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3 Ways We Increased Weekly Podcast Downloads by 109% in Two Months

3 Ways We Increased Weekly Podcast Downloads by 109% in Two Months

Nothing makes a podcaster happier than to see the below trend line in Libsyn.

Today Buffer’s podcast, The Science of Social Media, is generating more than 12,350 downloads per week, with that number steadily growing (huge shout-out to all of our awesome listeners!)

But it wasn’t always this way.

As you can see on the left side of the chart, we hit an all-time ‘weekly download’ low in early June of this year. 5,900.

Buffer Podcast Download Insights

Which isn’t poor by any means! Though seeing as how we were averaging roughly 9,500 downloads per week for ten months straight it was a tough pill to swallow. Something had to change.

My co-host Hailley and I threw everything we thought we knew about podcasting out the window and started from scratch.

Here are the 4 strategies we went all in on to turn the fate of the Buffer podcast around.

We 180’d our show format

We’ve had the privilege of welcoming some amazing guests to the show over the past year. Guests like NASA, NatGeo, First Round, Marie Forleo, Rand Fishkin, Ryan Holiday, Mari Smith, Noah Kagan, Jay Baer, and lots more.

Buffer Podcast Guests

They were a huge part of helping to make our show so successful off the bat and a big reason why we are here today.

When we made the decision to move away from typical guest interviews it wasn’t an easy one.

We looked around the podcast industry and realized that tons of shows (and I mean TONS) follow the interview format. And most of these show’s descriptions include something along the lines of:

“Strategies from the biggest and brightest influencers in __[insert topic here]__”

The difficulty was that there were only so many “big names” that we could get to come on the show.

Week in and week out we’d spend several hours pitching guests, writing sample questions, waiting for approval from PR, scheduling interview time, stressing over tiny details, and trying to make the interview perfect. And when we looked 6–12 months out into the future, we knew that the big-name-list would soon run dry.

That’s when we began experimenting with what we called “Bonusodes” and “Minisodes.” Bonusodes and Minisodes were quick (10–15 minute) episodes where Hailley and I discussed social media and marketing strategy.

The ironic part is that these types of episodes only started because we ran out of big-name guests for the week. Little did we know they would eventually help to turn the show around.

As for the guest interviews, we decided that we’d only run them if we made each interview dramatically different than what you might here on other podcasts.

We began to turn the interviews into stories. We interjected, added commentary, took the best parts and mixed them together into a cohesive, easy-listening episode. NPR-style.

Of course, this meant more time recording, more time producing and editing, and more time finding just the right story to tell. But it also meant a new and unique experience for our listeners. That’s our top priority.

If you’re interested in hearing a few of our new interviews, check out:

Branden Harvey — Using Social Media for Good

Paul Jarvis — On Entrepreneurship

Ryan Holiday — Creating Perennial Sellers

Now that we had a new format, we needed ideas. And good ones at that.

We’re repurposing top Buffer Blog content

As we began transitioning to full-time Minisode production in April-May of 2017, we chose episode topics that we thought would be interesting.

Sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t.

When they didn’t work it halted growth of the show. That’s no good when you only have one shot per week.

We needed a proven method of generating episode topics that would increase downloads week over week.

Why reinvent the wheel?

Buffer Podcast Episode Ideas

The Buffer Blog is one of the most prolific blogs in the social media industry with more than 1.5 million monthly visitors — AND we have all of the back-end data!

Instead of guessing what topics would work on the podcast, we went into Google Analytics and sorted our blog content by the most page views over the previous 30 days (see chart above).


Hundreds of podcast episode ideas at our fingertips sorted by what people are searching for online. Taking this approach has led to more podcast downloads per episode, more reviews, and a higher popularity rating on iTunes.

We’re advertising on Facebook

Once we started to see a slight increase in week-over-week growth to the show, it was time to take the podcast to the next level.

Having a solid backlog of quality episodes allowed us to justify the investment because we knew if someone clicked through to the podcast that they would have a much higher chance of subscribing and listening to additional episodes.

Cue the snowball effect❄️

Facebook Ads have been a huge source of growth.

Here’s how we did it:

Buffer Facebook Advertising Strategy

  1. We set up a Custom Audience targeting all traffic to the Buffer Blog and knowing that brand awareness would increase our CTR and decrease our CPC.
  2. Next we added an additional targeting filter to only deliver ads to iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices and linked directly to the episode on iTunes (rather than the show notes or podcast landing page). This reduced the friction of going from podcast ad >> podcast subscriber.
  3. We chose the most popular episodes from the podcast and started there — $10 per day using the “Post Traffic” campaign option in Facebook. We keep a close eye on CPC and whenever it creeps above $0.25–0.30 we shut it off and start a new add.

We’ve spent a total of $922 over the last two months which has resulted in nearly 4,000 direct clicks to the podcast.

This applies to everything

As I wrote this article I realized that the above strategies apply to much more than just podcasting.

We’ve taken this re-thinking approach and applied it to social media, blog writing, partnerships, videos, design and more.

If something is not working, it’s alright!

It doesn’t mean you’re failing.

It doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job.

And it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t change.

180 your ideas!

Repurpose and curate awesome content. Advertise. Do something wild like completely change the format your audience has come to know and love.

How I Approach Digital Marketing at Buffer as a TOFU Marketer

How I Approach Digital Marketing at Buffer as a TOFU Marketer

One of the most exciting things about working at a startup or small company is that every employee wears multiple hats.

That means at any moment I might be working on our next social media campaign, writing content for the blog, interviewing a guest for our next podcast episode, hosting a workshop, streaming Live, or editing a video in Adobe Premier.

It can also mean, though, that more formal strategies and long-term thinking take a back seat to shipping projects today. After all, if we sat around and thought about it too long we might never ship anything at all!

But this year we’re taking a more strategic approach to our marketing at Buffer. We’re planning out content weeks in advance and making sure it aligns with our various business objectives.

In other words, we’re growing up.

Each teammate is responsible for delivering content or assets within a certain time frame for his or her role on the team. Whether it’s PR, Community, Social, Content, Growth, Email, or Data, we’re all focusing on working together.

This year, I’ve had the privilege to take on an expanded role: Top-of-the-Funnel (TOFU) Marketer. Essentially it means that a lot my day is based around getting as many people (potential customers) into the top of our marketing funnel as I can through digital and offline content.

To do so, I needed a strategy.

What processes should I prioritize? Which marketing activities will drive the most growth? Which ones won’t? How will I know if it’s working?

And so I put together what I’m calling my Digital (TOFU) Marketing Strategy for 2017. It’s based on the incredible work of Brian Balfour and other professionals who have written about digital and growth marketing in great detail.

I’m still learning as I go and this strategy is nowhere near perfect (plus, it’s changing every day), but I thought it might be useful to share it with you all.

Here it is in its entirety. I hope you enjoy!

What is Buffer’s vision? Why do we exist?

To give people a greater voice on social media and to create a workplace of the future.

What is TOFU Marketing?

The main goal of TOFU Marketing is to attract more quality customers to a product or service.

(Quality is key when deploying TOFU marketing strategies. 4,000 leads doesn’t necessarily equate to 4,000 long-term customers ((or even 4 for that matter))

And it doesn’t stop there.

On small teams, TOFU marketers also need to take into consideration the entirety of the marketing funnel. In other words, once we get the customers in the door, where do they go? Do they stick around? Purchase more products? Leave a review? Tell their friends?

In that light, TOFU marketers take on the roll of what we might today call a Growth Marketer.

“Finance owns the flow of cash in and out of a company. Growth owns the flow of customers in and out of a product.” — Andy Johns, VP of Growth, Wealthfront

Where does TOFU Marketing fit into the Buffer vision?

In order to give people a greater voice on social media they must:

  • Know about our product
  • Decide that our product is the best fit for their job to be done
  • Understand how to use our product to the fullest

I am approaching TOFU marketing as a delicate balance between traditional awareness + acquisition marketing and retention + revenue + referral marketing. (See chart below Growth vs. Marketing vs. Product)

This equates to creating content and prioritizing marketing activities that not only look to attract a large amount of new customers, but also to guide customers along the marketing funnel in a cohesive and strategic manner.

[In my current TOFU-focused role, many of the activities will be geared towards awareness + acquisition. However, understanding and implementing MOFU & BOFU marketing processes is important in the success of retention + revenue + referral. This may come in different forms such as email marketing campaigns, “how-to” videos, targeted Facebook Ads, growth experiments, and more.]

Growth vs. Marketing vs. Product (via Brian Balfour)

Note: These are generalizations. Implementation of growth strategies within companies can vary widely.

Growth Marketing Matrix

We are in the unique position at Buffer to be able to move quickly between growth and marketing. This allows us to conduct data-driven experiments, while also thoughtfully planning campaigns that will help to drive overall brand awareness and product conversions.

Much of our marketing success depends on the process of seamlessly integrating our growth goals with awareness + acquisition goals. It also depends deeply on the ability to deploy a fast, data-driven process to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

For example: We might test 4 to 5 different email sets (headlines, subject lines, audience, images, wording, length, CTA, etc) on any given day while working within the framework of our overall email marketing campaign. That email marketing campaign would be within the framework of our overall email goals such as blog traffic, open rate, CTR, etc.

Data from the 4 to 5 various email sets must quickly be measured, analyzed, and reported so that we can work the learnings back into our next email campaign.

Another example: We might experiment with 3 different video lengths and topics on Facebook while working within the framework of our overall Facebook marketing strategy. Our Facebook marketing strategy would fit within our overall social media strategy which is to educate, entertain, and drive traffic to Buffer assets.

Data from the different video lengths and topics must quickly be measured, analyzed, and reported so that we can work the learnings back into our next Facebook video.

Choosing Our Customer Acquisition Channels

Marketing Tactics Matrix - In a Perfect World

Customer Acquisition Channel Priority Matrix

From Brian Balfour’s “5 Steps to Choosing Customer Acquisition Channels”

  • Cost — The upfront and ongoing cost to acquire users in this channel
  • Targeting — The depth of ability to target different audiences
  • Control — The control you have over turning the channel on/off at will
  • Input Time — The upfront time required to start running experiments with this channel
  • Output Time — The time it takes to start getting data around your experiments
  • Scale — The size/reach of the channel

The chart above shows the top 6 marketing channels that fall under our marketing growth strategy. In a perfect world, the channels would look like this:

Targeting — High, Cost — Low, Input Time — Low, Output Time — Low, Control — High, Scale — High

Operating under this framework will help to prioritize marketing channels in order of importance. It’s crucial to remember, though, that this is only meant to be the beginning. At this point we have a hypothesis about a customer acquisition channel. We’ll benefit from setting up and running a number of experiments to prove out the viability of the channel in relation to overall growth goals.

Building a Process for Growth, Not Tactics

“Tactics first is putting the cart before the horse. You need a process that will help you build a scalable, predictable, and repeatable growth machine.”
— Brian Balfour

What the TOFU process may look like at Buffer:

  1. Setting BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) against the areas we’d like to grow in
  2. Continually feed the machine with new ideas and experiments
  3. Measure experiment data (did it work or fail?)
  4. Sharing our learnings with team and iterating on experiment process/implementation

Digital (TOFU) Marketing in Action

Social Media

One of the biggest strengths of social media is its ability to drive a huge amount of word-of-mouth marketing in a short amount of time.

It’s also a great tool for providing educational & entertaining resources that are timely, easy-to-digest, and unique to individual platforms.

Due to the changing landscape of social media algorithms and a decline in organic reach across the board, every piece of content that we put out on social should have a purpose. Those purposes are as follows:

  1. Provide value (education or entertainment) unique to the channel its shared on
  2. Provide content so valuable/relatable that people are moved to share it with their network
  3. Humanize the Buffer brand through authentic and transparent learnings


As organic reach on social media continues to drop and social platforms move to more “closed” environments, it’s important for companies and brands to have “owned marketing assets” of their own.

A blog is one great example and another is a company’s email list.

Our email newsletter (and list) will serve as an important peripheral marketing channel with a focus on driving additional traffic to our blog outside of organic search and social media.

Email strategy and success will focus on three factors:

  1. Quality and segmentation of our subscribers
  2. Efficient and data-backed A/B tests
  3. Valuable, unique, and interesting content delivered consistently

Not only is email a great way to “push” out information to our current and potential customers, but it’s also a great way to “pull” knowledge about our customer database and enrich our insights into content preferences and demographic information.

(We also might consider running email drip campaigns — leading subscribers to certain pieces of MOFU or BOFU content aimed at converting customers at certain stages of their journey)


Data from 2016 points to the fact that video is one of the best ways to reach our audience on social media and provide value to current and potential Buffer customers.

Video content will be one of our content cornerstones with a focus on marketing thought-leadership, social media education, company culture, and entertainment.

3 key factors that will help lead to video success:

  1. Consistency across all major video sharing platforms (daily video is optimal)
  2. Topic research, headline optimization, and thoughtful delivery of content
  3. Creativeness and willingness to think outside of the box

Due to the nature of video, we will be extra diligent in tracking the success of our video marketing efforts. What’s working? What’s not? Can we deliver video content in more effective and efficient ways?

think with Google put together a great chart on various video KPIs that we might measure in relation to each marketing goal:

think with Google - Video Marketing Success

Key Questions to Ask with Video Marketing Campaigns:

  • Question #1: What is your marketing goal for this campaign?
  • Question #2: What are the KPIs for that marketing goal?
  • Question #3: What are the best video analytics to measure your KPIs?
  • Question #4: How will you optimize for engagement?

Different Video Platform Opportunities Based on Previous Successes:

  • Pre-Recorded Video
  • Facebook & Instagram Live
  • YouTube Webinars
  • SkillShare Classes
  • Instagram Stories
  • Snapchat


Content, when thought about under the umbrella of “Growth Strategy” has many facets. Growth content is optimized for SEO, has all of the parts required for social shareability (uniqueness, great headline, valuable), is optimized for click-throughs and email subscribers, and much more.

In this particular case, I am referring to content as a means to increase awareness. Therefore, content developed under Growth will focus more on virality (created and optimized for sharing across networks).

We will achieve virality through the following best-practices:

  • Thorough topic research on current, trending topics using a tool like BuzzSumo
  • Partnering with peer companies, brands, and influencers to leverage audiences
  • Creating unique content assets for each social media channel (80% promotion rule)


One highly “personal” TOFU content marketing strategy that has seen exponential growth over the past several years is podcasting. Audio content presents us with the opportunity to reach new customers where and when they want to be reached.

The Science of Social Media has received more than 250,000 downloads in just about 6 months since its release. Since being featured on Apple’s News & Noteworthy, numbers have leveled out to around 6,500–9,500 downloads per episode.

In order to grow both our core subscribers as well reach a significant amount of new listeners to the podcast, we will focus on the following activities:

  • Identifying and securing quality podcast guests on a weekly basis (with a full backlog)
  • Examining trends in our data and in the industry to formulate successful topics and headlines
  • Experiment with and perfect show format to find “what works” with our audience
  • Utilize essential marketing tactics to ensure maximum episode promotion
  • Social media sharing (us and our guests)
  • Email newsletter (us and our guests)
  • Show notes optimized for SEO

Facebook Ads

Facebook Advertising works in a variety of Growth Marketing situations — from collecting emails to directly driving sales of product. In most cases, however, Facebook Ads are effectively used as a supplemental marketing strategy with the goal of amplifying the various content pieces we’re creating.

It is very important for us not to use Facebook Advertising as a crutch, but as an amplification tool. In other words, our Facebook marketing and growth strategy will look to maximize organic reach before using ads to promote our content even further.

Our promotion strategy will look to boost the following types of content:

  • Content with a high engagement ratio (engagement / reach total * 100)
  • New or important product/company announcements
  • Videos with a high video view ration (video views / reach total * 100)
  • Partner/curated content that has organically reached more than 20,000 people


As mentioned in the beginning:

The main goal of TOFU Marketing is to attract more customers to a product or service.

Though there are dozens of different TOFU marketing strategies for businesses and brands, ours will focus on the testing and optimization of 6 main activities:

  • Social
  • Video
  • Email
  • Blog Content
  • Podcast
  • Facebook Advertising

We will look to strike the delicate balance between traditional awareness + acquisition marketing and retention + revenue + referral marketing. This allows us to conduct data-driven experiments, while also thoughtfully planning campaigns that will help to drive overall brand awareness and product conversions.

What Running 700 Miles in 2016 Taught Me About Business

What Running 700 Miles in 2016 Taught Me About Business

700 miles out on the open road.

At heart, I’m a running purist. No headphones. No waistband for water bottles. No activity monitor or GPS tracker.

When I get thirsty I usually just pop into someone’s yard for a drink from their hose!

Just my trusty Asics Trainers and a $10 Casio watch for pace.

700 miles. At seven minutes per mile, that equates to roughly 4,900 minutes, 81.6 hours, or 3.4 days.

That’s a lot of time to think.

One of the secrets to running is the ability to lose yourself in positive thought. Brainstorming, reflecting, strategizing, and conjuring up crazy ideas while endorphins are going strong is one way to keep the mind from thinking negative, self-deflating thoughts.

Successful runs happen when the “I’m tired, thirsty, hurting, angry, frustrated, not-good-enough” thoughts are pushed aside for more productive thinking.

Which is why:

Running is a lot like business.

It rewards those who put the work in day in and day out. Those who know and love the process just as much as the results. Those who can block out the negative, learn from mistakes, and keep pushing forward.

When I set out on a 10-mile run, my thoughts aren’t on the 10th mile. They’re on pace, form, technique, and getting stronger with every stride. When the run is over, I’m already thinking about the next one.

What can I do next time to increase my average mile time? How was my breathing? Could I have hit another hill or pushed myself harder during the challenging parts?

The 3 most valuable business lessons I’ve learned from running

Going Where Others Are Afraid To Go

There are millions of great runners around the world. Each one has their strengths, weaknesses, and unique way of approaching the sport.

But what separates the good from the great?

Great runners are deliberate.

They’re willing to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to train because they have a full-time job and a family to take care of. They stretch, eat, and recover with purpose. Everything great runners do is calculated.

Same goes for business.

Whether they’re pursuing a new career path or a new marketing channel, great business people are deliberate about their actions. They’ve done the research, thought of all possible scenarios, and considered the consequences of their actions.

Deliberate action is a part of their DNA.

So much so that when they decide to take a chance on something that seems crazy to everyone else, they know deep down that they’ve had their ears to the streets for months and that it’s a good move.

Overcoming Negative Thoughts

One of the biggest business lessons I’ve learned from running is just how harmful negativity can be for career growth and business success.

Imposter Syndrome is a one form of negativity that surfaces in all different types of people and situations. If you’ve ever experienced this before, you know how hard it can be to overcome.

Self-doubt and a lack of confidence are closely related to Imposter Syndrome and can have dramatic consequences on overall well-being and business success.

To overcome negative thoughts I suggest a two-step approach:

  1. Recognize that they exist and that they are passing thoughts
  2. Realize that you are where you are because you deserve it

If you’ve put in the hard work (trained) and are successful, it’s not because of luck or because of chance. It’s because you’ve earned it.

By addressing your negative thoughts directly, over time you will develop a sort of internal confidence. Negative thoughts will start to creep in and you’ll kick them right out.

Achieving Measurable Progress in Reasonable Time

To get to that next level, we all have to push ourselves to be better. To work harder.

If you want to be a great runner, at some point you’re going to have to train outside of your limits. Turning that 8-mile run into a 10-mile run is what helps you get stronger so that you can achieve new milestones.

In the business world, we tend to get stuck in our daily routines. But at some point, if we want to change the results, we’re going to have to step outside of our comfort zones.

Reading, taking online classes, asking questions, experimenting, measuring new data, and just flat-out doing are the best ways to take control of your outcome.

How I Became a Paid Blogger Using Twitter

How I Became a Paid Blogger Using Twitter

I am one of the estimated 152 million bloggers online today. As with many bloggers out there, I write fairly consistently, but not as much as I should. I cover the topics that you see every day on LinkedIn: social media, marketing, young professionals, Millennials, careers, and branding, but I’m not breaking any new ground.

But this month, I crossed over into a world that many bloggers never experience – the world of paid blogging. Is it because I write better than other bloggers? No. Is it because the subjects that I write about are totally unique? No. Is it because I just got lucky? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

I crossed over into paid blogging because I put myself out there, was willing to fail, and had the experience to back it up.

You have the opportunity to get paid for what you love to do as well. Whether it’s blogging, programing, designing or marketing, what you do in your 8-to-5 isn’t the only way to bring in some extra cash.

Here’s an non-official guide on how to do it.

Start Blogging or Learn Blogging

The only way to begin to make money as a blogger or freelancer is to just start doing it. And do it consistently.

If you’re interested in blogging, pick a topic and write about it at least once per month. If you want to design websites, learn as much as you can about programming or WordPress and put it into practice.

Build yourself a personal portfolio page or offer to work on websites for friends and family  (free of charge, of course). Ask 97% of bloggers or freelancers and they’ll tell you that before they got a paid gig, they did it for free. Not many people will pay you to do something that you don’t have any real experience with.

I blogged once a month at Go.Work.Life. for two years before any paid opportunities came my way.It’s not about the money anyways, right?

Build a Portfolio

The reason it’s a good idea to work on as many things as you can get your hands on is because you are building a portfolio.

A portfolio that you can eventually show to prospective clients as proof that you know what you’re doing.It also gives you an opportunity to iron out the kinks and find your niche. When I startedGo.Work.Life. I must have changed what I wanted to write about a hundred times.

After several posts and feedback from family and friends, I finally found a topic that I could speak about intelligently and one that I was passionate about. You’ll change your mind too. It’s all part of the creative process.

Get Your Work Out There

Once you’ve added a few projects to your portfolio and you’re ready to start adding hours to your day job, it’s time to reach out. Here, persistence is key.

As I alluded to in the title, I found my paid blogging gig on Twitter, but you can use any digital channel to reach out to a potential company  (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.)

You may not know it, but there are hundreds of companies out there looking for freelancers. My advice is to start small and work your way up. Don’t reach out to Apple expecting them to hire you on as a freelancer.

Find smaller companies within your niche expertise. Send them a brief email or message on social media about how you can help their company and provide a link to your portfolio.

Let them know that you’re willing to complete a couple of free projects at first. This provides the company with a low-risk opportunity that’s hard for them to pass up.

Follow Through on Blogging Opportunities

The most important thing you can do for your freelance career is to follow through when presented with an opportunity. Doing so will help you build a positive reputation from the very beginning.

As the cliche goes, over-promise and over-deliver. Complete tasks ahead of schedule. Check in with your client throughout the project. Turn in work that is error free. When finished, ask how you can improve on your work next time.

If you’ve always wanted to know what being a freelancer is all about, now is the perfect time to start. Forbes predicts that by 2020, 50% of the workforce will be involved in some sort of freelancing role.

Why not get in on the action?

I’d love to hear about your freelancing career. How did you get your first opportunity?