Hootsuite or Buffer? Buffer or Hootsuite? The question floats around social media circles and comes up time and time again. For me, it's like asking a gamer which is better, an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3? Each has its own traits and features, some people will align more with one or the other. Social media thought-leader Mike Allton, a massive Hootsuite advocate, wrote an interesting piece about how he uses both Buffer and Hootsuite in his process, and the points he raised definitely highlight that there are positive points for each. But which one is best for you? Which one should you go with as your social media scheduling tool? Here's a comparative review looking at the features of each.
There's a lot to like about Buffer, stemming from the presentation of their product to their ongoing efforts in company transparency, to their typically high-quality blog content. Buffer is a company that's in-tune with their audience, and that familiarity breeds loyalty - and their product reflects that community ethos. Buffer allows you to schedule content to Twitter, Facebook (personal profiles, pages or groups), LinkedIn (personal profiles, pages or groups), app.net and Google+ (pages). The user-friendly nature of Buffer is a big plus, with the profile lay-out and options clearly labelled and positioned in an intuitive and intelligent manner. For each profile, you can create your own posting schedule, based on the times you want to post - you can also get Buffer to create a schedule for you, based on best posting times to reach your audience, though this feature is not included in the free version of the app (for Twitter, you can export a best posting times listing from Followerwonk in the free version of Buffer).
Equally user friendly is the Buffer extension for Google Chrome, making the process of sharing and scheduling content simple as you go about your normal reading process - you just right-click on the page you're reading, select 'Buffer This Page' from the menu options and let Buffer do the rest - it'll come up with the title of the page, a shortened link, and it'll provide an image which will be shared with your post (dependent on which network you're posting to). You can then either add it to your Buffer queue (it'll be added to the next un-filled time in your pre-set schedule), you can send it straight away, or you can manually schedule it to be sent at a time of your choosing. You can go back to your Buffer account at any time to see what you've got scheduled - from here you can delete, move items to the top of your Buffered content list, or you can opt to send specific posts immediately. The process is well linked up, with little lag time between scheduling from the Buffer extension to the app, and the options are clearly set out. It's a solid, functional, scheduling process.
Hootsuite is somewhat different, in that what they're offering is much more extensive. Hootsuite's biggest advantage is the ability to add streams within your dashboard for each of your social networks and chosen keywords, making it a more complete social media management tool. While Buffer's not trying to compete with Hootsuite on this aspect, the comparison is relevant in relation to the extended functionality of Hootsuite. In the free version of Hootsuite, you can schedule content to be posted to Twitter, Facebook (personal profiles, pages or groups), Google+ (pages), LinkedIn (personal profiles, pages or groups), Foursquare, Wordpress and mixi. As you can see, there is a difference in connectivity, with Buffer supporting app.net, and Hootsuite supporting the latter three listed - for most users, this is not a major differentiating factor, but obviously something to consider in your choice. Hootsuite allows you to schedule content at your own, manually chosen times, or you can use Hootsuite's auto-scheduling option, which will allocate the best times to post based on your followers and connections. This feature was recently updated to give users more control over the days and times in which they would like their schedule to operate, similar to the functionality within Buffer.
Hootsuite's Chrome extension is called Hootlet, something which the Hootsuite team have been refining and improving over time. Right-clicking on any page and selecting 'Share Page via Hootlet' opens up a Hootsuite scheduling window on-screen, enabling you to schedule the content to be shared to the network of choice. This is then added to your 'Publisher' queue in your Hootsuite dashboard, linked up to the rest of your social media management tasks. While the scheduling functionality covers all the same options as Buffer, another aspect of Hootlet is the clever Twitter search functionality, linked in to your Google searches. For any search you conduct in Google, you can click on the Hootlet tab at the right of screen to see the matches for your chosen search terms in Twitter also, giving you a more complete overview of how the terms are being used across the web. When using Google Maps or Yelp, Hootlet also enables a 'Tweets Near Here' option when searching for a specific address - clicking on this will show all tweets within a chosen radius of the address (using Twitter geolocation), helpful for reviews or to get an idea of what's being discussed in a specific region.
So Which Scheduling App Wins?
In the end, there isn't a significant difference between the two, in terms of scheduling options - the differentiating factor between the two is less about functionality and more about personal preference. Definitely, at one stage, Buffer had the clear lead in scheduling capability, but the improvement of Hootlet and Hootsuite's auto-scheduling options have helped elevate Hootsuite's offering to the same level on all fronts. For me, the pairing of Hootsuite and Hootlet links up your entire social presence on the one platform, which is much more valuable and efficient, in terms of managing your overall presence. Having my scheduled content linked into my Hootsuite dashboard means I can oversee every aspect - keyword monitoring, mentions and responses, as well as scheduling - all from the one place. In terms of scheduling functionality, you can't really go wrong with either, but as a wholly inclusive option, and with the additional search functions of Hootlet, Hootsuite wins out.
How about you, Hootsuite or Buffer? Pick your side in the comments below.