We love the joy of shipping new products.
We’re lucky to have the backing of a fantastic community of smart, savvy social media experts.
Today, I’m thrilled to share how we’ll be combining the two!
I’d love to introduce you to the The Buffer Beta Program, our newest product iteration process and “go-to-market machine” for building and launching product here at Buffer!
The beta program will make it easy for us to take our risky product hypotheses from MVP to launch, fueled by the feedback and evangelism of a passionate tester community.
For each product we’re eager to test out, we’ll connect with our Buffer Beta Community, a growing group of early adopters and Buffer users who are keen to share their voice for all of our betas.
From MVP to live product: The beta lifecycle
At the earliest stages, the Buffer Beta Community will be the first to see the earliest ideas we have. We’ll lean on customer development best practices and feedback from our community to iterate quickly, leaning on techniques like these to help us build the right things:
- user calls
- usability tests
- research methods
What’s exciting is that we’ll continue conversations well beyond product development and into marketing and launch phases.
Once the product experience feels validated, and once we gear up for a larger user audience, the Buffer Beta Community will help play a key role in evangelizing these experiences within communities, and will help champion the solutions they’ve helped create.
That leads to a fantastic launch experience, as our go-to-market will be driven largely by our community of users ?
Our Beta Community will be in constant communication with the Buffer product teams over a long time horizon, across multiple beta products in the works. It’s like a membership to all of Buffer’s crazy ideas at different stages of their lifecycles, where the community can opt in to experiences of interest and play a huge role.
What we’ve learned from past beta experiences
We’ve leaned on beta programs on a smaller scale, and we’ve seen just how powerful these can be. We’ve discovered that beta users are passionate about participating in many more products, over a longer time and over multiple product lifecycles.
Perhaps more interestingly, we’ve discovered that these early beta testers are the primary evangelists who share our brand and fuel our launches to new levels (well beyond our internal marketing efforts!).
For example, we see that those who drive the conversations on Product Hunt and share the experiences with their audiences are almost always the passionate users who have helped play a role from the beginning. An amazing example of this is with the launch of Pablo, which was posted to Product Hunt by our community without Buffer knowing!
The Buffer Beta Program will help move Buffer’s craziest ideas from MVP to live product, driven by a close feedback loop between the community and the product teams.
We have an amazing history of being customer-driven with what we build here at Buffer. With the launch of the Buffer Beta Program, this feels like a powerful leap forward on this journey. As we explore multiple products and continue to galvanize community through the Buffer Way, it’s a privilege to help unify our users and product teams in such a powerful way.
I can’t wait to help build this together with our team and amazing community! Here we go!
Where we’re headed next
Thanks to the amazing guidance of our Community and Customer Research teams, we’ll continue to formalize all of the exciting aspects of this program. If you have ideas or suggestions on what works well for a Beta Community and Program of this scale, please share your thoughts via the comment section below.
It’s worth mentioning that in the short term, we’ll continue running some ongoing beta programs with some users, even though they may not be in the official Beta Community. Over time, we’ll navigate towards the Buffer Beta program and move away from our traditional targeted beta campaigns, inviting those past and current participants into the Community.
My hunch is that we’ll begin building the program from two angles:
- We’ll continue to grow our Buffer Beta Community with early adopter members, and engage those who have expressed interest in the past in the exciting betas we have in the works.
- We’ll identify one beta product in the proper phase of development and degree of risk that can benefit from the Beta. ?
Here are a few resources that have inspired our thoughts around the Buffer Beta Program:
- First Round Review: The Beta Program Behind This Startup’s Winning Launch
- Quora.com: “What is the recommended process for getting user feedback on a beta product?”
- Centercode’s SlideShare presentation: Successful Beta Testing
- Cindy Alvarez’s Lean Customer Development
Over to you!
**Note – at this time, we’re so honored that our Beta community is a bit full and we’ve currently closed the community to new signups.**
Do you have any experience building Beta Programs or launching products with Betas? We would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!