Did you arrive here from Google? Don’t have time to read a full review? Listen to my 30-second review now.
They’re designed to save you time and help you build an audience.
I spent the last two months testing the two social media tools, and I’ve written this feature from the point of view of a small business person who manages multiple social media networks and wants to decide between Buffer or HootSuite.
Buffer supports multiple Twitter accounts, personal Facebook profiles and business Facebook pages. It also supports personal LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn company pages and LinkedIn groups, Google+ pages and App.net
I signed up to the free version of Buffer. The premium or “Go Awesome” version starts at USD10 a month and allows two team members to manage 12 social media profiles.
Buffer has an intuitive and clean interface and it is supported by Android and iOS apps. It took me fifteen minutes to connect Buffer to my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and figure out how to use the service.
I used Buffer to post links to this blog and to other articles of interest on the web on my Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. I also tested the iOS apps on an iPhone 4.
Buffer doesn’t connect directly to Pinterest, and I wasn’t able to post on LinkedIn groups without ponying up for the premium version. Buffer also sent me lots of emails about my account and nudged me to “top up” with more articles.
I turned these annoying notifications off.
What I Liked
- Buffer’s analytics tools are easy to use and understand. I was able to quickly see how many people commented, liked, clicked, shared my posts. I was also able to see how many people could have potentially read my posts.
- Buffer is great for content curators. I used IFTTT rule to send articles I read on Feedly and Pocket to Buffer. Buffer then posted links to these articles on my preferred social networks at scheduled times.
- Similarly, I set up a schedule in Buffer for sharing content on various social networks. I added articles to Buffer using a Chrome plugin, and it shared them at these predefined times. This means, with a little planning, I can spend less time managing social media and more time working.
- The iOS apps is elegant and easy to use and perfectly suited for mobile.
- The Buffer blog is an excellent resource for bloggers and those interested in content curation. It’s also a damn good read.
Room for Improvement
- Buffer doesn’t allow me to see updates or feeds from my various social media networks.
- The free version of Buffer is more restricted feature-wise than HootSuite.
- The Buffer mobile app referred me to the website on several occasions, which kind of defeats the point.
HootSuite offers a free 30 day trial for business people. It supports multiple Twitter accounts, personal Facebook profiles and pages, LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn company pages and groups.
It also supports Foursquare, WordPress, MySpace and Mixi and Tumblr and YouTube. And it supports Google+ Pages through RSS feeds.
Users of the free version can connect five social media profiles and two RSS feeds to their HootSuite account.
The premium version starts at EUR7.99 a month, and it supports 50 social media profiles and an unlimited number of RSS feeds. HootSuite comes on Android and iOS.
It took me an hour or two to figure out exactly how to use HootSuite and successfully connect it to my social media accounts. Even then, I had to consult various online help documents and forums before the dashboard made sense.
This is an issue the developers understand. They run a premium online university for users who want to get more out of HootSuite and out of social media in general.
What I Liked
- I was able to create tabs in HootSuite for each of my various social media feeds on my dashboard. This saved me a lot of time. In my Twitter tab, for example, I can see all my tweets, the tweets from my followers, my retweets and direct messages. I have a tab configured on my dashboard for each of my social media networks.
- HootSuite supports keyword tracking, which is really helpful for keeping up to date on business trends across various social media networks.
- I can write one status update or pose a question within HootSuite. The app will post this across all my social media networks immediately or at a scheduled time or at a time HootSuite thinks most people will read it.
- I was able to use HootSuite to pull content from my WordPress blog and to post content on my Tumblr blog.
- The analytics tools is great for creating professional looking reports for clients.
Room for Improvement
- Conversely, HootSuite’s analytics reports aren’t as easy to run as Buffer’s and take some time to figure out.
- There’s a steep learning curve to HootSuite, which may put off time-strapped business people.
- The HootSuite iOS app doesn’t support information from or posting to LinkedIn groups.
- HootSuite struck me as service that could get expensive. The HootSuite YouTube app, for example, cost EUR1.99 per month. The more detailed analytics templates reports cost credits and are geared towards premium users. And so on.
Final Thoughts: Buffer or HootSuite?
HootSuite is the more feature rich of the two social media automation tools, but Buffer is easier to use and learn.
After two months with each, I gravitated towards HootSuite. That isn’t a criticism of Buffer. I simply preferred HootSuite’s ability to display multiple feeds from various social media networks at once.
I understand some users may find too much information overwhelming, and there’s a lot to be said for clean, intuitive interfaces and analytics. There’s nothing stopping users running both services at once and seeing which they prefer.
The free versions of Buffer and HootSuite contain more than enough features for most users to begin with.
Conversely, I preferred the mobile experience of Buffer over HootSuite. The sheer volume of information on HootSuite made it difficult to use the app on my iPhone 4.
I was more comfortable using HootSuite on a desktop, and the iOS app struck me as one best suited for a tablet.
My impression of Buffer and HootSuite is that they complement rather than replace Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. During my research, I read several post like this one.
They argue posts made through social media automation tools are less likely to appear on people’s news feeds.
While Buffer and HootSuite are useful time saving apps, automation is not a replacement for engagement. Social media managers will still need to create original content and engage directly with users.
And this is a job no tool or programme can replace.
Do you use Buffer or HootSuite?
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