The Story Behind Buffer’s New(ish) Content Suggestions

Overcoming writer’s block. Curating great content. Sharing on social media many times a day for better engagement.

These are topics we talk about often on the Buffer blog, where our daily focus is making you smarter and more productive.

So when we realized that Buffer could go one step further and actually begin to solve these challenges for our customers, we jumped at the opportunity.

Enter Buffer’s content suggestions!

You may have noticed these suggestions in your Buffer account:

content suggestions

 

Or in your inbox when your Buffer queue could use a little topping off:

empty email

Why we added content suggestions

We added content suggestions in both of these spots – 5 daily suggestions in the Buffer app, 3 suggestions in your email – to make it easier for you to discover great things to share.

We figure you’ll have a better overall experience with Buffer if you can see right away how easy it is to share content on social media and learn how your community responds to it. Plus, we promise it’s all really great stuff!

Where does the content come from?

All over the place! Right now, these suggestions are kind of a look inside the online reading habits of the Buffer team.

On most days, you’ll find a mix of social media and marketing posts, some productivity and lifehacking content and an inspirational quote or two thrown in for variety. (We like the philosophy of having a few consistent post types – read more about how Buffer founder Joel tweets here). You’ll probably notice a lot of images, too – we’ve found that photos really increase engagement.

And we always try our best to keep the suggestions in line with our core values – like happiness, clarity, reflection and gratitude.

They’re still a work in progress

Content suggestions are one of our newer projects at Buffer, and (like a lot of what we do) they’re likely to evolve over time – and with your input.

I’d love to hear what you think about the suggestions, what you’d like to see more (or less) of and how we can make this optional feature even more useful for you. Let me know in the comments!

  • Katie Lewis

    Hi Courtney! I’ve loved the content suggestions for when I have writer’s block or just want to learn more. Excited to see what else your team has to share!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Awesome! Thanks, Katie!

  • alistaircunningham

    The first suggestion I clicked on “12 Easy Ways to Make Life Simple Again” opened up a spam wave of “Warning!!! Your APP store need update immediately”. I wasn’t impressed…

    • Courtney Seiter

      Oh wow, was it this link? http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/12/22/12-easy-ways-to-make-life-simple-again/ I have no idea why that would happen; so sorry you had a bad experience! I’ll look into that.

      • alistaircunningham

        That’s the link. Doesn’t do it on Windows Chrome, only Android.

      • JordanHarbinger

        Same issue (not sure re link) but a crapton of squeeze boxes, forms, popups. Annoying. The dude wanted to snag our emails instead of providing value. Lame.

        • Courtney Seiter

          Thanks for letting us know; we’ll definitely make a note of that!

  • http://www.juhaliikala.com/ Juha Liikala

    Love the suggestions. Absolutely one of my favorite things about buffer!

    One thing I’d love to see: Suggestions based on user’s Twitter audience. If done well, it would be such a killer feature, I’d be happy to pay for it.

    Maybe some kind of integration with SocialBro could make this type of audience content filtering a possibility? ;)

    Cheers!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Oooh, yeah that would be pretty rad. I’ll make sure that idea gets circulated to the team so we can get to brewing on how to make it happen!

      • nathan8823

        I love this. With all of the click data you have, you could also suggest content that you already know is going to text a lot of clicks.

  • Amanda Proo

    I love it! It’s a useful tool both for social media and just for finding things yourself…I’ve used it quite often recently.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks, Amanda! Really glad to hear that :)

  • http://www.thejenmoff.com/ Jen Moff

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I dig em! I would…love…if they were in line with Buffers values, and then customized to the individual users brand/platform… Just a thought. ;)

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks, Jen–love that idea!

  • http://www.alexisrodrigo.com/ Lexi-Web Copywriter

    I have noticed these! But, honestly, I tend to ignore them because I hardly ever look at my Buffer dashboard. I prefer to add to my Buffer queue from Feedly or through my browser. However, in a pinch, I would totally use the suggestions. I think it was very thoughtful of you to add them :)

    • Courtney Seiter

      I hear ya; sounds like you’re really getting a lot out of Buffer! :)

  • santulinks

    Great concept, but do you have a method to prevent same users to get the same info from multiple senders now? I can see how it would be great to be listed by you as suggestion – great multiplicatoin factor – but as enduser I might be less impressed if I get the same text from multiple sites.
    Of course the response should be – write your own text if you want it to be unique – but if you have an idea how to make sure that same end users only get the same details delivered from the first sender then it would make the function a lot more useful and potentially create less backlash down the track.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Great thoughts; thanks for sharing. Definitely some good stuff to think about as we move forward with these.

  • http://www.crissapetrovic.com Crissa

    I already love and often select most of the suggestions in my Buffer account! I think it would be very cool to find a way to have a ‘community’ pool of suggestions based off certain topics that users can pull from. Maybe this could help Buffer users discover quality Guest Bloggers for their sites?

    • Courtney Seiter

      Wow, what a neat idea! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Crissa!

  • sdebrule

    Thanks for this article Courtney. It was such a pleasant surprise to see the feature on my dashboard a couple of days ago.

    First off, this is the most ingenious social link building strategy I’ve ever seen.

    I’d love to see how many clicks/RTs a content suggestion received when shared by the @buffer account!

    Transparency as a tool to help me share the most engaging content :).

    • Courtney Seiter

      Great thoughts! We’re definitely working on tracking how the suggestions are adopted so we can improve on them. :)

  • http://www.texas-careers.blogspot.com/ Dr. Anthony C. Edwards

    So Buffer essentially learns what types of content we would like to share from what we have shared on Buffer in the past? Interesting! Powerful business move, too. This eliminates a step for people who use other apps to curate content.

    • Courtney Seiter

      We’d definitely like to get to the point where we can “learn” what you like to share, but we’re not there quite yet. :) Right now the suggestions are mostly based on stuff we’re seeing, reading and sharing.

  • http://zachsb.com/ Zach Solomon-Beloin

    Love these, but I often find myself reformatting the messages. They often are buffered like a headline, so I remove the uppercases to read more like a sentence.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Good to know! Thanks, Zach!

  • Pickmiketeague

    I like the content suggestions, but it would be awesome if it could pull the suggestions based on your feedly account or tending topics.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks! I agree; that would be really awesome!

  • nancy t.

    Love this feature! It’d be really cool if the suggestions were based on the user’s Twitter audience like Juha mentioned, or pulled from another news aggregate the user uses. For example, I’d see news articles from my personal Prismatic feed as suggestions.

    Anyway, thanks for this amazing new feature!

    • Courtney Seiter

      You’re welcome! Thank you for your kind comment and great input!

  • The Black Board

    We cover creativity and productivity on our site and Twitter feed and as an avid Buffer user, I’d love it if in future there was a way to include some of our links in the content suggestions. Will you be considering a submission or tagging system in future? If more of the suggested content tweets came from Buffer users, that exposure would be a fantastic potential ancillary benefit to the Buffer user community.

    ~Shaula

    • Courtney Seiter

      Hi Shaula,
      That’s a super interesting idea; thanks for suggesting it!

  • benvalehyp

    I think I’m echoing a lot of what’s already been said; I’d love suggestions based on certain topics, possibly with some form of RSS feed integration (or through something like Feedly)

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks, we’re definitely hearing you there!

  • Emily Cretella

    Thanks Buffer! I believe you suggested one of my articles today, and my Twitter feed has been absolutely blowing up! The article already has 1806 shares via Buffer – when previous articles have only had a handful. So, you guys rock :)

    • Courtney Seiter

      Wow, Emily–that’s simply amazing to hear! :) Very glad they’re working!

  • Casie [kay-cee; KC]

    I absolutely flipped when I saw these the first time! It’s great to check out when I can and, hey! While I’m buffering content — add anything else I find interesting or consistent with my brand and values as well. Buffer + I seem to be cut from the same cloth on that front though though — so I find A LOT of value in this feature!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Yay, so glad you’re finding them useful! That’s music to our ears :)

  • http://www.viewbix.com Benjamin Bernstein

    I just came across this feature and I love it! I think it would be really cool if you could promote content to be shared to other buffer users. I don’t know if Im a representative sample but I (my company) would definitely pay money to be able to do this

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks for sharing your idea, Benjamin! Very intriguing….

  • ronellsmith

    Courtney,

    An excellent example of solving a pain point for your clients. Never enough time. What I love is the suggestions are spot-on, appealing, allowing me to add solid info to my feed without much of an expense of time.

    For that I say thanks.

    RS

    • Courtney Seiter

      Never enough time is right! Glad to hear the suggestions are hitting for you :)

  • plymouth gas

    I would like to see suggestions of previous posts. Some users will post repeat, or similar comments and I have to cut and paste a selection from a word.doc. It would be helpful if I could post through Buffer and add a flag, for it to be used again.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Great thought; that could be really helpful! Thanks for sharing that with me!

  • Gaz Copeland

    I’m possibly a lone voice here but I’ve found this to be a terrible idea!

    I use Buffer all the time and also recommend my clients do the same to manage their Twitter feeds but have had to turn this feature off for them as some had started to post totally irrelevant content to their feeds because Buffer had given them a short cut.

    I’m really surprised that you guys knowing better than most how important it is to share content specific to your audience would offer up suggestions which are probably not at all relevant. You might want to think about re-labelling these as “What we’re reading” or something which makes it clear this isn’t actually based on any intelligent analysis of previous posts shared through Buffer.

    I really hope this isn’t the case but this could be a feature simply to get people sharing more through Buffer, rather than to actually be useful to their audience.That said, if this was based on analysis of previously shared content or topic themes then absolutely I would be in favour.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Hi Gaz! Wow, this is simply incredible feedback to have; thanks so much for your honesty here. I definitely understand what you’re saying about the shortcomings of our current setup–these posts aren’t going to make sense for every account. These are 100% still a work in progress; I’d love for us to be able to analyze past content and offer even more helpful suggestions tailored to each customer. Lots to think about here and I really appreciate you letting us know how you feel!

      • http://thebloke.co.nz/ Kerry Adams

        I have to second Gaz on his feedback. If they were in any way related to the content I was already sharing, this would be useful. As it is, it is more noise in my inbox.

        Please though, love the idea of related content, but this isn’t.

        I don’t have clients using this, but as Gaz says – it’s would be a great way of derailing focused content sharing. You are also aggregating and aggregated feed, but that really sums up the majority of the internet/media these days anyhow.

        • Courtney Seiter

          Hi Kerry! Really appreciate your honest thoughts here and I hope you’ll be pleased with our new direction. You can read a little about what we have in mind here: http://blog.bufferapp.com/introducing-rss-feeds-buffer-social-media-sharing

          I’ll pull out the relevant bit: “Topics is the next frontier for our content push. Currently, our suggestions are a general reach into a number of different areas. We’re looking to provide even greater value here by drilling down into individual categories and topics of interest to our users.”

          Does that feel like we’re on the right track?

          • http://thebloke.co.nz/ Kerry Adams

            Ultimately I feel that it is my ‘responsibility’ as an aggregator to be searching out and condensing this content myself anyhow, so I am always a little hesitant to start re-sharing content. That’s what everyone who has access to the same feed is going to be doing.

            Which I guess, doesn’t really make me the ‘target market’ anyhow… ;)

          • Courtney Seiter

            Gotcha. I’d love to hear what would be useful to you in your role as an aggregator, if there are any specifics on your mind. :)

          • http://thebloke.co.nz/ Kerry Adams

            I will do. I do love what Buffer enables me to do.

  • http://www.webmarcom.net/ Jody Raines

    I like the new features although I don’t use all of the content that is suggested, and typically try to rewrite it. It does save time and you find articles that are interesting. What would be neat is if there was a way to have smart content that learns what we utilize then serves more articles along those lines. Thanks for requesting the feedback and for responding to the comments. That’s so totally human!

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks, Jody! That’s awesome intel to have as we work to make these features even better. I love your idea; that would be amazing!

  • http://www.seobulldog.com/ Tyson Downs

    I love it as well, just wish that there were other industries that were covered.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Definitely hear you there; we’re working on a bit more customization right now!

  • http://www.socialmediamamma.com/ Gaynor Parke-Social Media Mamm

    Love this feature as I find some really helpful info. Thanks guys

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  • http://maxfenton.com Max Fenton

    This is horrible.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Hey Max! Anything in particular? Keen to get all the feedback we can here, positive and negative.

  • http://www.focuspulling.com FocusPulling (.com)

    Frankly, after coming back to Buffer for a look after examining the new Suggested beta feature at HootSuite, I was surprised to find how very under-developed the feature is here. There is almost 0% likelihood that any of the Suggestions at Buffer are relevant to the respective accounts they are set up to feed. Meanwhile, HootSuite’s Suggested beta feature combines analysis of source accounts, user-provided keywords, and scheduling for a function that actually works.

    I do think it’s in Buffer’s best interests to lay out a roadmap for whether they even plan to improve their Suggestions feature, even minimally — and when.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Hey there; thanks so much for weighing in here. We certainly appreciate all the input we can get as we experiment with how to make this feature the best it can possibly be. In the last month, we’ve expanded our content suggestions to include five different topic areas and we’re actively looking for ways we can keep going with it. :) Again, thanks a ton for your feedback!

  • http://pickadirection.com/ Mike

    I sparingly use the suggested posts feature. I usually skim the headlines and post things that are relevant to my Twitter feed and what topics I already blog about.

    The ones I find myself using are the non-linked posts though. I read plenty of stuff that I want to share, but I enjoy having the occasional motivation quote to give my audience something brief. Keep those coming!

    That being said, I’m with a lot of others and I’d love to see some sort of “submission” to have my company’s (or my) best blogs reviewed to be shared. Thanks for the explanation, I love finding out the “why” behind bold moves like this!

  • Real Estate

    They’re all quite tech related and we’re a real estate magazine, so the suggested posts aren’t much help. It would be great if there were more lifestyle options and property and luxury trends…other topics in general would be great, (“,)

    • Courtney Seiter

      Totally understand where you’re coming from here; this is excellent feedback! Thanks so much for letting us know!

  • http://www.ideahub.ge/en Temo Baratashvili

    It would be great for content developers and for Buffer as well (if you commercialize suggestions) to promote Buffer business user’s content in the suggestions.
    I think there are many similar comments concerning this topic.

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  • David Mark at Brevedy

    Enjoy the feature. Would like to see a better mix and also, on Daily, the ability to not repeat a suggestion after it has been rejected.

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Great insights, David; thanks so much for taking the time to tell us about these ideas!

  • Olga

    how can I put my company in the suggestions of Buffer?

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  • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

    Hey there; you’re absolutely right! I take all the blame for not iterating quickly enough on this feature. There’s a lot I want to try and I’ve been a bit paralyzed by the number of directions we could take this one. I appreciate the nudge!

  • Gabriel Avila-Mooney

    I’d love to see suggestions based on what is relevant to me and my followers. For example I primarily post about food and cooking on my page, would love to suggestions in that category or have the ability to choose a category such and ‘food’, ‘cooking’ or ‘lifestyle’.

    • http://courtneyseiter.com/ Courtney Seiter

      Hi Gabriel, thanks so much for sharing that! I can definitely see how that would make tons of sense for you and provide you much more value; I hope to be working toward this goal VERY soon!