Written on January 23, 2018
That’s me in that bright blue down jacket. Here’s my story of how I became a content crafter at Buffer, writing for more than a million monthly readers. Spoiler: A lot of luck, help, and hard work were involved.
A year after I joined Buffer as a community champion, the decision was made that the community team would join the marketing team. At around the same time, I moved back to Singapore, which created a time zone challenge for me. It became tricky for me to serve our community as our community is made up of mostly people in the US and UK.
When I was navigating the challenges, my team lead, Kevan Lee, asked me if I want to write a blog post for the Buffer Social blog. Write for one of the best social media marketing blogs, one that’s read by over a million people every month, one that I’ve been reading for years? Well, yeah!
But I was also afraid. I was never great in English since primary school. Just in the few years before, I almost failed all the university modules that had required me to write an essay. The idea of writing for a company blog was intimidating. But if it’s just one blog post? I think I can do it.
My first blog post
I wasn’t left to write the blog post on my own. Kevan and I brainstormed on a few ideas and eventually decided on a listicle of brands and individuals that are doing cool things with Instagram Stories, a new feature at that time. I believe we chose the listicle idea because it was easier to write than an opinionated or thought-leadership piece. It took me almost a week to put a draft together while juggling a few other tasks. I then shared the draft with Kevan.
Thinking back now, the draft was alright but probably not good enough. The blog post didn’t flow well, the sub-headings weren’t that helpful, and the content wasn’t as actionable as it could be. Kevan made a few edits and ask me how I felt about those changes.
It was a nice way to let me know how I could improve my draft without making me feel I’m not good enough. It was also easy to take in those feedback as the edits weren’t forced onto me; I was invited to a conversation. I then edited the draft according to the feedback and sent it back to Kevan.
After a few rounds of back-and-forth, along with Kevan’s kind feedback and encouragement, I published my first blog post for the Buffer Social blog. It sounds silly now but I’m sure I was over the moon then.
Then, I wrote my second blog post. My third. My fourth. No overnight success here. I still took about a week to write a draft and would get numerous feedback and edits before my draft was published.
I wanted to get better, and I knew that I had to write more. So I subscribed to 750 Words and wrote every day. My morning routine looked like this: wake up at 6 am, have my breakfast, and write for about one to two hours. I’ll write about anything that came to mind. My reflections about life, my fears, my marketing ideas. I did this for about two months, missing only a few days.
I also tried deconstructing the blog posts on a few of my favorite blogs, such as the Buffer Social blog and James Clear’s blog. Then tried writing like them. My writing was never as good as theirs but I gained a better understanding of the elements of a great blog post.
Another thing I did (and am still doing) was to brush up on my English foundation. Whenever Kevan corrected my grammar or sentence structure, I would note it down. I also downloaded Grammarly to help me spot my mistakes.
During this period, I constantly felt like an imposter. Writing has always been my weakness since primary school. Am I really good enough to be writing for a well-known blog in the industry? I remember having many conversations about this with Kevan and Ash Read, our blog editor. They both shared that it’s something they felt and were still feeling in their new roles. With the kind words of encouragement, I felt better.
Despite suffering from the imposter syndrome, I enjoyed what I was doing with the blog. With Kevan’s help, I slowly transitioned out of my role as a community champion, and my teammate, Arielle Tannenbaum, took over my community projects. As a passionate community builder, she has since been running those projects (and more) better than I could have. Having more time on hand, I leaned into the role more, wrote more, and got more involved with the blog.
2017 and beyond
Over 2017, things became better gradually. I was able to write faster, and there were fewer back-and-forth feedback conversations. Instead of just picking topic ideas from our editorial calendar, I was able to come up with new ones. I wrote and wrote. Eventually, I published 54 blog posts on the Buffer Social blog and was invited to share my content marketing experiences on a few occasions in 2017.
Of course, I’m nowhere near being a writing or content marketing expert. For example, while I’m familiar with writing instructional (“how to”) blog posts, I’m not good at writing stories and interviews, like those amazing articles on First Round Review. Also, content marketing (or crafting) goes beyond just writing blog posts and includes writing ebooks, creating graphics and videos, recording podcasts, and more, which I do not have much experience in yet. There’s still a lot to learn.
That is my story of becoming a marketer and a content crafter at Buffer so far. What’s your story?
The awesome featured image above is by Todd Balsley.