Email Digest Critique - Buffer

Time for another Siskel & Ebert style email digest critique. This week, we’ll look at a new weekly digest email experiment by the good folks at Buffer. Let’s get started. 

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Most people know of Buffer, but if the case you don’t, Buffer is a beautifully simple tool for posting content on (any) social media accounts. One of the most valuable features of Buffer is their analytics section which allows individual (or businesses) to track the success of their individual posts, across their social media channels. 

For a long time, I have wanted Buffer to start sending out a weekly/daily digest email that summarizes my analytics section. As a startup, we don’t have a dedicated person managing our social media accounts (yet), so to login to Buffer to check analytics is just yet another thing to get done during the day, so it’s tough. Getting this info in my inbox is really, really helpful. I’m super happy they exist.

What is very interesting about the Buffer digests is that the team seems to be experimenting with this initiative. Over the past month or so, I’ve received two different versions of the Buffer digest. I haven’t spoken to anyone at Buffer about it, but it looks like they are trying two different versions to see what kind of ‘success’ and feedback they get. For the purpose of our blog, we’ll take a look at both.

Buffer Digest #1 - Weekly Metrics Summary

The first version of the digest that I received was the one below. This version offers a summary of my activity for each of my accounts and the ‘success metrics’ from that activity. 

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What I like about this email - great information and clear presentation

Outside of the fact that it exists (yeah!), I really like the way it breaks out each of my accounts so I can easily compare my activity on each. And I really like their decision not to hide accounts on which I haven’t been active. They add these accounts into the digest, don’t show any metrics (because there was no activity), but offer a call-to-action for me to Post Now to those accounts. While, I doubt that this call-to-action is used very often (users are probably not ready to post something at the time they are reading this email), but I love that they show me the accounts so that I don’t forget that they exist and probably need attention. It would have been an easy decision to hide non-active accounts in this email, but leaving them in helps to promote more activity on the Buffer platform. 

I like the “vs last week” metrics as well. They aren’t labeled well, but next to each activity stat, they offer a comparison from the prior week in green/red. This is a nice touch that helps the user better assess his/her performance.  

I also like the “Global Data” mention in the header of the email. As an intro to the digest, they tell me that "people using Buffer sent 3,805,917 updates" over the past week. It’s subtle, but a nice way to let users know that they are not alone and builds more trust in the platform. I would love to see this number normalized as well (ie - the average Buffer user posted 72 posts this week) so that I can understand how my activity compares with the average Buffer user.  

Some areas for improvement

First of all, I find the small fonts difficult to read (especially on mobile). There is plenty of real estate available here, so there is no reason not to make the fonts bigger in general - but especially the fonts used for the metrics.

The “Connect Another Account” button at the bottom of the email is a bit odd as the main call to action on this digest. It feels a bit generic & the font is so tiny compared to the button, it has the effect of lessing the urgency of this important call-to-action. I don’t mind that this email trying to promote users to connect more accounts to Buffer, but I would rather them be more specific. Buffer knows I don’t have a G+ account connected, why not suggest that? 

I also thought they missed a big opportunity to include some of their content in this digest. Buffer is beloved for their blog content. It’s as much a part of the Buffer brand/experience as is their product. In the future, I think they should include either their latest blog post or some content related to building the social media engagement that this digest promotes. Just ending this digest with a generic (self-serving) call-to-action seems very…un-Buffer-like.

Overall, I thought this digest does a good job offering some overall metrics and helps users get more value out of the Buffer platform without having to remember to log in.

Buffer Digest #2 - Top Posts Digest

The second digest I received from Buffer was the one below. This digest summarizes the top 5 posts I sent in the previous week (based on some engagement calculation they do on their end). I found the specifics of this digest to be more ‘tactical’ and actionable than the first.

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What I like about this email - very actionable information

The biggest plus for this digest is in it’s actionable data.Getting down to the ‘post’ level is very helpful. Users can quickly get a general sense for the ‘type’ of content is resonating (posts that we post from our own blog or posts that we shared from other places). This digest also prompts further investigation and decisions like - should I repost this post again given it’s driving good engagement? Should I post some of these on our other networks? Who was engaging? Are these people we should be connected with? Etc…

Given the tactical nature of this digest, it may make sense for Buffer to play with the delivery date and/or frequency of this one. It might make sense for this digest to come more than once a week. Daily might make a lot of sense for heavy users, while 2-3 times during the business week might work for less active accounts. I would hate to see the frequency of this email limit its effectiveness. If it were sent more than once per week, it could help the Buffer user make decisions about what to post for the rest of the week.

And not for nothing, I think Buffer’s users will just like to see these ‘vanity’ metrics more than once per week  :)

Some areas for improvement

Some of my ‘improvement’ comments from the 1st digest hold true here. Generally, on the design side, the font is very small and I there isn’t a whole lot of visual interest. Adding some more, fun visual design won’t necessarily improve the effectiveness of the email, but it will make it a little more ‘delightful’ to read on a regular basis.  

OVERALL THOUGHTS

In general, I’m very happy, as a user, to have Buffer digests in the world. They make my life easier and I’m sure the same is true for many of their users.

I realize they are testing out both concepts now, but I hope they don’t decide to kill one. I hope in the analysis of their individual effectiveness, they take user-type into consideration.

It might make sense to distribute these unique digests to different user segments. For example, the Summary Digest (#1) may be more valuable for more active accounts - those accounts that post over, say, 100 posts per week, while the Top Posts Digest (#2) could be more valuable for the accounts that post below that. 

OR, I just saw that Buffer has started offering different user levels (Managers & Team Members). Depending on the usage patterns of these two user groups, it may be an opportunity to create custom digests that fits their specific needs/wants. 

Overall, the Buffer digest initiative, at least in this first iteration, gets one enthusiastic thumb up. With some design and functional improvements, this one could easily be a candidate for the two-thumbs up club…

Anything I missed? Let me know!