At its core, Buffer is a social media scheduling platform. It lets you schedule content to be published on the social media channels that you connect to it.
Many people don’t agree when Buffer is reviewed in comparison with social media management tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social. They argue that Buffer is just meant for scheduling and not full-fledged social marketing management.
But I don’t agree with this theory.
I am a business owner myself. And from my experience, I am willing to bet that like me, you’d rather want a tool which lets you manage everything from one place.
Why would someone use one tool for scheduling, and yet another tool for reacting to social updates, and then other for doing something else?
Such a model will end up wasting so much time and money.
So with all due respect, I am not going to be lenient with Buffer. I am going to review it like any other social media software.
Does It Support The Social Networks You Use?
Chances are .. yes, it does. Buffer currently supports: Twitter, Google+ page, Facebook (profile, group, page), LinkedIn (page, profile), Instagram and Pinterest.
I’d say this would be more than sufficient considering the social networks you may be using right now. If you’re using more, then you’re doing social media wrong and no tool can help you.
The best way to get social media marketing right is to focus on and dominate 2-3 social networks where most of your prospects hang out. You don’t have to be everywhere and scatter your efforts.
What you should ask is: (1) Does Buffer support the platforms you’re using right now? and (2) Whether it’ll support the platforms you’re targeting in the next 6-12 months. And I think the answer to both these questions is yes.
Note: Instagram users keep in mind that Buffer can’t automatically post to your account. But you can use it to prepare a post and schedule it. When it’s time to publish that post, Buffer will send you a reminder with link to publish that post to your account. And you can then publish it with a couple clicks.
To be fair though, I think this is not a problem with Buffer, but something to do with Instagram API. Any other social media software may also have the same issue.
Automating Content Distribution
Automation is key to a well-planned social media strategy. It helps you save time, reduce workload, and be more efficient.
The automation features in Buffer are auto-scheduling and integration with other automation tools.
#1. Auto Scheduling
With Buffer, you can prepare and publish to one or more of your connected social networks. And you can schedule a post to be published instantly, or at a later time.
This later time can be decided by you there and then, based on a schedule that you build, or left for Buffer to pick an appropriate time to make sure the post gets ample engagement.
You can also connect a social network with RSS feed of any blog. So you can take a look at the latest posts from feeds you added and schedule the ones you’d like to post on your social media channels.
I am not a big fan of this feature, because it’s better to schedule the articles on your blog yourself.
This is because just posting a blog post on social media once isn’t going to get much traffic anyway. You’ll have to create multiple variations of a tweet, for example, with a different text but link to the same post.
#2. Integration With 3rd Party Automation
This is the area where Buffer has an edge. You can automate a lot social media tasks by connecting Buffer to services like IFTTT and Zapier.
In other words, you can link Buffer with Instagram, Basecamp, Feedly, Pocket, Tumblr, Slack, Kissmetrics, Hubspot and more. And you can use these integrations to implement tasks based on readymade formulas or your own needs.
For example, you can have your latest instagram pictures or LinkedIn posts added to your buffer list. You can import your Fiverr review to Buffer. Send your Buffer schedule to Google Calendar or Drive. There are lots of other “recipes” and “zaps” that you can find on IFTTT and Zapier respectively.
Engaging Prospects, Influencers & Others
This is the biggest problem with Buffer that cannot be overlooked. You can’t have your feed/timeline in Buffer. This means that you won’t see the posts published by people you follow. And consequently, you can’t respond, like or retweet.
Other than that, you also won’t be able to interact with people who engage with your content. People who liked, shared or replied to your tweet. This really limits your ability to build relationships on social media.
To do these things, you’ll have to login into each of your social networks one by one and check your feeds and notifications manually.
Other than engagement, the inability to do anything else other than scheduling also impacts another important feature: Analytics.
There’s a bit of bad news here too. Because it’s not a full-fledged social management tools, Buffer doesn’t offer analytics associated with your connected social networks.
What it does offer is analytics of your social posts. And only those posts which you published via Buffer. The content you published natively on a social media platform or from somewhere else won’t be shown in Buffer.
It can tell you how well a post performed by showing the number of shares and likes your content got. But you won’t know big-picture stuff like how your social networks are doing, what do people do on your site once they arrive from a social network (via integration with Google Analytics, for example), and more.
Whatever the Buffer analytics does, however, it does well. The dashboard is intuitive and clean. It’s good to be able to sort the best performing and poor performing content based on reach, engagement or type. If you need to do further analysis on this data, you can export it too.
The address the issue of limited stats, may be you can use a separate social media analytics tool like Simply Measured. But as I wrote above, using more than one tool for social media is likely to increase your investment and overhead.
3rd Party Integrations
Buffer has many extensions and plugins you can use with your web browser and other apps. For instance, you can share content from one of your social platforms to Buffer with the browser extension.
But as with other things, while you can integrate with 3rd party tools to automate tasks, you can’t bring things under one roof to get a big picture view.
For example, instead of having both the Buffer and Google Analytics tabs open in my browser and going back and forth between them to make decisions, it’d be better if I can import my Google analytics data in Buffer itself.
And I know this is possible because there are other social media management tools (like Hootsuite) that have this feature. But not Buffer.
Final Verdict: Is It Right For You?
Yes, but only if you’re interested in something that lets you simply schedule content without any fuss.
If you want a social management platform, Buffer isn’t the right choice. I’ll recommend that you “shop around” and try similar tools and see what suits you best.
Most tools these days come with free trials you can start from. Once you like a tool and can justify its cost, you can upgrade to the next tier.