If you're looking for a social media management tool, Buffer is a great choice for any small business with less time or money to spend on social media. And with their new engagement tools, they've patched up one of their biggest weaknesses, making them a pretty solid all-rounder in the social media management industry.
The unique thing about Buffer is that its services are split into two tools – Publish and Analyze – meaning you only have to pay for what you need. Both packages are split into distinct pricing tiers, which can help if you're looking to pick and choose your features.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Buffer's product is its lack of listening tools, which find any mentions of your brand outside of your profiles. This can be a powerful tool, but if you're unlikely to need it, Buffer's cheaper price might be appealing – although if that's the case, Hootsuite may be an even better option, as it has a few more features to offer.
Buffer covers Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Its services – Publish and Analyze – are split into two and purchased separately. The former helps you plan and schedule your posts, while the latter helps you assess the impact your social media profiles are having.
For a basic rundown of the pricing for these tools, Publish has three paid tiers (plus a free one). These cost $15, $65, and $99 per month. Analyze has two tiers (and no free tier), costing $35 and $50 per month. You can lower these prices by opting to pay yearly instead of monthly. Buffer also offers a discounted $85 per month plan which combines Publish Premium and Analyze Premium.
Pricing tiers (all billed annually) (Buffer splits their publishing and analytics into two plans):
- Publishing Pro Plan: $12/mo
- Publishing Premium Plan: $56/mo
- Publishing Business Plan: $85/mo
- Analyse Pro Plan: $28/mo
- Analyse Premium Plan: $40/mo
Publish Free Plan
Buffer’s Publish Free Plan is faithful to its name, and is entirely free for as long as you want to use it. It’s not too comprehensive, only allowing one user to make ten scheduled posts per month on three social channels, which can include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
You’ll be able to use Buffer through a browser extension and iOS and Android apps, as well as integrating it with over 30 third party applications, like Zapier and Feedly. And if you’re worried about security, this tier does offer two factor authentication.
You’re also given access to all of Buffer’s support channels, which includes email support, social media support, FAQs, and the Buffer community.
Buffer’s first paid plan is the Pro plan, which allows one user to schedule 100 posts a month across eight platforms of their choice. The list of usable platforms also grows to include Pinterest. The Pro plan will cost $15 per month, or $12 per month if you pay annually.
You’ll be given a calendar view for your posts, allowing you to greater scope to view your campaigns. You’re also able to plan the first comment of any Instagram post, which can be useful for hashtags.
It's on this tier where you can pick up some engagement features. You'll be shown a gridded dashboard of any unanswered comments on your posts and be able to jump to them directly. The “comment sentiment” will also allow you to gauge how a commenter is feeling, or if they have a question.
It’s in this tier that you’d expect to see some kind of listening feature, but there isn't – because Buffer doesn’t offer them at all. Listening can be helpful, but the lack of listening shouldn't be an immediate deal-breaker.
This can let Buffer down when you’re comparing it to its contemporaries, like Hootsuite. They’re pretty comparable in most areas, like organization and analytics, Hootsuite just has the edge due to the listening functionality.
Otherwise, there aren’t too many upgrades from the free plan. You could view this as Buffer’s first actual plan, since the free plan is quite restricted when it comes to limits, and it wouldn’t take long for a company to outgrow the free plan and need to upgrade to the Pro.
Publish Premium is the first substantial step up from its predecessor. For $65 per month ($56 if paid annually), you’ll be able to have two users plan 2,000 posts for eight channels. From the previous tier’s 100 posts, this is already a massive upgrade. For $85 per month, you can combine Publish Premium and Analyze Premium for a discount of $30.
But it’s not just the volume of posts that improves. You’ll also unlock access to a lot of features, specifically options that increase your Instagram presence: things like an Instagram hashtag manager, Instagram stories, and a shop grid. You’ll also be able to draft and save posts without lining them up for a future date.
Comparing Buffer Publish Premium to the corresponding tier on Hootsuite, you can see it still falls a bit short on features. There is no content library, ad builder, or send time optimization, and an RSS autoposter requires integration with Feedly or Zapier. It is, however, half the price of Hootsuite’s Team tier, so this is fair enough.
Publish Business is the final frontier for Buffer Publish, but surprisingly doesn’t offer too many new features. For $99 per month, or $85 per month if you pay annually, you can increase the amount of users from two to six, and the social channels from eight to 25. However, the amount of posts you can schedule remains at 2,000.
But that’s it. There aren’t any fun new toys you can get your hands on once you pay for the Business tier – it simply serves to increase those two limits. If you need to increase your numbers, then there’s no way around it – but for a price increase from $65 to $99, you’ll need to be sure you can benefit from this jump.
Buffer Analyze allows you to collect and peruse detailed analytics regarding your social media campaigns.
Analyze’s lower tier, the Pro tier, costs $35 per month, or $28 per month if you pay annually. It allows you to look at the numbers behind up to eight of your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Remember, this will be on top of the Publish plan you choose.
As far as analytics go, you’ll be able to look at overall performance, individual post analytics, demographics, as well as tips on how to optimize your campaigns based on recorded data.
And if you’re looking to share these analytics with investors or other employees, you’re able to create custom reports, exporting them as various file types.
When compared to Hootsuite, this is far better, since you need to spend $599 per month to gain access to your analytics through Hootsuite. However, comparing it to a similarly priced program, Zoho, shows us that the two have almost identical features. Buffer Analyze is generally pretty much in line with its competitors.
Finally, you’re given access to all of Buffer’s support channels, which include email support, social media support, FAQs, and the Buffer community.
Buffer Analyze’s top tier, Analyze Premium, costs $50 per month, or $40 per month if you decide to pay annually. Premium upgrades your amount of possible channels from eight to ten, and on top of the social networks included in Pro, you’ll also be able to attach a Shopify store.
You’re given all the analytics of the previous tier, but you’ll also be given analytics on your Instagram stories, letting you know if your audience is dropping off at a certain point.
To add some extra flourish, you’ll be able to add your company’s logo and a cover page to your reports.
Other than the increased amount of accounts, the Instagram story analytics, and the extra details on your reports, there isn’t anything else offered in the Premium tier. That's why we recommend the Pro tier, which offers almost the complete package for a lower price. Buffer does offer a discount of $30 per month to purchase both Publish Premium and Analyze Premium together for a total of $85, which is worth considering.
Alongside Buffer’s Free Plan, it also offers free trials for its more advanced tiers. Obviously the free plan lasts for as long as you want it to, but these free trials last for 14 days. It’s not the longest trial period in the world, but it’ll be enough to give you an idea of how the software works, and what features you’ll be able to benefit from.
You can start a 14-day free trial on any tier with both Buffer Publish and Buffer Analyze.
Ease of use is always a bit of a subjective question, but we’re comfortable saying that Buffer is a very easy piece of software to wrap your mind around. We tried the free trial, and found it very easy to navigate.
Even if you’re using Buffer for half a dozen different social networking sites, they’ll all be on the sidebar, under easy-to-identify logos. The post queue will be easy to scroll through, and switching between things like drafted posts and analytics is very easy.
And we’re not the only ones who think so. On review aggregate site Capterra, Buffer has a user score of 4.5. There weren’t any consistent shortcomings, with the lower scores being more anecdotal than any real failing of the software.
If you do get lost or something goes wrong, Buffer prides itself on its cheerful and friendly customer service. And the more you spend, the more intimate this service becomes, as Publish Business customers are able to access live chat support. But don’t worry – even if you don’t want to go all the way up to this tier, you can still email them and they’ll reply promptly.
Since the free trial lasts only 14 days, you might want to go in knowing how to use Buffer, rather than sacrificing a precious day to learn the ropes. Here’s a quick crash course on how to get the most out of a Buffer account.
Firstly, you’ll obviously want to link your social media accounts to the software, giving Buffer access to post on your behalf. While a social media password is a very intimate thing to be passing around, don’t worry – you won’t lose control over your account, and security is top notch.
Next, draft a post for the social media network of your choice, and tell Buffer when you’d like the post to go live. After the post goes live, you can interact with it directly from the software’s dashboard, tracking engagement figures like comments and likes.
After enough of these go live, you can wrap up all the info into a report, letting you get a wider view of your company’s online presence. This can be useful for yourself, or for third parties like investors, who may be looking to get a sense of your business’s reach.
You can also use Buffer Analyze's demographic features to see who’s engaging with your posts in a broader sense, helping to see what kind of community is forming around your business.
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Best for publishing social media posts
Best for providing customer service
Best for affordable listening tools
Best for large businesses
Best for managing multiple social profiles
Best value for money
Best for collaboration
Best for small business marketing
Best for flexible pricing
– Extensive publishing, engagement, analytical and listening features
– Extensive publishing, engagement, analytical, and listening features
– Great social media listening
– Extensive marketing features not just social media
– Can post to Tiktok and Snapchat
– Affordable for wide functionality
– Extensive organizational/team features
– Email marketing features
– Good range of publishing and analytical features
– Listening features are an add-on
– Capped profiles on most expensive plans
– Has posting limit
– Very expensive
– Unable to bulk schedule via import
– Not great for larger businesses
– No image editor or listening features
– Low number of social profiles
– Lacks advanced Publishing features
$49 per month
$99 per user per month
$25 per month
$800 per month
$25 per month
$10 per month
$29 per user per month
$20 per month
$12 per month
Hootsuite vs Buffer
Hootsuite is our number one social media management software, so let’s see how it matches up against Buffer.
Buffer is cheaper than Hootsuite, making it a good choice if you’re looking for a low-cost option. Buffer costs between $15 and $159 per month, whereas Hootsuite costs $25 to $599 per month. Buffer also offers a free plan, while Hootsuite only offers a free trial. It’s also worth mentioning that while Buffer is split into two separate products – Publish and Analyze – Hootsuite is all one package.
Hootsuite offers a range of integrations, including MailChimp, Zendesk, Shopify, and ClickDesk. Buffer only offers Shopify integration, and that's only as part of the Analyze Premium plan.
Hootsuite also doesn’t place a limit on scheduled posts. Buffer’s maximum amount is 2,000 per month, which might be enough for a smaller business, but will quickly prove restrictive for a company with a focus on social media.
Buffer offers fewer features than Hootsuite, missing important functions such as an ad builder, send time optimization, or a content library. Hootsuite used to have the advantage when it came to engagement, but Buffer's newly introduced engagement features have quickly closed the gap.
In summary, if features are important to you, Hootsuite has Buffer beat across the board – but if you’re a smaller business just looking to plan your campaigns without many bells and whistles, the cheaper Buffer may be plenty for you.
Buffer vs Sprout Social
Buffer and Sprout Social are very similar, but just like Hootsuite, Buffer has Sprout Social beat on price. Sprout doesn’t have a free tier, and its cheapest level is $99 for a single user – making it one of the priciest pieces of software on the market.
However, Sprout Social does offer compatibility with YouTube and Reddit, as well as integration with Zendesk and Hubspot. It also comes with unlimited post queuing, and a Facebook ad builder – both of which Buffer doesn’t offer.
Sprout’s Organization is also better than Buffer’s, offering a task management dashboard and team comments – crucial if you run a larger team that needs to communicate more often.
In an echo of Hootsuite’s matchup with Buffer, Sprout Social wins when it comes to features and quantity. But if price is an issue, and you’re a smaller business that can cope without all the extras, Buffer might be a better option for you.
Verdict: Is Buffer the tool for you?
Buying both of our recommended tiers, Publish Premium and Analyze Pro, will run you exactly $100 a month. This isn’t going to break the bank, but there are certainly cheaper options out there that offer more for your money.
However, if you’re a company or brand who has a lot to gain from younger demographics, Buffer's Instagram features are some of the best around. That's why we would recommend Buffer for Instagram influencers or visual brands.
Buffer Analyze only has two tiers (with no free tier). The Pro tier is $35/mo, and the Premium tier is $50/mo. Please note, every tier offered by Buffer has a 14 day free trial.
For example, Buffer’s Premium Publish tier is $65 per month, which is an annual $780. However, when paying annually for the same tier, you’ll only pay $633 a year ($56 per month).
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