I have some great news: Buffer has acquired Respondly, a social media customer service and brand monitoring tool!

We’re excited to bring this product into the Buffer family and move into a whole new market that many of you have been encouraging us to explore for years.

I wanted to take a little time to share the full details about how we came to acquire this product and our overall vision for how we’ll grow our social media offerings to help you to deliver great experiences and results on social media.

Buffer acquires Respondly

What this means, and when you can get started!

Respondly is a social media customer service and brand monitoring tool. I’ve personally been a customer for more than a year in an attempt to stay better on top of my own Twitter account.

We’ll be rebranding Respondly to Buffer Reply, and it will remain a standalone tool, specifically suited for social media customer support, engagement, community, and monitoring.

We believe there is a power in keeping products separate, to continue our philosophy of simple products with clear purposes.

We’re working around-the-clock to get things ready for a full launch soon. Here’s a peek at where things are headed:

Respond Dashboard

Want to try Buffer Reply earlier? We’re starting to invite people in gradually, starting today!

Request an invite at buffer.com/reply and we’ll welcome you to try Buffer Reply as soon as we have capacity.

respond request early access

We’d love to have you give it a try! As with our journey with Buffer in the last 5 years, we’re excited to rely on many of you to help shape this new product too.

Our overall vision for social media and Buffer

Building a social media customer service product has been on our minds for a while at Buffer. Whenever we thought about it, we weren’t quite sure how to get started—until Respondly came our way. I’d love to summarize a few ideas we have about the future of social media and the small role we hope to play in it.

Where we see social media going

Social media has matured tremendously—Facebook and Twitter have gone beyond the “hot new thing” to become ubiquitous tools that help us connect with each other and help businesses reach their audiences.

When we look at what happens as any industry matures, we see that a specialization of tools emerges, especially when the channel can be used for multiple different purposes. For example, as email grew in popularity it was used for both marketing and customer service.

When it comes to social media, we feel that that equally applies. Both sides of social media—customer service and marketing—are frequently rolled into one solution.

A product that combines both these functionalities feels to us like one where you’d have the other side getting in the way, and the whole experience could feel overwhelming. We know those are generally two separate departments in the company. They serve two different purposes, and two different teams are usually handling these responsibilities. The best experience, in our minds, is two separate products with opportunity for overlap through carefully crafted integrations.

In our opinion, as more time passes and the more social media matures, tools will become more specialized and it will make less sense to combine such different functionality. We feel that one product for both of these areas in a company would diminish the user experience.

For you micro-business owners who do it all—and who we know are a large part of our 45,000+ paying Buffer customers—we feel that having two separate tools, geared towards simplicity and speed, will be a huge win and help you save more time. This becomes even more important as your business grows and you bring on new team members to take care of marketing or customer service.

How we want to integrate the two sides of social media management

In the last several years, we have heard two things over and over again from users and customers:

  1. Customers love the simplicity of our marketing and publishing product, and often switch from other products that feel more complicated.
  2. Customers have frequently mentioned to us that they’d love for us to offer a listening and brand monitoring tool.

Because of our focus on simplicity, it didn’t quite feel like the right approach to combine those two functionalities together into one tool—our approach to product is to try to keep things simple and intuitive, yet powerful. Instead, we felt that if we were to enter the customer service and brand monitoring space, we would tackle it separately in order to build a world-class product for both the marketer and the customer service person.

The times we have given serious thought to building a customer service and brand monitoring tool, we did assessments of how much time it would take us and the team we’d need in order to build something truly great. Our approach at Buffer has been to take the path of steady and sustainable growth, striving for an excellent product and user experience. Therefore every time we came back to the topic, we felt that we didn’t have the resources to build something world-class, so we shelved the idea again and again.

When 1+1 = 3

That was, until Respondly came along and we started a conversation around supporting and growing their incredible product. We felt that, for the first time ever, we might be able to move into this new market:

  • Respondly was already a fantastic product, saving us months of time if we were to build the product ourselves.
  • We could therefore offer a great standalone social media customer service and brand monitoring product, alongside our existing marketing and analytics product.
  • We’ve reached over 65 people on the Buffer team, and feel we’re now at a point where we can tackle both of these areas without letting the quality of one side slip.

It felt like a true 1+1=3. Respondly’s awesome founder Tim Haines has a product philosophy that aligned perfectly with ours: Build something truly incredible that solves a very specific need, rather than a solution that tries to be everything to everyone.

When Respondly met Buffer

I’ve been in touch with Respondly’s founder, Tim, for more than a year. He connected via email a while back. I happily agreed to a chat—at that point, I didn’t quite know what the call might be about.

We talked on the phone, and Tim shared that he was looking for a new home for the product and its customers, and that Buffer stood out as a great candidate. He mentioned that he believed we were experts in the domain, a great complementary strategic fit, and well known for transparency and integrity.

I started to realize that this could be quite a perfect fit – Buffer has a strong brand and marketing, and also an existing large customer base with some likely overlap into this market.

My hypothesis was that if the product was solid, then this could be a very successful acquisition. My instinct was that we could grow the MRR quite quickly. It’s a market we’ve long thought about moving towards, and we knew eventually we would do it.

The Respondly product is very solid and feels pretty “Buffery” in its aesthetic and user experience. It also fits exactly how we would want to approach moving into this market – to have a separate product and ensure that both products remain simple.

I chatted a lot with Leo, and emailed several advisors for advice. I asked some additional questions around traffic numbers and growth of the MRR over time.

I got Sunil’s advice on the tech side and asked Carolyn to experiment with using Respondly for Twitter-based customer service.

I chatted with several team members and also worked with Patrik to do some fast customer development around whether our customers were already also doing customer service and using a tool for that.

Build or buy?

Everything was looking positive, so Leo and I thought about how we should approach it.

I worked with Sunil to do a “Build or Buy” analysis, to essentially try to calculate the difference in the outcome of either building this tool ourselves or buying Respondly.

We modeled reaching $100k MRR and the time it would take to grow the team we’d need to build this product ourselves. We also modeled how quickly we could start to generate revenue if we were to acquire Respondly, compared to building ourselves and taking longer, as well as having a less feature-rich product and therefore probably having a slower growth rate.

We took into account the opportunity cost of not having a product in the market, and how much revenue we would generate during that time. Of course, we couldn’t pay too much because we’re growing fast as a team and need to have a good amount of cash in the bank as security.

Putting in an offer

From here I put forward an offer to Tim that we felt was generous and fair, and could really be a win-win for both sides. (According to the terms of our contract, I can’t quite reveal the actual figure.)

I shared our focus on marketing and customer service and how I think we could be a great home and next step for Respondly.

This was an exciting moment, when I started to think – maybe this can happen! Tim said he’d get back to me in a few days. At this point, I was in Austin for a product creator mini-retreat, so things got fun for me with my schedule! I had a call with Tim and he shared the situation they were in:

  • They had received two offers from companies whom they admired, ours being the higher offer, and were in conversations with some other companies about potential offers.
  • He shared that if we were to be the new home, he would be rooting for us and following along.

After the call I chatted with Leo and Sunil. I felt that we could really focus on the fact that we could move fast. I jumped on a call later that same day.

What I shared with Tim

Here are the notes I made for that call, and are pretty much what I said:

First off, I want to say how awesome it is to hear that you’d like Buffer to be the company you move ahead with here. It’s humbling and exciting to hear that you resonate with our values and the way we’re running the company and would be rooting for us with what we could do with Respondly.

  • I’ve had a chance to chat with Leo on things and discuss what we talked about earlier and the current situation.
  • It’s exciting for us to think about moving fast here. As I’ve mentioned before, that’s definitely a part we can act on.
  • As I mentioned, we have to be mindful of our spending since we raised relatively little and that’s a big part of the culture of Buffer and the type of company we’ve become. We’re growing the team fast and so with that growth we need to make sure we have a good amount of cash as security.
  • We’d really be putting a lot of manpower behind Respondly and personally I think that would be fun to see where it goes.
  • I really want to come to something we can all be happy with and be super excited about moving forward and seeing what we can do with the product in the coming years.

Later that evening, while myself, Jim, Marc Anthony and Kyle were sharing an ad-hoc, fun chat session on how we’d all reached this point in our lives, a new email came through from Tim with the subject line “Let’s move ahead”. It was high fives and hugs all around! ?

What’s next: Buffer as one brand, with other great products

Going forward, we want to do our best to realize our full vision for social media.

We want to keep building Buffer to offer you, as a marketer, the best solution to manage, publish and analyze your social media accounts all in one place.

And for your community and customer service team, we want to do the same thing: Build a best-of-breed, standalone tool to help you reach out to your customers, reply to their questions, monitor what’s being said about you and do so in a fast and reliable way to deliver a great experience for your community. This is Buffer Reply.

We’ve already started to go down this route with our creative image maker tool Pablo, which lives in a separate place and has been used to create more than 500,000 images already.

Going forward, we hope you can consider and turn to Buffer to help you with most of your social media from a number of angles:

  • Buffer: For social media marketing, analytics and account management
  • Buffer Reply: For social media customer service and brand monitoring
  • Pablo: For image creation across all your content and social media efforts

In the long run, what we hope to build at Buffer is the essential social media tool. Our goal: No matter how many other great tools (and there are many!) you might want to use, we hope Buffer is a key part of your mix to deliver great experiences and results on social media.

Keen to give Buffer Reply a try? Reserve your spot now!

We’re beyond excited to give you the chance to fully manage your social media engagement with Reply.

It has been incredible to work with Tim (and the whole Respondly team!), and we’re so appreciative of his knowledge and expertise in the space. We’ve gotten so much help and support since the acquisition closed, and it has been awesome.

Again, we’re working at top speed with plans for a full Buffer Reply launch soon!

We’re letting people in gradually as we scale up. Starting today, you can reserve your place on the waitlist!

respond request early access

This is a big, exciting change for us, and we’re so grateful to be able to share it all with you.

We’d love to hear all your thoughts and questions in the comments. The Buffer team is standing by and ready to answer!

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Written by Joel Gascoigne

Joel is the founder and CEO at Buffer. He is focused on the lean startup approach, user happiness, transparency & company culture. Say hi to him anytime @joelgascoigne.

  • Stephen’Bern’ Banham

    Congrats!! skimmed through, going to give it a proper read on my way home later! But it looks pretty exciting! :)

  • Congrats!

  • Brittany Metz

    Joel! You should Blab about this! Having an open discussion to follow this blog would be a great way to merge both communities. :)

    • Oh man, what a fun idea! Thanks for an awesome suggestion, Brittany! We’re dipping a toe into Blabs and loving it!

      • Brittany Metz

        That’s awesome! i would love to connect on twitter if you ever need any help let me know! :)

  • travelgeekery

    Amazing, congratulations! The strategy to keep several separate products under one big roof, using synergies along, is a great one IMHO. Facebook’s been proving it :)
    Good luck with the integration and all the best for the whole process go as smooth as possible!
    Veronika

    • Thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement! Excited to keep you posted on our progress!

  • Great news – for Buffer and Respondly / Respond. Thank you for sharing how considered the build vs buy thinking. It will interesting to see how it all develops – I’m thinking about the impact that having buy in from your own community will have on making the launch an amazing experience to be part of. Look forward to the next update!

    • Thanks, Liz; we’re excited to share every step of the way!

  • Every day you are working on Buffer it is getting more difficult for me _not_ to finally do it and get BfB for me and my social media needs. I really want to up my game for 2016 and with Pablo and now Respond coming …

    You’re really making it difficult not to join in.

    To an amazing new year. Sounds like it’s going to be fun. Congratulations.

    • Wow, what an amazing comment to read, Marcel! I agree; 2016 should be a pretty awesome year. Hope we can work together and make great things happen!

    • I can totally relate, Marcel. I just started the BfB trial this week and let me tell you, it is awesome to have the larger queue and analytics. Whatever you do, don’t subscribe to the trial, you’ll be like me with absolutely no chance of going back ;)

  • Great news Joel!

    I think it was a wise decision…
    Looking forward to try ‘Respond’ :)

    Keep awesome!

  • Huge congratulations to you Joel, Leo and both the Buffer and the Respondly teams. Looking forward to seeing this in action.

  • Liz Eckman

    Very excited for you and the Buffer team!

  • Such wonderful news! Congrats to you, Joel, as well as your fellow teammates. Your transparency about the process is, as always, inspiring. It feels great to share in the excitement with you!

    • Awesome, Gabi; we’re happy to hear you’re as excited as we are! Lots of fun stuff ahead!

  • We’re HUGE fans of Buffer. We’ve been using it since the day you opened your doors. Sadly, I don’t think we can use this. We need a system that integrates all major platforms (FB, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, AND Twitter). This one I think just does Twitter. Once you add the others, we’ll be there with bells on!

    • Hey Tod, thanks so much for letting us know what would help you out here! Definitely see how this would be a huge time-saver; looking forward to seeing if we can get there for you!

  • Raman Job

    Kudos to the hardest working team in social! Love Buffer and Pablo. Can’t wait to drive Respond around the block and see how it performs.

    • Thanks so much, Raman! Excited to get you access as soon as we can!

  • Meg Cooper

    HOLY YES! This is SO fantastic and – thankfully – a great step forward for your company! Couldn’t be more thrilled to see where this is going to take you.
    I loved your insight into buying/building – as a lot of companies don’t usually put that much consideration and thought into these kinds of processes (let alone, a lot of these other companies aren’t as transparent as you are, either).
    HOORAY! Here’s to a great year for all things digital with Buffer!

    • Yay, thanks so much for taking the time to share such a kind and enthusiastic note, Meg. We feel the same! Looking forward to sharing more soon!

  • Congrats guys!

  • Parker Agee

    Congrats, guys!

  • OMG, this is amazing news, can’t wait to try it! Congrats!

  • Okwara Godswill Ndukwe

    This is a great acquisition, Buffer, keep it up!

  • Congrats, guys! You are one of my favorite tools and your customer service is excellent. Keep it up!

  • Interesting reading. I am new relatively new to using social media for my business and it is quite a challenge for those of us older in years ( I am 57 ) to learn the new language and concepts involved. 2 years ago I couldn’t cut and paste so a huge mountain of learning for me, and I am sure many others too. I am excited for your plans and have come across Buffer through a recommendation by Neil Patel.

    So, just signed up for the free Buffer package at the moment and dipping my toes in this evening for the first time and love what I have seen so far.

    I wish you even greater success for all your innovation and hard work.

    Or, the Irish version of best wishes…Beir Bua agus Beanneacht

    • Wow, what an incredible journey you’re on, Rosaline! It’s awesome to hear you’re digging into Buffer. Keen to make sure it feels like a great fit. :) If we can share anything to make your experience better, give us a shout!

    • Sedigheh Gervehi

      i,m older than you we are young inside go girl all love in your way to success.

  • Big news Buffer – well done to everyone on the team! Can’t tell you how great it is to read this post, with the transparency you guys always bring to the table about how Buffer works. Keep it up!

    • Thanks so much, Jaina; it’s been a cool experience to share so much of the process!

  • This is such an amazing acquisition for Buffer! I’m excited to get to use Respond and see how Buffer will continue to evolve in the years to come. :)

  • So, so excited to see how you utilize this. It’s a PERFECT fit for the Buffer family.

  • Diego

    Awesome! Great job guys :)

  • Katherine Cox

    We are seeking a platform that we can have:
    White Label
    Phone Support for EST
    More than basic 5 channels of distribution
    Incoming Listening services
    Analytics
    Other Services

  • Alyssa Hughes (MrsHuuughes)

    Loved getting insight into the process Joel and the whole Buffer team took to get to this place. You’ve certainly done your due diligence and know Buffer and Respondly (now Respond) will benefit greatly from this acquisition. Well done. Looking forward to adding Respond to my social media tool arsenal!

    • I learned a lot from reading about the process! Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Great blog post, very transparent and exciting and living the Buffer culture, congrats.

    • Thanks so much, Walter; it’s really fun to share this story!

  • Amazing, well done guys!

  • Bryan Milne

    What the social Service world has been waiting for, GO Buffer! This is key for sure “Build something truly incredible that solves a very specific need, rather than a solution that tries to be everything to everyone.” looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

  • What a move… Congratulations!

  • Petra Diener

    Very excited about this. Can’t wait to give it a go!
    And thanks for sharing all the background info.

    • Thanks for checking out our story, Petra! Excited for you to see Respond!

  • Jo Harrison

    I love Buffer and have been with you from the beginning, this looks like a great addition and can’t wait to try it out for me and my own clients… :)

    • Yaaaaay! Can’t wait to get it into your hands; hopefully it won’t be long at all!

  • My Buffer dream come true… Wow congratulations! I’ll be the first to try Respond… I’ve been loving Buffer and Pablo, and now with Respond all make more sense to me. LOVE YOU GUYSSS!

    • Woooohoooo we <3 you too Rosana! It means so much to us to hear Buffer and Pablo are helpful for you!

  • Paolo FABRIZIO

    Congrats guys! I love Buffer and, as a social customer service guy, I’m looking forward to testing Respond. Are you going to Blab about this?

  • Congratulations buffer team and Joel exclusively. You guys have done next big thing, feeling jealous, hahaha.

    Can’t wait for the complete launch by the way.

    • Excited to get Respond to you so you can check it out! Thanks for the encouragement, Ashraf!

  • SMMBUSYBEE

    I LOVE Buffer and am a little hesitant to dip my toe in the water with Respond! I know, I know, I’m a SM manager for http://www.arcreactions.com, but I”m currently overwhelmed with great places to post and view and reply and like etc etc etc… *SIGH* I guess what will tip the scale is … how much time will it save me? Or more correctly, how many brain aches will it save me?

    • I would think that Joel and the team would take all of your concerns under consideration and rework the tool to optimize it before its release. That seems to be the way the Buffer team works–they wouldn’t release a product that was add to brain aches.

  • Abigail Cathryn Rings

    As a SM manager who fell in love with Buffer this least year and who has been desperately searching for a SM Monitoring and CSV tool, I’m so so so excited about this!

  • Great addition Joel! Question: I have some clients in the hospitality industry who have a stronger presence on other platforms like Facebook. Are there plans to add other social media channels to the mix?

    • Julie Wolf – Skype Trainer

      I would like to know this too. Any new social networks planned to be added?

  • Joel! I’m incredibly impressed by your transparency and commitment to share with the world the going ons of your company. Wishing you all the best and would definitely consider Respond at some point when it’s time to scale.

  • Congratulations on the acquisition! This indeed look like it was a good fit and I’m glad to see you intend to keep the two products distinct–but, I’m sure, with some new magic going on between them.

  • Scott

    Wow what a long article! I’ll read this never! Jk the article was very informative! Thanks for sharing and have a good day!

  • Manuel S Cruz Aguirre

    This is a great story and I will share this with a few entepreneurs. I like a lot your philosophy on sharing and being transparent, awesome you share it with all of us your product users.

  • Really exciting news and thanks for the insights on the acquisition! Are there already any details you can share on how you integrate the Respondly-Team into the Buffer-Team (culture-wise, speaking about remote-only team,…)?

  • Julie Wolf – Skype Trainer

    Wow what an article, shared on social with Buffer (only Linkedin and G page- see Q2 below) It’s so interesting and encouraging to see the transparency in all you share about the inner workings and journey of new and big decisions like expanding into Respond(ly). What caught my attention in this article is the plan for not just a customer service tool but engagement tracking, oh what did you term it… ” *_ a listening and brand monitoring tool _* “. I have opted into the beta tester waitlist.

    I have so much to learn about social media inbound marketing, I am very excited. QUESTION: How does this (Respond or Buffer compare (if at all) to Klout.com?

    QUESTION2: Will my ability to use Facebook and Twitter return eventually as a free member? I can still share with my LinkedIn and G+ group (not G+ profile) and can not share on FB & Tw and it says my buffer is completely full for these 2. I am not ready (ROI-wise) to scale to an upgrade. I love Buffer so far. and I am looking forward to trying Pablo, it is open in a new tab now, I wasn’t aware of it until this article. Images are so sharable. Thanks and I look forward to trying Respond!

  • Julie Wolf – Skype Trainer

    Oh and I would love an invite to a Blab on this too. I see a few other suggestions to Blab. I would love to be part of this/ that discussion.

  • Great post Joel and it sounds like a fabulous journey to be on. Best of luck!

  • Alex Jangard

    Joel, I agree with Marcel on this! Currently had been using your competitor but seriously considering why I wouldn’t be using Buffer. Congratulations – that’s big!

  • Andrea Pacini

    Thanks Joel for sharing this. For someone like me who likes Buffer a lot and likes to follow what you guys are doing, it’s super interesting to get this kind of ‘behind-the-scenes’ insights. Buffer as one brand, with other great products around it sounds like a great strategy. Well done!

  • Erik Blair

    Love this. Great acquisition!

  • Congrats! Thanks for sharing. Love the Buffer simplicity!

  • CMGRMelissa

    Thanks for sharing the story, Joel! Sounds like a great future in store for both Buffer and Respondly. I’m looking forward to the results!

  • So many comments … therefore, sorry if I missed the question and answer to what I’m about to ask (the most important question to me, right now). In asking for an ‘Request Early Access;’ does this cost anything? I went through the comments, and can’t seem to find an answer. Of course, I would like to help you out by beta-testing it, etc.; however, I am not interested in purchasing it, nor upgrading.

  • C.P. Spencer

    Great combination !!

  • This is great news guys! Congratulations on this move forward with the company. Super excited for what’s to come.

  • MMG

    This is nice, but have you Any idea if you may be near close to acquiring an Instagram tool as well? I am still on the fence about paying for premium services when my most popular social media is Instagram and that’s currently not offered on buffer. I believe your competitor has managed so I’m really hoping you follow suit?

  • Amazing, well done, thanks Buffer

  • Vozconciente

    <3 you rock!!

  • Congrats on the addition to your team guys! keep up he good work.

    P.S. I hope you don’t forget other project like Pablo which really needs some mobile love since its unusable on mobile!

  • Reminds me of https://www.flowdock.com/ but for twitter, and without the realtime slack aspects.

    Are you still using hipchat?

  • Aviva Pinchas

    So excited to see Buffer moving into this space! Any plans to integrate Respond with existing customer service platforms (specifically Zen Desk) or to include other channels where users are chatting (Facebook, YouTube)?

  • Will Respond be included w/ our Buffer memberships?

  • Kirrily Weatherstone

    Congratulations Joel, Leo and the Buffer team. This is such an exciting development and I think it will definitely fill a service gap that existed previously, making Buffer a true one-stop-shop for managing and manning Twitter especially.

  • Dang I feel like I should win a prize after reading that entire thing. :P Great article, I just learned of Buffer yesterday and have been learning the ropes. Looks amazing and awesome, and glad to hear of this new partnership… which is another product I also have to learn!

  • Rayfil Wong

    Congrats Joel and thanks for sharing your insights.

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