Buffer, Hootsuite or Sprout Social: Which is Best?
Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout. You might have heard of these social media softwares. If not, they are all designed to do pretty similar things: to help you schedule your content across multiple social media platforms and post them for you according to your schedule. But what’s the difference? We spent one week using each programme. Here’s what we found.
Let’s start with Hootsuite. This was one of the first of this kind. But does it really help you organise your social media posts, updates and analytics as well as it promises?
Anyone can register for a free account with Hootsuite, which gives you access to its most basic features. We started by adding and verifying the social accounts that you want Hootsuite to have access to. We used Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, as we use these the most.
At first, the Hootsuite dashboard can look a little confusing. It took us a while to get our heads around it, but once we started browsing, it became pretty self-explanatory. The main two features that we used were the ‘streams’ section of the dashboard (we set ours to refresh every 10 minutes, but for busier accounts you are given the option to refresh up to every two minutes.) This gives an overview of all the social accounts you have set up, and gives you a good overview of what is happening across them. The other main use was the publisher, this is where you actually create and schedule your posts.
What’s great about the publisher is that it allows you to add media, shrink links and add locations as well as tag accounts. The only slight downside is that you aren’t able to schedule a poll. This needs to be done directly through Twitter, not ideal for us.
Overall, we found Hootsuite to be pretty user friendly, practical, and to the point. It is also one of only a few social media marketing tools that support the management of multiple YouTube accounts, along with the ability to schedule video posts to your social networking profiles – a huge advantage if you or your business utilise this platform. You can also use it to delegate tasks with other users, making it a great option for a team platform, especially if you use your accounts to manage customer queries.
The support was good, we tweeted them and got a quick and helpful reply, but we only tested their support system in a very minimal way. For your basic social management needs, (Pro plan) it is pretty reasonable. One of the main disadvantages of it is the initial appearance of the Hootsuite dashboard, as it can appear confusing and intimidating for newbies (and non newbies). The free plan also only allows the integration of three social channels, which hugely limits those for whom it will be practical.
Overall, we’ve given it 8/10.
Buffer is a platform you might not have heard of if you don’t work in digital marketing. Buffer is a content publishing platform, letting you publish and schedule content to social networks.
Buffer is a smaller tool, it doesn’t publish as many social networks as Hootsuite, it has less features, and less analytics tools. But this doesn’t mean to say that we didn’t still find it useful.
One of the main disadvantages of Buffer is its inability to interact. Whilst you can post, cross post and schedule content, you can not engage with it. That means if someone were to respond to your tweet, you would not be able to respond through Buffer, unlike Hootsuite.
Hootsuite offers analytics of your social networks, whilst Buffer offers analytics only on the posts you’ve published via the platform. If you are solely using Buffer to post social content this is fine as all your data will be contained within the software, but this is unlikely going to be the case. Buffer analytics are pretty much content analytics, so you can see 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, as well as in the mobile app too, so you can track your content performance on the go. All of this is exportable too so if you need to do any further analysis, or send it to other people, it is very easy to do so. The layout is one of our favourite parts of Buffer, especially when you compare it to the complicated, slightly boxy dashboard of Hootsuite. It is also much easier to use on mobile, which is great if you’re regularly posting on the go.
Overall, we liked Buffer. However, if you’re looking for a social media management platform, then Buffer isn’t probably 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. It is great for helping you publish and schedule content, is very user friendly and its simplicity is definitely a winning factor.
Note: None of these platforms allow posting to Instagram if you don’t have a business profile. The only way to post on Instagram is via the official Instagram account. If you are interested in scheduling your Instagram posts then the Buffer mobile app won’t actually post your photos, but will handle them and alert you when the next one should be posted.
Despite its limitations, we’re giving Buffer a 7/10.
Sprout Social is designed to do just about anything regarding the management of your business’ social media channels. It even offers social listening and influencer identification features and has some social customer relationship management (CRM) functionality.
Like Hootsuite, Sprout allows you to author a message, choose which account it comes from, attach photos, shorten links and choose a target audience from the main feed dashboard. It alsol offers a draft function so you can save posts that aren’t ready for publication and return to them later. A really useful feature on Sprout Social is within the publishing department with its ‘audience discovery’ function. This highlights people or accounts it thinks you may be interested in, as well as spammy or robotic accounts you should probably unfollow. This is the only software (that we have come across) that has this function, and we found it extremely useful.
Whilst all plans include a 30 day free trial, the cheapest monthly package starts at £69 per month (Premium plan), with the most expensive costing £179 a month (Enterprise plan). It is the most expensive platform by far. However, with one of the highest levels of user satisfaction, at 93%, it seems to be worth it.
It makes social management easy and lets team members collaborate over its platform, meaning it is a brilliant tool for customer service. We tested it by assigning customer queries/questions evenly between our digital team and it worked seamlessly, meaning we were able to deliver perfect customer service, and never leave a customer’s query ignored or left for longer than an hour.
Overall, we found sprout social great for engaging with users, easy and effective to publish across multiple platforms seamlessly, and great for analytics. Essentially, it removes the need to log into your accounts altogether by combining everything you need into one place.
Although pricey, we’re rating Sprout our top pick with a 9/10 from us.
Of course you could just stick to using the social media platforms themselves, but then you’d be missing out on the host of benefits provided by management software, from saving your precious time to boosting the impact of your posts. For us, Sprout Social came out on top, but we thoroughly recommend testing a few out. Buffer would be great for those use starting out and Hootsuite is perfect for those on a slightly tighter budget.