In 2015, we made Buffer’s most significant acquisition and acquired Respondly, which became Reply, our solution to help businesses deliver fast and responsive customer support on social media.
We originally acquired it intending to diversify Buffer’s core product offerings. While it served that purpose, it has become clear over time that Reply is better suited for larger organizations and is not the best product for Buffer’s core customer base, small businesses.
For that reason, that we are sunsetting Reply as of June 1st, 2020.
Our decision to sunset Reply is enabling us to build out a dedicated social media engagement solution, which will eventually be available to all Buffer customers.
Continue reading for more information on why we made this decision, what we’re building next, and what this means for the future of Buffer.
Why we’re sunsetting Reply
At its core, Reply is a very different product from anything else we offer at Buffer. Reply has always been a customer support tool while Buffer focuses on helping small businesses build their brands and grow their businesses on social media.
When we acquired Reply, we were doing our best to anticipate how the market would shift. Twitter was building out customer service features and there was this idea that customer service could shift onto social media in a big way. We were also uniquely using social media as a customer service platform to grow our own brand and saw an opportunity to enable others to do this.
While Twitter is still used by some brands and consumers for customer service, the idea has remained niche, more an exception than the rule. We don’t believe customer service did shift to social media in the way we had thought, which is one of the reasons we’ve come to this decision.
Another thing we’ve come to realize is that small businesses don’t use social media for customer support in the same way as larger organizations. With scale, comes a whole new set of problems, which aren’t felt by small businesses. We felt these pains ourselves, as we uniquely have high social volume as a small company. The result was that while most Buffer customers overall are small businesses, most of our Reply customers have been larger organizations.
This led to several obstacles when building and growing Reply over the years.
Often the people using Reply were very different from those using our other Buffer solutions. They usually weren’t even in the same department at a given company. This difference meant connecting core product loops, like answering support tickets on social media and creating new social campaigns, even more challenging.
Another obstacle was that the strategy that helped us grow Buffer, and the strengths and skillset of our team, are different than what was needed to grow Reply. We’re a product and marketing-led organization rather than a sales-led one. Our most successful times growing Reply were also the times that our Product Manager on that team was leaning into sales and more direct customer onboarding. We’re a team of 89 people at Buffer, and we don’t have the resources to run two very different strategies.
Our team size also impacted the product experience for our customers. We have been slow to fix issues and add new features, and we saw how this negatively affected our customer’s team’s operations. Reply is that a high-quality customer support tool requires more than our team can provide, and our customers deserve better than that.
Ultimately, continuing to build and support Reply is not the way for us to have the most impact for our customers in the long term. This was a tough decision to make but we feel it’ll be best for both Buffer and our customers down the line. I’m grateful for all of the people within Buffer who had these conversations, as well as the incredible folks who have been Reply customers over the years.
What we’re building next
Reply hasn’t been a good fit for the majority of Buffer customers. To make this more tangible, we had only 500 customers using Reply, while we have over 70,000 paying customers using Buffer. As we look ahead from here, we’re focused on building something that will be both valuable to, and available for, a much larger percentage of our customers.
Through research, we’ve come to the clarity that what our small business customers need is a dedicated social media engagement solution. That’s what our team is now focused on building as we gradually sunset Reply.
This new social media engagement solution will aim to better connect our customers to their communities on social media. We’ll be starting by supporting Instagram and surfacing all Instagram comments in one place, and we’re looking to expand to support more social networks from there.
While Reply was only available to customers who individually signed up for it, this social media engagement solution will become available and accessible to all Buffer customers in the future. We feel we can help a lot more people by making this engagement solution widely available from the outset and this is a strategy we will be expanding across the rest of our offering at Buffer in the future as well.
While this has been a tough call to make, we’re excited to be re-focusing and fully committing to small businesses. We’re looking forward to taking this new approach, adding a huge amount of value, and ensuring the majority of these improvements are accessible by all customers.
If you’ve been a Reply customer I want to thank you for having been on this journey with us.
If you are looking for a tool to replace Reply, we’ve partnered with the social support tools below and they have created offers to make a move more manageable. We’ve been in touch with all Reply customers to pass along these offers.
- Sparkcentral — Sparkcentral enables social engagement teams to deliver frictionless customer service on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more, making digital engagement with your brand memorable
- Zoho Desk — is an award-winning context-aware customer service software that helps support teams deliver timely help to their customers across channels like email, phone, chat, social media, and more
- Zendesk — Allows your business to have natural conversations with your customers, without letting them feel what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s sophisticated enough to meet complex needs and simple enough to let you get up and running immediately.
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