We live in a world where social media has now become one of the most common ways people share content and businesses engage their users. Always on the look out for the best apps and tools to make life easier, one that I particularly love and want to share is called Buffer.
Whether you are a marketing manager, freelancer, or business owner, a big part of your marketing tasks for the week is probably to engage social networks and promote yourself and your brand. This means using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media outlets to share your message. The problem is that it’s hard to stay productive or focused on your work if you need to keep managing tweets.
Buffer makes life easier by offering an efficient solution to scheduling and sharing content to your social networks. Rather than posting to Facebook or Twitter individually when you find something interesting, Buffer allows you to create a queue of posts, tweets, and links that will automagically be published and spaced out throughout the day.
While tools to help you manage and schedule social media is nothing new, the beauty is in the simplicity of Buffer. What separates Buffer from the rest is it’s focused on the primary goal — “make sharing on social media more awesome than before.” While other tools , like Vancouver’s own Hootsuite, can overwhelm you with features, functionality, or confusing interfaces, Buffer keeps things simple making it one of, if not the, easiest scheduling and posting tool.
So let’s jump into some of the great things you can look forward to with Buffer.
Manage Multiple Social Profiles
If you’re like me, you probably have multiple social profiles you manage — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or App.net. When you want to share a post with your network, wouldn’t it be great if you could share to all your networks in one-click? With Buffer you can!
Once you sign-up with Buffer, you can add all the different profiles you want. Have multiple Twitter accounts, such as personal and business? No problem!
When you’re ready to post something, all you need to do is select the social profiles you want to post to. From there, you add the content, link, or image you want to share and hit “Buffer”. Your post is then added to the Buffer Queue where it will be sent out based on your posting schedule for each profile. Alternatively, you can also hit “Share Now” to send out the post right away.
A nice touch that they have also added auto-complete for usernames. If you’re using Twitter’s “@” usernames, it can be hard to remember them all. Buffer does the heavy lifting for you so as you start to type a name it will list suggested usernames for you to choose from.
Even better, if you use a Twitter username (ie. @sean_kennedy) across multiple accounts then Buffer will automagically change the username to that person’s real name for Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. For example, I want to create a Buffer post that says, “Check out the new review of Buffer from @sean_kennedy” and post to both Facebook and Twitter. In Twitter it would post just as I typed it but because Buffer knows Facebook and other networks don’t use the “@” usernames, Buffer will automatically convert it to Sean Kennedy. Neat, eh?
A Note About Adding Multiple Profiles
Buffers Free Plan only allows you to add one of each Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and App.net.
If you would like to add more than one account, such as Twitter, you will need to upgrade to the Awesome Plan for $10/mo (USD) or one of their Business Plans.
The main focus of Buffer is making it easy to schedule your social media. So it’s no wonder that this is also one of it’s best features.
When you add something to the Buffer queue, it automagically gets posted based on a schedule you create for that profile. As the day goes on, Buffer will will go through the queue and publish one post for each scheduled time you enter.
This is also helpful so that if you only want to post 7 things per day, you only need to create 7 time slots. If you add more than 7 posts, then they will be carried over to the first available time slots the next day.
You can even select which days your posts are sent. So if you don’t want to send out anything on the weekends then you can unselect Saturday and Sunday. In addition, you can also set different schedules for different days. This allows you to add some variety so your posts aren’t being sent out at the same times everyday.
It’s also worth noting that not all days are equal in regards to user engagement. Buffer has a great post on their blog that analyzes the stats to find the best days and times to to engage your users.
Built-in Link Shortening
If you are familiar with Twitter then you know that creating posts that are less than 140 character can be tricky. Add in a long URL like http://seankennedy.ca/shifting-from-social-to-digital-engagement and you’ve already lost half the characters available. Thankfully, Buffer has you covered with its included link shortening.
When you paste in a link to the Buffer post, it will create a new shortened link for you using it’s own buff.ly or you can select to use j.mp or connect your bit.ly account. The benefit of link shortening is it makes your long URLs small and also allows click tracking for your analytics. Which leads us to the next feature…
Having a centralized dashboard to schedule all your posts is great but what’s even better is being able to see how they perform.
By using Buffer to publish your posts, it tracks the performance of them in the wild. When you want to see how they are doing, you can see at a glance how many retweets, favorites, mentions, likes, and clicks each post got as well as the potential reach.
This is handy for when you want to see what kind of content or what times of day are the best to engage your users. Using this information can lead to developing better content strategies to increase your user engagement.
If you have a post that got a number of retweets, likes, or mentions, you can also see who and also follow or reply right from Buffer to thank them.
Ease of Use
One of my favorite things about Buffer is its simple interface. Many other social media tools out there have a lot of great functionality but because of that they can be overwhelming to try and use. Buffer has simplified their experience making it easy and painless to get started. Once you sign-up and poke around a bit, most of the important features become intuitive and easy to grasp. You will be well on your way with no university or special training courses required!
Buffer for Business
Up until very recently, Buffer was primarily geared towards personal use with your social profiles. With the personal paid plan, or the Awesome Plan as they call it, you would only be allowed up to 12 social profiles and 2 team members. That has all changed with the release of Buffer for Business.
With Buffer for Business, you can choose between three account levels ranging from small to large. They each include all the standard features but increase the number of social profiles to 25, 50, or 150 depending on the business account you choose. Each level also allows you to have more team members should you need to provide access to addition staff.
Extra team members mean a need for added control and they have you covered here as well. You’ll be happy to know that approval and admin rights are also available. This gives you the ability to add a team member as a contributor so they can write drafts but nothing can be posted until approved by a manager.
Lastly, Buffer announced last week powerful new analytics for business accounts. This includes Google Analytics integration, the ability to track the growth of your fans and followers, and better reports and performance analysis. You can even export your analytics if you need to share your data.
Apps & Extras
If you’re like me then you probably use a lot of apps for different things from managing emails, to reading RSS feeds, etc. It is great to know that Buffer integrates with many of the other tools you use to make sure you get the most out of it. Some of the apps include IFTTT, Feedly, Pocket, Kippt, Zapier, Instapaper, Commun.it, SocialBro, Paper.li, and many more.
You can check out the full list of apps and extra for more details.
If you’re using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari (and if you aren’t then that’s a whole other conversation we need to have) then you will be happy to hear that there are browser extensions that you can use. With the browser extensions, there is no need to open up the Buffer website to schedule new posts. Simple click the Buffer button on your browser and it opens up with the information from the page you are viewing already loaded. All you need to do is select the account you want to post to, add your content, and you’re done!
If you’re on the go then you will also love the iPhone and Android apps that make it easy to top up your Buffer queue as you go about your day.
Buffer is not a complicated tool but we all get stuck sometimes or have questions. Buffer has an outstanding team of
customer support staff Happiness Heroes in different parts of the world so no matter what timezone you’re in, there is someone available to help you. They pride themselves on helping their users and creating the best experiences possible. In fact, in their latest report for December 2013, 55% of support emails were answered within 1-hour and almost 80% within 6-hours.
Wish Lists & Pitfalls
Buffer is still somewhat new but it’s growing fast! It’s very simple when compared to other fully loaded tools out there but I think that’s what I like most about it. I’ve actually had to really think about what I would improve.
One area I can see people requesting more from though would be in the analytics and reporting. With Buffer making the move into business and trying to attract the professionals, reporting will be a big need. Especially, if you are someone managing client networks and need to provide detailed reports on performance and about followers.
The latest feature release for business accounts added some nice analytics functionality but there is still room for improvement and more details. Especially, when compared to other services out there. Personally, I’d like to see more detailed information about my followers in addition to a snapshot of each post and how many retweets it got. The new improved analytics are also only available for the business accounts and not the personal versions. So small companies or freelancers will need to dish out for the more expensive business accounts if they want the additional analytic features — even if they don’t need the added account or team member limits.
I may be missing something here but it seems the analytics for Buffer is limited to a small window of time before the post’s analytics is removed. There doesn’t seem to be a date picker and it’s limited to only the posts in the last week or so. Now, if you have a business account, this is not a problem as the added analysis feature includes the ability to go back and check out old post information from the last week, month, 90-days, and so on.
It makes sense that they are adding this in as a perk for the business plan but I still wish I could see more post information like the last 3o-days at least. I have only had the chance to demo the business and free versions and haven’t checked out the Awesome Plan yet but I think for personal users this is not available.
Buffer has only been around since late-2010 but they have already been able to grow themselves to over 1.1 million users. Proof that they are doing something right and people are noticing.
What really sets Buffer apart is the experience for the user. Even if you’re a novice at social media, it doesn’t take long to understand how Buffer works and take control of your social messaging. The simplicity of it and attention to detail is really awesome and actually makes it fun to use. If you do have questions or need help then I have to shout out to their team of Happiness Heroes who do an amazing job and usually get back to you within the hour.
If you want to learn other ways you can take advantage of Buffer, check out their post on The 10 Most Useful Buffer Features. They also post other amazing articles on their blog about business, productivity, user experience, and just how to get the most out of life. One of my new personal favorite places for daily reading.
For anyone jumping into social media, I would highly recommend taking a look into Buffer before pursuing some of the other tools out there. I think starting with simplicity before jumping into the feature rich tools is a good start and you may realize that you really don’t require all the bells and whistles. For me, Buffer is a staple in my day-to-day use of the web and I look forward to seeing where they grow from here.