HootSuite versus Buffer for the Heavyweight Championship
One question that has come up a lot recently from readers is why I use both HootSuite and Buffer. Isn't one better than the other? I hope you won't be too surprised to learn that there actually are good reasons for using both services, and in fact, I use the paid versions of both! While they may both fall within the category of "Social Media Management Software" I think you'll find that there are stark differences and benefits to each.
Before we get into how I use each service, let's compare and contrast some of the key aspects that may determine for some whether or not the service is useful.
Round One: Social Network Support
Buffer supports personal Facebook profiles as well as business Facebook Pages. It also supports multiple Twitter accounts as well as personal LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn Company Pages and LinkedIn Groups. For the one million App.net users, you can use Buffer too.
UPDATE: Buffer also now supports Google+ Pages.
HootSuite on the other hand has an even wider net. HootSuite supports Facebook profiles and Pages, as well as multiple Twitter accounts. It supports LinkedIn profiles and also LinkedIn Company Pages and LinkedIn Groups. HootSuite also supports Google+ Pages, but not personal profiles. Foursquare, Wordpress, MySpace and Mixi can be connected as well.
Round Two: Mobile Support
Buffer has an app that allows you to view scheduled posts, as well as past posts (posts via Buffer). When looking at past posts you also have access to metrics for each post. Additionally, the app gives you the ability to post to one or all of your connected accounts, either immediately or added to each network's queue.
The Buffer app does not allow you to modify your schedule for each connected network and instead refers you to the website, which is not mobile optimized. Buffer does provide a bookmarklet that you can add that can be used to "bookmark" a website and add it to your Buffer. Buffer also sports tight integration with other apps like Feedly.
HootSuite also has an app, and similarly, there are limitations. Most striking is the reduction of social network support, as the HootSuite app currently only supports Facebook profiles and Pages, Twitter accounts, personal LinkedIn accounts and Foursquare. Connected social networks are managed within the app, and are independent of your web account.
UPDATE: The HootSuite app now syncs social networks across all devices.
The HootSuite app enables posting to all supported networks as well as monitoring of each connected network. For instance, if you have a Twitter account connected, you can view your own Sent Tweets, your Tweets that have been retweeted, your Direct Messages and your Mentions. You can also connect the main stream for each network so you can see what your connections are posting about.
The app allows you to search Twitter, and also displays Tending Topics and your recent searches.
There is a Stats tab within the app that is specifically for connected Twitter accounts. Selecting an account will show you recent tweets and you can tap one to see how many clickthroughs that tweet received and when.
A Contacts tab provides access to Twitter contacts for each connected Twitter account.
How I Use Buffer
I have connected my personal Twitter account and my company Twitter account, as well as my Facebook profile, Facebook Page and LinkedIn profile. I have different schedules set up for each network, based on the peak usage times for each. My Facebook Page, for instance, has a 2:30pm CST timeslot, whereas my personal LinkedIn profile has a schedule of 7am and 5pm each day.
What do I share? It's a combination of my best past articles and other people's articles that I find from time to time. Using the Buffer extension for my Chrome browser, I will regularly go through some of my past articles and add them to my queue, formatting and adjusting as needed. I often find other great articles using Scoop.it or Feedly, but I don't want to share five articles at once, even if they're all good, so I Buffer them and rest assured that they will be shared at appropriate times.
I also use Buffer to sprinkle in plugs for my business. It's OK to talk about yourself and your business on social media! You are there to promote yourself, after all. You just have to make sure that most of what you're doing is sharing information and connecting with others. So, I regularly add links to some of my landing pages, like Blog Coaching Services, and let Buffer make sure that they're shared to my networks, yet spaced out enough so as not to be overwhelming.
It's important to understand here that Buffer is not automating my social media activity. I am creating each post and crafting it according to each network - Buffer just ensures that the post is published at an appropriate time. This gives you the freedom to plan ahead, as well as not worry about whether or not you have something posted each day during your networks peak time of activity.
How I Use HootSuite
HootSuite on the other hand, doesn't have the same easy to use scheduler. You can create individual posts and schedule them, but you have to specifically choose a date and time, and then that post will be posted to every network selected at that time. HootSuite does offer a bulk scheduler, but to use it you have to fight with an Excel spreadsheet, and options are limited.
What HootSuite does have that works extremely well is an Auto Scheduler. What's different is that you can create a post, select one or more networks, and then HootSuite will automatically select the next best time to share that post. And if you choose more than one network, it selects a different time for each network so that you're not blasting all your networks at the same time.
Generally, I have different posts and activity on each of my networks, but when I have a new blog post to share, I do share that to every network. This is where HootSuite comes in particularly useful for me. Once I have published a new article, I manually share that post to my personal Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. I do that so that I can tailor the post for each network, particularly Google+, where I encourage and receive a lot of engagement. I then use HootSuite (desktop) to share that new post to each of my branded accounts - The Social Media Hat on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, and all of the posts are spaced out.
For me, I use my "personal brand" to connect and engage more than my "company brand" but how you use social media may be a bit different, particularly if you're a larger business. If you're not sure the best way to communicate your own brand and want help with social media, let me know.
I also use HootSuite on my iPhone when I am out of the office, but want to share something to multiple networks. This is typically short announcements or breaking stories.
Even more important is HootSuite's built in reporting, which is extremely powerful. You can build custom reports that provide great insight into how your individual networks are performing, and have those reports automatically generated and emailed to you regularly. The most typical is a ow.ly click summary. Links sent through HootSuite are shrunk using the HootSuite shortened link service ow.ly, and you can then see exactly how often a specific link was clicked, no matter where or how often that link was shared.
So for me, Buffer and HootSuite both serve different and vital roles in my online presence and activity. Buffer ensures that my shared posts are spread out and timed perfectly, while HootSuite provides easier management of my company accounts and in depth metrics. They're both well worth the $10 a month price tag.
Both services have free packages that are understandably limited, mostly in the number of social networks that you can connect. If your business has a presence on all of the major networks as I do, you will want to invest in the upgraded packages. You can try HootSuite for free for a month here.
What questions do you have regarding either of these services? Let me know if you need help getting started, particularly with HootSuite which offers additional corporate-grade services like Teams for those who are interested. If you use a different social media management service, what is it and why?
Image courtesy of Eric Langley, Flickr.