If you’ve ever fallen into that useless mental pit of tumbleweeds — hitting refresh on your stats to watch a stasis of traffic and shares — you can understand the thrill of being chosen by Buffer as a content suggestion in the tool and their new ioS app Daily. The ability to connect with and be shared by even a fraction of their million-plus users is amazing.
Thanks to a spot in the Buffer suggested content section, our post “3 Surprising Science-Backed Ways to Find More Time,” for example, was shared more than 4,000 times. We wanted to dig deeper into how we were featured by Buffer and show some of the awesome impacts this has had for us.
Let’s look at another post, “Build a Lucky Startup, Don’t Leave It To Chance,” which Walter wrote that performed decently. In a little over two weeks, it’s gotten over 1200 pageviews, though our social sharing stats show that we’ve only just broken the double-digit mark across channels.
Contrast that with another post of Walter’s about what Google looks for in its leaders that did fantastically after it become suggested Buffer content:
That’s a huge jump in numbers.
You can also see how the Google piece, published just one day before “Build a Lucky Startup,” had a better start out of the gate, traffic-wise, and then saw a dramatic increase when it first turned up in Buffer’s suggested post collection on July 16, totaling nearly 9,000 pageviews to date.
￼While we, of course, have other sources of distribution and referrals, the power of making it into the Buffer ecosystem — first as featured content and then chosen by Buffer customers to be shared in their social media accounts — is clear. Social became our top category of referral traffic:
So how did we get featured?
Many people have been curious how we made it all happen.
We didn’t do anything. That is, we did nothing for the specific reason of getting spotlighted by Buffer.
One fundamental content strategy we have here at iDoneThis is: “Think distribution first” — a constant reminder that the hardest part of the content game is that your job isn’t over when you hit publish. Just because you write it, people will not come. So your approach has to be comprehensive, from planning and drafting all the way to considering with a good dose of empathy and self-awareness whether people will read it and how you can make it easier for them to do so.
The key to getting featured anywhere — whether it’s coverage or mentions from press, influencers, other businesses, and basically anyone with an audience — is simple but ever-challenging. Create great content. Make it easy to notice and choose.
Here are 5 specific tips on getting featured based on what I think helped our content get noticed and spotlighted by the Buffer crew.
1. Remember the humans.
Buffer’s suggested posts feature is a joint curation effort, largely by Courtney Seiter (Head of Content Marketing), Leo Widrich (Chief Operating Officer and cofounder) and Kevan Lee (Content Crafter) — with the rest of the team chipping in with their favorites.
Kevan explains the straightforward process: “[W]e don’t share based on obligation, contract, or affiliation. We simply locate the stories that we find most fascinating and drop them into the app for you to enjoy.”
Remembering that there are still humans out there, hand-picking content that they’ve actually read and enjoyed is key. Getting featured doesn’t come down to an algorithm. It depends on people — with their limited attention spans and desires to learn and be entertained. What’s more, you can connect with people to build relationships. You can’t build a relationship with an algorithm.
We’ve been fortunate to call the Buffer team our friends. While there’s absolutely no obligation or quid pro quo at play in the curation process here, relationships do help you get on people’s radars.
2. Know your audience.
Currently, Buffer offers five suggested content topics — marketing, lifehacking, inspiration, design, and business/startups. On our blog, we write about how to make your worklife better, productivity, management, along with a few thoughts about marketing. That means we’re hitting 4 out of the 5 topics, so it’s a match that makes sense.
If you’re a biotech writer, you’re not going to pitch Opera News. Editorial staff hate getting off-topic requests and content curators usually have areas of expertise or focus as much as publications do. If you’re looking to get the attention of a certain influencer, you shouldn’t have to do something crazy and drastic beyond what you’re already doing to get someone to pay attention to you. Work your mutual advantages — does their audience match your audience?
3. Take an interestingness pulse.
Content curators often develop a readerly spidey-sense about what’s interesting. They have to, to be able to pick out something among the firehoses and streams of information out there and then be able to successfully place it back in the torrent to share.
There are a few tricks to find out what people are finding interesting just by looking at what’s already popular. What’s being shared through Buffer or Reddit? What keeps popping up on your Facebook feed? For example, when Kevan is on the hunt for some good content suggestions, he’ll take a quick look at share counts on the articles in his Feedly. It’s a reliable shortcut to what people are already finding interesting or helpful.
Walter does a particularly good job of understanding what’s popular in our audiences and delivering articles that play on those themes and interests. Take the Google post. We love writing about autonomy because we think it’s an incredibly valuable element of meaningful work, but making that point with something he learned about how Google does things was one way to feed the hunger of people really into Google and tech.
4. A picture is worth a thousand … shares.
Over time, we’ve been putting much more attention into including photos and images in our posts. It takes longer and is sometimes a pain, but it usually helps improve the piece through the illustration of its concepts. For example, for this piece about workplace gratitude, which was a Buffer suggested post back in May, I decided to make a visual graphic using Canva of some of the stats I thought were particularly intriguing.
Images are incredibly important in getting your content shared. Buffer has found that tweets with images get 150% more retweets, and they — along with anyone who’s using the image power-up — are on the lookout for content with visuals to share.
5. Stick with your mission.
Hitting upon what people are interested in is great, but what’s even more compelling is aligning with common purposes and values. Chris Savage, CEO and cofounder of Wistia, describes what happens when you strive to produce mission-driven content:
When you’re trying to push someone through the funnel, it limits the kind of content that you can make and it limits how that content is going to be shared…..A lot of the content I love the most doesn’t ask me for anything.
That’s a guiding principle for us at iDoneThis — to write according to our mission to make work better and more impactful. And we’ve gone so far this way that sometimes people don’t realize that we sell a product in addition to creating content.
The content suggestions featured by Buffer are an extension of how they express their values in their own amazing content into how they curate. As Courtney explains: “[W]e always try our best to keep the suggestions in line with our core values – like happiness, clarity, reflection and gratitude.”
When you write along your mission, you create stronger material and connect more deeply with your audience — including people and companies that hold similar values.
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Curators have a particular problem of constantly having to feed the beast of social media with more and more content. The suggestions at Buffer are currently up to 25 new stories a day, which — even for a team that reads and writes as much as they do — can be a challenge to do day in and day out. And it’s the same for many writers who are constantly searching for interesting material to cover. If your stuff is good, they’ll want to cover or feature it.
So for whoever you’d like to be reading, sharing, highlighting, and writing about your content — make it easy for them. Remember that everyone involved in this game is a busy human.
Liked this post? Read next: Our Definitive Guide to Content Marketing