This post was originally published on Nick Lewis Communications blog.
Whether you are a sole trader, small business or global brand, social media has become a widely adopted and powerful tool in your marketing arsenal to achieving your business goals and growth.
The more successful of you will also have accepted the fact that social media scheduling tools are a time-saving ally not to be ignored. With time and money being the most valuable commodities for most businesses, the question is not whether you should, but which social media scheduling tool best fits your needs.
One of the most widely used is Buffer.
Buffer bills themselves as ‘A Smarter Way to Share’ and ‘the easiest way to save time on social media, save up to an hour a day and grow your traffic, too’.
While that proves difficult to test factually, let’s take a look at how you can use and benefit from using Buffer for your social media marketing.
WHAT IS BUFFER?
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that allows quick and flexible sharing across many of the main social media networks. Buffer connects to your Twitter, Facebook profile/page/group, LinkedIn profile/business page, Google+ page and through their paid ‘awesome’ and ‘business plans’, Pinterest.
Paid plans range from $10 to $250 per month.
The individual (free) plan allows you to connect 1 social profile for each network, so that’s 1 Facebook, 1 Twitter etc (but no Pinterest). You are also limited to a maximum of 10 queued updates for each profile at any given time.
One of the key points to using Buffer is that you pre-determine which days and times of the day to which your scheduled message will be shared. When you find an item you wish to share with your followers, you simply ‘queue’ said article and the tool takes care of the rest.
If you wish to find out what may be the best times to share across your social networks,Tweriod is a good place to start and allows a free analysis of your Twitter account from which to base a starting point.
Another key component is Buffer provides analytics for the messages you have shared, allowing you to see which messages and content types resonate most with your fans. Now link clicks and shares are not the only way you should measure the success of your content strategy, as this depends on your goals (awareness, advocacy, lead generation etc.) but a sound understanding of what is and isn’t working well is a good start to keep an eye on retweets, ‘favorites’, mentions, link clicks, potential reach etc.
Plenty of options on how to sort your data, as you can see in the image above.
WAYS TO SHARE
Once logged in, you can begin to work your magic.
When creating your update, you have the option to schedule (queue the item in your Buffer), share now (post at point of creation) or share next, should you wish to jump the queue.
Buffer also allows for attaching images to your updates, a great way to increase the reach and performance on some networks – although be sure to test what works for your own profiles.
Each social network goes through phases where certain types of content (photos, text only, links to websites etc) tend to perform better than others. Facebook, for example, seems to be performing very well for video content uploaded directly to Facebook, where previously people were reporting that photos received the most engagement and reach.
This will also depend on your own audience, age group, industry, that you can only determine through testing.
One downside to sharing images through Buffer is it doesn’t seem to allow choosing which Facebook album to share the image to, so it will by default go into your ‘Timeline photos’.
As a scheduling tool, Buffer does have limited capabilities compared to some of the other players in this space, namely Hootsuite (disclosure: I am an Ambassador for Hootsuite, a volunteer role where I provide free to attend events to companies and the public interested in seeing what Hootsuite can do) and Sprout Social for example.
Buffer does not provide a dashboard with which to manage your interactions and social listening, unlike Hootsuite and Tweetdeck; this is a just tool to increase the effectiveness of promoting your content curation and creation across your online profiles.
For an even faster way to share and queue your content, you can’t really go wrong with the Buffer Extension. I’m a huge fan of these and regularly use the Hootsuite equivalent, Hootlet, but the Buffer version is equally as effective.
When browsing articles on third party websites, installing the Buffer Extension (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) you can queue the article from the top right-hand side of your browser, instead of copy and pasting the headline and link into the Buffer web interface.
This is a real time-saver and I encourage you to check it out.
A great addition to this over my preferred tool of choice is the Power Scheduler. You’ll see in the image below that as well as sharing now, next, schedule or queue, you can repeat when and how many times you would like to repeat sharing the update.
Before you scoff at the idea of repeating yourself online, take heed – most of your followers will definitely miss the messages you share. A blend of not being online when you post the article, following hundreds of other people, all more interesting than your mundane work related article, repeating content (especially your own beautifully crafted masterpieces) is somewhat of a necessity.
This lends itself to Twitter more than others given it’s ‘Fast and Furious’ firehose nature, but should not be ignored amongst your other profiles.
I must admit, this is a highly under-utilised tool of my own behaviour online and rekindles my interest in using Buffer more than I already do.
The default options are: now, in 8 hours, in a day and in 7 days. But you select which you feel comfortable with, or add more.
You can set the sharing schedule for each social network individually, which appears in a column format.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Pricing for Buffer is split into 5 key plans:
- Individual (free),
- Awesome Plan ($10 per month),
- Small Business Plan ($50 per month),
- Medium Business Plan ($100 per month) and the surprisingly named;
- Large Business Plan ($250 per month).
In general, the more social media profiles you need to schedule for will dictate your pricing plan choice, as well as how much Pinterest is on your radar (only supported for paid accounts). Other benefits include more team members for collaboration (avoid sharing one username and password for all – think security), connect RSS feeds to feed your Buffer queue and rich analytics (less Scrooge McDuck, more increased detail and information).
WHAT ELSE CAN IT DO?
If it hasn’t floated your boat already, then you may want to take a look at the Apps, Extras and Extensions page for a mighty list of additional benefits with tools you may already be using.
Content curation, the best times to tweet and relationship management integrations are all available, including any automatic sending of tweets from your own or third party websites.
We’ll go over this in more detail in a future article as I do make use of some of the extras, including auto-tweeting some of the Hootsuite blog. You’ll see these in my Twitter feed as they will contain a shortened bit.ly url and tag the @Hootsuite account.
I urge that any automated sharing be done with caution. Don’t over do it and make sure you don’t duplicate tweets or messages with more than one social media tool publishing a link to the same article at the same time.
It’s very ugly, and beauty is only tweet deep.
THIS ALL SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE; IS IT?
Well, not really. Given the capabilities of the individual and free plan, it certainly will save you a good heap of time and provide analytics to review your activity.
Yes, that information is already available on Twitter, Facebook and the other social networks, but as mentioned before on this blog and elsewhere, logging into each social network individually to review analytics can be a time (and let’s face it, soul) suck.
Plus the benefits of boosting reach and engagement with the repeated schedule of key content types cannot be ignored.
Buffer is not a catch all solution, however.
As mentioned, it’s not a place where you can manage all of your interactions and engagements. You would likely want to bolt on Buffer to another tool such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social or the native platforms themselves.
You will also find that once you grease your social media wheels and get the content strategy in full swing, you will fill up that queue pretty quickly. Especially if you start using their content curation app, Daily.(edit: Buffer has decided to close down Daily, here’s why).
Daily is an app where the Buffer team curate articles of interest on a select few topics for you to add to your stream. A sort of Tinder for the content curation world.
You can also view content suggestions in the web interface, dealers choice.
It is therefore worth you considering adding another tool (as an ongoing) cost to your online marketing armoury if you are going to get the most out of Social Media.
Two assets to Buffer App that I couldn’t possibly go without mentioning are the Buffer team themselves and the Buffer Blog. The Buffer Team pride themselves on providing top notch quality support for all your queries and issues.
Talking of the Buffer Blog and leading me onto the second asset, many will tell you you cannot find a better resource of tactics, research and generally rock solid social media, online marketing and startup advice, and I tend to agree and would place it in my top 10 social media blogs were I to write such a piece. You can even see where they spend their money from the paid plans revenue in a bid for total transparency as a company.
Buffer is a formidable player in the social media scheduling arena and one that at the very least deserves some of your attention. Pitted against some impressive competitors such as Hootsuite, Social Bro, Sprout Social and the more recently popular, Meet Edgar, Buffer certainly comes out as a very respectable and effective choice for many businesses or professionals. You could certainly do worse with your choice of social media tools.
Quick, simple, effective and bumped up with additional features and extensions, many people are avid fans of its all round great look and feel,not to mention the social media results that they get by using it.
Looking for more advice on how to get the best out of Buffer? Then look no further than their guides and tutorials.
Have you used Buffer? Tell us your favourite Social Media tools for sharing articles in the comments below.