If you’ve been using multiple social media sites to spread the word about your creative business…you know how important it is to have a unified tool to help you manage your messages. One tool that I’ve found rather handy lately is Buffer.
Buffer is a social media management tool that allows you to post and pre schedule updates on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook pages, profiles, and groups, LinkedIn profiles and pages, and on Google+ profiles and pages. You can post a single update across all of your social networks at once through a single tool. Buffer makes it really easy to include images (up to 4) in your Twitter feed and I love the fact that I can pre-schedule Pinterest pins…and now Buffer has also included a tool to help schedule Instagram posts as well.
Life in the Buffer queue
I read a lot of blogs and newsletters and listen to a lot of podcasts and I like to share what I learn with the folks that follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. But I’ve always found that there wasn’t an easy way to provide a steady flow of what I shared through my networks without sharing everything at once…leaving days where there wasn’t anything in my feed or having to keep a list of what I read and scheduling each thing in all of my networks one by one. A task that got seriously time consuming and tedious. The Buffer queue solved my problem.
One of the features of Buffer is the ability to queue updates to be shared at a pre-scheduled time. You simply choose how many times a day you want to post updates to a particular social media site, and Buffer will find pre-scheduled slots throughout the day where it will automatically share your content. If for example, you want to send content out on Twitter about 5 times per day, Buffer can analyze your Twitter feed to see when your followers are most likely to be active. It will then choose 5 pre-scheduled times throughout the day in which to tweet out any content you may add to your queue.
To set up your queue, you simply choose a social media channel in Buffer and click on the “Schedule” tab. You can set the same schedule for an entire week or you can customize the schedule by day, so you can have a different schedule for the weekends than you do for weekdays.
Once you have your Buffer schedule set up, you can start adding updates to your queue to be sent out later. Found an interesting article you want to share? Click on the “Add to Queue” button and that update will be added to the next available spot in the queue. Instead of having a flood of content one day and nothing the next day, Buffer can help you have a steady flow of content on your networks without having to schedule each and every update yourself.
Sharing through Buffer
Another great thing about Buffer is that it makes it easy for you to share your content with a minimum of hassle. The easiest method is by using your dashboard on the Buffer website. There you can view your Buffer queue where you can see empty spots and add posts.
Or you can view your queue through the calendar mode and see your schedule on a weekly or monthly basis.
The Buffer dashboard isn’t the only way to get content into Buffer. One of the first things you want to do after you set up your Buffer account is to install the Buffer Add-On button to your web browser. This will make it easier for you to share content as you find it without logging into Buffer and going to the dashboard. If you see a page that you want to share, click on the Add-On button in your browser and your Buffer share window will automatically appear.
The Add-On will also display Buffer share buttons on web page images when you hover over them. You can click on those image buttons to add images to your Buffer queue.
Buffer also has mobile apps for iPhone, Android and tablets where you can add posts and manage your Buffer account.
You can also use automation apps like IFTTT to automatically add posts to your Buffer queue. I’ve set up an IFTTT recipe that will automatically add tweets that I favorite in Twitter to my Buffer queue. I’ve also connected Buffer to Feedly so I can share articles I like directly into Buffer.
Sharing outside the queue
What if you have some updates that you want to share right away or you have updates that you want to share at a specific day and time? Buffer also makes it easy for you to share your updates exactly when you want it.
If you have an update you want to share immediately, just click on the arrow on the “Add to Queue” button. From there you’ll get a drop down menu where you can choose when you want to post your update. If you want to share your post immediately, select “Share Now“.
If you still want to add the post to your Buffer queue, but you want it to be the next thing shared instead of it being added to the next available slot in your queue, select “Share Next“.
If you want to share your post at a specific time and date, choose “Schedule Post“. Another window will appear where you can schedule a day and time for your post.
You can also custom schedule posts using the recently added Calendar feature. Click on any empty spot on the Calendar timeline and a share window will appear. You can also adjust the day and time of previously scheduled posts by dragging and dropping posts to different spots on the calendar.
You can re-share past Buffer updates by finding them in your Calendar or in your Analytics tab (more on that next) and clicking the “Re-Buffer” button.
One of the frustrating things about social media is that it can be hard to know if anyone is even engaging with what you’re putting out there. Buffer’s Analytics feature can help you there. To access your Buffer stats, click on the “Analytics” tab in the Buffer Dashboard.
Alternatively, you can also hover over one of your past updates in the Calendar view to see the statistics for individual updates.
You can sort your analytics by most popular and least popular posts as well as by posts that have the most and least clicks, shares, mentions, etc. For Twitter, you can see which posts had the most mentions, clicks, and retweets. For Facebook, you can track which posts had the most shares, likes, and clicks. You can also track likes and re-pins for your Pinterest pins.
Top posts are marked with a star and a blue label. Each post in the Analytics section has a “Re-Buffer” button beside it so you can easily re-share a previous post.
Spending some time in Buffer’s Analytics section can give you some idea as to which posts are making an impact in each of your social media networks and which ones aren’t. I try to make a point to look at this section at least once or twice a month to help me learn what to share.
If you’re active on Instagram then Buffer’s latest addition, Instagram Reminders, can help make managing your Instagram feed just a bit easier. Because Instagram doesn’t allow posting from Buffer or similar third-party apps, the scheduling feature works a bit differently than the rest of the social networks.
You’ll need to have the Buffer app installed on your phone to use Instagram Reminders. To set up a reminder, add your photo and caption to your Instagram Buffer queue. When it’s time to post your update, the Buffer app will send an alert to your phone. You’ll then open Buffer and post the pre-loaded image and caption to your Instagram feed. Buffer has created a video that shows how this feature works.
While Instagram Reminders isn’t a “set it and forget it” feature, it can be useful in managing routine or pre-planned updates to your Instagram feed. For example, I’ve started using it to manage my weekly Motivation Monday updates on Instagram. Instead of relying on my Google Calendar alert to remind me to post my weekly Motivation Monday Instagram photo, Buffer’s Instagram Reminders will alert me to post the pre-loaded photo and caption. So far it’s worked quite well.
As great as Buffer is, it isn’t for everyone and every situation. It’s strong suit is managing social media content. It’s not built to help you monitor your social media however. If you spend a good deal of time reading tweets, retweeting, repinning other pins or responding to comments on your Facebook page, you’ll need to either manage those activities directly on each of your social media accounts or you’ll need use another tool like Hootsuite for that purpose.
I personally chose Buffer over Hootsuite because I liked simplified design and the fact that Buffer only focuses on managing content. I also loved being able to queue up the content I wanted to share without having to think too much when I was going to schedule it. If you prefer to have one central place to monitor and manage all of your social media accounts, then Hootsuite would be a better choice for you.
You can sign up for Buffer for free. The free plan (Individual) will allow you to connect up to one profile per account (so 1 Twitter, 1 Facebook, 1 Google+, and 1 LinkedIn account) and post up to 10 updates at a time for each account. You’ll also be able to connect your Pinterest account and test it out for 7 days. You can choose posting days and times for your posting schedule, but you won’t be able to create different posting schedules for different days.
Buffer also has several paid plans as well. For $10 per month you can sign up for the Awesome plan, in which you can connect up to 12 social profiles at a time. If you have multiple Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest accounts, you can set them all up in Buffer as opposed to only being able to connect only one of each. You can also have full use of your Pinterest account with the Awesome plan and you can schedule up to 100 posts per profile at a time. You’ll also be able to create a different posting schedule for each day.
The next plan up is the Business plan which is about $50 per month. You’ll be able to connect up to 25 social media accounts, and schedule up to 2,000 posts per profile. You’ll also have access to better analytics and be able to export them out of Buffer and into a Excel or Google Sheets document. If you have a single business with only a few social media accounts, the Individual or the Awesome plan (which is the one I’m subscribed to) should be plenty.
You can check out or sign up for Buffer here.
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