Buffer vs. Hootsuite

I schedule most of my Twitter and Facebook posts in advance. I don’t want to have to think about when to schedule each individual post. I just want the posts to trickle out automatically, at regular intervals, spread throughout the day.

Two popular tools are available to do just that. Buffer and HootSuite. I’ve used each over the years. A couple of weeks ago I decided to do a close comparison of the two.

This is a highly subjective review about which of these services is better for me. You may have different criteria. For example, I haven’t looked at collaboration or analytics features because they aren’t interesting to me. If you’re evaluating tools for a marketing team, those will be big deals for you.

HootSuite is primarily designed for marketing teams that need to collaborate on social media accounts. HootSuite connects with 35 social networking services. HootSuite’s queuing feature, which it calls “AutoScheduling,” is one feature among many.

Buffer is primarily designed for queueing and scheduling, but it also has plans for teams. It supports a few social platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+.

How queuing works on each service

Buffer: You set up a schedule first, which is a list of times each day that you want to send out posts. You can set up different schedules on different days of the week.

Or you can let Buffer set up your schedule for you, based on a third-party service that supposedly analyzes social media activity and determines the optimal time to post. I don’t trust that service, so I just set my Buffer schedule manually.

After you’ve created your schedule, you add posts to Buffer’s lists — one list for each social media account. Each time Buffer is ready to publish a post, it sends the next one in that account’s list.

You can view each list and change the order. You can set a post to go out immediately, in the first available slot, or at a manually scheduled time.

HootSuite: When you’re done composing a post, you press the AutoSchedule button. HootSuite will then set a time and day for each individual post to go out, based on its algorithms.

Pricing

HootSuite: Free plan lets you set an unlimited number of posts in advance.

Buffer: Free plan limits you to 10 posts for each account.

The next step up for Buffer is the Awesome plan, which is $10/mo. for up to 100 posts in each account.

The next step after that is the Business plan, for $100 per month for up to 2,000 posts per account.

Each of those plans gets you other features too, but I’m only interested in queuing.

I have the Buffer Awesome plan and surprisingly, I’ve already nearly bumped up against that 100-post limit.

I’ve suggested that Buffer come out with an intermediate-level plan — a little more money for a lot more posts in the queue. We’ll see what happens.

Pausing

Sometimes I want to take a break from social media. Other times, there’s some national tragedy and it seems inappropriate for me to continue spewing out my stream of jokes and pop culture. On those occasions, you want to pause publishing.

Buffer: Buffer doesn’t have an actual pause button, but you can easily change your schedule to unselect days you want to skip posting, and then change your schedule back when you’re ready to resume.

HootSuite: You can delete each post or manually change the date, but that’s that. If you want to just pause, you’re pretty much out of luck.

Customizing messages for each service

Buffer: Can easily set different messages for the same post on Twitter (shorter) and Facebook (longer).

HootSuite: If you’re going to do separate messages on Twitter and Facebook, you need to post separately. That’s a little more work than with Buffer.

Link shorteners

HootSuite: Has an obnoxious link shortener. I like for people to be able to read a link I send out and see where it goes to before they click it. (Both Facebook and Twitter often show link previews. But you can’t count on that.) HootSuite’s link shortener breaks that ability. There’s a workaround, but it’s more hassle.

Buffer: Link shortener can easily be disabled.

iPhone apps

Buffer’s is better. For example, HootSuite’s iPhone app doesn’t work with Instapaper (or it didn’t as of a couple of weeks ago, when I tried it).

The verdict

I went with Buffer, even though it costs $10/mo., compared with HootSuite’s free plan. Buffer’s additional scheduling flexibility and better iPhone app made the difference for me.

Honorable mention

I used Friends+Me for years when Google+ was my primary social network. F+M is still a terrific service and I recommend it highly for Google+ users.

I guess Facebook is my primary social network now. Sigh.

Speaking of Google+….

The Google+ service recently finally opened up an API to allow third-party applications to publish content to users’ timelines. I’ve been wanting something like that since Google+ launched in 2011, to let me use Buffer (or something like it) to publish to Google+. And indeed Buffer and HootSuite now support Google+. So, yay!, right?

Nope. The API only works with free Google accounts. I have a paid, G-Suite account (formerly known as Google Apps), and the API doesn’t work with those. Google is silent on whether and when G-Suite accounts will support the APIs.

I’m paying Google for a service, and I get less for my money than other people who are using the service for free. Google’s business model is completely crazy sometimes.

As I write this, I’ve decided to cut back on posting links to Google+, because it’s not worth the hassle. I’ll re-evaluate that decision when Buffer supports Google+ accounts (or if there seems to be some other good reason for me to resume posting to Google+).

Google doesn’t make it easy to post to Google+. There doesn’t even seem to be a working browser extension or bookmarklet to post a link to Google+; if you want to post a link from the desktop, you usually have to start by going to https://plus.google.com/. That’s another few keystrokes I don’t want to type, and since the interaction on my Google+ posts is dwindling its less worthwhile for me to invest time posting there. I’ll still visit regularly; there are some great people continuing to use that service and posting interesting content.

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