To Buffer or Not to Buffer?
If you’re talking to personal and business marketers, you’ll often hear them say: “I’ll just Buffer that” when they’re referring to scheduling content. If your brand name has become a verb, that’s a sign that you’re doing something right, right? But is Buffer really as good as it seems?
I tested Buffer as part of a comparison of the best social media tools out there. Let’s check it out.
Buffer launched in 2010 as a tweet scheduler, and I’ve personally been using it since 2011. This social media scheduling tool has evolved a lot over the years. As well as scheduling content for Twitter, you can now use Buffer for Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pinterest.
One of the things I love is the Buffer free account, which lets a single user post to three social media accounts and schedule up to ten posts.
However, you’ll need to upgrade to Buffer Pro, Buffer Premium, or Buffer Business if you want to work with a team, manage multiple profiles for each social platform, and schedule more content. Buffer Pro comes with a 7-day free trial, and you get a 14-day free trial with Buffer Premium and Buffer Business.
Though I’m a Buffer fan, one thing I’m not so happy about is its latest evolution, which split the platform into three separate tools:
- Buffer Publish, a social media scheduling tool
- Buffer Reply, a social media monitoring and messaging tool
- Buffer Analyze, a social media analytics tool
If you’re managing a brand and need publishing, social media monitoring, and in-depth analytics, the costs can add up fast!
That said, Buffer Publish is still one of my favorite social media scheduling tools, and that’s what the majority of this Buffer review will focus on. But the question is, will Buffer Publish work for you? Read on to learn more about the platform’s features and determine whether Buffer is right for YOU and your specific needs.
We tested this tool as part of a larger project rating all of the top social media management tools.
With Publishing Only, Can Buffer Still Cut It?
Since Buffer launched, it’s seen hefty competition from a whole bunch of new social media management tools, a few of which offer some pretty great features.
All the Buffer reviews will tell you that one of the platform’s biggest advantages is how it keeps everything simple, uncluttered, and easy to use. You won’t spend months trying to figure out your social media posting schedule – instead, you can get everything set up in minutes.
Plus, it’s got multiple options for shortening and tracking links, including with Google Analytics, as you can see below. (Custom link shortening and integration with Google Analytics are only available on paid accounts.)
Social Inbox and Engagement
If you’re looking for a social media tracker, Buffer Publish won’t help you much. All you can do in the main Buffer tool is get some basic information on your own social media posts, such as what you sent and when you sent it.
This could be enough if you’re a personal user. However, if you’re a business user, then consider checking out Buffer Reply, which works with business Instagram accounts, as well as Facebook and Twitter.
Buffer Reply also includes a social inbox, so you can reply to messages in one place. This is especially useful if you regularly need to respond to customer requests or otherwise engage with your audience. Plus, you can add your own tags to social conversations to keep track of the topics that matter most to you.
Similarly, if you want to keep tabs on your brand online, you’ll also need Buffer Reply. Buffer Reply works best with Twitter, allowing you to monitor keywords and RSS feeds, as well as brand mentions. And there’s no built-in monitoring for Facebook or Instagram.
My overall impression is that other social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite are better for doing this. However, don’t write Buffer Reply off just yet. The company has a history of meeting their customers’ needs, so expect this tool to evolve.
Publishing and Scheduling Posts
When it comes to publishing and scheduling, Buffer Publish is one of the best social media management tools there is. As you’ll see, it’s easy to use, and you can manage your social content calendar well in advance, especially with a Pro, Premium, or Business plan.
Some of the best bits include:
- Managing up to 25 social media accounts and scheduling up to 2,000 social media posts in advance on the Buffer Business plan
- Scheduling and rescheduling content via the calendar interface
- Customizing social post content for different platforms
With Buffer Publish, you have several options for publishing and scheduling content. You can schedule content directly from the web interface or mobile app, or you can use a browser bookmarklet to connect seamlessly to your Buffer account.
To schedule content, just head to your Queue, click on the box, and add your URL and text. Buffer shortens the link automatically, and also makes recommendations for media, based on what’s included in the post.
One of the best things about Buffer is that, when you add a URL, you can immediately see how it will look in each social media site you’ve connected, and you can edit the post content individually.
So, once you’ve created a post for Twitter, it just takes one click to create an automated Facebook posting.
Buffer also lets you add the first comment to Instagram at the same time you share the post. This is an excellent feature that allows you to add more hashtags to a post, which makes it easier to find and extends its reach.
However, you can’t boost or promote posts from Buffer Publish.
There are no team features in the free or Pro versions of Buffer. You’ll need to upgrade to Buffer Premium for two users, or to Buffer Business for six.
If you’re managing a team and have one of these higher-level accounts, you can set access and permissions for individual social sites. That means team members only have access to the platforms you allow them to use. This is useful for managing your workflow and ensuring that there’s no duplication of tasks.
Another cool feature is the ability to set an approval workflow. That means you can decide which users need to have draft content approved before it goes live. Those who have full access can then review content before adding it to the Buffer calendar.
You know where Buffer really wins? Its ability to integrate with the external tools you’re probably already using as a social media marketer.
In addition to web, mobile, and browser tools, Buffer Publish works with:
- Tools for connecting apps, like Zapier and IFTTT
- Tools for curating and reading content, like Pocket, Feedly, and Scoop.it
- Twitter management tools, like Commun.it and Followerwonk
- And many more
Using integrations is seamless, taking you straight into the main Buffer interface for quick content publishing and scheduling.
One of Buffer’s best features has nothing to do with the main tool. It’s all the stuff you can get for free.
For example, the Buffer blog is one of the best sources of reliable social media information, statistics, and tutorials. There’s also the Buffer Marketing Library, which is an excellent place for beginners and intermediate social media users to get up to speed on strategy and techniques.
You can take advantage of on-demand webinars that cover a ton of different aspects of social media marketing. Plus, Buffer is always putting out free reports that can help you make good decisions when it comes to your communications strategy.
But one of my favorites is the Pablo Image Creator, a tool to help people create shareable social media images fast.
With built-in guidance on image sizes, and templates you can customize quickly, it’s a hugely useful resource, whether you’re using Buffer or not. That also applies to the recently launched Stories Creator, which is a great way to create Facebook and Instagram stories fast.
Ease of use
The Best Social Scheduling Interface
You’ll never worry about how to use Buffer – it’s super easy, right from the start. You can set up an account in only a couple of seconds, with just a username and password.
Buffer encourages you to add your social media accounts so you can get started with posting and scheduling content in no time.
Plus, I like the fact that everything you need is accessible from one page. Just click on a tab to access posting and settings for each social media account. This keeps things simple when scheduling content via the web app.
Adding Social Media Accounts
This is simple. Use the Manage Social Accounts button, choose the type of account you want to add, then authorize it. In under a minute, you’re ready to post content to that account.
The number of social accounts you can add varies with the plan, from three in the free account to eight in the Pro and Premium plans, and a whopping 25 in the Business plan. Once they’re added, you can easily navigate among them by clicking a tab in your social media dashboard.
Creating a Posting Schedule
One of Buffer’s strengths is the ability to act as a post planner for each of your social media accounts. Once that’s done, queued content automatically goes into the next available slot.
To set your posting schedule, click the icon for that social media site, then go to Settings > Posting Schedule. You can add posting days and times, and see what times you’ve already set up. And you can delete previously added time slots by clicking the X next to them.
While you can add posting slots for each individual day, Buffer also lets you pick slots for weekdays and weekends, making it quick to pick a schedule for business or personal use.
And once content is scheduled, you can easily view what’s coming up in the calendar interface. As a more visual learner, I personally find this super helpful.
Plus, if you change your mind about when a particular post should go live, you can drag and drop it to a new time slot.
Using the Publishing Tools
While there are lots of ways you can schedule content to Buffer for publishing to your social media accounts, the web app remains the quickest route. Click on the posting window when in any social account to bring up the post composer. The account you’re posting in is highlighted, with all others grayed out so there’s no confusion.
Like I said earlier, just add your text and link and it will suggest an image to go with your post. You can also click on other social accounts at the top of the compose window to automatically create posts for those sites, too, based on the text and image you’ve already chosen.
Once you’re done, click Add to Queue and your content will go into the right slot. Depending on your account level, you can also set your own schedule for a post, or use the Share Now or Share Next buttons.
Buffer also includes platform-specific options, like letting you add a location to an Instagram post, tag users in a Twitter post, or select specific boards when using the Pinterest scheduler.
Overall, publishing content via Buffer is ridiculously simple.
Analytics & Reporting
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, in-depth analytics are now part of Buffer Analyze.
In Buffer Publish, the current Pro dashboard only shows a list of your posts over the last 30 days. In my mind, this is inadequate. I’d love to see more basic information on post performance. You have to upgrade to Buffer Premium or Buffer Business for unlimited post history and useful analytics.
Upgrading to Business Analytics
When you upgrade, rather than having a single analytics dashboard for all social media sites, you have to click on each social site to see content analytics for that platform. That means it’s impossible to get a complete overview of content performance in a single dashboard, as you can with tools like Hootsuite.
One good thing, though, is that once you’re looking at the data, it’s as simple to use and understand as the rest of Buffer.
But if you’re really looking for detailed analytics that can provide insights to help you grow your following or put together in-depth client reports, you should consider investing in Buffer Analyze.
Reporting on External Content
With Buffer Publish, if you’re using Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, you’ll see basic analytics – even on content that wasn’t shared via Buffer. Again, this is just available for Premium and Business accounts.
At a glance, you can check out the performance of recently posted content. You can also click the on-site buttons to see what’s been most or least popular, and what’s had the most engagement in terms of clicks, tweets, likes, or shares.
Apps and Integrations
Buffer’s analytics feature integrates with your connected social media accounts. Apart from that, if you have a paid plan, you can track your social media data in your Google Analytics account. This might be enough for you, but overall it still seems like a poor substitute for a robust in-app analytics solution.
Use the analytics on Buffer Publish to improve your social media strategy with our handy guide.
Slow Online Support
If you’re looking for help with Buffer, a good place to start is with its self-service knowledge base. This gives you quick answers to common questions, and the ability to search by product or mobile platform. Apart from that, Buffer support is available via Facebook, Twitter, and email.
To test out Buffer’s level of customer support, I sent out a different service message to each of their support channels, all around 9 a.m.
The Facebook link took me straight to a Messenger interface, where I typed in my question.
While Buffer claims to be responsive on social media, I was still waiting for an answer 24 hours later. After a little over a day, I got an informative response.
Similarly, clicking on the Twitter support link opened up a message thread, where I typed my question. Again, 24 hours later I was still waiting to hear back, which honestly surprised me. Even though it took a while, I ultimately got a clear response.
My best support experience was via email. It still took five hours, but I got a detailed and helpful reply which fully answered my question. In the future, I’ll probably choose email over the other two methods – but I would definitely start in the Help Center, which is pretty robust.
Affordable Base, Additional Services Costly
If you’re a blogger or small business owner just getting started with social media, then Buffer’s free plan is an excellent way to test out the service. It lets you work with three social accounts and schedule up to ten posts in advance.
Buffer’s Pro plan is also affordable, and ups the numbers to 100 pre-scheduled posts and eight social accounts. However, you still miss out on a full post history (you can only see back 30 days) and there’s no engagement reporting. This means that if you’re using Buffer for business, the Pro plan might not offer enough functionality. There’s a seven-day free trial for you to check it out.
After that, it starts to get more costly. Buffer Premium offering eight social accounts, up to 2,000 scheduled posts, and an additional team member. Buffer will work with businesses to select a plan that meets their needs. This means 25+ social accounts and six or more team members (depending on the level of the business plan). You get a 14-day free trial for these higher-level accounts.
The downside? Now that Buffer Reply and Buffer Analyze are separate products, Buffer costs more. Business users wanting social media monitoring and social analytics could end up paying a hefty sum for ALL of Buffer’s features.
You can pay for Buffer via credit, debit, and prepaid gift cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, Discover, Diners Club). Business users can also pay via bank transfer.
Cancellations & Refunds
If you decide Buffer’s not for you, you can easily cancel your account from your dashboard. If you need to apply for a refund, you’ll need to do that by email, but it’s pretty painless – the whole cancellation process only took us about two minutes.
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Over Priced, Bad Service, Useless Features
This App is double what it should be priced at! Way too expensive, who's going to pay $1200 US a year to post to a few social media accounts?? Service is awful with unanswered correspondence and condescending responses. So may bugs & problems and unused features that they want us to pay for, STAY AWAY there's much better available for you money and we should know as we've been in the industry for over 20 years.
So incredibly buggy
I wanted this app to be awesome as the whole idea is great, but after being locked out and having to refresh my page every time I upload a photo, this app is just a nightmare! The UX is also a pain when you first join and is so confusing. Once you finally manage to get it to work it's fine, but I don't have time to keep contacting their customer service with stupid issues. Would be great if they fixed all these bugs.