Note to existing Buffer users: We are bringing back two Free plan features: default profiles and an option to turn off link shortening. More on this decision and the complete “why” behind all changes below. Thank you for your support, and we are sorry if the changes came as a surprise.

We strive to offer all Buffer customers a seamless, intuitive experience with the product.

Recently, we’ve put that experience under the microscope to see where we can improve and how we can better serve our growing community of users.

With exciting growth, comes exciting challenges. How can we offer all of our users a refined and robust experience that they can trust will work smoothly? How can we ensure that people who are new to Buffer can jump in right away and start using it with ease? And ultimately, how can we continue to offer valuable products and world-class support to both free users and paying customers in the long run?

We’ve thought long and hard about these questions, and as a result, we committed to simplifying the Buffer Free plan (formerly known as the Individual plan) so that users can more easily understand and realize the value of Buffer.

Changes that we made to the Buffer Free plan

At the beginning of March, we made the following changes to the Buffer Publish Free plan:

  • Connect up to three of any combination of social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. Previously, we only allowed connecting one of each type.
  • Enjoy a cleaner interface with fewer prompts to upgrade to a paid plan. Previously, we had over 15 prompts to upgrade. We reduced this significantly for a less intrusive experience.
  • Manage your posting schedule more simply with Add to Queue, Share Now, and Schedule options. Re-Buffer and Share Next are now paid features.
  • See a 30-day history of sent posts. Basic analytics will now be available on our Awesome plan.

In addition, several other Free plan features were removed or rethought. You can see the full list here in the Buffer FAQ.

Before making these changes, we underwent months of research into the behaviors and actions of Buffer users. Our intention was to thoughtfully consider the many unique use cases of Buffer and to continue to support as many social media workflows as we could. Above all, having a Free version of the Buffer product has always been a large part of our overall vision; we saw these changes as a further commitment to sustaining a Free version long into the future.

Along the way — through the course of communication, testing, experimentation, and rollout — we were fortunate to hear feedback from many Buffer users about how these changes were affecting them. We remained open to being wrong about some of our decisions. We gained clarity on what mattered to users and why.

Because of this, we’ve evolved the Free plan changes over the past three weeks. Here is what we’ve iterated on:

  • Custom scheduling will stay. Free users will retain the ability to set an exact day and time for a post to go live.
  • Default profiles will stay. Free users will continue to be able to mark which profiles will be selected by default when they share a new piece of content.
  • Simplified link shortening will stay. Free users can choose to turn link shortening off (thereby displaying a full URL in their social posts) or shorten URLs with the link shortener.

With the help from user feedback, we realized that removing these three features did not serve our goal of simplifying the Buffer experience; in fact, these changes added complexity. Custom scheduling is in many cases easier to understand than our Queue scheduling system. Our new solution for default profiles proved to be less intuitive than the previous version. And our decision to shorten all links with proved to be a confusing additional layer for those who wanted (and expected) that URLs they share would be displayed in full. The other changes to the Free plan, which will not be reinstated, are more complex power features in line with the enhancements you would need for a premium social media management experience.

In addition to these product changes, we learned several important lessons on communication, especially when dealing with major changes like these. We could have done a better job of notifying and preparing our users. We’re sorry for missing the mark on this one and surprising so many loyal Buffer users.

Why are we making these changes?

When we created the Free plan, it had a unique value proposition among social media management tools: It offered simplicity and intuitiveness and, above all else, helped people save time. As Buffer has grown, our product and our customer base has grown, too.

Today we:

  • Have more than 30,000 people sign up for a free Buffer account every week
  • Receive close to 1,000 requests for help every week from Free users
  • Have almost 80,000 paying customers and over 300,000 active Free users
  • Serve this community with a Customer Advocacy team of 18 people
  • Are committed to creating a long-term sustainable company and product people can rely on, without large amounts of funding or resources

Right now, almost 80 percent of people who sign up for the Free plan never use it. Through simplification, we hope it will be much easier to get going with Buffer right away, no matter your experience level.

In addition, we wanted to make the Free plan a more intuitive product for our existing Free users. We love having Free users, and we want Buffer to be a product that people can use for free, long-term. In order to maintain this, we felt the need to simplify. We removed many popups and upgrade prompts from within the app. We examined little-used product features. And we thought about what the most essential elements of the Buffer experience were and how we could make those elements as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

If we were able to reduce confusion in the product by removing pain points, then our team would be more available to help with customer questions.

If we were able to streamline how the Buffer product works, then people would be able to understand Buffer faster and see the impact sooner.

There is a monetary consideration to all this, yes. It was secondary to the desire for an improved user experience for all users, but it is hard to ignore whenever changes to a free plan occur. Our objective is for all users to be on the plan that best fits their needs. We intentionally chose to remove features that we felt served a business purpose — analytics, for instance. We do not intend to drive Free users toward our paid plans. We do, however, feel that our paid plans offer an incredible value and contain premium tools that can best support businesses to grow on social media.

Through it all, we recognized that these were big changes and that we may not have got everything right. Thank you for your grace and understanding as we’ve evolved the product. And please keep the feedback coming!

Over to you

Whenever we make a significant change like this, we want to be super aware of how it might affect our amazing community of customers who have put their trust in us. We’ve been gathering feedback about how these changes might feel to you and we are always listening.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Our mission is to build a sustainable company with stable and valuable tools for social media marketers and small businesses. We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you!

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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.

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