If you work in digital marketing/social media, chances are you’ve heard of Buffer and Hootsuite. While a lot of marketers use these tools interchangeably, they differ greatly and they both have their pros and cons. So, what are the differences between the two tools, and can they really be used interchangeably?
Before diving in a comparison between the two, we need to understand what the tools actually do:
In terms of capabilities, Hootsuite is bigger than Buffer: more features, more integrations, more supported platforms and bigger analytics. Due to that, it would be unfair to compare Buffer with features that it doesn’t support (solely because that’s not what the platform was built for). So, to make a better comparison better the two, let’s take a look at the five main features that both tools provide:
Buffer supports the following social networks: Twitter, Facebook (profile, page, group), LinkedIn (profile, page), Google+ (page), and the latest addition – Pinterest.
Hootsuite supports the following social networks: Twitter, Facebook (profile, page, and group), Google+ (page), LinkedIn (profile, group, company), WordPress – officially. However, with the further integration of “applications” (which you can find in the Hootsuite App Directory), there are other social networks you can add, like Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, Flickr, VK, Tumblr, Foursquare, and several more.
If we’re just talking about the number of supported social networks, Hootsuite wins this round. However, you probably don’t need a tool that supports a long list of networks, especially if you’re only on one or two networks. It’s not about how many networks a tool supports, but rather about (1) whether the tool supports the platforms you’re on right now, and (2) whether the tool supports the platforms you’re planning on moving on to in the near future (based on your social strategy for the next 6-12 months).
Buffer and Hootsuite don’t differ that much when it comes to publishing and scheduling. However, out of the two, only Hootsuite lets you engage with content on your timeline/stream (there are a few exceptions with Buffer, which we’ll get into in a minute). That aside, Buffer offers much more flexibility in terms of automation, thanks to the likes of IFTTT and Zapier.
IFTTT automation goes both ways, so you can also automate other tools through Buffer:
Besides IFTTT, you also have Zapier, an automation service that works on triggers and actions, just like IFTTT. Zapier offers over 150 automatic rules too (called “Zaps”), which mainly revolve around Enterprise software, like Basecamp, Slack, Hubspot, Kissmetrics and Salesforce. (You can find all the Buffer Zaps here.)
Hootsuite offers analytics of your social networks, while Buffer offers analytics of the posts you’ve published via the platform. This is mainly due to what each tool does: Hootsuite is more of a social management tool, so it’ll offer you analytics around content you post, how your social networks are performing, your social traffic (via the Google Analytics integration), and more. On the other hand, Buffer is primarily a publishing and scheduling tool, so all of its analytics revolves around the content you post from the platform. That means that content you post natively on the platform or through another tool won’t appear in Buffer.
Buffer’s analytics dashboard is very intuitive and it’s available in its mobile app too, so you can track your content performance on the go. Buffer analytics is pretty much content analytics, and with the recently revamped analytics you can now get to your best and worst performing posts based on engagement (which you can filter by engagement type, e.g. retweets, favourites, replies, likes, comments, clicks), reach, and post type (i.e. image posts, link posts, text posts and your retweets). Buffer shows you all this data in a simple and clean layout. All of this is exportable too, if you need to do any further analysis.
On the other hand, Hootsuite offers a lot in terms of analytics, which may be confusing to some of its customers: Hootsuite acquired a social analytics company called uberVu back in January 2014, and after a while it brought uberVu to its platform. However, as it stands today, that means that you can get your analytics in two places: through Hootsuite Core Analytics if you’re looking for the usual analytics, and through ”uberVu via Hootsuite” if you’re looking for real-time analytics. If you’re on the free Hootsuite tier then you only have a limited number of reports that you can run, and a few more if you upgrade to Hootsuite Pro (all reports are included in the Hootsuite Enterprise plan).
If you’re not satisfied with the analytics from both Buffer and Hootsuite, you have the option to go for a separate social analytics tool. A lot of social media management tools out there will only offer you analytics for the posts you’ve created via that tool (that applies to Buffer, and in some cases Hootsuite too). However, a separate analytics tool will be able to report on all the content on your profile. If you’re choosing to go for a separate social analytics, I’ll strongly suggest the following five to you:
For further guidance on which social analytics software to get, based on your requirements, check out the Complete Guide to Analytics in Digital Marketing.
If you’re going to be managing social networks with multiple people (your team or other teams), both Buffer and Hootsuite will be able to help you.
The best thing about both these tools is that you can work on a social account with multiple people without having to disclose any passwords, and they’re both robust tools (in terms of security). However, when it comes to user permissions for each team member, Hootsuite is more granular in its approach, with the intention of letting you scale up the usage of the platform without compromising on security.
Both Buffer and Hootsuite have a number of plugins and extensions that you can install and use on your personal browsers and favourite apps. You can easily share content through these extensions, even if you’re in another social platform. For instance, if you have the Buffer extension installed on your browser, you can send tweets to Buffer or schedule retweets whenever you log into Twitter or Tweetdeck (you also have similar features for Facebook too). You can find the long list of Buffer extensions here. Hootsuite, on the other hand, has a big focus on its main plugin called Hootlet, which lets you share content from anywhere on the web.
We mentioned earlier that, between Buffer and Hootsuite, Buffer has the most options for social automation. While that is true, Hootsuite has a much bigger list of tools and applications it integrates with, and while that doesn’t necessarily help you automate, it’ll still save you time having several tools under one roof. You can find these applications in the Hootsuite App Directory, which currently hosts 140 extensions and apps that you can use within Hootsuite. These applications are extremely useful as they help you manage multiple tools from within the Hootsuite interface. For example, you can manage your social accounts while checking your web analytics in real-time thanks to the Chartbeat integration. You can also bring your Brandwatch reporting and workflows to a Hootsuite tab of choice thanks to the Brandwatch integration. While there is no limitation to how many Hootsuite apps you can use, bear in mind that not all of these apps are free (26% of them are paid apps), while certain apps can only be used by Pro and/or Enterprise users. You can always find more information on the info page of each app to find out if you’re eligible to use it.
If you’re looking for a social media management platform, then Buffer isn’t for you, not because it’s a bad tool (far from it), but because it’s just not what Buffer is meant for. However, if you’re looking for a tool to help you publish and schedule content, a tool that can easily connect with your existing tools, then definitely give Buffer a try – its simplicity is definitely a winning point.
As for the other features that they have in common, like the ones we’ve compared in this post, the “better” option really depends on what you’re looking for, your requirements and personal preference.
You may find that neither tool works for you, and that’s totally fine – perhaps there are features that you think are missing in both of these tools. Perhaps you’ve used both and they’re not ideal for your use case. Or perhaps you just want to try something different. That’s fine too, after all I always recommend “shopping around” and trying other similar tools to find what suits you best. If you’re just getting started and you’re not sure which social media tools to go for, check out The Complete Guide to Social and Digital Marketing Tools, covering features like social management, social monitoring/listening, social analytics and more.
What if I have no budget? No need to worry: both Buffer and Hootsuite have free tiers that you can start from. Then, after you’ve justified the use of either tool, you can consider upgrading to the next tiers if the next tiers have any features that you require. Alternatively, you can also post from the social network: a few of the major social networks (mainly Facebook and Twitter) will let you schedule content, while most social networks also do offer analytics (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube being the best ones at doing so). That, however, can never replace the saved time and ease with which you can manage multiple social networks, collaborate with other team members, and get the best results for your social strategy.
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