As a social media manager, strategist and enthusiast, I’m always on the look out for new marketing tools for client and personal profiles. I want tools to help me stay organized, tools to help me grow audiences, tools to better measure analytics, tools to easily discover influencers and tools for discovering new tools. (Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture.)
Once I discover a tool that’s user-friendly and useful, I like to stick to it. That was the case with Hootsuite, the web-based social media management tool with the big-eyed owl logo. Hootsuite was the first social media management tool I used for scheduling on a regular basis, and despite a few shortcomings, I genuinely like it, so I was rather hesitant when a co-worker suggested I check out buffer.
Nonetheless, I decided to test the buffer waters. Here’s a breakdown of a few things I like about buffer as a scheduling tool:
Whenever I begin experimenting with a new tool, I always anticipate a bit of a learning curve. With buffer, however, there was practically no learning curve. Within an hour of signing up, I’d figured out how to connect my social profiles, how to change my posting schedule, how to “buffer” my posts and more. Honestly, saying buffer is user-friendly is an understatement. The dashboard organization is clean and simple with available social profiles on the left and analytics, schedule and other settings clearly labeled across the top navigation. This is very different from Hootsuite, which litters each social dash with streams. (I say littered because I use Hootsuite for scheduling only; you may appreciate streams if you use them for monitoring purposes.)
Little Profile Confusion
A big problem I have with Hootsuite even after months of use is knowing exactly which profile I’m scheduling posts for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “pinned” a profile and scheduled a week’s worth of posts only to realize I scheduled everything on the wrong profile. There isn’t an easy way to fix it either. I have to copy and paste, and then reschedule every post. With buffer, it’s easy to determine which profile I’m buffering posts for (see the photo above), though there still isn't an easy fix if I mess up.
A small buffer feature that really stole my heart was the fact that I could shorten my links using my bit.ly account. bit.ly was my URL shortener of choice back in the day when everyone posted directly from their social accounts. (Remember that?!) Hootsuite also allows you to change your URL shortener, but alas, bit.ly is not a choice and vanity URL integration is only available to those with the Enterprise Plan. Not to mention you must manually copy and paste your URL into the shortener, which is something buffer does automatically.
The buffer web extensions are reason enough alone to use the scheduling tool. The extensions are available for Chrome, Safari and Firefox. Once installed, scheduling my posts is as easy as selecting how I want to share via the blogs’ social sharing buttons, waiting for the green buffer button to appear and clicking "Add to Buffer." Buffer automatically shortens my link (using bit.ly) and even allows me to add photos.
I’ve never been partial to scheduling Facebook or LinkedIn posts using Hootsuite for several reasons. Number one, I don’t post as often to Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn, so it’s pretty easy to remember to post directly on the social platforms. Number two, I like to keep a close eye on engagement, especially on Facebook where spam comments or complaints can pop up at any time. And number three, Hootsuite has a 140 character limit for all posts, even though LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook allow for a much greater character count. With buffer, I can tailor my posts accordingly.
These are just a few reasons I like buffer as a scheduling tool. (Emphasis on “few,” I like even more things about buffer than what I listed above.) Despite all its greatness, buffer still has a few shortcomings in my book, including:
- You can only buffer 10 posts at a time on the free plan (compared to 50 for Hootsuite)
- You can only add one of each type of social profile on the free plan (one Twitter, one Facebook, etc.) You can’t even add a Facebook profile and a Facebook page without paying.
- You can connect your Reddit to buffer using an App.net Profile, but Google+ has yet to be integrated.
The first of these two complaints are easily fixed by upgrading to “Awesome,” a $10-a-month plan, which I highly recommend for agencies that manage client accounts or even organizations with multiple accounts. And the last, according to company sources, users can expect to be rectified in the near future.
Do you use buffer as a scheduling tool? What do you like about the tool?
Known as Hawkeye for her near superhuman copy editing abilities, Lisa Gulasy applies her unique experiences in agency and journalism to manage strategy and day-to-day engagement of client social media profiles and assist and researching and writing blogs, press releases and advanced content. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.