Buffer and Hootsuite are both compelling, high-profile platforms that link into your social media accounts and help you manage them across numerous sites and profiles. They allow you to streamline your management and collaborate with teams, should you desire. They have similar price points, similar features lists and similar reputations. So which is better?
When you’re using a platform to manage your social profiles, you want it to manage all of the profiles you run.
Buffer allows you to connect to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. For Google+ it covers both profiles and pages. For both Facebook and LinkedIn, it covers profiles, pages and groups. Twitter is just Twitter and doesn’t have any of those subdivisions.
Hootsuite does Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and more. They advertise over 35 social networks, including Instagram, YouTube and FourSquare. They even work with Tumblr and WordPress.
Some people argue that linking to social profiles you rarely or never use is a minor benefit, but if you have a significant audience on Instagram, YouTube or Tumblr, you’d really enjoy being able to use a platform to manage them.
However, Buffer also limits the number of profiles you can link at any one time. Hootsuite does as well, but their limit is nearly 10 times higher.
In this area, I would call Hootsuite the winner. The exception is if you don’t need any of the additional social networks. If you’re a small business only using Facebook and Twitter, Buffer is perfectly sufficient.
This one is worth noting for one specific reason; Hootsuite is pretty bad at it. If you want to share an image through Hootsuite, you have to download it, navigate to it in the program, create a post around it, and schedule it. With Buffer, all you have to do is right click the image and click to share it through Buffer; no download necessary.
Social media communication is a two-way street, and that means you need to be on the ball not just with posting to your audience, but with responding to comments as well. Social media needs to be social, so any tool you use needs to facilitate being social.
Buffer, unfortunately, doesn’t do a lot in this area. They’re a tool more designed for curating and posting content, not for monitoring feeds. Meanwhile, Hootsuite is much more designed for interaction. You can set up streams of various feeds, showing social mentions, messages, followers, hashtags or even just keywords. Of course, this doesn’t mean Hootsuite ignores curated content; they’ve even written about it before.
Ideally, you want to foster as much interaction as possible on your page, which means any tool that makes that easier is a good tool to use. Hootsuite wins this contest.
Social analytics are a huge part of any professional platform. You want to know which of your posts perform better than which others, what times of day work best for new posts, and anything else you can think up. Both Buffer and Hootsuite offer analytics, but which is better?
Buffer has two pricing packages, the standard and the business. The business package is where all of the gold in their analytics is, but you can at least get some basic information from the standard package. It’s all basic stuff, though; you can see more through the native Facebook and Twitter analytics suites.
Hootsuite has a ton of deep analytics in the form of their reports. You can run a report to give you information on a particular subject, topic or performance metric. The thing is, these reports often cost extra. It’s like a free to play model for business software; you get some basic functionality at the bottom level, but to get the most useful stuff, you need to pay.
I don’t think either side wins, here. It’s all about what information you want, and whether or not you can get it without paying extra. That’s a decision you need to make on your own.
Both Buffer and Hootsuite had a wide range of extensions and apps you can add to increase the base functions of your platform. Buffer has 50+ apps, all of which are free, and you can find them here. Some great functions are hidden in there, like IFTTT, some RSS apps and bulk publication tools.
Hootsuite, by contrast, has far more apps, but they aren’t all free. This means many of the best additions are going to require an extra fee. Still, when you look through the list, you can find a lot to like in the free section.
Like analytics, it’s hard to judge which one has the better selection of apps, simply because one business might demand one feature that another business has no need for.
Finally, we get down to pricing. First, let’s take a look at Buffer.
Buffer has a free plan, but it’s incredibly limited; you can only keep a few messages in a queue at a given time, and you can’t do much more. Their standard paid plan, the “Awesome Plan,” is $10 per month. It lets you connect 10 social profiles and queue up to 100 posts at a time.
Buffer also has three tiers of business accounts. The small business tier connects up to 25 social accounts and can collaborate with 5 team members. It’s $50 monthly. The medium business plan is $100 per month and doubles the metrics, with 50 accounts and 10 team members. The agency tier is 150 accounts, 25 team members and $250 monthly.
Hootsuite has three plans. The free plan hooks up three social profiles, gives you basic report access and scheduling, no team members and only basic apps. The pro version starts at $10 per month and hooks into 50-100 social accounts, includes some enhanced reports with a monthly limit on reports, and gives you additional security features. The enterprise edition is even higher in cost – they don’t say publicly – but gives you unlimited access, unlimited reports, up to half a million team members, and a whole lot else. You can expect it to be expensive.
Hootsuite does have deceptive pricing; the monthly fee is a baseline. Paying for reports and apps can easily double or triple your costs every month.
Which wins? Overall, I would say that Hootsuite is the better tool for most businesses, unless those businesses are particularly small. Buffer is great for managing Facebook and Twitter, and curating content, but it doesn’t scale well to large businesses.