A Content Marketing Love Story: How Buffer Stole My Heart

Note: This post originally appeared on The Social Media Freelancer, an online hub and community exclusively for social media professionals and freelancers.

Buffer did not sponsor, endorse or have any previous knowledge of this post before it was published. Additionally, The Social Media Freelancer and Josh Hoffman are not financially or otherwise affiliated with Buffer in any way.

For my first three-and-a-half years of working in social media, I used Hootsuite to schedule social media posts for myself and for my clients.

I have nothing remotely negative to say about Hootsuite. Their software certainly does the job. I had and still don’t have any real complaints about it; heck, I even paid for Hootsuite’s premium service at one point. (The only reason I downgraded was because I didn’t need the paid benefits anymore, not because it wasn’t useful or worth the minor investment.)

But then, Buffer came into my life

The first time I heard about Buffer was during the summer of 2014, when my friend David Yarus casually mentioned it. Like Hootsuite, Buffer allows you to schedule social media posts across various accounts.

Before and after talking to David about Buffer for approximately two-point-three seconds, I never saw (and to this day have never seen) any advertisement or promotion from Buffer. The only thing I kept seeing about Buffer was their content all over social media.

But here’s the thing: I wasn’t following Buffer on any social media platforms, and I never signed up to receive any emails from them. In other words, Buffer’s content is so absurdly share-worthy that I didn’t need to follow them on social media in order to see their posts appear across my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

That, my friends, is content marketing at its finest.

Revisiting the definition of content marketing

According to the Content Marketing Institute — which seems like a pretty reliable source for this definition — content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Cool, moving on.

How does Buffer use content marketing to drive profitable customer action?

Their blog. It’s unreal. One of the best I’ve seen.

Yeah, okay, but a lot of businesses have great blogs…

True, to an extent. A lot of businesses put out great content a lot of the time. Hootsuite included. But Buffer’s content is just so much better, so much more often.

So, what makes Buffer’s content so much better?

First, Buffer’s blog posts are NOT self-promotional and sales-y. Instead, they’re helpful, insightful and even a little fun. They provide practical, in-depth value with a splash of entertainment. They make professional education worthwhile and fun.

Second, their writing style is ridiculously authentic. I literally feel like Buffer’s bloggers are talking to me when I read their posts. Especially Kevan (who runs their blog, I think). I’ve never even met or interacted with the dude, but the fact that I’m name-dropping him is a credit to his super conversational writing style.

The takeaway: Focus less on form (grammar and punctuation) and more on style (authenticity and personality). Your writing style doesn’t need to mimic that of Buffer’s bloggers, but we can learn a lot from them — specifically what it means to write for our target audience. Buffer’s bloggers understand how their audience thinks, talks and reads, so they’re able to employ a writing style that hones in on these intricacies.

Third, Buffer rocks brand journalism’s socks when it comes to weaving storytelling into their content. The stories they tell aren’t corporate, boring or forced. They’re fun, they’re relevant, they’re interesting, they’re natural and unassuming, and they make you feel like you’re a part of their company culture. (This post and this post are two rock-star examples.)

Buffer’s content is so absurdly share-worthy that I didn’t need to follow them on social media in order to see their posts appear across my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

The bottom line

Content marketing, according to the definition above, is for real. It works, and for Buffer, it works freakishly well. It drove me to start using Buffer, and it’s driving me to write this post.

However, it’s important to differentiate between the roles that content and marketing play in content marketing.

Sure, we all want to use content as a means of exposing ourselves to as many people as possible (the marketing portion of content marketing). But if we want to generate real results with content marketing, the kind of results that Buffer seems to be generating, it’s imperative to focus on the content portion of content marketing.

In other words, to first and foremost dedicate ourselves to creating helpful, insightful, entertaining, authentic and relevant content that will resonate with our target audiences.

That’s how Buffer stole my heart, and there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.

Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and sign up to receive his weekly column.