kids, and time at the gym. Then, I’ll check if there are any tax deadlines coming up for my consulting clients or accounting deadlines for the blow dry bar and carve out the hours I’ll need to do that work. Finally, I’ll see how much time I have left to work on more flexible things, like developing my digital courses.

Of course, as every business owner knows, the best laid plans never work as we want them to. So I always build in a lot of padding with the assumption that things will go wrong. I plan with my consulting clients far in advance and set deadlines far before any federal due dates. I also try to always have a few tasks on my plate that can be shifted if an emergency comes up.

I Swear by Systems and Delegation

The other cornerstones of my time management are setting up systems to reduce the amount of work I need to do in the future and delegating anything I don’t really need to do myself.

For instance, creating an onboarding kit for my consulting clients drastically reduced the amount of time I need to spend on that process, while still giving them the high-touch experience I aim to provide. Also, bringing on an administrative assistant this year ​​has opened up my time to tackle things more beneficial to the goals I’m trying to achieve. I made sure to find someone who was also excited about being involved in a variety of projects so they could help across all my different businesses.

Whenever I find myself spending a lot of hours each week doing something, I ask myself: Is there a system I could build to simplify this? Or training documents I could make to hand this off to someone else? Often, I find just a few hours of work operationalizing something can open up tons of time to focus on more valuable things in the future.

I’m Constantly Revisiting My “Why”

Finally, I’m constantly revisiting my goals for each business and my motivation for building them.

Even though I’m proud of the consulting firm I’ve built and the financial stability it’s given me, I know I don’t want to keep growing it right now because I’m also passionate about helping as many entrepreneurs as I can by creating content and digital courses. At the blowdry bar, I get to work with great collaborators on a brilliant business concept—I’d feel foolish walking away from such an amazing opportunity. Thinking about this helps me figure out the right balance of energy to give each company based on what it's giving back to me.

I also think that having a regular pulse on why I started each business will help me tap into the point at which my desires change. We all go through different seasons, and at some point I may decide one of my businesses isn’t for me. Or, I may decide to start yet another one!

Whatever decision I make in the future, I know that these tools will help me juggle everything, including the things outside of work that matter most.

https://buffer.com/resources/how-i-run-three-small-businesses/

6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post

6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post

If you’ve ever gotten lost in the rabbit hole of swiping through Instagram Stories, you know that they can be impactful as a user. From signing up for a product waitlist to buying a product recommended by your favorite influencer, Stories are a great way to quickly share content, and engage and influence users on the platform. It’s just as great for users as it is for businesses – agencies report two to three times more engagement with Instagram Stories posts than with regular content.

However, to get the attention of the massive audience for Stories, you’ll need to get creative. Stories’ ease-of-use means that you need to grab the attention of your viewer quickly because as easy as it is to reach people, it’s just as easy to lose them.

6 Instagram Story Ideas for Your Next Post
Follow us on Instagram!

Thanks to Story Highlights (which are at the top of every profile), you can turn your temporary Stories into evergreen content. We’ve put together some great uses we’ve come across that you can apply to your next Story.

Guide your audience to the right products for them

Instagram can be a great tool for discovery – one in two people use Instagram to discover new brands and products. Using Stories, you can guide your followers down the sales funnel by showing them specific products for their specific needs. Then they won’t go to your website without a plan – they’ll just add the relevant product to their cart.

Examples of brands doing this:

  • Plantmade: Plantmade shared the different results customers can expect to see by using their different hair oils
  • Loft: Loft’s Style Assist series is focused on having different people from employees to influencers, share how they style their products for different occasions.
  • Hers: Hers uses their ‘skin care’ Story Highlight to what each of their products does for the skin.

Take your followers behind the scenes

Authenticity is a big part of what helps audiences connect to brands, and your Stories are a great place to do that. And showing the behind-the-scenes of your business doesn’t have to be limited to what goes into making a product. You can showcase different employees in different contexts – doing their jobs, showing what they do outside of work, answering prompts or frequently asked questions, and more!

Examples of brands doing this:

  • Djerf Avenue: In the Story we caught, the employees at Djerf Avenue shared what made them happy.
  • Youth Marketing: YMC’s ‘#YMCrew’ Stories throws a spotlight on different employees, showing who they are and what they like to do outside of work.
  • Mejuri: Employees at Mejuri share how they get ready in the morning while working from home in their ‘Staff Styling’ Stories.

Create anticipation for a launch

If you’re in the process of creating and launching a new product, or service, or even just publishing a blog post, Stories are a great way to create anticipation.

From the Countdown sticker showing how long till your launch to linking to where your customers preorder/join a waitlist, adding stickers to your Story is a great way to engage your audience while building anticipation.

Example of a brand doing this:

  • Good Molecules: Ahead of the launch of their new product, X, Good Molecules shared a series of Stories that explained what the product was and what type of customer would benefit from it.

Share tutorials and how-tos

If you want to keep your audience coming back to your Stories, it’s important to create content that adds value. This means providing your audience with something that they would find helpful in their day-to-day lives or their work – all while integrating your product or brand values.

Along with sharing tutorials, add a competition element to make it fun for your audience. You can encourage viewers to share their take on using your product and tag you for a reward.

Examples of brands doing this:

  • Caraway: Using Story Highlights, Caraway keeps a guide to storing your kitchen items (specifically, the ones you might purchase from them) forever pinned to the top of their profile.
  • Fur: The grooming brand communicates their views on sustainability in this Story, encouraging and showing viewers how to reuse their empty containers.

Share social proof

There’s nothing quite as effective to build trust as seeing regular people talk about a product for free. You can use your IG Stories to quickly highlight posts from customers and content creators that talk about your brand. Keep an eye on your tags so you can highlight those who mention you in their posts. You can also use Remix by Buffer to grab tweets that mention your brand and share them on Instagram.

Examples of brands doing this:

  • Arami Essentials: Arami, a skincare brand capitalizes on its audience’s excitement to use its products and share the results, by reposting mentions from their audience in a dedicated highlight.
  • Kai Collective: The fashion brand shares messages, tweets, and different social mentions of their brand as Testimonials on their page.

Highlight important dates and events

Creating Stories centered on events that your followers care about is a great way to strengthen your connection with them. You can use Instagram Stories to put a spotlight on people, businesses, and products themed around month-long observances like Black History Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Pride Month, and so on.

Keep a calendar of relevant dates for your brand. Along with popular dates like Black History Month, go for something fun like National Pancake Day. And Drafts in Buffer can help you plan your content in advance.

Examples of brands doing this:

  • Apartment Therapy: For Arab American, Middle Eastern, and North African (AA+MENA) Heritage Month, Apartment Therapy used Instagram Stories to create a Small Business Spotlight series. In this series, small business owners like Dounia of @folks_and_tales who shares her story, telling people about her business and taking them through a day in her life as a small business owner.

Try different things to find what sticks

It’s highly likely that the brands and great Stories we’ve shared happened overnight. Experimentation is a big part of what makes social media management fun, so you should try different things to find what sticks. Not every idea will work for your brand or your audience, but you have lots of leeway with Stories to see the impact of different formats.

👀 Now we’d love for you to do our homework for us. Is there anything you’d like to see from us in Stories? Send us a DM to let us know!

https://buffer.com/resources/instagram-story-ideas/

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here’s What I Do Differently Now

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently Now

People often think that because I run a self-care startup, I must live a perfectly balanced life. Even I assumed that I knew the boundaries and habits I needed to put in place to take care of myself while running my company.

And yet, despite spending the past three years building Silk + Sonder—thinking about self-care every day, writing monthly journaling prompts for our members, and even being the voice of the audio meditations on our app—I recently found myself experiencing burnout like I never had before.

It wasn’t caused by a major company event or life crisis, just the typical requirements of being a founder. Every day, I was switching between big-picture thinking and putting out short-term fires. I was constantly making decisions across operations, product, marketing, and growth. I had been saying yes to every meeting and was constantly finding another problem to tackle.

Without me really noticing, my personal care habits started slipping: I wasn’t going to the gym, wasn’t eating the right foods, and was feeling pressure to keep the people in my life happy even though I had less social time than ever. I was overextending myself, but as a founder, I’m so used to operating outside my comfort zone and facing challenges left and right that I didn’t think anything of it.

Until one day, when I woke up with a headache so intense that I couldn’t even look at my phone. I took some Advil and hoped it would subside by the time I finished my morning journaling—but found I couldn’t even look at the words on the page. When I started feeling nauseous, I knew something was wrong. I managed to eke out a text to my assistant to clear my calendar for the day, then texted a founder friend for advice. “I think you’re experiencing burnout,” she said. I was in disbelief because I always associated burnout with heightened anxiety, not debilitating exhaustion.

I spent the next eight hours lying on the couch doing absolutely nothing. I needed to unplug, but even my go-to unplugging tools like a book or a podcast felt too draining.

After a day of rest, I was thankfully ready to get back in action. But I knew that if I didn’t address the root cause, I’d be incapacitated again before I knew it. And while some good, old-fashioned self-care spurred my immediate recovery, the long-term solution involved deeper changes in how I was approaching my work.

Here are the strategies that have helped me escape and avoid the burnout cycle since.

I started by reassessing my energy needs

Immediately, I knew I needed to make some adjustments in how I was spending my time so that I could better protect my energy.

Making my calendar work for me

First, I looked for ways to rework my calendar. I tend to operate best when I have two to three hours of focused work a day, but leading up to the burnout I had been ignoring that structure. So I blocked off some uninterrupted work hours each day and looked for meetings I could cut from my calendar, such as recurring check-ins where updates could instead be shared asynchronously.

Using an energy map to delegate

I also revisited how I was spending my time by creating an energy map: writing down all my daily and weekly tasks and categorizing which of them charged or drained me. I knew I wanted to spend most of my day on energy-giving activities, so this became an instant guidebook for what I needed to delegate. I noticed that sourcing candidates and taking the screening calls was draining a lot of time and energy, and it could readily be handed off.  To this day, I’ll create a new map when my to-do list feels like it's getting out of hand.

Reserving time for myself

Finally, I looked for ways to recommit to my wellness needs. I started pre-booking workout classes throughout the week so I wouldn’t neglect exercise and became more intentional about spending my weekends filling my cup with activities like journaling, reading, and fun social outings.

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently Now
The “wheel of life” from our Silk + Sonder journals is one of my favorite tools for figuring out which areas of my holistic well-being could use some attention.

I’ve worked on strategizing instead of reacting

One of the problems that led to my burnout was that I had fallen into reaction mode, constantly playing whack-a-mole with every question, need, and problem that came up. I knew that I had to get more strategic about how I was approaching the needs of my business so that I could focus on the most important tasks, rather than being pulled in a thousand directions.

Choosing one primary goal every day

I started by adopting a technique we recommend in our Silk + Sonder planners, in which you pick one thing to get done each day that will make everything else easier. I like to focus my one thing on expansive creative thinking for my business or tasks that make me a more effective CEO. I know that, unless the company is literally burning to the ground, these should take priority over other tasks that come up throughout the day.

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently Now
Carving out dedicated time to do your “one thing” can be valuable whether you’re running a business or just trying to figure out how to prioritize your daily work tasks.

Setting realistic expectations with my team

I also had to be more transparent about when I could address questions or review deliverables from my team members, even if it wasn’t on their deadline. I’m always tempted to stop what I’m doing and address their needs—especially when I’m holding them back from getting something done—but I found that communicating realistic timelines has been better received than over-committing and under-delivering (or working myself into the ground to deliver anyway).

Empowering my employees to make their own decisions

Finally, I’ve been working on removing myself from every business decision. If a teammate comes to me for input in an area I don’t know much about, I’ll be honest with them that, while I’m happy to talk through it, I trust their expertise. This helps empower them with the knowledge that they can make decisions without me. All around, it’s been better for them, better for me, and better for the business.

I’m consistently building new positive habits

Finally, I’ve found that the journey to create healthy habits to avoid burnout is a continuous one. Not only have I regularly had to adjust or recommit to habits when I feel burnout creeping on again, I’ve had to remind other people in my life of my needs. After all, I am the best advocate for my own well-being.

I Experienced Founder Burnout While Building a Self-Care Startup—Here's What I Do Differently Now
Habit trackers are a favorite journaling tool of mine for actually sticking to new healthy patterns.

Reducing notifications & checking messages on my own time

For instance, to reduce the temptation to context switch and reshift intended priorities, I’ve disabled Slack notifications and email previews from my phone and computer. I am aware of my tendency to invite distractions in—especially if they help others move faster—but I’ve realized that, more often than not, my involvement can wait. To preserve time for flow and creative thinking, I check these accounts a few times per day on my schedule. I use this same approach in my personal life, reminding my fiance and family members that, just because I’m not in a meeting, doesn’t mean I’m available for personal or home-related questions.

Training my team on when to treat something as urgent

People know that if there’s a true emergency they can text or call me, but I’ve also been working on training my team on knowing when something is truly urgent. I encourage them to ask themselves, “Is this so urgent that whatever Meha is working on, she needs to stop right this second to help deal with it?”

It’s hard to do this when you feel like everyone is looking to you, but ultimately I think founders put more pressure on themselves than they need to. I’ve found that my team appreciates my trust in them, as well as my transparency around my needs. In fact, they respect that I’m setting myself up to do my best work for them and for the business.

https://buffer.com/resources/founder-burnout/

I’m an Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety — Here’s How I’ve Grown My Business

I’m an Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety — Here’s How I’ve Grown My Business

For most of my life, I never thought I would be a business owner.

For starters, both of my parents started businesses, and I saw firsthand the emotional and financial toll it could take. But I was also an introvert who struggled with anxiety. All of the founders I saw were confident and charismatic, seemingly able to calmly handle every business challenge that came their way and pitch their business on a whim to any stranger they met.

Plus, when you’re dealing with anxiety mixed with introversion, you tend to talk yourself out of the risky moves and bold decisions that are often required to succeed in growing a company. It felt like starting a business would be even more of an uphill battle for me than it is for most.

But then I had the spark of inspiration that starts every entrepreneur’s story—the idea I just couldn’t get out of my head, the vision for the impact I wanted to make on the world. I had struggled so much with finding mentors through the various stages of my career, and I wanted to build a platform to make this powerful development tool easier for anyone to access, Dreami.

Around the same time, I was doing a lot of self-reflection around where I was in my life and my career. I suddenly felt this urge to step away from all the mental limitations I had and step into a more limitless version of myself—which is actually what my name means in Sanskrit: limitless. I wanted to embrace and honor my personality as much as I could, without letting it hold me back from taking steps that would make my life more fulfilling.

I had my vision and the fuel to drive me forward: Now, here’s how I actually overcame my challenges to get my company off the ground, land our early customers, and even get into a competitive accelerator.


I started small to build my confidence

In the beginning, when I was just getting comfortable with the idea of being a founder, I spent a lot of time in Clubhouse rooms. In theory, this was the perfect platform for an introvert like me. The whole point of the app is to make the facilitation of conversation easier, and I already knew I had an interest in common with everyone in the room. I also didn’t have to show my face and could even have notes in front of me if need be.

Best of all, I was listening to all of these conversations that would be perfect for getting the word out about Dreami: women in tech opening up about how they feel unsupported and don’t know where to look for help.

But no matter how many times I found my finger hovering over the mute button, my crippling anxiety stopped me from pushing it. Who was I to say I had a solution? Where were my qualifications? What would others think of me? While anxiety was pestering me from one shoulder, frustration was shouting from the other. How could I keep letting great opportunities slide? Other people would love a forum to talk openly about what they’re working on!

Finally, frustration won, and I wrote down in my planner a small goal that day to speak up in just one Clubhouse room. It went great! The positive feedback and new followers I got from that pushed me to speak up more, and the ball was rolling. It’s not that every speaking gig from that moment went swimmingly, but I understood the power of putting my voice out there. And I had the practice and confidence to say yes when bigger opportunities came my way, like speaking at TEDx and pitching my company to the Techstars accelerator.

I delivered a TEDx talk about going from limited to limitless.

I built habits to support my mental health

Even with practice putting myself out there, sales were never going to be easy for me. My introversion made constantly being on sales calls very draining on my energy, and my anxiety made me take every conversation that didn’t end in a “yes” personally. I would sometimes have days when I couldn’t get anything else done because my self worth was deflated by a rejection or lack of response, and I was ruminating on what I could have done better.

I knew this wasn’t a good cycle and that it would lead to demotivation or burnout fast. But I also knew that sales is a numbers game, and that if I wanted to get us those early customers (to eventually be able to hire someone to delegate sales to), I’d have to find a way to make it work. While I worked internally on separating my self-worth from the success of my business, I also implemented some external habits to better take care of myself.

0:00

/

Here's me on TikTok talking about making the ask. 

I started by batching all of my sales calls at the tail end of the week, giving myself a few solitary days to get strategic work done before any conversations wore me out or knocked me down. Since this would lead to long days of back-to-back calls, I also worked with a coach to figure out how to care for my energy. She recommended leaving enough time between meetings to do something that recharges me: write in my planner, do a short meditation, or take a walk around the block. I’ve been shocked by how big of a difference even just five to ten minutes of “me time” between calls makes.

Ultimately, I think this need to be extremely intentional with my time and energy has actually turned out to be a superpower as a founder. Whereas other business owners may spend years figuring out their time management, it was an immediate necessity for me that came pretty naturally.

I found mentors like me—and mentors who could push me

At Dreami, we always talk about building your personal board of directors—multiple mentors who bring different things to the table. When seeking other business owners to learn from, I found it helpful to take a similar approach, with a mix of introverted and extroverted mentors to help me both work with and push past my personality.

For instance, my introverted mentors have helped me become more comfortable with saying no to meetings that don’t drive my business forward (even when it feels tempting to say yes) so that I can preserve my limited energy for the most impactful tasks. They’ve also taught me that it’s okay to be upfront about my anxiety or introversion. I always felt like it was something I had to hide, but I’ve been shocked by how understanding people are when I’m clear about the boundaries I need because of my personality.

My extroverted mentors, on the other hand, give me something to aspire to. Every time I have a big meeting or speech, I envision the extroverted leaders I admire and try to embody their energy. Suddenly, I find my anxiety abating, my voice coming out a little stronger, and my presentation becoming more engaging. It’s a weird trick, but I swear it’s what got me through the final pitching process to get into Techstars, and it’s helped me every time since when I’m feeling nervous before a crowd.

I know this all sounds like a real fake-it-til-you-make-it story, but I won’t sugarcoat it: There are still hard days where my introversion is making me hesitate or my anxiety is throwing me into a spiral. But, with time and some smart techniques, I’ve learned how to bounce back from these moments faster. And, more importantly, I believe they don’t have to hold me back from succeeding in business.

https://buffer.com/resources/introverted-business-owner/

Ask Buffer: Should I Hide My Likes on Instagram?

Ask Buffer: Should I Hide My Likes on Instagram?

Question: I’ve noticed some Instagram posts no longer have the number of likes visible anymore. I’ve been considering hiding my likes too, but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea from a marketing perspective. Would doing so impact the way advertisers or customers view me and my business?

Anyone who has ever posted a photo or Reel on Instagram before probably knows the thrill of watching the likes trickle in. Receiving likes from friends, family members, or customers can be a dopamine-filled experience – a validation that whatever you posted onto your grid is satisfactory and appealing to your audience. On the flip side, when certain posts don’t receive as many likes, Instagram users can feel the opposite – like their content isn’t good enough. Low likes on Instagram have also been linked to a rise in anxiety and depression in users, especially teens.

In an attempt to combat the problem, Instagram released the ability for all users to hide likes on posts in 2021. The move has divided the internet, with some users appreciating this new approach and others finding it unnecessary. But for certain small businesses owners – many of whom depend on Instagram, deciding whether to hide their likes might be an especially conflicting process. There really is no clear-cut answer, but here are some things to factor in if you’re considering a life free of Instagram likes.

Creativity can flourish without likes

In 2019, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said the whole purpose of hiding Instagram likes was to create a more positive online environment. “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, give people more space to focus on connecting with people that they love, things that inspire them,” he said. Mosseri seems to be on to something as it turns out for many, taking likes out of the equation does allow for greater self-expression.

More originality

In 2019, when Instagram had first announced they were toying with the idea of no likes, influencer Casey Barker told Esquire that the change might allow him to take more risks as a content creator. “I think I’ll care less about getting the quality right every time and it’ll probably be a more natural feed than a perfect-looking feed … It can be a lot more raw, a lot more myself, rather than thinking: ‘Will people like this?”

According to Dar Meishi, a cognitive neuroscientist, it's normal for individuals to want to be liked on social media. “We’re hardwired to find social interactions rewarding,” he told PBS. Amassing likes and comments on Instagram gives our brains a dopamine boost, which, consequently, has us all craving more and more likes.

Oftentimes, people get so consumed by this need for validation that they’ll only post photos or videos they believe will please their audiences, essentially stripping away any originality. Cam B, a 20-year-old, told the Huff Post he knows people who’ve deleted Instagram posts solely because they didn’t get enough likes. Long gone are the days when Instagram was a platform for candid and authentic snapshots. A 2020 study found that only 29 percent of users would post an unedited photo of themselves on social media. A Guardian article entitled, “Facetune conquers Instagram,” uncovers how prevalent photoshop has become amongst ordinary users. But, with likes out of the mix, there’s a chance this pressure to be perceived as perfect will diminish.

Sarah Roberts, a 22-year-old, was one of the first to experience an Instagram without likes when the feature was first rolled out for testing in Canada back in 2019 and said it changed her relationship with the platform for the better. “Personally, I love not seeing the like count,” she told HuffPost. “I’ve also been more personal with the things I actually like versus what everyone else is liking. This feels like more of what Instagram should be rather than an advertisement of ourselves on our page.”

The change can be beneficial for small businesses, too. While it may feel safe to post what you already know does well with customers, not tracking the number of likes could allow brands to experiment with different types of content without worrying that followers will automatically judge a post for getting a fewer number of likes.

Highlight quality, not quantity

When Instagram first rolled out testing for hiding likes, users were met with this announcement on the top of their feeds. It reads, “We want your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes your post gets.” Our eyes often gravitate towards the likes on a post immediately, emphasizing the metrics of the content rather than the substance behind it. This can be seen across all social media platforms: Instagram likes, Reddit downvotes, and YouTube’s dislike button can all act as a kind of groupthink. The more likes a photo gets must mean it’s good while a video receiving tons of dislikes could give off the impression that it’s bad (partly why YouTube made dislikes private). Without this data, users will have to focus on the quality of an Instagram post instead of assigning a quantitative, predetermined value to it.

In 2021, photographer Brandon Woelfel tweeted about the change in his content that stemmed from using the feature. “Hiding likes on Instagram has me actually posting photos I like… a concept.” Today,  most of Brandon's pictures have the likes visible, but there are a few where he’s chosen to continue to hide likes, including this photo of a woman in a red dress. There’s a noticeable distinction between the posts that have likes and the ones that don’t. The actual shot – the vibrant colors, the model’s nimble pose, the shadowing in the image – becomes the start of the show rather than a bolded number.

Ask Buffer: Should I Hide My Likes on Instagram?
An instagram post by photographer Brandon Woelfel

A social media platform without likes can allow users and content creators alike to concentrate on the artistic element behind each post, rather than the arbitrary digits attached to it.

The potential downsides of hiding your likes

While doing away with likes can be beneficial for some, there are certain aspects, particularly from a business perspective, that could be negatively affected if an influencer or small business owner decides to privatize this data.

Partnerships and brand deals can be impacted

When Instagram first announced changing the way likes are displayed, most people immediately questioned how this move would impact content creators and brands who rely on Instagram as both a marketing tool and source of revenue. Oftentimes, large companies decide who they want to collaborate with based on the number of likes a business or influencer receives. And while there are other factors they consider too – follower count, click-through rate, story views, etc. – likes per post are one of the biggest contributors to sponsorship deals.

An early study done by HypeAudtior found that accounts that hid their likes and had between 5,000 to 20,0000 followers, experienced up to a 15 percent drop in likes. Fewer likes, publicized or not, could lead to fewer opportunities to work with advertisers and land sponsorships. Despite telling Esquire that he envisioned a life without likes as a positive change, Casey also said he was hesitant about the move for this very reason. “I just feel like when brands are looking at my page at the minute, the more likes I have in general, the more I think they’ll want to work with me,” he said. Looking at his account today – three years since the interview – his likes are still visible.

But even though likes won’t be observable by the public, the data will still be measured from the backend and can be sent to agencies who are interested in these numbers. According to Ben Jeffries, co-owner of a London-based marketing agency, if more and more people choose to disengage from their likes, however, this could cause a shift in the world of Instagram marketing, “ … what’s really important about it is that it will actively encourage advertisers to stop looking at metrics such as likes as the main important metrics within a campaign,” he said.

This shift could favor smaller businesses that may have a hard time securing brand deals over larger and more popular accounts, essentially leveling the playing field for everyone.

Lack of transparency

In the last few years, transparency between businesses and audiences has been a buzzword –  but for good reason. Even founders and CEOs have taken to their personal Twitter accounts to openly share their journey, something most followers appreciate seeing. Along with wanting more clarity, audiences are demanding to know that brands actually stand behind the initiatives they preach. Glossier –  a makeup company that markets itself as being diverse and inclusive – was called out for the alleged discrimination and racism taking place in some of their retail stores by former staff members who formed a collective known as "outta the gloss." In a statement, CEO Emily Weiss said the company would email former employees to “invite dialogue with anyone who has additional feedback and ideas to help move us towards our shared vision.” Though this wasn’t enough to assuage everyone, having an open conversation between staff was a step in the right direction for the brand to be more transparent with its own employees and slowly win back the trust of its customers.

One way to easily lose the confidence of customers is by withholding information and data. When platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter provided the option to limit replies and comments, the move was commended for giving users more agency over their content. But, when big retailers enabled these features, many customers felt like they were being silenced. This tweet from user Isabél calls out brands who limited comments on their posts during the summer of 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement was at the forefront of online conversation. “Keep watch of the companies that are disabling comments on posts right now, especially when asked about their plans to implement real change, anti-racism & inclusivity within their workplace. They’re silencing important conversations and valid criticism. #BlackLivesMatter”

Just like disabling comments feel suspicious to some, there is a chance privatizing likes could provoke uneasiness in customers. Followers might automatically assume that hiding likes mean there’s something wrong with the content. But one way to be cognizant of your followers’ feelings is to directly ask them their thoughts on hiding likes. You could take to Instagram Stories or make a poll on Twitter and have an open conversation to assure your community your business values transparency.

Hiding likes is still such a new concept for many, and there currently isn’t enough data to judge whether doing so is the right move for brands. However, it does seem like most people – businesses and content creators alike – have chosen to keep their likes visible for now. With that being said, it might take some time for others to feel comfortable ridding themselves of Instagram likes.

But if you’re considering hiding your likes, think about what matters most to you. Keeping your likes visible can lead to more transparency, but there’s also a chance it’s hindering your creativity. Doing a trial run could be helpful in this situation. Turn off likes for a one to two-week period and take notes on whether you observe a change in your engagement and creativity. Are you more open to posting new content? Did you notice a decrease in likes and/or sales? Has your relationship with your followers changed? Once you figure out the answers to these questions, you’ll have a better idea if making the switch to an Instagram without likes is the right move for you and your business.

Have you decided to hide your likes or will you keep likes visible? Let us know on Twitter or Instagram!

https://buffer.com/resources/hide-instagram-likes/

How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And Buffer

How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And Buffer

What do a hamburger restaurant chain, a law firm, and a sustainable packing company have in common?

They all use social media to grow their brand and they all call on the team at Influence Media to help them create and manage their social content.

How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And Buffer

Founded by Luke Thornton and based in the UK, Influence Media has a broad spectrum of clients. Some large, some small. Some local, some international. It keeps life interesting for them and it makes Buffer the ideal tool for developing a consistent presence for such a variety of brands.

Here's what Luke had to say when we asked him about the role Buffer plays in his business:

We have ten plus clients on Buffer, which means we manage about thirty social channels in total and rising. Social media management makes up a significant amount of what we do here, so Buffer is an important part of our business.

A key ingredient in Influence Media’s secret sauce is their in-house creative team. Social media is an increasingly visual world, and having professional film and photography as part of their service enables them to deliver high-quality content for their clients' social channels.

We offer the full video production package; from initial strategy planning, creative ideation, and storyboarding right through to production services and post-production.

The social content they create ends up in Buffer, where they plan and schedule posts across Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter for all of their clients in a single, simple dashboard.

How A Creative Marketing Agency Brings Brands To Life With Video And Buffer
Influence Media's social content calendar in Buffer

Buffer makes business manageable for us. We can manage all posts in one place and it’s easy to use. It’s a real lifesaver.

Luke has also shared new feature requests with the Buffer team and having that connection helps both Buffer and Influence Media deliver more value to their customers.

Video is such a powerful medium, and not just on platforms like Instagram. We had been asking for a LinkedIn native video scheduling feature for a while and when Buffer added it to their product we were thrilled!

As for advice for any business that wants to grow its social media following? Consistency is key, according to Luke.

The secret to a great social media strategy is consistency. Buffer is the perfect tool to maintain a consistent posting schedule, especially if you’re juggling content across multiple channels.

https://buffer.com/resources/influence-media-case-study/

6 Ways Small Businesses Are Celebrating Earth Day

6 Ways Small Businesses Are Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is one of the (many) days when businesses can create or reaffirm a commitment to practicing sustainability. Business owners must take time out to create awareness, especially when climate action is more important than ever.

Along with the environmental implications, sustainability is growing in awareness among consumers. A 2021 study by Deloitte found that 34 percent of consumers choose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices.

Here are some ideas for small businesses looking to highlight Earth Day on Instagram.

Keep it simple with an informative message.

Sometimes, a simple approach is better than an elaborate campaign, especially when there’s an important message to get across. So these brands decided to take the simple route, with a bit of their own added flair.

Agnes LDN, a fashion brand aiming to educate its customers about sustainability, shared an Earth Day post with a simple but effective message. They ask readers not to focus only on the discounts and offers on Earth Day but also on its core themes of environmental restoration. They also highlight a creator, Poppy Okotcha, an ecological home-grower based out of the U.K., who shares information about foraging and regeneration gardening on her Instagram.

On the other hand, Reclaim Wellness, a sustainable self-care brand, offered a discount (15 percent off on all their products) and shared ways users could be more sustainable daily. Some of their tips include growing some of your own produce, recycling, and upcycling clothing.

You can choose to share how your product helps people cultivate sustainable habits as Circular & Co, a reusable cups brand did in their Earth Day post. The team member that wrote the post highlighted that his own reusable coffee cup had saved ~85 disposable cups from the landfill, a great example of small changes making a big difference.

Or, you might share the different ways your brand practices sustainability as natural skincare brand Cln and Drty did in their Reel. The Reel specifically highlighted reusing leftover products as samples and recycling at all points of production.

Whatever you choose to do, remember to keep Earth Day and its core purpose –   making life more sustainable – at the forefront of your messaging.

💡
Practical Tip: Here are some resources from EarthDay.org, the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement that can help you make the most of Earth Day.

Highlight or collaborate with another sustainable brand or creator

Earth Day is all about working together as a community to improve the state of the world. Focus on the community aspect by highlighting someone else like a brand or creator doing great work in the sustainability space by giving them a platform to let their voice and vision be heard.

Love Stories Bali, a sustainable fashion brand highlighted Closed Loop, a sustainable fashion consultancy in their Earth Day post. They spoke about the brand’s sustainability efforts and shared images and videos of Closed Loop’s work to upcycle used clothing.

Whiskers Laces, an environmentally-friendly shoelace business, took a similar approach, highlighting a digital tool called Ethicli that helps people practice sustainable shopping in their post.

💡
Practical Tip: There are many ways to collaborate. You can do an Instagram takeover with a creator focused on sustainability. Or you might just pick up the activities of a fellow brand in the sustainability space and put a spotlight on them.

Conduct a giveaway

In the days leading up to Earth Day, you can plan to give away some products or services if that’s a good fit for your business. A giveaway can be a simple way to create engagement for your brand and create awareness around Earth Day. That’s the approach these three brands took, asking participants to like the post, follow both brands on Instagram, and tag a friend in the comments.

Grandy Organics, an organic food company, partnered with Eco Bags US, the long-time reusable bag brand for a giveaway.

Tegaa a sustainable resort wear brand, partnered with Maya’s Cookies, a vegan cookie brand to give away their products.

Three Alaska-based companies – Alaska Glacial, Alpine Fit, and Elevate Art Studio collaborated to give their products away in the days leading up to Earth Day.

💡
Practical Tip: You don’t have to only giveaway using one format. You can do a giveaway that requires less effort on the customers’ part, including a free item in every order made on Earth Day or during that week or month.

In the weeks or days leading up to Earth Day, consider offering a promo on your products and donating the proceeds or a portion of them to a good cause.

Grandy Organics is donating 10 percent of its profits to Appalachian Mountain Club, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the outdoors.

Sense of Shelf donated 100 percent of their profits to black-led farming organizations, with information about why in their Earth Day post. They also encourage their audience to forgo shopping and instead support the farms directly if they can do so.

If you’re on the hunt for organizations to donate to, here at Buffer we’ve vetted and donated to environmental charities in the past like Cool Earth and VertueLab. You can also check out Giving Green to help you find the right cause that aligns with your brand’s values.

💡
Practical Tip: Donating large amounts can be a big ask for many small businesses, but if you have any deadstock or cash that you can donate, that works great.

Encourage followers to participate in sustainable activities

The impact of Earth Day needs to be felt physically and online. As a brand, you can encourage people to participate in more local activities that practically help improve the environment.

Sense of Shelf did an IG takeover with Tuesdays for Trash, an environmental conservation organization. The post encouraged people to clean up their neighborhoods and take a selfie to be entered into a raffle.

💡
Practical Tip: There are great Earth Day activities for every type of business, even if you have a primarily local audience. Consider organizing cleanups of a local beach or park or a recyclables collection event.

Practice what you preach when it comes to sustainability

Aside from being active on social media, it’s essential to keep practicing sustainability throughout the year. Make it a core part of your business ethos, from paying your workers fairly to recycling materials.

Greenvelope’s Earth Day post reflects this as they share a simple message about their efforts to be a sustainable company.

What are your favorite Earth Day campaigns from small businesses? Tag us on Twitter and Instagram to let us know!

https://buffer.com/resources/earth-day-campaigns/

Secure Access To Opensearch on AWS

Secure Access To Opensearch on AWS

At Buffer, we’ve been working on a better admin dashboard for our customer advocacy team. This admin dashboard included a much more powerful search functionality. Nearing the end of the project’s timeline, we’ve been prompted with the replacement of managed Elasticsearch on AWS with managed Opensearch. Our project has been built on top of newer versions of the elasticsearch client which suddenly didn’t support Opensearch.

To add more fuel to the fire, OpenSearch clients for the languages we use, did not yet support transparent AWS Sigv4 signatures. AWS Sigv4 signing is a requirement to authenticate to the OpenSearch cluster using AWS credentials.

This meant that the path forward was riddled with one of these options

  • Leave our search cluster open to the world without authentication, then it would work with the OpenSearch client. Needless to say, this is a huge NO GO for obvious reasons.
  • Refactor our code to send raw HTTP requests and implement the AWS Sigv4 mechanism ourselves on these requests. This is infeasible, and we wouldn’t want to reinvent a client library ourselves!
  • Build a plugin/middleware for the client that implements AWS Sigv4 signing. This would work at first, but Buffer is not a big team and with constant service upgrades, this is not something we can reliably maintain.
  • Switch our infrastructure to use an elasticsearch cluster hosted on Elastic’s cloud. This entailed a huge amount of effort as we examined Elastic’s Terms of Service, pricing, requirements for a secure networking setup and other time-expensive measures.

It seemed like this project was stuck in it for the long haul! Or was it?

Looking at the situation, here are the constants we can’t feasibly change.

  • We can’t use the elasticsearch client anymore.
  • Switching to the OpenSearch client would work if the cluster was open and required no authentication.
  • We can’t leave the OpenSearch cluster open to the world for obvious reasons.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the OpenSearch cluster was open ONLY to the applications that need it?

If this can be accomplished, then those applications would be able to connect to the cluster without authentication allowing them to use the existing OpenSearch client, but for everything else, the cluster would be unreachable.
With that end goal in mind, we architected the following solution.

Piggybacking off our recent migration from self-managed Kubernetes to Amazon EKS

We recently migrated our computational infrastructure from a self-managed Kubernetes cluster to another cluster that’s managed by Amazon EKS.
With this migration, we exchanged our container networking interface (CNI) from flannel to VPC CNI. This entails that we eliminated the overlay/underlay networks split and that all our pods were now getting VPC routable IP addresses.
This will become more relevant going forward.

Block cluster access from the outside world

We created an OpenSearch cluster in a private VPC (no internet-facing IP addresses). This means the cluster’s IP addresses would not be reachable over the internet but only to internal VPC routable IP addresses.
We added three security groups to the cluster to control which VPC IP addresses are allowed to reach the cluster.

Build automations to control what is allowed to access the cluster

We built two automations running as AWS lambdas.

  • Security Group Manager: This automation can execute two processes on-demand.
  • -> Add an IP address to one of those three security groups (the one with the least number of rules at the time of addition).
  • -> Remove an IP address everywhere it appears in those three security groups.
  • Pod Lifecycle Auditor: This automation runs on schedule and we’ll get to what it does in a moment.

How it all connects together

We added an InitContainer to all pods needing access to the OpenSearch cluster that, on-start, will execute the Security Group Manager automation and ask it to add the pod’s IP address to one of the security groups. This allows it to reach the OpenSearch cluster.
In real life, things happen and pods get killed and they get new IP addresses.Therefore, on schedule, the Pod Lifecycle Auditor runs and checks all the whitelisted IP addresses in the three security groups that enable access to cluster. It then checks which IP addresses should not be there and reconciles the security groups by asking the Security Group Manager to remove those IP addresses.
Here is a diagram of how it all connects together

Secure Access To Opensearch on AWS
Diagram for our solution to tackling Opensearch access problems through automated whitelisting, source: Peter Emil on behalf of Buffer's Infrastructure Team

Extra Gotchas

Why did we create three security groups to manage access to the OpenSearch cluster?

Because security groups have a maximum limit of 50 ingress/egress rules. We anticipate that we won’t have more than 70-90 pods at any given time needing access to the cluster. Having three security groups sets the limit at 150 rules which feels like a safe spot for us to start with.

Do I need to host the Opensearch cluster in the same VPC as the EKS cluster?

It depends on your networking setup! If your VPC has private subnets with NAT gateways, then you can host it in any VPC you like. If you don’t have private subnets, you need to host both clusters in the same VPC because VPC CNI by default NATs VPC-external pod traffic to the hosting node’s IP address which invalidates this solution. If you turn off the NAT configuration, then your pods can’t reach the internet which is a bigger problem.

If a pod gets stuck in CrashLoopBackoff state, won’t the huge volume of restarts exhaust the 150 rules limit?

No, because container crashes within a pod get restarted with the same IP address within the same pod. The IP Address isn’t changed.

Aren’t those automations a single-point-of-failure?

Yes they are, which is why it’s important to approach them with an SRE mindset. Adequate monitoring of these automations mixed with rolling deployments is crucial to having reliability here. Ever since these automations were instated, they’ve been very stable and we didn’t get any incidents. However, I sleep easy at night knowing that if one of them breaks for any reason I’ll get notified way before it becomes a noticeable problem.

Conclusion

I acknowledge that this solution isn’t perfect but it was the quickest and easiest solution to implement without requiring continuous maintenance and without delving into the process of on-boarding a new cloud provider.

Over to you

What do you think of the approach we adopted here? Have you encountered similar situations in your organization? Send us a tweet!

https://buffer.com/resources/secure-access-to-opensearch-on-aws/

Instagram Reels: What’s The True Impact They Can Have for Small Businesses?

Instagram Reels: What’s The True Impact They Can Have for Small Businesses?

Nowadays it’s impossible to scroll through your Instagram feed without coming across at least one — if not several — attention-grabbing videos known as Reels. Dubbed the TikTok Clone, Instagram Reels were released in 2020 and consist of short videos up to one minute long. The feature has overtaken the app’s photos-first philosophy as 91 percent of active Instagram users say they engage with video content on a weekly basis. And can you blame them? It’s easy to quickly get immersed in a seemingly endless loop of engaging content.  

Along with being wildly popular, Reels are also proving to be a good business strategy for content creators and businesses alike. A recent New York Times article detailed how Instagram’s latest algorithm favors accounts that post reels. For many, this news means pivoting their marketing strategies to include Reels as a way to ensure their engagement rate stays up. So, if you’ve been considering making the switch to video content, now’s definitely the right time!

How these entrepreneurs grew their small businesses thanks to Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels can help your brand stay relevant while also allowing for more creativity in how you showcase your product or services. Instead of relying on fixed images, videos allow you to talk directly to customers, do in-depth product marketing, and overlay your posts with trending music and editing techniques making them more appealing to your followers. Here is how three small businesses successfully utilize Instagram Reels:

Cards by Shairy: Reels led to brand deals

Shairy Aroro runs a small business creating handmade greeting cards – among other crafts like her fan-favorite explosion gift boxes – and documents the entire process via Instagram. She made her first custom order for a client in 2017 and has grown her craft, along with her follower count ever since. She currently has over 50,000 followers and has posted dozens of Reels, which she credits for her success. In a response to a user question asking her how she got so many followers, Shairy responded, “For followers, make Reels.”

Shairy’s first Reel was posted in 2020 and currently has 17,000 views, a minuscule amount compared to the numbers her recent Reels are raking in. This video of Shairy putting the finishing touches on one of her products was viewed over 88,000 times. Another Reel where she crafts hot pink pompoms gained an impressive two million views. The influencer has ascribed her business’ growth to her passion for crafting along with documenting her process online, “I literally had no idea how far I would be going with this. It was just a hobby and I felt great spending time doing something that I always loved … I kept posting my work and people started noticing,” she said on her Instagram stories.

And this very passion has afforded her new business opportunities, not only by growing her customer base but also through brand deals. This year, Shairy partnered with the craft store Paperedge India to create a reel series on fuse tools. The series speaks to the range Instagram Reels allows content creators and small businesses. Instead of just posting fixed photos of her projects, Shairy was able to engage with more viewers when she started posting Reels that highlighted all the details and intricacies of her work, like this video where she unboxes one of her crafting projects.

Shairy has said that she’s constantly working on customer orders, and has even recently hired an assistant to help with her crafts as her business is expanding and thriving.

Jessica Ngyuen: a cult-favorite product developed via Reels

Jessica Nguyen’s signature chili oil – Chili Oil On Everything – is a perfect example of a product born through Instagram. After getting laid off from her corporate job in early 2020, Jessica decided to invest time into her Instagram as a way to try new recipes. The influencer soon made a name for herself with her decadent food videos, while also offering viewers pointers on how to host the perfect dinner party. Her Reels stand out from other food influencers for being highly produced and stylized, like this one, where she teaches viewers how to set placemats elegantly.

She started gaining followers immediately and noticed one of her recipes in particular –  her chili oil  – was by far the most popular. In August 2020, she created a small batch as a favor for a friend’s business competition and advertised it on her Instagram, marking her very first Reel. Though she explicitly said the product was not for sale, she began receiving online inquiries from dozens of followers asking if they too could purchase it. This pushed Jessica to take a chance and officially sell her chili oil.

After figuring out some logistics, Jessica began manufacturing the oil and dropped the first batch less than a year after getting laid off. And just like that, her small business was born. Within a month over 1,000 units had sold out. Her subsequent product drops have all been successful, and the entrepreneur’s fourth batch will be released sometime in 2022. Judging by the comments her followers have left, they can’t get enough. “Woo Hoo!!! Purchased my 6 jars,” one comment reads. Another says, “I’m running out of my batch #3 order hopefully the Feb 2022 drop isn’t too far off.”

That Jessica started out as a food influencer with no clear plans to launch her own business just speaks to the power of Instagram Reels as a potentially strong advertising medium for entrepreneurs. As she says herself, “What started as a humble recipe shared on my Instagram is now a product and cult condiment that so many can't get enough of!”

RachaelsGoodEats: a fitness business built via Reels

Rachael DeVaux is a longtime Instagram influencer, registered dietitian, and trainer who has been posting about healthy recipes and fitness since 2015. During 2020, however, the influencer’s Instagram page expanded thanks to the power of Instagram Reels, eventually leading to her co-founding her very own fitness business.

When the pandemic first hit and individuals were no longer exercising at gyms, Rachael began doing home workouts in real-time on her Instagram Lives and noticed a huge uptick in viewers. Her IG Lives became so popular she was hosting them multiple times throughout the week and even celebrated its one-year anniversary. Once Instagram released Reels in August 2020, Rachael began dropping fitness videos as a way to supplement her live workouts. She posted her first workout Reel – banded glute warmups –  on August 18, 2020. The Reel received over 400,000 views and 10,000 likes. A similar workout Reel from December of that year has been viewed over 250,000 times.

Though Rachael had posted workout content before, this was the first time she had done so via quick and to-the-point videos, which became a hit on Instagram. Her Reels were so popular that Rachael increased her follower count from 400,000 in late 2019 to over 620,000 followers today.

The influencer’s brand had expanded enough for her to launch her own fitness equipment business in mid-2021 called Sweat Recreation. In a post, Rachael credited the creation of the company to her followers, “At the start of quarantine it was my goal to provide you with all the free workouts + healthy recipes you’d need to live your happiest life at home and I’m so honored you trusted me as your trainer each and every single week we did our Live workouts.”

In March 2022 Rachael released merch for Recreation Sweat and said the merchandise drop sold out quicker than she anticipated, proving her business is flourishing with the customer base she has built through Instagram Reels.  

What’s the difference between TikTok and Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels are considered to be Meta’s response to TikToks, so it is no surprise these two apps are so familiar. In fact, because they’re so similar you may be wondering which platform you should invest your time in. The answer depends. If you or your team has the bandwidth to keep up with multiple social media sites, there’s no harm in posting on both platforms. After all, it’s never too late to get started on TikTok. But, if you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to spare and is already on Instagram, here are a few reasons why it’s probably best to stick with Instagram Reels.

Audience

Instead of starting from scratch on TikTok, it might be better to focus on growing your Instagram account. While both apps are used by millions of people daily, you should also take into account your target audience and ask yourself which app your customers spend most of their time on. Over 43 percent of Tiktok's global audience is between 18 to 24 years old, while Instagram’s main demographic leans a bit older at 25 to 34 years old.

Editing

Instagram reals can only be up to one minute in length, however, users can create up to 10-minute long TikToks. This longer duration can allow for more creativity, but it also means more work for content creators and small business owners to plan out and edit these videos. On the other hand, Reels are bite-sized and won’t be a headache to produce.

Shopping

Though TikTok is very popular, the platform’s interface doesn’t have any infrastructure to actually encourage viewers to buy products. With Instagram, small businesses can utilize links and the shopping tab to not only advertise their products but allow viewers to purchase items without ever leaving the app. According to Instagram, over 130 million users engage with shopping posts on a monthly basis, making it a great channel for you to increase sales.

Ultimately, we’ve been happy to see that Instagram Reels has created new opportunities for brands to advertise and sell their products in creative ways. Have another question about Instagram? Send us a DM!

https://buffer.com/resources/instagram-reels-small-business/

Onboarding: Is It Better To Have Teammates Start Together Or Stagger Their Onboarding?

Onboarding: Is It Better To Have Teammates Start Together Or Stagger Their Onboarding?

We’ve done a lot of hiring over the years and one of the questions we’ve asked ourselves has been: is is better to have new Buffer teammates who will be on the same team start at the same time or to stagger their start dates?

We’re a relatively small team and since we’ve been actively hiring for multiple roles over the last year and a half we’ve wondered what’s best for both teammates and hiring managers. Recently, a new hiring manager asked a few other managers their experience with having teammates start on the same day versus teammates starting a few days a part.

In this piece, I’ll go over exactly what three hiring managers at Buffer shared, along with some of the advice, conversations, and best practices we hold onto for onboarding in a remote, distributed team.

When you should stagger teammate start dates

In 2021, we hired 26 individuals in nine months, which was a lot for our team of less than 90. Some of these new hires were concentrated on the Engineering, Advocacy, and Product teams. This put an extra burden on some specific teammates (and hiring managers!) to do the bulk of the new onboarding.

We don’t request that new hires start on specific days: we encourage new hires to decide what start date is best for them, their previous employer, and their family. Thus, we sometimes have teammates start on the same day, or a few weeks apart.
Remote onboarding generally requires a lot of preparation and guidance. We prepare a centralized document for all new hires that clearly outline expectations for the first 30-60-90 days and also assign both a role buddy for job-specific help and a culture buddy to assist with values and culture questions. Involving three teammates for each new hire asks a lot of the team overall, but has been a proven means of supporting new hires (especially in a remote and global team).

Learning from one experience to the next

Our Advocacy team lead, Darcy Peters, added two new teammates to her team at the end of 2021, with each teammate starting three weeks apart. Darcy said she found it very useful to have them start at different times, mostly from the perspective of learning what to do better for the next round of onboarding.

“I was able to learn from the first experience. Did I wish I had asked another question to buddies at the 30-day mark? Would I organize the 60-day celebration sync with the team member differently? ” – Darcy Peters

Lessening the impact on the overall team

Another advocacy lead, Ross Parmly, weighed in as well, citing that the staggered start dates were a bit easier for the overall team to adapt and didn’t impact area goals in quite the same way.

“The first few weeks tends to pull an Advocate's Role Buddy away from the inbox a bit, so having that time staggered is quite useful. This may not apply as directly to other teams, but it could be useful to consider the role buddy component of onboarding and whether spacing things out will create a smoother experience where too many teammates aren't pulled away from other tasks at the same time.” – Ross Parmly

When you should align teammates’ start dates

Hailley (who you see here often, as she runs our content and communications), had two new hires start within the same week.

Group training and milestones when you can

“It felt quite smooth to have had two new teammates start the same week. I had their onboarding ready at the same time rather than staggered, they were also joining in the same role, so they have been able to support each other and learn tools and processes at the same time.” – Hailley Griffis

We also aim to celebrate and share actionable feedback on 30, 60, and 90-day markers. With multiple teammates starting at the same time, there can be extra work on hiring managers, but also larger group celebrations when new teammates reach 90 days.

Starting at the same time could help you sync up milestones and you could batch those together rather than having to revisit them a bit apart.” – Ross Parmly

Make time on your calendar for new hires

Having two new folks at exactly the same time did mean I needed to block off a lot of my calendar for those first two weeks to make sure I was available for support more than what is usual since it was two folks, but overall, especially since these two teammates are in the same role, I think this was the best way to get started. “ – Hailley Griffis

Creating bonds for new teammates in a remote environment

Regardless of the specific start date, creating a community and bonding space for new hires is helpful for virtual teams. We invited our 2021 new hires into a Slack channel for them to chat amongst one another and also support each other as new Bufferoos.  

"This could be the case even if [my new teammates] started together, but I found that they were great supports for one another. Fern was able to feel empowered immediately, as he had a little experience at Buffer and was able to support Lexi in a small way. Later, they found that they were each strong in different areas of support (likely due to their buddies' areas of expertise), and they were able to support learning for one another. Additionally, even though they were two weeks apart, they were able to do some calls with one another — one with Joel and then several mini-training calls with different Advocates." – Darcy Peters

The work put into onboarding new teammates pays off in great ways throughout your teammate’s tenure. Provide clear lines of support and identify who teammates can ask for backup. New hires generally form deep bonds with their role buddies, culture buddies, and also: start date buddies. Whether it’s weeks or days apart, this is a great opportunity for new hires to connect to their coworkers.

Over to you

What is your experience with joining a new company, large or small? Do you relate to other new hires and form a connection with a hiring cohort? What would you prefer as a hiring manager? Send us a tweet and let us know!

https://buffer.com/resources/onboarding-teammates-start-together-or-stagger/

How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere

How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere

You probably check your email every day, whether for work or personal reasons, and so do millions of other people. As a result, newsletters are an excellent vehicle for reaching an audience, whether you have a brand or you’re trying to build one. And in a day and age where almost anything can have a subscription model, there’s more opportunity for the average person to create a valuable source of income.

Revue is an online publishing platform aimed at writers and publishers that Twitter acquired in 2021. Now, Twitter users have access to an integration that allows them to set up and display their newsletter on their profile quickly. Thanks to its simple interface and Twitter integration, anyone can start creating and publishing a newsletter and immediately find an audience.

How to Set Up Your Twitter Newsletter

  • Step 1: You can only set up your newsletter from the Twitter desktop app, so open that and click on More → Newsletters.
How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
  • Step 2: This gives you a ‘Find Out More’ screen, which takes you to Revue
How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
  • Step 3: Click Sign up with Twitter or Sign up with email
How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
  • Step 4: Follow the instructions to set up your account and start publishing!

Why use Revue?

What gives Revue an edge over other online publishing platforms like Substack or Medium? Along with features like analytics and scheduling, here are some reasons to consider:

  1. Retroactive viewing: Your past issues can easily be viewed by interested subscribers, making it easy for them to revisit your older work.
How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
The Week Ahead Horoscope

2. Ease of discovery: Newsletters are easily discovered and subscribed to when pinned to a Twitter profile.

3. Monetization: You can set up your newsletter to receive free and paid subscribers (and Revue only takes 5 percent of your earnings, compared to Substack’s 10 percent). Another opportunity for monetization is through newsletter sponsorships – a growing option for brands looking to create targeted ads. Ghost has a great guide to getting newsletter sponsorships.

4. Cross publishing: Along with publishing your newsletter, Revue also has integrations that allow users to share content on other platforms like WordPress and social media.

5. Custom domains: You can get a Revue domain name or connect your custom domain. Revue beats platforms like Substack and Medium in this instance because you can make this change for free.

6. Own your means of production: Because you can cross publish so easily with Revue, it’s easier to control what happens with your content. You never have to worry about censorship or losing access to your primary platform for reaching your audience.

Best practices for newsletter creators

If you’ve landed on newsletters as your method of creation, there are some things you need to keep in mind if you want people to read your work.

  1. Figure out what you want your newsletter to cover. Newsletters come in different forms, with people sending their opinions on news to others sharing job postings. It helps your readers know what to expect, and you know what to create every week.
  2. Balance your newsletter content. Create material that is less promotional and more helpful. For example, as long as your readers didn’t subscribe to an ecommerce website, they shouldn’t receive a newsletter packed with CTAs to purchase something or the other.
  3. Set clear expectations on your Subscribe page. Get specific with potential subscribers and tell them exactly what to expect from your newsletter and how often they’ll hear from you. Matthew Cassinelli’s What’s New in Shortcuts newsletter does a great job.
How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
What’s New in Shortcuts profile page
  1. Pick one primary call to action. It can be tempting to direct your readers to a million places (and that’s still possible by linking within your content) but resist it. Instead, share one principal thing you want your readers to do (forward the email? watch a video?) and make that the focus of your CTA.
  2. Go for minimalist copy and design. Cluttered emails get me to click off, and many newsletter readers can probably relate. Use a minimal design and keep the focus on your words/content to grip and hold readers’ attention.
  3. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe. Your readers should be able to choose if they want you in their inbox or not. If needed, make the unsubscribe button more prominent and remind users that they can unsubscribe at any time.

Inspiration for your Twitter newsletter

If you’re thinking of starting a newsletter through Twitter, here are some great examples we love that might inspire you.

How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
Everything Technical Writing's profile page
  • Carlos Silva: Carlos shares vetted remote marketing jobs through his newsletter, Hello Remote.
  • Sam Dickie: The Creator Club is Sam’s brainchild where he shares the latest digital products, interesting articles, and resources from online creatives.
How to Set Up Twitter Newsletters and Why Newsletters Aren’t Going Anywhere
The Creator Club's profile page

Beyond the more traditional newsletter formats on this list is Pieter Levels (Levelsio), who uses the newsletter feature to back up his email list.

💡
Check out 14 Newsletters You’ll Want in Your Inbox in 2021 for some other newsletters that could inspire yours.

Why newsletters aren’t going anywhere

You may think newsletters are an oversaturated medium — as the thousands of unread emails in your inbox can attest — but they’re not going anywhere just yet. Here’s why.

  • Creative control: Newsletters give you control. This ties into the rise of the creator economy, which refers to the increasing freedom of creators to monetize their work (think Youtubers or writers). What sets newsletters apart from other forms of creation is that you own everything – your email list, what you choose to publish, and where you choose to publish it. As a result, the power to be heard is no longer concentrated in the hands of massive publications, and it’s easier than ever to share your work. Newsletters are part of this new paradigm, with people seeing enough success that they can quit their day jobs and turn their writing side hustle into a full-time endeavor.


  • Increased mobile access: Smartphones currently account for 70 percent of the total digital media time in the US, as more and more people read things on their phones, newsletters included.
  • Monetization opportunities: Thanks to newsletters, it’s easier to make writing a full-time job. In addition, essayists have a platform to make money other than hoping the New York Times. Platforms like Paved make it easier for companies to discover and connect with newsletter publishers. And collectives like Every have made it easier for writers to earn income from content.
  • Falling ad performance: Newsletters are especially vital in light of data privacy issues and the increased use of ad blockers. As a result, advertisers that need to figure out alternative ways to reach targeted audiences will increasingly flock to newsletters.

Should you start a newsletter?

Newsletters aren’t for everyone or every type of audience. It’s a great way to achieve organic growth and gain control of your publishing, but like any type of creative endeavor, it takes time and effort. You’ll need to be consistent and have enough material to keep you and your readers’ interest. If you’re doing it for your business, you might want to research more in-depth before just starting a Twitter newsletter before putting in the work required to make such a project successful.

https://buffer.com/resources/twitter-newsletters/

This Candle Company Donates 10% of its Profits to Homelessness, Here’s How

This Candle Company Donates 10% of its Profits to Homelessness, Here’s How

It is impressive enough that Colin, Ryan, and Austin Gill, ages 16, 13, and 11 respectively, started their own candle company in 2017. But even more admirable is the mission behind their brand Frères Branchiaux. Sure, the brothers initially came up with the business idea as a way to circumvent asking their parents for more allowance money. But from the very beginning, they wanted their company to stand for an important cause – which is why Frères Branchiaux donates 10 percent of all profits to homelessness. In just a few years, the brothers – along with their parents – have created a flourishing business centered around giving back to their community.

A family’s commitment to uplift others

Celena Gill, the boys’ mother, remembers a moment from early on in their business when all three of her sons joined a luncheon with Pathways to Housing DC – an organization dedicated to eradicating homelessness –  and donated an oversized check of $500, one of many of Frères Branchiaux’s charitable contributions.

Living in the Washington D.C. Metro area, the brothers grew up very aware of the homeless community and always wanted to support them. But Celena said it was specifically her 13-year-old Ryan who had a penchant for helping others.

“Ryan is really the driving force behind our commitment to give back. He’s always had a big heart. If he saw someone on the street he always wanted to give them money,” she said. And while figuring out ways to help others is not a top priority for most preteens, Ryan said he was motivated by his mom and dad.

“My parents have inspired me. Watching them give back made me realize how important it is to help others.”

The family’s pledge to uplift the homeless community is a core value for their brand, but they haven’t always had the time to spread that message – a symptom of being a small business with only four full-time employees.

“I admit, we need to market this component better on social media,” Celena said. Still, Frères Branchiaux has shared several Instagram posts throughout the years about their charitable contributions. In a 2021 post, the company stated that their monthly donations, “put at least one homeless family in an apartment every month.” The message goes on to say they have donated over $30,000 to help eradicate homelessness and have contributed $2,000 to fight civil rights injustices.

Clearly, the word is getting out. Frères Branchiaux’s online reviews are filled with customers who love the candles, but also applaud the company for their social impact, like this comment left on their ‘Love Jones’ candle written by a user by the name Stacy. “We are happy to support a family-owned business who gives back to their community! Xoxo,” it reads.

They rely on word-of-mouth advertising, too. Austin said whenever he meets a Frères Branchiaux customer in person he makes sure to tell them that they’re supporting a good cause. As the youngest Gill, he hopes his family’s contributions can one day make lasting change. “My goal is that no one in the world ever has to be homeless,” the 11-year-old said.

The ins and outs of donating 10%

As they were mapping out the blueprint for their business, the family always knew their candle company was going to include some type of giving back component and they quickly settled upon supporting the homeless community.

But they also understood that before they’d be able to donate money, they needed to create products customers would love, which led them to hone in on their candle-making skills. The boys first learned how to craft what would eventually become their signature scents from their mother’s friend, Danita Brooks. When they finally started to see profits, the brothers – eager to help their community – were excited to donate a large portion of their proceeds.

“The boys wanted to give back 50 percent of profits at first,” said Celena, who had to remind her sons that donating that much wasn’t a realistic option for their small business. They finally settled in on 10 percent after doing some research and looking at what similar businesses were contributing. In a 2021 Instagram post, they outlined the various ways they give: through online donations, in-kind product donations, providing money directly to those affected, volunteering, and distributing meals to the community. They also clarified that “when we donate money directly, we don’t dictate what the recipient does with the money.”

There was a trial and error process when it came time to figure out how often to donate, though. For the first two years, Frères Branchiaux was making monthly donations to various organizations including Pathways to Housing DC, Friendship Place, and The Father Mckenna Center. But starting in 2020, they switched to quarterly donations and felt that was a better strategy for them. Celena acknowledged that sometimes making monthly donations wasn’t always possible, as it depended on the success of each month.  “Some months you just break even,” she said.

The family’s vision wasn’t only to contribute donations, however. They always intended to start a jobs creation program until it got postponed due to Covid-19. Now, with the world opening up again, Celena said the company is planning to resume the initiative which would equip people from the homeless community with job-skills training. Eventually, the objective would be for Frères Branchiaux to employ these individuals, providing them with a real opportunity to make their own money.

Giving back is clearly embedded in the DNA of Frères Branchiaux. Still, Celena understands that organizing a charitable donation can be overwhelming for some small business owners. Her advice? Take it one step at a time.

“Setting the intention is important,” she said. “It doesn't have to be 10 percent. You can start off by donating one percent. Anything is better than nothing.”

For the Gill family, laying out clear, purposeful goals has always been an important strategy for their business’s growth. In a post celebrating their fourth anniversary, they gave customers insight into how they’ve been so successful.  

“A key component of achieving our goals is writing them down and creating a strategy,” it reads. “Remember, a dream is a goal that isn’t written down. We wrote them down—now it’s time to reach them!”

What’s next for Frères Branchiaux

Fères Branchiaux has already expanded their product line to include room sprays, candle accessories, diffuser oils, and bath salts among other items. They’ve also created various candle collections, including astrology candles, Christmas candles, and a Black History Month collection. And even more exciting, they’ve been in big-box retailers including Whole Foods, Macy’s, and Ace Hardware.

A huge moment for them in 2022 was being included in Target’s Black History Month campaign At the time, Frères Branchiaux candles were already selling on Target’s website, but this specific collaboration marked the first time the products were sold physically in-store at almost 900 locations – a very cool experience for the boys.

“I was excited that our candles were actually in a [Target] store,” Ryan said. “And I was pretty happy we got one of our main goals accomplished.”

As Ryan stated, the Target deal aligned with the company’s upcoming goals as they hope to make more of a footprint in physical retail spaces moving forward, especially because the pandemic has changed their business model. Specifically, now that customers aren’t at home as often as they were back in 2020, the team has had to reconfigure their marketing strategy since purchasing self-care items may no longer be on top of everyone’s to-do list.

“In the past two years, everyone was trying to be comfortable at home,” Celena said. “ Now that people are going out again, it's about balancing how do we help them recreate that same relaxing experience at home after a long day of work or hanging out with friends?”

Not only does Austin hope to see their candles in more retail spaces, but he also wants Frères Branchiaux to be sold in stores all around the world – a lofty objective coming from the 11-year-old. As for Ryan, the middle Gill, no matter what new goals the company achieves next, he said his small business will always revolve around its central mission.

“We want to make sure everybody has a home,” he said, “And even before the business, it was always a goal for us to give back and make opportunities for the homeless community and people who are in need.”

https://buffer.com/resources/donate-profits-to-homelessness/

What I Wish I Had Known About Product Development Before I Spent Three Years Doing It

What I Wish I Had Known About Product Development Before I Spent Three Years Doing It

People always tell you that building a business isn’t a quick and easy journey and that the “overnight success” stories you see tend to downplay the years of work that go into creating that success. So, when I started my innovative undergarments company, Perkies, I expected it to be about the journey, not the destination.

What I didn’t expect was for it to be a three-year journey of figuring out how to develop my signature product (a sticky bra with replaceable adhesives) before selling a single unit.

I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it. Seeing the glowing reviews from women who feel more confident while wearing our product makes up for every long day spent cold calling manufacturers, every prototype I had to assemble with my own hands, and every rash I developed while trying to find body-safe adhesives that actually worked (true story).

I also don’t think my multi-year timeline was out of the ordinary for creating a product that hasn’t existed before. But, there are things I wish I had known to set expectations for myself (and maybe help the process go a little smoother).

So, to help other inventive entrepreneurs who are embarking on the journey of developing a product, here are four things I wish I had known from the get-go.

1. It Was More Complicated Than I Thought

When I first had the idea to create a product for women who were tired of throwing away an entire sticky bra just because the adhesives had worn down, it seemed so obvious. “How has nobody thought of this before?” I wondered.

I quickly realized, though, that while others had probably had the same idea, no one had gone to the trouble of turning the idea into a final product—likely because there are so many steps involved in doing so.

Here’s just a brief overview: I had to determine where to source the materials for each component of the product, and then find separate manufacturers to put all those elements together. We ended up working with a manufacturer in China for the bras, manufacturers in the U.S. for the three different adhesives we use, and an adhesive converter who laminates the adhesive layers together into the finalized stack up. I also had to work with many different experts to develop specialized materials and processes—and quickly realized I wouldn’t even be able to automate everything immediately. Until recently, I was cutting the specific shape of our adhesives by hand, and I still add in the layered pull tabs myself.

And this is all on top of shipping and fulfillment, plus the supply chain issues that have been plaguing us since, well, the plague started.

What I Wish I Had Known About Product Development Before I Spent Three Years Doing It
There were a lot of steps between my original idea and my early prototypes (on the left) to the functioning sticky bra with replaceable adhesives we have today (on the right)!

Oh, and Murphy’s Law applied at just about every step along the way. I can’t count the number of times I had to extend deadlines because I was waiting on a manufacturer, I’ve been close to tears because a supplier sent me something that didn’t work, or I accidentally sent a faulty sample to a customer.

Ultimately, what separates an idea from an actual product is entrepreneurs who have the grit to get through all of this. Based on my experience, I’d recommend giving yourself enough time and mental fortitude to deal with the complications. I also found it incredibly valuable to make friends with other product-based founders to commiserate with when I was in the weeds.

2. I Either Needed a Lot of Time or a Lot of Money

I knew that I’d be able to streamline the development process if I could raise a little funding: I could pay materials experts to source the perfect adhesives, I could pay manufacturers to rush my orders, and the like. Unfortunately, I quickly found that no investors were interested in signing a check until I had a working prototype. I couldn't create my product without money, and I couldn't raise money without a product.

Instead, I sacrificed my own time to do the R&D. And it was not glamorous. I would spend weeks finding manufacturers who could answer tiny questions like whether the adhesive could be a few millimeters thicker to improve adhesion. For months, every time I went to a workout class, I wore different adhesives to see what held up to sweat. I’d invite friends over with different bra sizes to test molds for me. It was a lot of time and effort for tiny gains toward my goal.

What I Wish I Had Known About Product Development Before I Spent Three Years Doing It
You can’t be afraid to ask for help—friends were often thrilled to help me test product samples.

I also opted to move in with my family to give myself more financial runway (not that I had much of a choice). If you don’t have the luxury of moving home to start a business, I’d recommend making a plan for how you will fund your idea or how you’ll give yourself enough time to put in the work. Can you find friends and family or angel investors who believe in you despite not having a prototype? (I’ve since found that former founders are much more understanding of the product development process than VC firms or angel investors who have never started a company.) Can you do product development on nights and weekends while you continue working your full-time job?

3. I Needed to Build Interest Long Before My Product Was Ready

Especially since I didn’t know how long this whole process would take, it was tempting to not tell anyone except my closest friends and family what I was working on until the product was ready.

Instead, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started creating traction on our social channels. We didn’t have product images yet, so instead I designed fun graphics hinting at our final product. I also found that followers loved getting a peek into the behind-the-scenes of product development. In the end, it was helpful to already have a following of excited potential customers once the bras were ready to sell.

What I Wish I Had Known About Product Development Before I Spent Three Years Doing It
Early Perkies marketing images gave a sense of our product shape and purpose.

Another valuable way I found to start building brand trust (and making a little money) was developing an ancillary product that I could get to market faster. While doing early customer research, I realized sticky nipple covers were a popular undergarment in this category and that they would be much easier to develop—so we launched “Perkies Petals” six months before the sticky bra came out. This had the bonus benefit of helping me iron out kinks in sales and shipping before the sticky bras were ready.

Finally, I learned a lot about the common strategy of soliciting pre-orders. We did a friends and family pre-order for the bras, and while the influx of cash was nice, it also added extra pressure, especially when we had to keep pushing back the timeline (see point #1).

My advice: If you’re considering a pre-order, only do it with people who you know will be forgiving! And whatever approach you choose, do everything you can to build buzz along the way. The last thing you want is to finally have a product—and then spend months and months finding customers to buy it.

4. Product Development Never Stops

After pushing back the launch timeline again and again (leaving my friends and family who had pre-ordered hanging), I finally set myself a hard deadline to launch in May 2021. Even though the product still didn’t feel 100% there, I knew I needed to get it to market at some point (plus, I wanted to get people their backless bras before summer!).

This was hard for a perfectionist like me, but it ended up being incredibly helpful. I’ve learned so much from hearing about the experiences of real customers using the product. It was a good reminder that, while you obviously don’t want a product that disappoints customers, you can and will continue improving things even after you launch. (Remember: the iPhone didn’t launch with all the features it has today!)

Most of the feedback I have received has been excellent, but based on some constructive notes from customers, I’ve changed the location of the pull tab on the replaceable adhesive, improved the instructions that come with the bra, and more. We’re also in the process of developing new products to keep the business growing.

In other words, even after almost four years, I’m far from done. Product development truly never stops, and if that sounds exhausting, this may not be the right path for you. But if you, like me, think the constant journey to build something new will energize you every day, then stick with it. If you can put your pride aside and put in the time and effort, you’ll create something customers love—and that’s an amazing feeling.

https://buffer.com/resources/product-development/

Building in Public: How Transparency on the Internet Can Support Your Goals

Building in Public: How Transparency on the Internet Can Support Your Goals

Lorde says, "Maybe the Internet raised us" in her song, A World Alone. This line stuck with me when I first heard the song and remains with me today, especially when considering what shapes my behaviors and quirks. I grew up and came of age in a world where people loved to share every little bit of their lives (maybe a little too much).

Despite this (or maybe because of it), I became resistant to the idea of sharing things, from achievements to failures. But thinking about my career and personal growth, I can honestly say that I wouldn't be here without the oversharers. A YouTube video here, a LinkedIn post there – my life is a scrapbook of the lessons I learned from other people's journeys.

At the end of 2021, I decided to give a little peek behind the curtain of my life by sharing some of my goals for 2022 on Twitter. Primarily for accountability, but also just because sharing your journey to achieving your goals makes the journey feel less lonely.


At Buffer, one of our values is 'default to transparency,' which means that we're a glasshouse – everyone can see what's going on inside. It's one of the things that drew me to working here. Another way to put it is that we 'build in public,' which is a concept that more people, especially founders, are adopting. It's not just for them — transparency can apply to anything, including writing a book or working on an album (see the TikToker sharing her journey to creating a Disney musical).

Most people balk at the idea of transparency. What if you make a mistake? What if nothing comes of your idea/project/company? But there are benefits to sharing your journey — including the struggles. This article delves into why you might want to take the transparent approach to goal-setting and achieving.

Why consider transparency at all?

One of the key ideas behind transparency or building in public, mainly pushed by Karthik Puvvada (KP), includes "expanding your luck surface area." The idea is that transparency gives you or your business more opportunities to reach the community, investors, or audience that will connect with your journey. A few other reasons to consider transparency:

  • Encouraging someone on a similar journey: An underrated part of sharing your journey is how much you can inspire others.
  • Finding community: Having a community rally around you as you work towards a goal can encourage you to keep at it.
  • Building trust: This is especially important if people count on your goals. By being transparent (and including proof of work) about where you are at each stage, you can build trust.
  • Showing your expertise: Sometimes, building something in public or transparently sharing your journey to a specific goal is all the social proof you need.
  • Staying accountable: If you're constantly sharing what's happening with your goals or project, you have people to answer when you start to flag – however medieval that sounds.
  • Pushing the industry forward: One of the driving forces behind our choice to be transparent at Buffer is so we can encourage others to do the same. Checkly's Pay Calculator is a great recent example partly inspired by Buffer's own Salary Calculator.

Lessons from experts on building in public

Who are the people who are taking on the challenge of building in public? Apart from pioneers like Joel Gascoigne (Buffer's CEO) and Ryan Hoover (founder of Product Hunt), we wanted to highlight other folks you can look to for inspiration. So we asked them all questions about building in public and practicing transparency, and this is what they had to say.

Q: How do you practice transparency?

A: Sharing revenue publicly

Monica Lent, Founder of Affilimate: "I spent about a year doing public income reports on my blog, where I shared the revenue from all my income streams: a content blog, a paid community, and my SaaS company. This was a great exercise in goal setting, and many people told me it inspired them to go full-time on their projects.

At the time, I detailed how much revenue my businesses generated and what I spent on expenses like software, tools, contractors, and administration. My goal was to show people that revenue isn't everything, and running a business can be expensive."

A: Documenting the process of building

Ritika Mehta built Marked (now acquired): "My newsletter & Twitter is where I talk about building products and my experience with building & running a startup.


I tweet small updates weekly or bi-weekly & the newsletter is the leading platform through which I share my journey. It doesn't only limit to positive parts but sharing struggles & vulnerabilities too. As a founder, it helps me build a community around my product, get initial users, feedback & marketing before I launch the product."

A: Applying personal practices to company values

Samantha Anderl, Co-founder of Harlow: "My co-founder Andrea and I practice transparency in two ways. One way is the way we interface with our community, and the other is how we're building our company. We're building Harlow to help freelancers stress less and work happier. Part of that happens in the product, the other part comes through sharing our struggles, wins, and lessons learned with the community."


A: Sharing personal experiences of building a business

Lesley Sim, Founder of Newsletter Glue: "From day 1, we've built in public. Rather than share revenue numbers and metrics, I've always focused on sharing my experiences building the business, our roadmap, and screenshots of stuff we're working on.


I think everyone chooses to share different things, and there are corresponding upsides and downsides. I think the channel you choose to share on also matters a lot and determines what and how you communicate. Personally, I use Twitter. I've found it the best and easiest way to chat with like-minded folk without much mental overhead."

A: Share retrospectives and plans for the future

Allison Seboldt, Founder of Fantasy Congress: "I post monthly reflections on my blog called "retrospectives." In each post, I share income and statistics from the past month, reflect on what I did the previous month, and discuss what I want to do next."


What advice would you give to anyone considering transparency?

A: Take public feedback with a grain of salt

Monica: "Many people have opinions, but very few have done what you're doing and understand your customers and your business like you do. You can get all kinds of input, but it's still on you to make the right decision for your business!"

A: Build a relationship with your audience

Ritika: "[Bulding in public] is like building a strong bond by sharing ups and downs. You're being more honest to your customers & they build trust with you."

A: Write down your experiences for future reflection

Samantha: “When you're building, you are moving quickly, and you don't always have time to share your story at each exact moment. But if you can reflect on the notes you're taking along the way, it will help you figure out the important pieces of the story your audience needs to hear. As an additional benefit, It'll also help you reflect on the journey and see how far you've come.”

A: Share a little more than what you’re comfortable with

Lesley: “A big part of the reason people are attracted to build in public posts is that it pulls back the curtains and gives lived experience and insight. So if you're sharing super generic stuff, you'll never see good results from building in public.”

A: Just do it

Allison: “It's the most beneficial thing I've done on my entrepreneurial journey. The barrier to entry is low and the returns are huge.”

Tips for being more transparent

Transparency requires a conscious effort. You may not remember or see a reason to share specific events relevant to your efforts to build in public. However, even minor moments can help you find your community or vice versa. Here are some tips for practicing transparency.

Share your goals

Along with publicly documenting your goals, make it a habit to update what you’re working on as you go along. I chose Twitter – a popular platform for building in public – and I’m working on a more detailed personal blog post about my goals. In addition, some people use Medium or write newsletters on a weekly or monthly basis to share their progress (this may also be a good way to break in Twitter’s newsletter feature).

To paraphrase Samantha, documenting your journey can help you reflect personally and determine which parts you want to share with your audience.

Connect with a community

You may need to do some research, but there’s nothing like working alongside like-minded people. There’s NaNoWriMo through which several writers have gotten their best-selling manuscripts. Or programs like Women Make where entrepreneurs and makers can support each other as they build products. Or even Flow Club, which is a great way to motivate yourself to work through tasks and stay accountable.


Create boundaries

Determine where you’d like to draw the line. What are you unwilling to share? Limit what you share and respect those limits. Monica shares some advice regarding boundaries, saying, “…building in public doesn't HAVE to mean sharing all your revenue and metrics. You can build in public without disclosing detailed financial figures. So it's not all or nothing – you can apply a build-in-public mindset without necessarily going full "open startup" and still get the benefits.”

Lesley also summed up boundary-setting saying, “Be careful about what you choose to share. Building in public is a continuum, it's not all or nothing.”

Propose your ideas and ask for feedback

It might be enough just to say you’re working on something and update once you’ve made progress. But asking people for feedback can help you refine your ideas and find inspiration among shared advice.

Articulate your roadblocks

Let people know about the challenges you’re facing and share how you overcame/plan to overcome them. Communicating your blocks can also be a good opportunity to seek advice from a community of people who might have gone through the same. By sharing your challenges, you can find a way to overcome them

Lesley shared a technical challenge she was facing on Twitter and was able to get a ton of helpful advice (and a solution) in her replies.


Share sneak peeks

People love looking behind the scenes, so let them in on what’s to come. This gets people excited about your ideas and provides a fountain of positive commentary to look at when you’re hunting for inspiration. This could be a good strategy, especially for writers. For example, sci-fi author Brandon Sanderson constantly communicates with fans through live streams, blog posts, and “first looks” into his new books.


Hannah Nicole Mae (@hannahnicolemae) on TikTok also does this with her fictional series that she’s turning into a book – and over 200,000 people are following along her journey.

@hannahnicolemae

The most giggly I’ve ever been writing anything #morallygrey #fantasy #assistanttothevillain #romancebooks #fyp

♬ original sound – Hannah

Celebrate your wins – and share your failures

We asked our contributors about the downsides of building in public, and Samantha said it best, “Building in public can be messy. To truly be transparent you need to share the wins, the struggles, the mundane – all of it. But that's what makes it so compelling. People want to understand the full gravity of what it takes to build something.”

Being vulnerable, both about your journey to success and the missteps, can help you and someone else in the same boat find empathy and inspiration to keep going.

https://buffer.com/resources/internet-transparency/

How These 6 Women-Owned Small Businesses Are Doing Good

How These 6 Women-Owned Small Businesses Are Doing Good

Contrary to their name, small businesses provide big dividends to the U.S. economy. Not only do they generate 44 percent of economic activity, but they also create over 60 percent of net new jobs and inspire American innovation. And while the industry is mostly dominated by men, women are increasingly making gains as small business owners. An American Express Report found that in 2019 women entrepreneurs owned 42 percent of small businesses in the US, employing over 9 million people and generating nearly two trillion in revenue. Another promising statistic? Minority-owned companies account for 50 percent of these businesses. And while we wish we could highlight all the amazing women-owned companies out there, we’re excited to spotlight these six brands this Women’s History Month which — along with creating great products — are also pushing for positive social change.

Saie makes sustainable makeup

Founded in 2019 by Laney Crowell, Saie markets itself as a clean, minimalist makeup brand with products that provide their signature “Saie glow.” Over three years, the company has released 13 items, their most popular being “Slip Tint” — a skin tint that provides light and glowy coverage.

But more than just a beauty brand, Saie’s key messaging has always revolved around their various sustainable practices. Saie uses clean and mostly vegan ingredients and Crowell has partnered with The Coral Restoration Foundation to address climate change. One percent of every Saie purchase will go to the foundation, which works to return nearly 50,000 threatened corals back to Florida's coral reef. The brand has also stated that a major company goal is to one day be completely plastic-free.

Aside from its various climate-driven initiatives, the makeup brand is also big on diversity and inclusion, specifically seen in their marketing approach. Saie’s Instagram grid is filled with women — and men — of all skin tones modeling their makeup products, which is refreshing considering brands have been criticized in the past for their limited shade range, specifically when it comes to darker colored foundations. The company also includes older women with mature, unfiltered skin in their ads and social posts, a rarity in the makeup world. They even went viral for featuring Crowell’s 99 year old grandma on their social media.

And, it's clear that whatever Saie is selling is working — they have grown remarkably fast in a short time. The company now includes close to 30 employees and, in 2022, Saie reached a major milestone by launching their entire collection in Sephora — gaining a ton of new exposure. For those following the brand from the beginning, Saie’s growth probably isn’t surprising. Back in 2020, Crowell spoke to Glossy revealing her company, only eight months old at the time, had beat out its own sales expectations by more than 200 percent.

While Saie’s dewy makeup looks are what reel customers in, the brand’s dedication to diversity and its commitment to protecting the Earth are the stars of the show.

Tàche’s eco-friendly nut milk

Nowadays, consumers are inundated with a variety of dairy-free milk alternatives. From soy to coconut to almond to oat, there seem to be never-ending options. But a newcomer is disrupting the milk industry once again — pistachio milk. Roxana Saidi had the idea to launch her milk company Tàche one day in 2015 while vacationing in Paris with her family. Pistachios, known to be slightly sweet, are close to Saidi’s heart as they were a staple in her Iranian household growing up.

And while Tàche touts the drink’s taste — the business claims the milk is so good it can be drunk alone — the brand is also big on sustainability and prides itself on being environmentally friendly. Specifically, pistachios are more earth-friendly than almonds as they consume significantly less water, utilizing only 25 gallons of water to grow an ounce versus the 97 gallons needed for almonds.

A women-founded and led company, Tàche has also pledged to give back to young girls through their partnership with The Lower East Side Girls Club NY. On their website, they state their mission is, “to foster girls’ education and provide them with the mentorship, tools, and support they need to become healthy and successful women.”

The brand also spotlights Saidi’s Iranian heritage through its social media presence, like this Instagram post about Nowruz — the Persian New Year. Their first-ever company sale is currently taking place in honor of the holiday as well — customers can use the code “Persian New Year” to receive twenty percent off.

Some may be drawn to Tàche purely for the taste, but others will surely appreciate the brand’s social impact, making their pistachio milk a beverage you can feel good about drinking.

Bamby Collective creates a safe space

London-based influencer Ambar Driscoll recently launched her brand — Bamby Collective — with the mission to empower young women everywhere. Driscoll has stated the purpose of the organization is to create a safe space for all women to discuss topics like mental health and body perception.

For fans of the influencer, this move seems natural as the Bengali/English YouTuber has shared her struggles in the past, including opening up about her own body image issues on Instagram. A key component within the collective is fostering a connection between the members, allowing young women to feel comfortable enough to speak about sensitive topics. There are several ways members can find community within Bamby Collective: Through a private Facebook group where users can reach out to one another in confidence, at virtual events that take place every Monday including movie nights, and during its monthly book club via zoom. And, members are invited to in-person meetups throughout London as well. These events are promoted actively on social media and through a bi-weekly newsletter followers can subscribe to.

In line with Bamby Collective’s mission, Driscoll recently introduced her first product: positive affirmation jewelry. The bracelets include the phrases “I am strong,” and “I am enough,” in both gold and silver options. The launch dropped in late 2021 and Driscoll took to her Instagram to explain her motive behind the products. “What you think often becomes your world, and repeating things that uplift and comfort me make such a difference … I made these bracelets for myself, but also for you, in the hope that they serve as a helpful reminder when you need it,” she said. A woman of color herself, Driscoll has chosen to donate five percent of the proceeds from the collection to support Imkaan, a UK organization that fights violence against black and minority ethnic women and girls.

Bamby Collective’s goal to create authentic relationships amongst peers, all while challenging harmful societal norms, seems to be working. The group’s events usually sell out within hours, proving the brand’s doing something right.

So Good So You’s innovative approach to plastic

Founded in 2014 by Rita Katona and her husband, So Good So You sells probiotic shots meant to make people feel their healthiest. The company, which offers everything from sleep shots to energy shots to beauty shots, revolves around the idea, “people and planet first.” So, it’s no surprise their juices are created with quality in mind as the brand uses a “high pressure processing method” that preserves the enzymes and nutrients.

But while the business packs a ton of good-for-you ingredients inside their wellness drinks, they’ve also put the same thoughtfulness in crafting the outside. All probiotic shots are made with BTRBTL (pronounced: better bottle) — a new type of biodegradable plastic. If BTRBTL were to somehow get into a landfill, the plastic would break down into water, soil, and carbon-based gasses, according to a So Good So You press release. Producing something that had positive implications for the environment was important to Katona. “Our goal continues to be creating products that are delicious, nutrient-dense, and beneficial to the world as a whole,” Katona said during the bottle’s launch.

The organization is also owned by mostly female directors, has a senior leadership team of 50 percent women, and employs a majority of women with 46 percent of their staff also identifying as BIPOC. Their commitment to empowering women leaders led them to officially be certified as a women-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise of National Council in 2021.

So much more than just a trendy wellness brand, So Good So You has an admirable and clear mission: to become a vehicle for large social change, all while helping individuals feel their best along the way.

Eizzy Baby's commitment to give back

In 2020, Assie Khoussa created Eizzy Baby with the vision to simplify the parenting process by making accessible and non-toxic baby products. The company’s homepage lays out the brand’s four core values: carefully designed, sustainably developed, on your side, and giving back. Each product is crafted with safe and eco-friendly materials – mostly food-grade silicone. A major goal for Eizzy Baby was to also produce products that would actually enhance every parent’s life. Khoussa details how the functionality of two of the brand’s items in particular — the Snack Cup and Silicon Bibs — made it possible for her to spend more quality time with her son and less time cleaning up after him.

Khoussa’s vision goes beyond helping parents, however. Through a partnership with Angel House International, an organization providing resources for young women living in Uganda, Khoussa has made a commitment to use her small business for social change. The Eizzy Baby website states, “we want women across the globe to live in their communities without fear or violence. Through education there is the creation of opportunity for young women to break down barriers and become an integral part of their thriving community.” All proceeds from the company’s Beads of Hope are donated to Angel House.

That Eizzy Baby provides inexpensive and safe products for babies is already a huge win, but the company’s deeper mission to amplify the voices of young girls in Uganda is what really makes them stand out for all the right reasons.

Alqo Wasi supports local communities

The idea for Alqo Wasi — a clothing brand for dogs — came to native Peruvian Patricia Queirolo when she was traveling through the Andes with her family in 2005 and noticed Alpacas roaming the land. Quierolo, a dog enthusiast herself, immediately envisioned crafting one-of-a-kind premium canine sweaters with Alpaca fiber and organic Pima cotton. Now, years later, the brand continues to sell their signature sweaters, while also adding toys and other accessories to their product line. But for Queirolo, the business was always about more than just producing quality dog items. Rather, her focus was to help her community.

Alqo Wasi has deep-seated roots in Peruvian culture — the brand name even translates to “dog home” in Quechuan, an indigenous language found in Peru. But perhaps the clearest link between the business and the culture is that Queirolo works directly with local artisans who use traditional weaving techniques to craft each sweater. These handmade garments are made via ancient methods which preserve the historical significance of each piece as Alpaca fiber has long been a staple within the Incan community for centuries.

Alqo Wasi prides itself on fostering these close relationships with the local Peruvian women. In an interview with Style Tail, Queirolo spoke of the impact her business had on the neighboring areas. “Creating good jobs in different regions of Peru and being environmentally responsible with natural fibers … helps reduce poverty and generates sustainable development for a third world country such as ours,” she said.

By shopping at Alqo Wasi, not only can you snag an adorable sweater for your furry friend, but you’re also supporting women artisans making this brand a no-brainer for conscientious shoppers.

Ethical and Successful

These six women-owned brands stand out for their innovative products, while also using their platforms to speak up about important social causes. By doing so, each of these small businesses offers customers an insight into their values as a company, and also as human beings. And these women have all seemingly cracked the code for being successful entrepreneurs without compromising their morals, proving it’s possible to run a thriving business and still focus on the greater good.

Who would you add to this list? Let us know on Twitter!

https://buffer.com/resources/women-owned-small-businesses/

A Better Way to Save Your Social Posts for Later

A Better Way to Save Your Social Posts for Later

Ideas for social content can strike at any time (does anyone else think of them right before going to sleep?) but they’re rarely fully formed or immediately ready to share.

You might need to create a new video, flesh out some copy, or run your idea past another person. Plus, there are just about a hundred ways to save posts for later: spreadsheets, word documents, notes apps, post-it-notes, written on your hand — we’ve seen it all.

When the content is polished up and ready to go, you would then copy it over to a social media management tool or directly to your social accounts.

There are two problems here:

  1. You have to download and upload media from one place to another, which is annoying and time-consuming.
  2. There’s room for error when you’re copying things over. Did it copy over correctly? Did you schedule it for the correct time?

At Buffer we’re on a mission to make this process easier for you, starting with some major improvements to our drafts feature.

The new drafts experience in Buffer

With the new-and-improved drafts experience, you’ll be able to:

  • Plan and save content ideas for later across your devices. You can create drafts on mobile or desktop, and they’ll be synced together.
  • Add drafts to specific time slots in your calendar, so that you can plan out your social schedule ahead of time.
  • Save and schedule drafts with any Buffer plan, including our free plan.

Our goal is to help you jot down your ideas, revisit them, refine them, and schedule them — all in one place — in your own time.

Read on for more details about how it works!

Create drafts from anywhere

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using the Buffer mobile app, the calendar view on desktop, or the traditional queue view – if you’re composing a post, you’ll have the option to save it as a draft or add it to your queue.

A Better Way to Save Your Social Posts for Later
Create drafts from anywhere

Save or schedule drafts

Sometimes you may want to add a draft for a specific time in your calendar, and other times you may want to save a draft to a backlog of ideas instead. Scheduling drafts works the same way as scheduling posts. You can click on a slot in your queue or calendar to create a draft for that time, or you can create a custom time for your draft. Drafts with scheduled times act as “placeholders”; they will never be published until they’re added to the queue as a finished post.

Turning a draft into a finished post

You can review your drafts for a channel by going to the queue and opening the Drafts tab. Once you’re feeling good about a draft and it’s ready to be scheduled as a post, simply add it to the queue. This will “confirm” the draft as a finished post, and it will be published at your chosen time.

A Better Way to Save Your Social Posts for Later
Turning a draft into a finished post

Collaborating on drafts as a team

If you have a Team or Agency plan, you can set up permissions for your team members so that they can submit drafts for approval before they’re published. Account owners and team members with full posting access can edit all drafts, delete all drafts, and move all drafts to the queue. Team members with restricted access are can edit their own drafts, delete their own drafts, and request approval for their own drafts.

Drafts are free

While collaboration workflows are available for Team and Agency customers, if you’re a “team-of-one” and use our Free or Essentials plan, you’ll still be able to save, edit, and schedule drafts.

A Better Way to Save Your Social Posts for Later
Drafts are free

More to come

Content creation is THE hardest part of a winning social media strategy, and drafting content is just one small step in that process. Helping you create quality content is going to be a big focus for us this year, so stay tuned for more features and updates.

Do you have any questions or thoughts about the new draft experience? Tag us in a tweet – we'd love to hear from you.

Happy drafting! ✏️

https://buffer.com/resources/draft-social-content/

We Included Every Member of This Team in their New Teammate’s Onboarding, Here’s Why

We Included Every Member of This Team in their New Teammate's Onboarding, Here’s Why

In 2021, we geared up for our first hiring push in the Customer Advocacy team  (our customer support team) for quite a while. Due to strategy and personnel changes, we would need to hire five new Advocates throughout the year, which is more than we’d hired in any year since 2016. Between hiring and other personnel changes, we started 2021 with 15 Customer Advocates and ended the year with 19.

In preparation, we took a look at our onboarding documentation and process to find holes or improvement areas.

When a new team member walks into Buffer, they’re normally greeted by their manager, a role buddy, and a culture buddy (you can learn more about those roles in this post). These three people are pivotal to the experience the team member has across their first 90 days. If there ever was a phone-a-friend during onboarding, these three people would be it!

We took a pause before starting these hiring rounds, though.

We knew that the first person who came on board would be in a unique position. They’d be the first new team member we’ve onboarded in over a year. In fact, most of our team had worked as a Customer Advocate for four-plus years. While we had oodles and oodles of documentation to explain all the things, nothing can account for the experience and context that each of these 16 team members had stacked up in their brains.

Our empathy was speaking, and it said that walking into this well-oiled machine (ahem… as we’d like to think) had the potential to make the already tricky task of switching jobs even more daunting, and perhaps even a bit isolating.

Our ideal outcome when staring this challenge in the face was to foster an environment where the new team member could integrate quickly and seamlessly into our close-knit team. What could we do to facilitate that?

That’s when we had an idea — what if every team member in Customer Advocacy had a hand in the new team member’s introduction to the company and to their work as a Customer Advocate? What could that do for the new team member, the tenured team members, and the team as a whole?

While the team member would still have their manager, role buddy, and culture buddy by their sides, they’d also now have 16 others performing as rocket boosters to their growth along the way.

For the first time, we tried this integrative method of onboarding in the Customer Advocacy team here at Buffer in early 2021 with our first new hire of the year, we then used it throughout the year with our four other hires and through this cumulative experience we learned a lot. Not only did this new approach facilitate the new team member’s integration into our close-knit team, but it brought some surprise benefits, as well.

Let’s dive into each of the benefits we’ve seen:

Benefit #1: Our newest team member had a quicker integration into the team

Let’s imagine two scenarios:

In scenario number one, you attend a party where the host says hello and then leaves to attend to other guests.

In scenario number two, the host kindly introduces you to a second person, who introduces you to a third, and so on.

Our goal was to create an experience like that of the second scenario.

Budding co-worker relationships as soon as someone walks in the door allows them to quickly feel like part of the team. Positive Psychology shares, “Dunbar and Dunbar (1998) suggested that when individuals experience social pain in the workplace from feeling isolated, for instance, the region of the brain that is activated is the same as if physical pain had been experienced.”  Ouch!

While the manager, role buddy, and culture buddy have always been supportive, those three people are only a fraction of the guests at the party. If I chat through some tricky billing scenarios with Nate and then dig into onboarding tickets with Essence, I now have two more phone-a-friend contacts; my list is growing.

This relational comfort trickles into other areas of work and collaboration, too. Creating purpose-driven relationships with more people throughout their first 90 days tends to facilitate a higher likelihood that someone will feel welcome to participate thoughts in syncs (a.k.a. meetings), more forthrightness to ask questions in public forums, and altogether, just more confidence in knowing that their opinion matters.

I feel so invested in! The time and energy the team has put into this onboarding is so welcoming, buoying, and confidence-building. And makes me feel so invested! –Lexi, Customer Advocate, five months into her journey at Buffer.

Benefit #2: It created a system of reinforced learning

With new teammates feeling more comfortable they have one less psychological burden (that of worrying about how they’ll fit into an existing team), which means that their mental defenses have the potential to drop, allowing them to be more receptive to all of the new information coming their way.

In addition to that, providing information in more than one way allows it to be accessible to more learning styles, reinforcing retention.

Let’s say that you share a written resource with the team member about a component of their job in their onboarding checklist. Just below the resource, they have a task to schedule a call with Julia to further the conversation. The team member has been able to read the information, and soon they will also hear Julia’s experience with it. Perhaps Julia will also have something to share with the team member visually to reinforce the concept. If it’s something that requires doing, they can walk through a scenario together, as well.

We just hit the big four learning styles:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Reading and writing
  • Kinesthetic (doing it yourself, learning with movement)

Having meaningful conversations with every one of their peers helps new teammates fill their context and relationship-building buckets quicker than they would without the meetings. Also, the wide range of perspectives they will come across is invaluable to their ability to learn in the way they receive information best.

I believe we’ve gone beyond just self-learning or learning-by-doing by incorporating these calls into our process. The blended approach to onboarding (being fully async while having the opportunity to experience a variety of approaches from other Advocates) has been a great experience for me. –Ben, Customer Advocate, 90 days into his journey at Buffer

As an example, Ben shared:

I’ve used Stripe before and thought I had a pretty good understanding of their platform but on my call with Nate, he showed me how to use the Fingerprint feature to track down payments. This is something small, but I was blown away. I really wish I learned this years ago at my previous jobs. –Ben, Customer Advocate, 90 days into his journey at Buffer

Benefit #3: It furthered the sense of significance for our existing team members

While onboarding has never been a one-person job at Buffer, the concept of intentionally including every team member who will work closely with a new teammate into their onboarding really takes the idea of multi-support onboarding to a new level.

It’s impactful on morale to know that you’re a part of someone’s onboarding process and making a difference for new team members, our team, and our customers.

Being a part of the onboarding experience for new teammates was a great opportunity to share the knowledge I'd gained from my work so far. The best part of it for me was listening to their questions/thoughts that came from a different perspective. It ended up being not just a time to teach but a time to learn as well. –Cheryl Appiah, Customer Advocate

In fact, no matter how long or short a person has been at Buffer, their hand in onboarding a new Advocate is valued. To showcase that every perspective is significant, two team members we onboarded in September last year were asked to be part of the onboarding for two new team members who started onboarding the following December and January.

What a lovely way to pay it forward.

Lastly, asking team members to help welcome, onboard, and ultimately train new hires is a passive, but clear way to show how much they are trusted and valued by their leadership. Every team member is significant, and every individual’s unique experience contributes to the richness of our team.

We’re not done here

Our process is always evolving, and with each and every new team member we onboard, we learn more and more about how our processes can be stronger or more individualized.

What won’t change is the message our onboarding process sends to both our newest team members and or more seasoned ones.

For new team members, we will think outside of the box to facilitate the most inclusive onboarding process possible for them. And for existing team members, their experience and creativity are treasured! They are all significant, and the time and effort they spend in contributing to the onboarding process for our newest team members is invaluable.

We’d love to hear from you — what do you think about this approach to onboarding? Send us a tweet!

https://buffer.com/resources/include-all-team-members-onboarding/

Ask Buffer: Should I Reply to Every Social Media Comment?

Ask Buffer: Should I Reply to Every Social Media Comment?

Question: I’ve been spending a lot of time growing my audience on Instagram and Twitter—which is great. But I’m starting to get a lot of comments and customer questions, and I’m finding it hard to reply to every single one. Do I need to? How quickly? And what should I do about the negative ones?

How you handle comments is incredibly important because they are a direct way to communicate with your customers, receive feedback, and build trust and loyalty—all the reasons you’re spending time on social media in the first place!

That said, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every comment. For starters, I recommend developing community guidelines that can guide your overall response strategy. Create a document that includes things like:

  • The voice, tone, and personality you’d like to use online
  • Examples of responses to anticipated questions in your defined tone and style
  • Guidelines specifically for crisis communications, like major shipping delays or staff shortages
  • Guidelines for when to block users from your social media profiles (many brands, for example, have policies in place making it clear that they’ll block anyone who uses discriminatory, derogatory, or harassing language.)

These guidelines will push you to think through how you’ll handle certain situations before they arise and help if other team members are managing social media on your behalf.

Now, to answer your specific questions:

Do I Have to Respond to Every Comment?

The short answer is: Yes, because it can do wonders for building community on social media, and your followers expect it. In fact, one study showed that social media is the second most popular channel for customers to communicate with a brand (and the first for Millennial customers).

Knowing that, it’s crucial to provide a positive, helpful experience to your followers by replying to their comments, even if it’s a simple emoji or “Thank you!” Those small interactions can go a long way.

Also, by replying to comments, you’re showing your followers (and customers) that you care, that you’re responsive, and that their feedback matters. All of this helps you build connections and can help you stand apart from other businesses who aren’t as responsive.

And finally, when followers know they can expect a reply from you, they’re more likely to comment on other posts, tag you in Stories, and share your brand with non-followers. All of this increases overall social media engagement and serves as word-of-mouth marketing.

How Timely Do I Have to Be?

If you don’t have a dedicated social media manager or team, replying to every comment, DM, and message can be tough. But, responding in a timely manner is important, especially on platforms like Instagram where Stories expire in 24 hours.

Set aside a chunk of time a few times a day to check in on your social media platforms. Depending on the volume of comments and messages you receive, this could be 15 minutes every couple of hours or 15 minutes every day. Schedule it into your calendar so it’s part of your routine.

You can also engage with comments before or after scheduling your posts in Buffer to get inspiration for new content. You can use Buffer’s engagement features, we have a simple dashboard that makes it easy to see and respond to all of your comments quickly, without jumping from platform to platform.

Here's a look at what it looks like when we engage with folks via comments in Buffer:

Ask Buffer: Should I Reply to Every Social Media Comment?
Buffer's engagement features

If replying to comments every day seems too daunting, you could prioritize your most engaged platform first. For example, if Twitter is the platform you receive most questions on, focus there.

No matter what your schedule, you can always set expectations with your followers a few ways, some folks include their typical response time in their bio while others pin a Tweet to their profile with more information. If you’d like to set aside certain hours every day when you’ll answer customer service questions, that's great information to share if you can.

What Should I Do About Negative Comments?

Negative comments and customer feedback tend to just be part of the social media game. And while it’s never fun to deal with them, we recommend doing so as quickly as possible to try and mitigate any potential fall out.

With that said, again, it’s important to have a thoughtful strategy about how to respond. When you receive the inevitable negative comment, listen to what the customer is saying and ensure they feel heard, the way that you would with a customer in person.

At Buffer, a lot of the inspiration for our tone and style comes from How to Win Friends and Influence People, which focuses on empathy, understanding, and putting others first. This philosophy was key to Buffer’s early culture decisions, and it’s how we think about our community strategy as well.

For instance, we’re quick to admit our faults or take the blame for a problem, and we always try to solve issues without assigning blame or misrepresenting key details. So, if a customer comments about a payment issue, we might comment back saying, “We're sorry for the trouble here, would you be up for checking if your payment details are up to date? This seems like a problem with the form of payment." instead of “Your credit card was declined.”

We also freely apologize to our followers and customers and address the end result for them, not us. For example, we wouldn’t say, “We’re sorry our platform wasn’t working for you,” but rather, “We’re sorry we caused a frustrating experience here.”

At the end of the day, remember that comments are great feedback on your business. You can use them as a tool to identify gaps in your offering, gain inspiration for new content, or find areas where you need to improve.

You can also use them to streamline your communications over time. For example, if you often receive the same questions about shipping times, create an Instagram highlight that answers them or an FAQ page that you can point people to. Or, if customers seem to be routinely unhappy about your customer service response times, you can look into the cause of the delays and come up with a plan to fix them.

Social media comments are a great way to keep a pulse on customer sentiment, both good and bad, and to continue to improve your business and online presence accordingly. So, have a plan, respond to your followers quickly, and watch your community grow even more engaged.

How do you approach comments on social media? Send us a tweet with any thoughts this sparked for you!

https://buffer.com/resources/social-media-comment/

How We’re Helping Our Remote Team Feel More Connected

How We're Helping Our Remote Team Feel More Connected

Numerous resources talk about how to keep remote employees engaged — and that’s hundreds more than there were before much of the global workforce went remote in 2020.

In 2018, I shared a few of our People team initiatives focused on internal community-building, but a lot has changed in four years, and we have new activities on the horizon for 2022.

In addition to the ever-evolving landscape of remote work in a time of a pandemic, we instituted a four-day workweek in 2020, which had an impact on the amount non-work things we wanted to ask of our team. We just switched from quarterly to monthly All Hands, which are recorded for anyone who cannot attend.

Our team engagement scores, which I measure with a survey every six months, have decreased from the beginning of 2021. Decreasing engagement scores is something tied to many factors including team turnover, product direction, and external influences. One thing that has been highlighted in our surveys is the reduction in team-building events like casual Zoom hangouts, guest speakers, and in-person events.

And we’re not alone. In our 2022 State of Remote Work, a small majority (52%) of folks who started working remotely due to COVID-19 say they feel less connected to their coworkers

In 2022, we’re diving back into more intentional team-building both asynchronously, synchronously, plus we’re planning the occasional in-person meetup where available. Here’s how we’re approaching all of these events and all of our current initiatives.

Culture and connection: Who is responsible?

Culture is a continual evolution at any company. While every team and individual contributes to the broader culture, the People team at Buffer is responsible for helping facilitate the processes and events for connection and engagement to thrive.

Many other pieces feed into the larger, nebulous thing that is culture: values, company goals, events, internal communication, managers and so much more. That said, events and teammate connection are two of the main areas of focus for me going into 2022.

Last year, the important but never-as-urgent work of team-building easily fell to the bottom of the list in the scheme of other projects.  Now, we’ve intentionally re-shifted a few of the larger roles within the People-Finance team to have more clear ownership. We hired a new teammate to focus completely on recruitment and hiring (hi, Janet!) and have optimized the existing strengths of our broader People-Finance team, to make my singular focus on culture and engagement.

This was the first strategic decision we made to address our overall team engagement: someone has to be the designated “driver” of a more values-based culture of connection and engagement. Without clear ownership and burden on one or more individuals, the team can flounder.

Remote workplace event philosophy

In 2022, we’re moving forward with initiatives of all categories: synchronous, asynchronous, in-person, and remote, plus, we’re getting more creative with how we hold those events and are looking to be as inclusive as possible of all timezones and personalities.

We tend to approach projects with a mentality that there is no one-size-fits-all. Some of the things we try will work for some and not for others. Here’s how we break down event categories along with expectations are for attendance. Note: Our required events and timezone guidance are in flux as we experiment with different approaches.

How We're Helping Our Remote Team Feel More Connected
A screenshot of our internal event guidelines

Being explicit about the attendance expectations helps to alleviate confusion and ensures we don’t ask too much of teammates — especially with a four-day workweek.

Most of the initiatives we’re going to do in 2022 fall into the “extracurricular” category, as we have heard that most people can get their work done in four days, but that for about a quarter of the company, they regularly have to work a bit over the four days to get their work accomplished. We want to provide the opportunity to engage with the rest of the team, without adding additional work to their plates.

The tried-and-true initiatives

I’m the broken record when it comes to this: Pair calls and masterminds are invaluable. If teammates can make it work, we ask them to first give these a chance.

Pair calls (casual, one-on-one chats)

We love Donut for automating our rotating weekly one-on-one chats with a different teammate.

Donut artificially creates those moments that would happen naturally if we were all located in the same office: You’d see someone in the hall, stop for 10-20 minutes, and catch up about life. Those moments don’t happen in a remote environment. You have to make them happen, and you have to create an expectation of team-wide participation.

In the past few years, usage of this program has ebbed and flowed — and the general sentiment is that teammates love it but sometimes opt-out during busier periods of work expectations. We ask all new teammates to participate in this program, especially for the first 90 days of their onboarding.

For 2022, we put all teammates into our #people-pairs channel and allowed them to opt-out individually. Pair calls take 20 to 30 minutes and are meant to be very light-weight and yet, they add up over time in a really powerful way.

Masterminds (deeper connections)

Masterminds are meant to create a deep bond with a teammate you don’t work with directly, but hopefully have some things in common — it’s a space to share successes, failures, life events. Some matches work great, others might take some time. Some partnerships last well past tenure at Buffer!

Teammates are welcome to opt-out any time of masterminds for any reason, but we’ve seen clear data to show that when mastermind pairings work, it works very well. Here’s some of the feedback we’ve received in the past:

  • “I’ve found that opening up with my buddy has helped me open up with my managers.”
  • “Talking to someone outside of my team is really valuable for me.”
  • “I think it’s been really helpful to have a designated space to share and grow with another Bufferoo who isn’t my manager or someone on my team.”
  • “A great opportunity to connect with teammates and dive deeper into conversations that might not happen in a typical pair call.”

New cultural initiatives for 2022

Synchronous

Buffer TED talks

One of our first experiments for 2022 is monthly TED-style/lunch-and-learn talks from amongst our teammates! These will be 20-minutes long and then we’ll have 10-20 minutes of optional hanging out after. We might also bring in external speakers for these. Each talk will then be shared with a recording and a space for comments for the conversation to continue asynchronously. We hope to build out a huge library of teammate talks.

Specific groups

Some of our most successful team initiatives have been around specific, special-interest groups with a clear topic. Whereas whenever we have broad, open-invitation events, we see a very poor turnout. Book clubs and side-project discussions are two groups that we’ll encourage even more this year. These are two of the most active Slack channels we have, so it’s clear where the most passionate teammate conversations are happening, and beneficial to move those to a Zoom call.

Monthly All-Hands

We’re moving to monthly All-Hands (compared to our quarterly cadence last year), which allows for more frequent touch-points and chances to see teammates on Zoom. Some of the most popular features of All-Hands meetings include small-group breakouts and unique teammate speakers.

We’re planning to invite more external speakers, especially to support our DEI goals and initiatives. We’ll share a lot more on this approach in future posts.

Asynchronous

Slack as our team water cooler

Slack continues to be our virtual water cooler and we have seen great success with recurring prompts to spark conversation in that channel.

Weekly Slack prompts (that we’ve tried before and will do again!)

  • In our water cooler channel, we use Donut’s feature to send out regular questions
  • In our gratitude channel, we might ask What are you grateful for today?
  • In our books channel, we might ask What are you currently reading? What book has made the most impact on your life?
  • In a self-improvement channel, we might ask What are you working on about yourself lately?
How We're Helping Our Remote Team Feel More Connected
Donut prompt in Slack

For November 2021, we tried out a daily gratitude prompt (inspired by Passion Planner’s 21-day gratitude challenge) and ended up with really great discussions over the days we posted this in November.

How We're Helping Our Remote Team Feel More Connected
Screenshot from the gratitude challenge

Internal podcast episodes

Another asynchronous initiative we are leveraging this year: regular, internal podcast episodes. We’re launching this in a lightweight, quick way, simply recording some of the existing conversations that already happen every week. We might iterate on a more polished version in the future, but for now, we want to share the latest thoughts on our exec’s team’s mind or share a profile of a teammate.

Quick questions with teammates

In the same theme as using audio and other asynchronous formats, we’ve done weekly “Quick Question” video interviews with new teammates (and some longer-tenured teammates!) in our weekly company newsletter.

Here’s a sample with Dave and Lexi from our Advocacy team!

0:00

/

Here's Lexi and Dave from Buffer's advocacy team answering some quick questions

In-Person

Regional meetups

While this is very much in the early stages, we are exploring the model of regionally-based meetups and encouraging local gatherings for our company in 2022. This is in place of a company-wide, one-location meetup, which we feel is still a bit too difficult and unpredictable given international travel considerations.

We’ll share a lot more coming up as this takes shape, but it’s a piece of the larger engagement puzzle as we look ahead.

Over to You

When it comes to keeping a team of nearly 90 teammates spread out across the globe connected and engaged, there isn’t one solution or one easy approach. It takes time, intentionality, and team accountability. What have you tried with your team, or which of these would you like to learn more about? Send us a tweet!

https://buffer.com/resources/feeling-connected-remote-team/