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Buffer's strength is its ease of use and multiple posting options
If you're marketing your business across multiple social media channels (and you absolutely should be), you'll need a tool to help you stay on top of posting.
There are a number of social media management tools available. Buffer is a pretty streamlined option compared to full-featured platforms like Hootsuite. But it's easy to use, and offers some really inventive publishing options. If your main goal is to schedule posts and share content easily, Buffer is a great tool.
Connecting your accounts with Buffer
When you sign up to Buffer, you'll first need to choose your subscription type. Buffer does offer a free option, which allows a single user to schedule up to 10 posts per month across three different social channels. However, if you're using Buffer for your social media marketing efforts, it's likely you'll choose one of the paid options:
Pro. Buffer's Pro account allows one user to schedule up to 100 posts per month across eight social accounts. It costs $15 USD per month.
Premium. The Premium account allows two users to schedule up to 2,000 posts per month across eight social accounts. It costs $65 USD per month.
Business. Buffer's Business subscription allows six users to schedule up to 2,000 posts per month across up to 23 different social accounts. It costs $99 USD per month.
Next you'll choose which social accounts to connect to Buffer. Buffer supports Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Facebook support is only for Pages and Groups, not profiles.
Once you've connected your social accounts, you'll be taken to your dashboard. From here you can schedule content to publish, keep track of and reply to social media messages and track your analytics.
Publishing with Buffer
Our favorite feature of Buffer, hands down, is the number of ways you can publish content. Like any social media management tool, you can publish all your content directly from the web or mobile app. But Buffer has a few tricks up its sleeve that makes it stand out from other platforms.
Once you've connected your social accounts, you can publish content from either the web or mobile app. Buffer's mobile app is easy to use and intuitive, and actually provides a better user experience than their desktop site.
Whether you choose the web or mobile platform, you'll see your different social accounts and your queue of content. Of course, to begin with your queue will be empty. So it's time to start filling it with tantalizing content.
To schedule new posts, you'll tap the Plus icon in the mobile app or type in the "What would you like to share?" field at the top of the screen in the web app.
Buffer picks default times to send out your posts based upon the social media platform you're publishing on. It also has default frequencies for each social network. For Facebook and LinkedIn, it's two posts per day. For Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, it's four.
The times it chooses are semi-random times throughout the work day. You can change these by clicking on the time in your queue and hitting "Edit" on the scheduled time.
Buffer will queue your posts in the order in which you enter them. You can change the order or reschedule by editing the time. Or, you can choose an option in settings to randomize the order of your posts (though that seems like madness to us).
One of the best features of Buffer is its ability to queue posts from outside the app. Simply install the Buffer extension for Google Chrome, and you'll open up a whole world of posting options.
The first of these is Twitter. Once the Buffer extension is installed, when you browse Twitter you'll see that the Buffer icon now appears in the options below each Tweet. If you want to queue something to Buffer to retweet, just tap the icon and you can queue it to retweet from any Twitter account connected to the platform.
If you're browsing the web and come across a great piece of content you want to share with your audience, just click the Buffer browser extension. A box will appear with suggested text for your post, as well as a link to the content you're sharing. You can edit this text. Then choose the social accounts you want to share the content on and queue it for posting.
You can also use the browser extension to share images you come across on the web. If you mouse over the image and hover, a Buffer "Share Image" button will appear. As with web pages, a box will appear with suggested text and a link to the image, and you can choose the platforms you want to post to.
Perhaps the coolest function of the Buffer extension is the ability to share snippets of text. If you come across a particular gem in a piece of content, but don't want to share the whole article, just highlight the text and right click. You'll see a "Buffer this text" option. Select it, choose the text for your post and it will be added to your Buffer queue.
Engaging users with Buffer
Buffer also allows you to stay on top of your social media engagement. In the "Reply" tab on your Buffer dashboard, you'll see any messages from your social channels. These include comments and posts as well as direct messages.
You can reply to messages directly from Buffer. You can set up automation rules to tag and organize conversations by topic, group conversations into folders and close out conversations that don't require a response.
Our favorite feature of Buffer Reply is the ability to save replies. If you find yourself answering the same questions from customers over and over, you can save a snippet of text and use it for common queries.
Buffer Reply also offers analytics to track your response times, show how many engagements were closed off with a response and show the volume of messages across different channels. You can export all these reports as a CSV.
Managing your team with Buffer
If you're on a Premium or Business account, you may have several people managing your social media engagement. Buffer allows you to set custom levels of access across all your social media platforms.
To add a team member, click the "Admin" link at the top of your Buffer dashboard. You'll see the options "Social Accounts," and "Team Members." Choose "Team Members," and then click the blue "Invite a New Team Member" button.
You'll then be prompted to fill in the new team member's name and address. Below this you'll be offered options for which social accounts you want the team member to access. For each social account you give access to, you can choose whether the team member has full posting privileges or whether their posts require approval before being queued. You can also choose whether or not to grant them admin access.
Once you have team members added, you can also assign messages in Buffer Reply. Buffer Reply also has a great feature that alerts a team member if they're replying to a message someone else on the team has already dealt with. Team members can also comment on messages if they need help or advice from other team members.
Tracking analytics with Buffer
Buffer's analytics tools are pretty straightforward. On each post you can see the likes and comments, and you can group posts by most popular, least popular or chronologically.
But Buffer has recently beefed up its analytics tools, and you can sign up for early access to its new analytics dashboard that provides more robust data. It allows you to see total reach and engagement by social media channel and post, and you can track audience demographics.