It’s a wonderful time to run a small business.
With all the affordable tools and technology available, you can market and sell in a way that only large companies could even just 20 years ago.
Social media, especially, has leveled the playing field, allowing even freelancers and small teams to reach a global audience from their smartphone or computer.
And while anyone can get on Twitter or Facebook and post a few snazzy pictures, there are tools out there that can make your online campaigns even more powerful and less taxing on your resources.
Two of the biggest names in social media marketing are Buffer and Hootsuite, and you may find yourself trying to decide which one to invest your time and money in. At the core, both tools allow you to schedule social media posts. For example, if you decide that you want to tweet out a link to your latest blog post at 6 a.m., but you don’t want to wake up at 5:45 a.m. to do it, Buffer or Hootsuite can do it for you. However, that’s a simplified look, and each tool has some important variations that we’ll get into.
So—you’re probably wondering—”Which one makes more sense for me?”
Good news, you’re in the right place. Let’s take a look at Buffer and Hootsuite and determine what each can do for your business.
What is Buffer?
Buffer was founded in 2010 in Birmingham, UK, by software developer Joel Gascoigne along with cofounder Leo Widrich. After determining that there was enough interest for a streamlined social media scheduler, Gascoigne famously developed the first version of Buffer in his spare time over the course of only seven weeks. So just think about that next time you put off vacuuming out your car for two months (or two years).
At first, Buffer only worked with Twitter. But by 2013, the evolving tool had reached 1,000,000 users and it now integrates with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.
What is Hootsuite?
Hootsuite is basically Buffer’s bigger, older brother from another mother. It was founded in 2008 by Ryan Holmes, a Canadian computer programmer. When Holmes came up with the idea for Hootsuite, he was already running his own digital media agency—Invoke—which gave Hootsuite a big head start in terms of manpower and funding.
Hootsuite now has around 1,000 employees—compared to only about 75 for Buffer—and counts more than 15 million users all around the world.
Hootsuite supports all the same platforms as Buffer, but also supports YouTube, WordPress, Flickr, Tumblr, and many more, including some that you may have never even heard of, like Xing and Viadeo. Basically, if people are using it, Hootsuite works with it.
Buffer vs. Hootsuite: Key differences
For individuals, Buffer offers a limited free plan, or their “Awesome” plan with multiple accounts and a queue of up to 100 scheduled posts for $10 per month. They also offer business plans for teams and agencies starting at $99 per month, with a 50% discount for nonprofits. The pay-plans include a calendar view, and the business plans add social analytics.
Hootsuite also offers a free plan, for one user with up to three social profiles. Their Professional plan for individual users with up to 10 social profiles starts at $19 per month, and team plans start at $99 per month, the same as Buffer.
2. Features and functionality
Getting started with Hootsuite
Hootsuite is a complex, sprawling tool with almost unlimited possible uses. Once you have scheduled a post across multiple platforms, you can slice and dice it with analytics, interact with your followers directly through Hootsuite’s dashboard, and even assign tasks and collaborate with teammates. The calendar view allows weekly scheduling at a glance with drag and drop functionality.
A few more of Hootsuite’s advanced features include:
- Geosearch allows you to track trending topics by geocode.
- Hootlet allows you to mark and share interesting content while browsing.
- Hootsuite Campaigns lets you build campaigns that include fun features like sweepstakes and photo galleries.
Not convinced? You can explore these HootSuite alternatives for software solutions with comparable features.
Getting started with Buffer
Buffer, on the other hand, is a much simpler and streamlined scheduling tool. You use it to schedule a queue of posts, on Facebook and Twitter for example, then walk away. While it doesn’t support as many platforms as Hootsuite, Buffer does boast a variety of options for social automation, including IFTTT and Zapier, which help you automatically post.
Buffer’s biggest limitations are an inability to engage with your audience through the interface, and that analytics are only available for your posts themselves, and not entire profiles.
While Buffer lacks some of the functionality of Hootsuite, it is by no means a limited-function tool. A few of Buffer’s additional features include:
- Custom schedules in the calendar view allow you to set your posting times for each platform, profile, and day of the week. The Optimal Scheduling tool can even suggest times and plan your posts months in advance.
- Buffer’s browser extension allows users to share relevant content with a click while surfing.
- Pablo is an extension that allows you to create your own shareable images with overlaid text.
Want to explore software solutions with similar features? These Buffer alternatives might offer what you need.
3. User Experience
Reviewers say that a trade-off that comes with Hootsuite’s versatility is that its interface can be confusing and overwhelming, and the mobile app can be a bit clunky. On the other hand, most reviewers agree that Hootsuite is the most convenient way to post to multiple channels at the same time.
Reviewers find that Buffer is super easy to use, and they appreciate the clean interface. However, not being able to interact with posts and engage with the audience through the interface was seen as a limitation by some.
So, which tool is best for your business?
Buffer and Hootsuite have both become successful operations with millions of users for good reason. They are powerful, useful tools that make life easier for countless social media marketers.
But they are different.
Due to its simplicity, Buffer is a better option for small businesses or individuals who only need a tool to schedule out posts on the most popular channels.
And because of its complexity and long list of features, Hootsuite is the better option for larger teams with a dedicated marketing department capable of harnessing all of its diverse capabilities.
Remember, both Buffer and Hootsuite have free options, so there’s nothing stopping you from trying out both. You may find that you like features of each, and find yourself using the two tools in tandem. Now that’s what I call teamwork!
If you’re the cool kid who just always has to be different, here are a few articles on some nifty alternatives to Buffer and Hootsuite:
- Hootsuite Competitors: 9 Other Social Media Management Alternatives to Consider
- Buffer vs. Edgar: Comparing Which Social Media Management Tool is Best for Your Small Business
- The Top 7 Free Social Media Management Software
Have you tried Buffer and/or Hootsuite? I want to know what your experience has been like. Have you had any problems, or do you have any tips and tricks to share? Please leave them in the comments, and do everyone a favor by reviewing Buffer and/or Hootsuite!