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10 Million Users - One Fully Remote Team

Across the globe, more than 3 billion people are active social media users engaging with content on more than 120 social media sites. How is a digital brand, (or any brand for that matter) supposed to keep up and keep these users engaged? Communication and collaboration. Not so ironically, that is also the strategy engaged by the social networking management software company, BUFFER, to manage and scale its fully-remote team.

According to Adnan, who is part of the 82-person Buffer remote team, spread out over 15 countries, unlocking the full potential of a remote workforce lies in the ability to collaborate on projects in a truly asynchronous manner." In short, both employee and company should embrace a culture committed to promoting asynchronous communications in all things.

How has Buffer succeeded in this ideal?

Buffer’s success is, in part, due to its flexibility in allowing individual teams to choose their communication and collaboration tools.

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What’s Buffer’s Communication Stack?

Like the team Adnan works with, Buffer encourages its teams to choose the tool that works best for them, whether its JIRA, GITHUB, TRELLO or others. Software engineers have different needs and goals when it comes to working through a project, so it makes sense that what might work for marketing, might be inadequate for development. Recognizing these differences and not trying to force-feed a one-size-fits-no-one solution on the entire enterprise is a key ingredient in Buffer’s remote-work success.

When it comes to communications, Buffer takes a 3-prong approach: SLACK, for synchronous communications, THREADS, for asynchronous communications, and ZOOM, for larger team meetings, or for sensitive issues that require confidentiality. Adnan explained that they didn’t land on those tools immediately—there was an evolution.  Early on in Buffer's journey, communications were primarily email-based, like most companies. Unlike most companies though, every email was cc’d to the entire organization (except for sensitive issues, of course). This helped ensure everyone had access to every piece of information they needed to do their jobs.

“There used to be this joke that people who worked at other companies knew more about what was happening at Buffer than they knew what was happening inside their own company.”

Buffer went through a process in determining what tools would work the best for them. That’s how they landed on tools like Zoom. “Zoom is vastly superior to all other solutions out there. Slack is stable, all of their integrations work—there aren’t really a lot of shortcomings there. We just branched out to Threads because it helped us focus more on the asynchronous communications that allow us to work over several different time zones."

Asynchronous Communication—The How and Why

Like many remote teams, Buffer began using Slack to keep team members in contact. And, while Slack does allow for asynchronous communication, there’s a certain psychology that goes with the platform that favors synchronous communication—which can cause a certain amount of angst within a team if someone is repeatedly seeking an immediate response and interrupting the flow of their teammates.

“Slack lends itself well to 20-word messages in real-time. We found that threads suited us better for longer-form, asynchronous communications.”

When asked what truly distinguishes those who can succeed in remote work vs. those who can’t, Adnan stresses that it’s the responsibility of both the company and the employee. “The company must be dedicated to ensuring all communications are available to all employees. This is difficult in hybrid situations, where some employees ‘work from home’ and others come to the office. Too many conversations happen offline and never get communicated to the remote employees. It just doesn’t work that way.”

While it’s not something everyone is always good at, for employees to be successful in remote environments, the key is clear and concise communication; this unlocks the true potential of a remote worker.