How to Dogfood

Recently, whenever I’m using one of our Buffer social media tools — Buffer Publish (the original Buffer) and Buffer Reply —  I’ll add fixes and ideas to a running Paper doc that I share with the product managers, both of whom are always very nice to respond, sometimes even to fix the things I find or give me the features I want. Sometimes.

That being said, should I be sharing my ideas with them? After all, I am not our target customer.

I am me, a single person, building my brand on social media.

Buffer is for growing businesses.

This is an important distinction for me to keep in mind. As much as it pains me to say, I am no longer the ideal customer for Buffer. My feedback, which is always offered with Kevan-colored glasses, is skewed; consumers like me are not the explicit direction we’re building. There may be overlap with some ideas; but ultimately, it’s the voice of the small business customer that we’re most eager to hear.

This brings me back to the concept of “dogfooding” — a fun tech phrase that simply means “we use our own product.”

Fun fact: The president of Kal Kan Pet Food was said to eat a can of his dog food at shareholders’ meetings! I always thought this was an interesting origin story because it’s not like this person was the target customer either; dogs were the target customer. If the intention was to “dogfood” the dogfood, shouldn’t you try feeding it to your dogs?

OK, back to my point …

Dogfooding is a great practice overall. Please use the Buffer product often and share feedback on your experience.

If you find bugs, always share them with someone. Specifically, you can @-mention Adam in the #quality Slack channel, and he’ll get them added to the appropriate Jira board.

If you run into snags or have fun ideas, that’s where I’d love to suggest a slightly different flow …

Think: Am I empathizing with our target customer? Or am I reacting on behalf of an individual consumer?

For instance, if I’m dogfooding a new product feature, I may not like it because I can’t really figure out how to use it for my personal brand. Turns out, it wasn’t built for me and my personal brand! It was built for businesses. But if I try the new feature and can feel a pain point that businesses might also feel, then it’s a-okay good to share that feedback.

So when we’re dogfooding, it may be helpful to approach it from this perspective …

Be a business.

Start a side project.

Use Buffer as if you were building an online following.

Mature from free Publish to paid to Reply to Analyze and beyond, and always keep in mind the perspective of the people we’re dogfooding for: people like you and me, yes, but people who are doing social media in order to grow a business.

Is this something you’ve experienced at your company?

What is your perspective on dogfooding?

Let me know any questions or challenges to our approach! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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I lead the marketing team at Buffer, a SaaS tool with a blog of over 1.2M monthly visits. Let me show you how we got there and how we plan to grow.

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