This acquisition sees Buffer broaden its reach beyond social media publishing and into customer service, marking a notable evolution for the company.
Buffer’s raised around $4 million in funding since its inception in 2010, and the startup has built a solid reputation for its easy-to-use social sharing tool that lets you schedule messages to post at preset times throughout a day, in addition to other publishing tools and analytics.
With almost $2 million in funding to date, Respondly is a customer service tool for companies that use Twitter to deal with queries and complaints — it lets managers assign tweets to team members to respond to, and collates replies and mentions to ensure that nothing gets buried in the Twitter noise. The tool is used by some notable companies, including Slack, WordPress.com, and Stripe.
Effectively, this move pulls together the social publishing tools of Buffer with the customer service-focused Respondly to create an all-encompassing product for marketers.
“It’s been in the cards a while, for Buffer to expand our products and offer a more complete product to marketers and community managers around the world,” Buffer cofounder and COO Leo Widrich explained to VentureBeat. “We’d love to build out Respond as the essential social media and customer service monitoring tool that’s also affordable to a large customer base, similar to what we’ve done with Buffer itself.”
The move by Buffer is particularly notable at a time when bigger social platforms are diving into the customer service realm. Facebook recently launched Messenger as a platform for businesses, and the vision is very much to be the default support tool connecting customers with companies.
In the broader social sphere, there are many players such as HootSuite that are used for publishing and managing customer support. But Widrich sees an opportunity for his company to build a holistic tool that’s able to cope with the speed of social media.
“We feel that most products in the market right now around customer service don’t quite resonate with the fast-paced trend of Twitter, Facebook, and the like, and we’re excited to build on top of Respondly to build the kind of experience we feel is needed to create incredible and prompt customer service,” said Widrich.
And this gives a hint as to what’s on the roadmap for Respondly — Widrich confirmed that it plans to expand the service to include Facebook and email too, creating a central repository of customer support communications.
Though Respondly has only been in business for a little more than a year, it’s clear that it sees more sense in joining an established company that offers a complementary service, a move that could make it more appealing to a broader customer base.
“The next step for Respondly’s growth is figuring out how to get it into as many hands as possible, and for us, partnering with a larger company like Buffer has a tremendous upside for quickly expanding Respondly’s impact,” said Haines.
As part of the deal, Haines will be stepping down and won’t be directly involved in either company moving forward. The respective teams will remain separate entities, too.
From today, Respondly won’t be accepting any new signups through its existing Respond.ly portal. All new customers can apply for beta invites for the new product on Buffer, with the rebranded “Respond” expected to open for business in January, after which Buffer said it hopes it can transition old users over “one by one” throughout 2016.