Note: This post was originally published on 20th June 2014 and has been updated multiple times to take into account the latest features for both Hootsuite and Buffer, the latest update being 12th July 2016.
Social media has become a big part of almost everything we do online.
A strong social media presence leads to brand awareness, strong customer relationship management, target market expansion, valuable feedback and a boost in traffic.
As the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn continue to be hugely popular, it’s essential to develop strong social media skills in order to engage, listen and respond to your target audience.
The biggest challenge that we all face in terms of social media is time management.
Planning and organization are essential but with so many different networks to manage it can be difficult to stay organised.
But, the truth is that there are now tools on the market which are designed to help us save time and stay organized when it comes to social media.
They can help us schedule posts, monitor mentions, respond to our followers and gain key insights through the use of analytics, and statistics.
By the end of this post you’ll gain a key understanding into the pros and cons of each tool, and how you can leverage them to get better results from your social media efforts.
Let’s dive in and take a closer look!
The lowdown on Hootsuite
With Hootsuite surpassing 10 million customers, there’s no doubt that they are one of the most popular social media management tools around.
This handy tool helps you manage all facets of your social media activity such as:
- Publishing & scheduling updates
- Sourcing engaging content
- Responding to your followers
- Monitoring your progress with analytics
Aside from the management and monitoring functionality, you can also collaborate with team members by assigning tasks – a task can be created right from within a stream (this is what displays social messages and mentions).
A wide range of networks are supported which include:
- Google+ (profiles only)
- Mixi (Japanese social networking service)
Hootsuite also provides social media training through the Hootsuite University – a series of lectures that feature best practices and tips from industry-leading brands, platforms and educators.
If you can demonstrate your expertise at the end of the course, you get a certificate that shows you are now a certified “Hootsuite Professional”.
What we love about Hootsuite
Hootsuite’s main strength lies in the vast variety of features. You can pretty much do anything you can possibly think of in terms of social media.
Monitoring numerous streams at the same time is another great characteristic of Hootsuite. For example with Twitter you can add: mentions, lists (favourites), hashtags, keywords, home feed, competitors’ feeds, etc.
It’s easy to respond to mentions within the platform and there are a few additional options you get access to:
- Auto schedule – want to reply but not right now? It’s easy!
- Schedule on a specific date – If the auto schedule isn’t right, just pick a time & date.
- Drafts – You can save an in-progress message or use a draft as a template of sorts (note: templates was a feature but was removed in favour of drafts).
There is a publisher menu tab which allows you to see your scheduled updates on a calendar. You’ll also find the bulk schedule feature which allows you to upload a .csv file to Hootsuite full of your social messages along with the dates/times you want them to be published.
If you need help finding content to share, there’s a content suggestion feature built in.
You also get access to a browser extension called “Hootlet” which makes it easy to share web pages to any of your networks while you’re surfing the web.
If you click a tweet button on a website, you’ll also see the option to use the Hootlet right next to the regular tweet button.
Hootsuite’s customer support is spot on which is always an important factor to take into consideration and there’s a range of mobile apps.
Out of everything else, I love that Hootsuite has been in the game for a long time (since 2008). This means it’s a well-developed, mature tool.
This is important because so many social management tools are being launched and most of them disappear after a while. The downside when this happens is that we get used to using tools and it takes some time to migrate over to a new tool.
What we don’t love about Hootsuite
I’m a big fan of Hootsuite but like with most tools, it’s not perfect.
This tool comes fully loaded with a lot of tools, but the trade-off is that the dashboard has become rather complex. Despite several redesigns, it still doesn’t have a very user-friendly feel.
Although, you can definitely warm up to it – might just take longer to find your way around.
The other main downside to Hootsuite is the cost of analytics reports, pricing, in general, is good since there is a free plan and a low-cost pro plan but you can’t just open an analytics report like with most social tools – you’re given a limited number of credits based on your plan.
This does include a few basic reports on the free plan and an enhanced report on the pro plan – it shouldn’t be this complicated when so many other tools make analytics/reporting so easy.
Hootsuite offers a bunch of different subscriptions.
You’ve got a free plan that supports 3 social profiles with very basic functionality.
Paid plans then start at £7.99/month (when billed annually) or £11.99/month (when billed monthly). Paid plans include extra features, and they have other plans such as ‘Teams’, ‘Business’ and ‘Enterprise’ that each offer more social profiles and additional features as you work your way up.
If you haven’t already given it a go you can get a free 30 Day trial of HootSuite.
The lowdown on Buffer
In terms of complexity, Buffer is almost the polar opposite of Hootsuite. You don’t get such a wide range of features but what you do get is a cleaner and easier to use tool.
One important thing to point out here is another key difference between the two platforms:
Where Hootsuite focuses on general social media management which includes scheduling, engaging and monitoring – Buffer simply focuses more on the message scheduling side of things.
The idea behind Buffer is that you set a schedule and add posts to your “Buffer”, then posts will be scheduled at the intervals you have chosen.
You can connect Buffer to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and App.net.
Simplicity is what makes Buffer such a great tool. It doesn’t require advanced training and there’s only a small learning curve involved so it’s user-friendly and self-explanatory.
Anyone can use this tool regardless of their social media skills – you’ll be able to schedule social messages quickly and access basic reporting. Paid plans add team collaboration, higher message limits and better analytics.
What we love about Buffer
Buffer’s key strengths lie in its simplicity.
There are no extra bells and whistles that aren’t really important – you just get the essentials.
Aside from the scheduling functionality and analytics, you’re able to add RSS feeds from your favourite blogs and share their content easily.
The simple analytics makes it easy to see which social messages are performing best – you can then easily re-Buffer any messages with the click of a button.
Buffer also has their own browser extension which has a host of features:
- Keyboard shortcuts – Speed up your social sharing
- Buffer button overlay – Buffer images with a click
- Buffer integration with popular networks – You’ll see a Buffer button on Twitter, Tweetdeck, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and Hacker News (you can disable any you don’t want).
The Buffer browser extension has another neat feature called the “Power Scheduler” which makes it easy to schedule multiple social messages across different times and accounts.
Buffer have rolled out a bunch of other great features that deserve a mention:
First, they added Pinterest sharing and native video sharing which further adds to Buffer’s usefulness.
Then there’s Pablo, a tool created by Buffer which makes it very easy to overlay quotes/text onto images.
Just pick which size of image you want (different sizes work better on different social networks), customize the text and add a background. Then Buffer the image, share it directly to your favourite social network or download it.
Towards the end of 2015 they added a calendar view and a tool to optimize the times you share your content.
And in July 2016, they added support for Instagram. Well, sort of.
Let me explain:
Instagram doesn’t allow any tools to post to it’s app for you. None at all.
So to get around this, schedule your Instagram post in Buffer.
When it’s time to publish, you’ll get a push notification on your phone. You can then press a button to send your content over to the Instagram app and publish as you would normally.
Before, I’d have to use another tool for Instagram scheduling. Now I can remove one extra tool from the equation, and that’s a VERY good thing.
What we don’t love about Buffer
In a way Buffer is limited because you can’t view your Twitter feed or directly interact with your followers.
However, this is a double edged sword because while this does make Buffer fairly limited, it’s also what adds so much to its appeal.
If Buffer added loads of additional features it wouldn’t be such an effective scheduling tool and wouldn’t be so simple or easy to use.
- Individual plan: Free but limits to 1 profile on each social network and up to 10 scheduled messages.
- Awesome plan: Starts from $10/month and allows for up to 10 social profiles, 100 scheduled messages and 15 RSS feeds per connected profile.
- Business plan: Starts from $50/month and allows up to 25 social profiles, 5 team members, 2,000 scheduled posts per profile and rich analytics. Larger plans are available if you need it.
Both Hootsuite and Buffer are awesome social tools that will help you become more organized and deliver better social media results.
Which tool you ultimately choose will depend largely on your specific requirements.
If you manage numerous social accounts and want to be able to engage directly with your followers, Hootsuite could be the right fit for you. It may take a while to get to grips with all of its features but once you do, you’ll start saving a lot of time with managing your social profiles.
On the other hand, if you aren’t able to devote much time to social media and you want something that is super quick for scheduling updates, Buffer is a great way to go. It’s simple, fast and efficient so you cannot go wrong.
The third option is to use both because Hootsuite and Buffer do have the ability to complement each other very well. Scheduling is easier with Buffer, but you still need to respond and interact with your followers, which is where Hootsuite comes in.
That said, Hootsuite is catching up on the scheduling front – especially with the release of its Hootlet browser extension and publisher features.
Finally, which tool do you prefer and why? Which other social media tools do you use?
Let us know in the comments below!