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How Buffer Generated 2 Million+ Social Media Video Views in One Year

How Buffer Generated 2 Million+ Social Media Video Views in One Year

Generating social media video views is hard.

Getting people to interact with and share your videos on social media is even harder.

Today brands and marketers are competing with the BuzzFeeds, Business Insiders, and Viral Threads of the world - all with big budgets, professional videographers, and talented editors.

But the effectiveness of social video is hard to ignore and the stats are mind-blowing (here are a few daily numbers):

  • People watch more than 100 million hours of video on Facebook
  • YouTube brings in nearly 5 billion video views
  • Time spent watching video on Instagram is up more than 80% year over year

As social media and digital marketing strategist at Buffer, I had the opportunity to help generate more than 2,000,000 video views on social media in one year. Here’s how we did it and everything I learned in the process.

Successful Social Media Video is Emotional

There’s a good (and scientific) reason that animal, DIY, fashion, beauty, news and political videos fill our social media feeds. They make us feel something, which in turn, compels us to share the content with our friends and family.

In 2011, the New York Times published an intriguing article on the science behind why people share online. More than seven years later, the lessons learned in that research are still as relevant as ever. They found that the top 5 reasons why people share online is to:

  • Delight others with valuable & entertaining content
  • Identify and present ourselves to others
  • Foster relationships
  • Self-fulfillment
  • Spreading the word about issues, products, and brands

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that people share because they believe that the content reflects their identity (whether it’s true or not). Keep emotions in mind as we explore the ever-changing world of video marketing below.

Why Create Social Media Video

There are almost too many stats to count when it comes to why you should be creating video for social media. Including the video stats above, here are a few more of my favorites:

Before we got serious about video marketing at Buffer, we would post videos to social media ad-hoc, with no real strategy or understanding of what works.

Once we began to put some thought and effort into studying the video landscape and creating quality videos, that’s when we began to see the powerful effect that they could have on our social media marketing:

Social Media Video Strategy - Buffer

Looking back, it’s interesting to see there was a visible turning point in our results:

Social Media Video Strategy Update - Buffer

Our biggest takeaway since the change:

Video is one of the most compelling ways to reach your audience because video is the preferred way people consume information in 2018 and will be for the foreseeable future.

How We Created Successful Social Media Videos

Above all, we realized that in order to be successful with social media video, we had to experiment and iterate - a lot.

It’s nearly impossible to determine which topics and videos will perform better than others with 100% accuracy (even 50% accuracy). Many times, we thought the topics that would perform well, tanked, and the topics we thought would perform so-so, ended up being some of our best.

Since we couldn’t predict video success with 100% accuracy, we created a formula for producing quality videos, without overthinking it.

Here’s our formula.

1. Start With What Works

Remember, – video is not a whole new type of marketing  -  video is a way to amplify your existing marketing strategy.

In order to get a few quick wins, we turned to the content we knew was already performing well. For us at Buffer, that was our social media blog.

Social Media Video Strategy

We started by sorting our most visited blog posts from the previous 90 days in Google Analytics.

Then, we created an Excel spreadsheet to add our favorite topic ideas to the list based on our most popular posts.

From there, we dwindled down the list to topics that would “make sense” in video format and got to creating (more on our favorite tools later).

2. Consider Video Context

The wonderful thing about social media video is that if you do it right, the videos can produce results for your business long after they’ve been posted.

In looking at the many different paths we could take, we decided to focus on video topics that would (hopefully) be evergreen - as opposed to short-lived topics such as news.

Importance and Longevity - Social Media Video

Focusing on perpetual and important allowed us to embed these videos in our blog posts, send them in emails to customers, and even embed them on our website because we knew they wouldn’t “go out of style” anytime soon.

Plus, you can’t plan on a social media video going viral. It just happens.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t try!

In addition to creating evergreen videos for our various digital assets, we did try to produce something we thought might go viral every once in a while.

Meaning our social media video strategy consisted of perpetual and important topics 80% of the time, and swing-for-the-fences type video topics 20% of the time.

Who knew that our audience loved kinetics so much!

Note: Curated content is a great way to supplement your current video strategy.

3. Choose Your Video Topics Wisely

As I alluded to earlier, social media is supposed to be social.

As much as much as we’d love for audiences to want to hear about our product or our latest free ebook or our sales pitch as businesses, the fact is they don’t.

There is, however, a way to capture your audience’s attention by educating and/or entertaining them and then moving them (gently) through the customer lifecycle.

In a recent presentation I did with Animoto President and Co-founder, Jason Hsiao, we talked about this idea of creating awareness vs. converting customers.

Creating Awareness with Social Media VideoA big mistake I see brands making on social media is skipping right to the convert stage without effectively telling their brand story – I.e., the glue that makes people care.

Typically (unless you have a product that is flying off the shelf) you can’t gloss over the interactions, tiny moments, and trust building in-between awareness and conversion.

If you’re looking to build trust, increase engagement, and generate views, here are the 4 social video topics we found work best:

1. Blog Posts

Start with what works (as we talked about before). Sort your most visited blog posts and/or website pages and create short video recaps that people can watch in 30 seconds - 2 minutes.

Free education is an incredible way to increase video views on social media.

2. Industry News

If you’re fresh our of ideas or don’t have a ton of current content to work with, creating videos around trending industry news topics will help to drive results on social media.

One of my favorite tools for finding the most popular topics right now is BuzzSumo. I simply enter the URL of my favorite industry-related websites and it shows me the most popular posts from the last 24 hours, week, month, and even year.

Note: It’s also how we generate episode ideas for the Buffer Podcast (now with more than 100 episodes and 1.1M downloads).

3. Inspiration

Remember when I mentioned that we do try to swing-for-the-fence once in a while with social media video?

Well, inspirational videos are the perfect way to, 1) blow your audience’s mind, and 2) experiment to see what type of content your audience might like.

These don’t have to be overly complicated or time-consuming either.

To find inspirational topics, all you have to do is look around you.

What’s trending on Twitter? What are the most successful videos on Facebook Pages to Watch? What keywords are people searching for on YouTube?

4. Hacks, Tips, & Tricks

My absolute favorite social media video topics (and the ones I enjoy watching myself) are in the hacks, tips, and tricks realm.

These types of videos allow you to both educate and entertain your audience at the same time, which is the perfect recipe for success.

For example, we were getting constant questions from our customers asking how we make customs GIFs for our website. Well, instead of writing the same answer 100 times or writing a blog post, we simply made a video.

What does your audience want to know? It’s up to you to teach them, otherwise someone else will.

Facebook recently released a really interesting guide on how to create videos for social media that generate views and drive sales. My biggest takeaway from the guide was this:

How to Create Social Media Video for FacebookWhich leads perfectly into best practices you can use to start creating video content that performs starting today.

Social Media Video Best Practices

Believe it or not, there are some scientific, data-backed ways to create better videos.

1. Create video for mobile consumption

Fun fact: More than 90% of Facebook and Instagram users access the social network from their mobile device, meaning that it’s time for us to start consider the implications of mobile and how we might evolve our social media video strategies moving forward.

Create Social Media Video for Mobile

In a recent study we conducted with Animoto, one stat really stood out to us: Square video (1:1) takes up 78% more real estate in a person’s mobile newsfeed than does landscape video (16:9).

We we looked at performance of square video vs. landscape video we found that square dramatically outperformed the latter.

Check out the stats from 10 tests, 60 variations, and more than $1,500 spent on advertising - square video garnered:

  • +70% engagement
  • 40% more views
  • 33% lower CPC
  • 41% higher CTR

A simple change such as video format can increase the performance of your videos in a big way.

2. Consider video length and captions

The other major factors to consider when optimizing your content for mobile are video length and caption length.

BuzzSumo found that the optimal video length on Facebook is anywhere between 30–120 seconds. In other words, your videos should be no longer than 2 minutes and should aim to capture the user’s attention within the first 1–3 seconds.

Optimal Social Media Video Length


Think about your own social media habits. Are you taking your time and scrolling slowly through the feed, or are you quickly passing by each piece of content until you find something that catches your attention?

If you want to perform a fun experiment, go out in public and watch people use Facebook and Instagram on their phones… it’s, well, awesome.

The quicker you can get someone to click on or engage with your content on mobile, the better. That often means keeping your captions short and sweet as to not distract users from your ultimate goal.

3. Create videos around popular topics

This one may seem irrelevant for your business, but I promise you that you can find something from this best practice. Here are the most popular video topics on Facebook by category:

Popular Social Media Video Topics

Buffer, as you may know, is a social media management platform in the SaaS space. At first glance, you may think we’d only post content around social media marketing.

That was true until we started to experiment with other topics and themes - a move that helped to skyrocket our social media video results.

By creating videos focused on things like tech, education, travel, and science, we were able to tap into the topics that people truly enjoy to interact with on social media.

Our biggest learnings from 2,000,000 social media video views

Before you go, I’d love to leave you with some final thoughts on creating great videos. Here they are completely unedited:

  • Tap into the wealth of Facebook data to understand your audience on a deep lever (Facebook Audience Insights and Pages to Watch are gold mines)
  • Don’t use the “Boost” button (target your content to customized audiences in Facebook Ads Manager -stick to general, broad targeting buckets as opposed to niche, granular interests)
  • Test a LOT. Iterate and improve constantly
  • Use concise messaging - assume the viewer is unaware of the video’s content (also assume they’re watching with the sound off)
  • Consumers have high expectations for right-here, right-now experiences on social media
  • Emotions are the most powerful video tool you have

Check out this entire article video style! I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Wistia CouchCon Conference where I discuss all of the topics above and more. See you there.

Before you go…

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Why Facebook’s News Feed Change To Show Less “Public Content” Is Actually a Good Thing

Why Facebook’s News Feed Change To Show Less “Public Content” Is Actually a Good Thing

When Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted to “fix Facebook” in 2018, no one predicted that he would make such a big change so quickly.

12 days into the new year, Zuckerberg and company dropped what might be the biggest Facebook News Feed update in years (particularly for brands).

Quite understandably, the future of Facebook for marketers and brands is uncertain.

Here’s what’s happening with the Facebook News Feed and why I think it’s a good thing for both Facebook and for brands long-term.

Facebook News Feed Changes

This isn’t the first time Facebook has made a big change to the News Feed to focus on friends and family over brand content.

This time around, however, it feels a bit more real.

In the January 11th press release from Adam Mosseri — Facebook’s Head of News Feed — wrote one line that will most certainly impact how we approach Facebook marketing from here on out.

“We will prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values

Instead, Facebook will begin to focus on prioritizing posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.

Notice the words “between people” there.

Facebook News Feed Change - Brining The World Closer Together

The Facebook algorithm will attempt to predict which posts users might be most likely to interact with friends about, and show those higher in the news feed.

Posts that spark conversations, shares, reactions, and comments will be the holy grail of content on Facebook moving forward.

On the other end of the spectrum, public content (content from publisher and business Pages) may see their reach, video watch time, and referral traffic decrease.

A dim outlook for brands and businesses, until Adam writes,

“Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect”

In other words, Pages creating content (posts) that people engage with and share with their friends will not be negatively impacted.

While Pages creating content that people don’t engage with will see the biggest decreases in results.

Which leads me to my extremely (and quite possibly irrationally) positive outlook on this new Facebook News Feed change.

Why Showing Less “Public Content” Is A Good Thing

This isn’t the end for brands. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a huge opportunity.

Working for Buffer, a social media SaaS company, and being in social media for more than six years, I truly want to see brands succeed on social media.

When brands win, it’s a win for everyone.

New products are in the hands of consumers. Information is shared. Great content helps to inspire action.

Facebook News Feed Change - A Look at the Algorithm

An Opportunity to Stand Out

Now, more than ever, brands are going to have a real opportunity to stand out on social media.

Facebook is specifically saying — we’ll reward you if you create content that people actively, not passively engage with — actively meaning commenting, reacting, and sharing.

While brands that are not creating this sort of content, will see their numbers decrease.

An Opportunity to Up Your Game

How do you create content that people actively engage with?

You must carefully and thoughtfully consider everything you are creating for social media.

Ask yourself: Will this make people want to react, comment, and share?

One important thing to keep in mind is that a lot of brand content is really good. Facebook will not stop showing their content in the news feed.

Emulate those brands’ strategies. Figure out what’s working for them.

What are other brands creating that is allowing them to thrive in this Facebook environment?

An Opportunity to Experiment

All that’s left is content. But that’s all there ever was!

Brands will succeed by accepting this Facebook News Feed change and tackle it head on through the willingness to experiment with new content.

In the press release, Mosseri writes,

“Live videos get six times as many interactions as regular videos, on average. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers”

We’ve talked about Facebook video a lot on the Buffer Podcast and it has never been more important than now. Honing in on your video skills will allow your content to stand out. Plus, it’s a great way to spark conversation.

Mosseri also mentioned the importance and impact of Facebook Groups — stating that, in Groups, people often interact around public content.

Groups are going to be a important factor moving forward in your Facebook marketing strategy.


I’d love to hear what you think about the latest change to the Facebook News Feed.

Am I being too optimistic here?

Or, is this a major opportunity afoot? What do you think brands can do to help tackle these challenges head on?

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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.

Three High-Impact Social Media Strategies (That Can’t Be Automated)

Three High-Impact Social Media Strategies (That Can’t Be Automated)

Many social media and marketing strategies have a big, long-term impact, but they simply aren’t scaleable for a small social team or a team-of-one. What I mean by scalable is that there’s really no way to automate the process while keeping it authentic and engaging. They’re also time consuming. But they help to create an engaged and loyal audience. One that will continue to grow over time through word-of-mouth. Here’s a great example.

One-on-one interactions.

One powerful way to grow and develop long-term, loyal customers who spread the word about your brand or product is through one-on-one interactions on social media. I.e., Reaching out to and personally saying hello to the folks who have invested their — time, money, effort — in you. That takes of a ton of time. Responding to comments, asking questions, recording a quick video, and actively searching out people who may be interested in what you have to offer is a long-term play. But the people that you take time to develop relationships with are the ones who will eventually do the marketing for you through word-of-mouth. But in terms of time-efficiency, I’d put this one towards the bottom. Another great example.

Video content.

Those of you who have dabbled in creating videos before know that this is one of those marketing strategies that takes time and resources (brainstorming, money, equipment, personnel, expertise, etc.). Video has exploded on the social media scene over the last few years and many marketing leaders believe it will make up most of what we interact with on social media in the coming years. The challenge is that if you don’t have a “video team” or the money to hire an outside video firm, you’re left with only one option… You! Something like 83% of marketers say that they want to create more video in 2016, but again, in terms of time-efficiency, video creation is a tough one to justify. One more example.

Content curation.

I’m a big believer in the fact that there’s great content out there to share for everyone. Whether you’re a brand with an stunning product that’s easily marketable or one with a “boring” product, if you look hard enough there’s always an angle. Therein lies the trickiness. Finding the time to find that shareable content. The beauty of curation done right is that it alleviates the necessity to constantly create incredible content on your own. If you look at any big publisher like let’s say Fast Company or Inc. or Forbes, they’re masters of content curation. They’ve built their entire businesses on finding and curating the best content from writers around the world. As marketers, we’re all mini curators.


“As marketers, we’re all mini curators. Always on the hunt for the best of the best.”


And that takes time.