What You Need To Know About Creating Thumb-Stopping Facebook Videos

Because video drives shares on Facebook, we wanted to find out more about the types of videos that grab viewers’ attention. Facebook describes these compelling videos well.

They are Thumb-Stopping.

To identify common features of highly shared videos, we used the BuzzSumo Facebook Analyzer to look at 3000 videos with a high number of shares, likes, and comments. All of them were posted during the last 12 months.

BuzzSumo Facebook Analyzer

The average interactions–shares, likes, and comments– for these videos ranged from 228,723 to an astounding 8.4 million, with a median of 752,737.

One thing that surprised me in the data was that average and median shares were higher than average and median comments.

My hypothesis is that videos may be especially viral in nature…not so much something we comment on, but something we pass on to friends. This definitely needs more research. (I’d love to hear about your experiences with shares vs. comments).

3000 Engaging Facebook Videos

To put the magnitude of average interactions into perspective, I compared the 3000 videos in my sample to videos published at pages with the largest Facebook audiences — Cristiano, Shakira, Coca-Cola, and Beyonce, Vin Diesel, Eminem, Leo Messi, and Facebook itself.

At these popular sites, the median number of interactions for video content was substantially lower, ranging from 103 to 1.7 million, with a median of approximately 99,000, despite their much larger fan base.

Initially at least, the data seems to indicate that audience size alone does not drive interactions with Facebook videos. This is encouraging news for non-celebrities who uses Facebook for videos.

So, if audience size isn’t the only thing driving interaction with Facebook videos, what factors do stop the thumbs of Facebook viewers?

Here are our key takeaways about engaging Facebook videos:

  1. Heavy video interaction does not depend solely on audience size.
  2. The most engaging Facebook videos, on average, have more shares than comments.
  3. The most engaging Facebook videos include the same elements as other engaging (non-video) content and headlines.
  4. Blatant calls to action don’t hamper interaction with Facebook videos, and they may encourage it.
  5. Storytelling is an important element of Facebook videos that people share, like and comment on.
  6. B2B Facebook pages can apply insights from brand and consumer-oriented content to create engaging videos.

What drives interactions in Facebook Video?

Earlier research by BuzzSumo into content marketing data has shown that highly engaging content shares five core elements:

  1. Emotional element
  2. Content element
  3. Topical element
  4. Format
  5. Promise

Shock, anger, controversy, inspiration — emotional content –catches people’s attention and drives them to share. People also can’t seem to resist sharing lists, recipes, trendy information or cute pictures of kids or animals. And, promises are powerful share drivers.

Common Elements in Engaging Content

These same elements are seen often in viral headlines.

Data based content marketing headline formula

Like 2 billion other people, I use Facebook at least once a month, and I know from my own feed that the same viral elements seen in popular non-video content show up frequently.

But, I’m also not a connoisseur of video posts; my feed is heavily influenced by my demographic; and more importantly, I wanted to approach my marketing decisions with more than a hypothesis that funny Facebook videos get more shares than other types of videos.

As a first step, I watched each of the top 100 videos in my study, and classified them as one of 12 things:

  1. Inspiring
  2. Animals
  3. Amusing
  4. DIY
  5. Recipes
  6. Celebrity
  7. Cute kids
  8. Shocking
  9. Controversy
  10. Beautiful
  11. Warning
  12. Contest

You can see the results here:

Most engaging facebook videos

Clearly, inspiration and amusement are important!

Next I wanted to see if there were any common phrases or terms in the messages of the most engaging video posts.

To determine this, I took the messages, written posts, from the videos with more than the median number of interactions and plugged them into a free text analyzer.

Here are the results:

Frequently Occurring Words and Phrases in the Most Engaging Facebook Video Messages 1 like our page for more 2 get the full recipe 3 like share and comment 4 to spin the wheel 5 beauty and the beast 6 step by step instructions 7 how to make 8 by occupy democrats 9 the best 10 recipe 11 trump 12 people 13 know 14 first 15 trailer 16 today 17 donald 18 dog 19 year 20 love 21 world

One thing that surprised me in this list is that specific or blatant calls to action don’t seem to hamper shares.

Of course, in the world of BuzzFeed Tasty, recipes rank highly, as do how to’s and step-by-step instructions.

And, trendy content is represented with the names Donald and Trump, as well as the word trailer and the phrase Beauty and the Beast.

Tell Stories with Facebook Video

One key element in successful Facebook video is storytelling. (You can learn more about storytelling with Facebook Live videos in this presentation with Mari Smith).

At their most basic, stories have four components: Setting, Character, Conflict, Resolution. Those elements can be included in even the shortest videos.

And, you don’t have to be a playwright or screen writer with a narrative to create videos that tell stories.

I originally saw a clip of the “Nature is Amazing” video on Facebook, posted by the World Surf League. It manages to tell a story in 0:34 seconds. The Facebook clip has 121 million views and 2.8 million total interactions.

Storytelling in Facebook video

The setting is a beautiful lagoon; the characters — a pod of dolphins. They are swimming peacefully, as a wave (the conflict) gathers behind them. Just moments later, the drama is resolved as the dolphins swim, dive and jump through the wave, returning to their former calm.

But storytelling is not just for Facebook pages with access to beautiful natural settings! Brands can apply story-telling logic, too.

The Edinburgh Casting Studio sells DIY body-casting supplies.

Without a story, the product is a bucket of slurry that can be used to create a mold of a hand or other body part.

With a story the bucket becomes the vehicle to create a family heirloom.

“A Recipe Like No Other,” is 1:10 of marketing glory–setting the product within the context of a love story.

It has 139 million views on Facebook, and 3.7 million interactions.

B2C and Entertainment Facebook pages aren’t the only ones to benefit from video posts on Facebook. B2B companies can apply the same principles to their video strategy to test engagement.

To determine the types of videos that succeed for B2B companies, I analyzed 950 of the Facebook videos with highest average engagement from ten leading companies in the B2B space–Intel, Oracle, SAS, IBM, Netapp, Salesforce, Cisco, DellEMC, VMWare and Symantec.

Here’s what I found. The total interactions for video are lower than in my larger sample, but that’s to be expected, because the products belong to a niche.

Still, the average overall engagement for the B2B videos is 1144, and the median is 161. And, just as with the original set of 3000 videos, average shares are higher than average comments.

I tend to value shares more highly than comments, as they push a brand or page message into the newsfeeds of a broader audience–for free.

Remember that Facebook is not LinkedIn. It’s about everyday life–parenting, kids, jokes, stories, growing up, forgiveness, thankfulness, life issues, celebrities. Keeping this in mind, B2B companies can experiment with a couple of different video ideas:

  1. Employee stories
  2. Customer stories
  3. Office tours–with a twist
  4. Volunteer work

The following examples illustrate the potential for interaction, as well as how to apply emotional elements and storytelling principles within a video context for Facebook.

Example of Facebook Video Storytelling from Oracle

In addition to 5.8 million views, this post from Oracle has 42.7k interactions.

But, even without semi-professional yoga instructors and video crews, employee stories can get a lot of interactions. This video, also from Oracle, features Bruno Borges, principal product manager, with his nine golden retriever puppies. It also proves that puppies have a place on B2B Facebook pages. The Facebook clip is just 30 seconds long.

It has 34.7k views, and 794 interactions.

VMWare used video to showcase their corporate campus, but they didn’t settle for a vanilla walk through video.

VMWare Amazing Facebook Video

They told the story of rescuing turtles with their on-site pond.

In addition to 7.5k views, it has 229 interactions–much more than median interactions for Facebook B2B video.

The 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, produced by Social Media Examiner, makes it clear that “Facebook is the most important social network for marketers by a long shot.” And, it’s importance has increased for B2B marketers, overtaking and surpassing that of LinkedIn.

The report also notes that live video is an important trend, and visual content is essential for social media engagement.

There is no better time to master the art of video content for Facebook.

It’s time to stop some thumbs.

The post What You Need To Know About Creating Thumb-Stopping Facebook Videos appeared first on BuzzSumo.

Why Picture List Posts Are The Perfect Viral Content Formula

When we looked at 100m Facebook posts we found, not surprisingly, that posts with images got the twice the number of interactions as posts without. So yes, images work but you knew that already. We have also found that list posts gain more shares on average. Again you knew that already. But did you know that one of the most shared forms of content was the picture list post?

The picture list post contains the promise of a list post, the value of curation and the speed of images.

It is like rolling three of your favorite superheros into one. They’re the ultimate in efficient, emotionally engaging content — snackable content, enriched with curation and structure.

In this post we take a look at why they work and how you can make them work for you.

What is a picture list post?

A picture list post is a series of curated images that can:

  • help tell a story
  • show the passing of time
  • show comparisons
  • explain a concept
  • demonstrate a process
  • form a curated list
picture posts

Why do they work?

People like to share content that is valuable. A New York Times and Latitude research study found five main motivations when it comes to sharing. The number one motivation for sharing was to bring valuable and entertaining content to others. 94% of the respondents said they carefully considered how the information they share will be useful to others.

Picture list posts work because they provide value through a combination of curation, lists and images. It’s a perfect content formula.

picture-list-posts-formula

Let’s start with curation. Good curators help us by doing the heavy lifting. They research and filter content to provide the reader with just the relevant content though they will often include links for further reading. A good curator also adds value through commentary and context. Curated content is increasingly popular in a busy world, where we are overloaded with content.

Now let’s add images. The brain processes images much faster than text, studies have shown visuals are processed as much as 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. According to the Visual Teaching Alliance the brain can see images that last for just 13 millisecond and our eyes can register 36,000 visual messages per hour. Try reading that many tweets in the next 60 minutes and see how many you recall. This means we can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second. This explains why a series of images works so well and why they are used in areas such as learning materials. They work faster than words.

Images have been found to improve learning by up to 400 percent. Stanford University’s Robert E. Horn, argues this is because “visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’ — the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.”

Finally, let’s structure as a list. We know that people like list posts, particularly one which is well structured and instantly scannable. In creating a list post such as 7 steps to design a landing page the author adds value by breaking down a task into a series of clear steps. List posts are also tell the reader what to expect for example 5 pictures or 10 tips. There is an expectation that you will gain some valuable nuggets of information rather than a long form essay. This makes them an attractive form of content for the time pressed consumer.

The picture list post contains the promise of a list post, the value of curation and the speed of images.

Examples

Pictures that tell a Story

The New York Times ran a picture list post on the Women’s March on Washington (January 2017) to highlight the hundreds of marches that also took place across the world.

womens-march

This picture list post was shared 430,000 times across all the social networks.

Fathers caring for their children on the refuge trail. This picture list was published by the Huffington Post and received over 90,000 shares.

refuge fathers

Stories and the Passing of Time

This picture post shows the photographs that a photographer recreated of his home town forty years after he took the original photographs. This article received over 450,000 shares and each picture comparison suggests a human story to be explored.

images-time

This next post 40 Portraits in 40 Years on the New York Times shows how four sisters took a picture of themselves every year over the last 40 years. This picture post was shared over 660,000 times.

new-york-times

Photographs by Nicholas Nixon

Picture Curations

Picture curations can take many forms and Pinterest boards are an obvious example. They also work well as viral posts, the curations can be of amazing images, cute images or amusing images.

The National Geographic are well known for the quality of their pictures and produce many viral picture list posts. Here is an example of cute pictures of rescued baby sloths. These posts appeal to the emotions and was shared over 600,000 times.

baby sloths

A similar post was National Geographic’s ’10 Most Stunning Wildlife Pictures of the Year‘ which received over 50,000 shares.

A very different form of curation was this picture list post of Overpopulation and Consumption on The Guardian. It is a series of curated images about the impact of overpopulation and was shared over 700,000 times.

guardian images

Photos by Zak Noyle and Daniel Dancer

A similar picture post is this ’10 pictures that show what pollution has done to Delhi‘ which was shared over 120,000 times.

Comparisons

Pictures can be used to show many different forms of comparison. Here are some examples.

This article by Bright Side uses NASA images to show how the world is changing over time.

california-lake
alaska-glacier

This picture post was shared over 750,000 times on Facebook.

This next picture list compares school meals across the world. It was shared over 540,000 times.

canva-lunch-images

Photos Sweetgreen

Tutorials and ‘How To’ Posts

A series of images is often key to a tutorial or a ‘how to’ post in order to take a learner through a process step by step. Here are some examples:

How to paint watercolours — this series of image tutorials was shared over 160,000 times.

painting

How to dry nail polish quickly — This series of images was shared over 600,000 times.

canva-nail-images

Photos WikiHow

Another variation on a tutorial post is this post ’10 Must Take pictures on Baby’s First Day‘. This post received over 38,000 shares.

baby-pictures

Most of the above are business to consumer examples (B2C) but tutorial picture list posts can work equally well in business to business posts. Here is an example from Social Media Examiner on ‘Four Steps To Get Your Business on Snapchat‘.

snapchat-steps

How Can You Use Picture List Posts?

Believer? Great. So now what? Picture list posts are a key content format which have the potential to go viral. Here are some initial questions to help you think about where they may work best in your content strategy.

  • What types of images currently work best in your industry? Are they product pictures, emotional images or process pictures?
  • What images can you use to tell a story? For example, how would one of your successful projects or case studies look like as a series of images?
  • If you make something, can you show where the raw materials come from, how it gets made, who makes it? Brands like Guinness are increasingly using imagery to tell the story of their product and process.
  • Can you introduce some humour? Product ideas you’ve rejected?
  • What comparisons can you make with images? For example, how have products in your area changed over time?
  • Can you associate your brand positively with different uses / settings through time or around the world?
  • What ‘before and after’ images might work in your industry?
  • What concepts can you explain through a series of images?
  • If you have You Tube videos showing how to use your products or services, could you turn them into picture list how to posts?
  • What ‘how to’ picture posts might work in your area? Processes and structured steps can often work well as a series of screenshots.
  • Could you show a different angle or viewpoint through a series of pictures? What it looks like from your CEO’s desk, from your CMO’s desk, from the front window?
  • How could you surprise people with a series of images?
  • Could you encourage your audience to help curate the images for you? Have a look at 3 UK, Mobile phone company’s HolidaySpam campaign, which gets their customer base showing and sharing what you can do with free data when you travel. Ok, so it’s more of a picture massacre than a list, but still, top marks for getting customers to create content.

The post Why Picture List Posts Are The Perfect Viral Content Formula appeared first on BuzzSumo.

Proud to be a Donkey: BuzzSumo Reflections on Growing a $5m SaaS Business

In January 2016 I looked back at the first 16 months of growing BuzzSumo. I thought now, 16 months later, it was probably time to provide a further update on our progress and my reflections on running a bootstrapped SaaS business.

I want to use this opportunity to challenge what I call the Unicorn orthodoxy. I have seen far too many people damaged by the stresses and strains of trying to be a unicorn. I want to set out the case for being a bootstrapped donkey and examine the pros and cons.

Unicorns and donkeys

When you launch a SaaS business, if you are a sad person like me, you will devour articles on growing a SaaS business from pricing to marketing to strategy. Such reading can be helpful as it helps you reflect on your own business. However, in my experience much of the advice is based on what I call the unicorn orthodoxy.

The unicorn orthodoxy is focused on growth and scalability rather than profitability, particularly in the early years. A recent Saastr article for example pointed out that VCs are not interested in companies with less than $10m annual revenues who are not doubling every year. The implication being that unless you are doubling every year you are a donkey rather than a unicorn.

unicorn-articles

Doubling each year typically means you lose money in the short term as you have to invest very heavily to achieve such growth. This approach requires VC or other sources of funding, to support the company through the loss making early years, typically in the form of seed rounds to series A and B funding rounds.

The aim of this approach is to create a unicorn, not necessarily a billion dollar company, but a dominant market player with the aim of floating the company on the market or selling it.

This high growth approach is rational, particularly for VCs but the downside is that it creates a highly pressurised work environment for those working in the business. You need to hit growth targets, often very unrealistic targets, and being in a loss making business is very stressful as you are burning cash or running out of runway as a VC might say. The consequences can be felt in very human and personal terms.

It is also not uncommon for aspiring unicorns to overstaff in the expectation of hitting unrealistic growth targets and then make redundancies if the growth doesn’t occur and they pivot or look at other options.

Stretch targets can also have the unintended consequence of making successful growing businesses feel depressed and unsuccessful if they miss these targets, and cause high levels of personal stress for staff and their families.

Blinded by Unicorns

I took the title for this section from one of the discarded titles for Rand Fishkin’s upcoming book. This resonated with me because Unicorns by their nature are outliers. It is very hard to draw lessons from outliers. However, sales of books on celebrity unicorns such as Uber, Apple, Snap and Facebook all do very well as people are desperately seeking to understand their secrets.

Some of the most shared content in the business world is about these celebrity unicorns. If you want to write a well shared post on Inc or your own blog, create an article along the lines of Five Key Lessons From Uber. Below are some example articles taken from BuzzSumo, along with their social shares.

saas-growth

However, not everyone can be a unicorn anymore than we can all be in the top quartile of company performers or even an above average performer. There is a danger that every SaaS company feels they have to be a high growth unicorn.

Most Aspiring Unicorns Die

Investors are realistic and they expect a high percentage of companies to fail, hence they spread their risk. Dave McClure of 500 StartUps argues that VCs investing in early stage startups should have a portfolio of at least 100 to 200 companies. The reason is simple. In his view only 1–2% of companies become unicorns. Matt Lerner, a partner at 500 Startups, has recently said that 50–80% of startups will fail, despite VC support or being in a program such as 500 Startups. Hence, the need for VCs to invest in a large portfolio of companies to spread their risk and increase their chances of finding a unicorn.

This makes sense for an investor but the management team of a company are all in and committed to their startup. Not for them the luxury of a portfolio that spreads the risk. Their jobs, mortgages and family finances depend on the success of the business. This can create a high degree of stress and anxiety.

This is not to say there are no stresses in building a bootstrapped business. In the early days the owners take all of the financial risk but they can adopt strategies to get to profitability quickly by controlling costs.

The BuzzSumo Donkey

At BuzzSumo we are not a unicorn. We didn’t raise, and are not looking to raise, external funding. We bootstrapped our growth and development, I put in some seed capital along with Stephen Walsh and along with Henley and James we put in time and effort to get things off the ground. Our approach was to quickly build a profitable and cash positive business that would allow us to reinvest and grow organically.

This was also partly about being our own boss and not having to report to anyone but also based on avoiding unicorn burnout and stress. To be clear we work hard but we set our own targets. And they’re realistic targets.

We have no illusions about turning BuzzSumo into a Unicorn. BuzzSumo will never be a billion dollar business. This does not mean we are not successful, just that we have different objectives and ambitions. We are a donkey and proud of it.

So far we have a built a profitable business which allows us to reinvest, pay ourselves from profits, and grow the business steadily. However, we are a relatively small business. Our annual revenue run rate is only $5m currently. Our growth has been solid but not spectacular, we are not doubling our revenues each year but this year we may do 40%.

Maintaining growth is hard as a donkey

In your first year, your monthly MRR growth rates look great as you are starting from a low base. The same is true of year two. However, as your revenues increase it becomes increasingly hard to maintain the same growth rates as this means consistently adding higher and higher levels of revenue each month.

For many SaaS businesses you get an ‘S” shape curve where your MRR growth starts up steeply and then begins to flatten out. You can see this in our monthly MRR from subscriptions over the last 32 months, as shown below.

buzzsumo-mrr

Blue is existing customers, green new customers and red, the dreaded churn. We are a research tool and we do get people subscribe to undertake projects and then leave. We also have some customers where we are not a good fit for their needs.

My advice is don’t panic if growth slows this is a natural part of the process, particularly if you are investing little in sales and marketing. Better questions to focus on are:

  • Are you retaining customers and controlling churn — do you have product fit?
  • Are you generating a profit? — Call me old fashioned but as a general rule I don’t think you have a business until you are generating profits. Ok, I know Jeff Bezos might disagree.

Growth is hard work

In my experience there are few overnight successes. Most businesses grow on the back of consistent hard work. The same is true of your web traffic. Below is our web traffic since launch. There is no sudden spike, just a slow upward trend over time. Building an audience takes time and commitment.

buzzsumo-traffic

Ramping up sales and marketing

Logic suggests that once you have a good product fit, and happy paying customers, you should ramp up your sales and marketing investment. This is particularly so if the cost of your customer acquisition is less than the lifetime value of each customer. The unicorn model is designed to accelerate this process, with a focus on sales and marketing investment to drive growth rather than profitability.

As a bootstrapped donkey, focused on profitability, you will have to accept lower growth as you will simply have less cash to invest in sales and marketing.

Our approach was to adopt a simple ‘try and buy’ low touch sales model. In essence users get a free trial of the product and can then buy at the end of the period or fall back to the freemium version. In our model there is very little human intervention, which means a low cost of sale which helps our profitability but arguably at the cost of a lower conversion rate.

We have been particularly slow at BuzzSumo to invest in sales and marketing, we have had no sales staff until this month, and this has probably led our growth rate to flatten more than it needed to. We were fortunate that our self-serve, low touch approach generated reasonable growth each year. Thus we felt no immediate pressure to invest in sales and marketing.

We have probably missed an opportunity to increase our conversion rate and our growth. We set very modest growth targets, for example just 16% this year. This allows us to manage our cash flow and feel good about overachieving our targets but it doesn’t put pressure on us to invest in sales. In a VC backed company it would have been a very different story. We would be under external pressure to grow faster, hire more sales people, and burn through money even if it meant being unprofitable. We have chosen to have complete control rather than the external funding approach.

Forecasts are worthless, be flexible

Ok, this may be a little controversial but don’t take my word for it. NY Fed research recently found that “small business expectations are mostly worthless”. They say people who risk growing a business, when so many fail, are “prone to unreasonable levels of optimism.” This leads to small businesses typically underperforming against expectations. In a VC backed company it is arguable that targets are stretched not just by owner optimism but by the desire of investors to push the management team.

I think there is a collective collusion about the ability of companies to forecast revenues, particularly growth companies. It is like the emperor’s new clothes, everyone colludes and admires the fine detail of a company’s financial forecasts and their growth plan. The reality is none of us know the future.

Mike Tyson may not have been a financial forecaster but he was onto something when he said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Plans are great until they come up against reality. What matters more I think is the ability to be flexible and minimise the downside risk. Often aspiring unicorns do the reverse and double down on their bet, spend more on sales and marketing, and increase their losses. It is high risk, which VCs mitigate by investing in many companies.

As I mentioned, at BuzzSumo we set minimal growth targets rather than stretch targets. We have no innate need to hit particular growth targets and we also find cash management and planning easier if we adopt more conservative expectations. We have obligations to our staff and do not want to recruit heavily in anticipation of growth that doesn’t materialise and then have to make redundancies. We also don’t want to feel stressed and unsuccessful because we ‘only’ grow by 20% and not 100%.

Reinvesting profits

It is ok not to reinvest all your profits in growth. Yes, it may mean you accept lower growth over time but there are other considerations. Your team may have financial commitments from buying homes to seeing their kids through college.

It would be anathema to many VCs but allowing the team to take some cash off the table is about balance and rewarding the initial risks and hours of work.

We pay a regular dividend at BuzzSumo. We may be sacrificing higher growth over the longer term. However, no one knows what the future will bring, maybe our business model will be fundamentally disrupted by economic or technology changes. Maybe a bird in the hand really is worth two in the bush as the old saying goes.

Focus on improving core product

I believe our success has come from helping people do a few tasks quickly and easily.

We have added features such as outreach lists, the audience builder and Facebook Analyzer but most users still focus on our core features such as most shared content, influencer searches, trending content and monitoring of brand mentions in content.

In retrospect I think we could have added less new features and focused more on improving the core features. Such improvements are less immediately noticeable to clients for example we have been improving our search results at BuzzSumo but to clients they do not see something as obvious as a new feature tab.

Don’t create additional brands

It is hard work to create a brand and it takes time.

We have developed a couple of separate free products such as Bloomberry, which will list real questions asked on the internet about any topic.

Separate from BuzzSumo, I have also been involved in developing Anders Pink. A news app for individuals and teams. This is a personal passion project as I believe there is so much content we all need a briefing every morning. The app allows you to create briefings on any topic and we will deliver the latest relevant articles that you can share and discuss with colleagues.

bloomberry-anders-pink

My advice, however, would be for bootstrapped businesses to focus on a single brand. Building brands is just such hard work and you will have limited time and cash to develop multiple brands. Sometimes though it is fun to develop something which is not core to your business.

The downsides of being a donkey

There are downsides to being a donkey. The lack of VC pressures and stretch targets can lead to a lack of focus. Lack of money can also mean missed opportunities to build a large business.

We are guilty of exploring new ideas because they intrigue us rather than because they will contribute to company growth. I admit we get bored easily and we like to explore new ideas. The ability to do this is both a good thing and a less good thing.

We take and invest profits based on a balance of our personal and business needs. Unicorn investors will be appalled that having achieved a product market fit we don’t reinvest all of our profits in growing the business. They will be further appalled that until this month we have employed no sales or marketing staff. But there’s a lot to be said for generating a profit every month.

The tax structure in the US and the UK favours capital gains over income. You pay much higher tax on salary and dividends than on a capital receipt for selling your business. Thus donkeys are taxed far more heavily than unicorns. Investors can also write off losses in failed unicorns against profits elsewhere. However, I am not Swedish but I don’t mind paying a fair level of tax. I live in the UK and I am proud of the tax we pay to have a free at the point of need health service. This is not to say there are not many ways we can improve it or spend our tax more efficiently.

The rise of the donkeys?

I may just be me but I am beginning to see more articles critical of the unicorn orthodoxy. Here is a recent example from the team at Basecamp, who have long advocated a different approach.

Exponential growth devours and corrupts

Maybe we will see a lot more donkeys and happier people in bootstrapped companies in the future.

The post Proud to be a Donkey: BuzzSumo Reflections on Growing a $5m SaaS Business appeared first on BuzzSumo.