Managing social media can be a daunting and time-consuming task, especially when you have to manage multiple social media profiles. Add to that the time it takes to create graphics for your messages and it’s all too easy to start feeling overwhelmed.
But, what if you could schedule updates for all your social media accounts and create eye-catching graphics that are easily shared across all of them from one location?
What is Buffer? It's a social media management tool that wants to simplify social media for business owners that want a simple and straightforward solution.
And in today’s post, we’ll cover why you should use Buffer, go over the basics of setting up your account, as well as review how to use Buffer to speed up your social media management process.
Why Should You Consider Using Buffer?
Social media management tools come in many shapes and sizes, from simple ones focused on a singular task to more advanced ones with powerful features such as analytics, monitoring, reporting, and more.
It’s been called the "Siri of social media" and the team behind Buffer claims their mission is to build the simplest yet most powerful tool for social media management. It offers both free and paid plans, with paid plans structured for individuals and larger teams or agencies.
At first glance, Buffer is simple: add your updates and Buffer will automatically send them to selected accounts throughout the day. You don’t have to manually set the time and the day, it’s already preset for you. You can also add content to your Buffer from any website without the need to launch a new tab to sign into the app.
But when you explore the tool a little more, you’ll discover the ability to fine tune the time your updates go out, a set of easy to understand analytics, and the ability to create and share graphics across your social media accounts.
Getting Started With Buffer
1. Creating a Buffer Account
Let's look at how to use Buffer by first setting up your account. Getting started with Buffer is insanely easy. You can use one of your existing social media profiles to log in or you can create an account using your email and a password.
To get started, navigate to http://buffer.com and use your Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ account to create your Buffer account. If you’d rather use a separate login, go ahead and use your preferred email with a unique password.
If you opted to use your social media account, you will be prompted to give Buffer permission to use your account, so go ahead and click on Authorize or Allow. It will ask you for your email address so it can send you notifications. Once you’ve done that, head over to My Account.
Here, you can review various account settings, such as turning email reminders on or off, set up a secret email address so you can send updates to Buffer from your email, configure your time and day settings, and more.
Once you have gone through all of the settings and configured them to your liking, click on the Dashboard in the left menu to return to the main Buffer app.
2. Connecting Your Social Media Profiles
Buffer supports Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. LinkedIn users can connect both profiles and pages and Facebook users can connect their personal profile, business page or any group that they manage.
It’s important to note that Pinterest management is available only on their paid plan. Similarly, if you want to connect more than one profile on the same social platform (ie. Facebook page and a Facebook group), you will have to upgrade to their Awesome plan.
Their free plan allows you to connect one profile per account and in most cases, this is more than enough for small business owners.
Connecting your accounts is simple. Simply click on the desired profile and follow the prompts to authorize Buffer to access the account. Repeat this for all the accounts you want to use with Buffer.
As you connect them, you’ll see them appear on the left side of the screen. You’ll also notice a checkmark next to each profile which denotes this account is selected by default each time you compose a new status update.
Accessing Buffer's Settings
Clicking on any of your social profiles will give you access to the settings, schedule, and queue for that profile.
There are four tabs along the top: Content, Analytics, Schedule, and Settings. The content tab also has sub-tabs which allow you to see what’s in your Buffer queue, which updates need review (a useful feature if you’re working with a team), and Content Inbox which is a feature available on the Awesome plan where you can see your favorite website’s feeds directly in Buffer.
Working With Buffer's Analytics
The Analytics tab lets you see how each of your status updates performed after it was shared. The Analysis and Insights tabs are available with Business plan and they include a set of rich analytics with charts and graphs that let you see the overall performance of your accounts over a period of time.
Configuring Buffer's URL Shortener
The last tab, Settings allows you to configure your preferred URL shortener where you can choose between Buffer’s link shorteners or connect your own bit.ly account and Buffer will ensure your links are shortened each time you add a post. You can also add team members, reconnect your profiles, and empty your queue if you want to delete the updates that are currently scheduled.
The Schedule tab is the most powerful feature of Buffer, so let’s take a look at how sending and scheduling updates work with Buffer.
3. Sending and Scheduling Messages in Buffer
Let's look at how to use Buffer’s scheduling tool. It's perhaps one of the most advanced scheduling tools available. Each profile has its own independent schedule and queue. You can create rather complex posting schedules with completely different posting times and frequencies for different days of the week.
At the very top of the page, you can select your timezone. The default timezone is London and you can select different time zones for each and every account you manage through Buffer.
By default, Buffer already sets the number of recommended updates and times to post. However, this is where you can fine-tune your strategy for each social media profile. You can select or deselect specific days of the week by clicking on them. You can also delete any of the existing times or add new ones if you want to post more than what Buffer presets for you.
Finally, you can click on the Optimal Tool at the bottom if you’d like Buffer to send out your updates at the optimal times for each network.
Once you’ve set up your schedule for each network, let’s send our first update. You can click on any of your social media profiles on the left and a content box will appear where you can enter the details. All the social media profiles that have a checkmark next to them will be selected by default so your update will go out to all of them at the specified times.
If you don’t want an update to go out to all of your accounts, simply click on the profile image and the account will be removed.
Enter your status update together with the link which will automatically be shortened. You can also upload images or video to go along with your update. Finally, clicking on the blue Add to queue button will add the update to your Buffer queue. You can also click on the little arrow to share the update immediately or to schedule it for a specific time.
Advanced Social Media Management Features - Inside Buffer
Even with the free plan, Buffer offers a nice set of advanced features. Let’s go over them briefly.
1. Pablo - Buffer's Social Image Editor
Let's dig into how to use Buffer's social image editor Pablo. This is a handy tool if you need a little help creating visuals to go along with the content you share. It’s similar to Canva but it doesn’t have quite as many features. What does make it useful, though, is its deep integration with Buffer.
Buffer has a limited number of templates and predefined sizes for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. It also offers access to more than 600,000 stock images which you can use for free to create images which you can then share on social media through Buffer.
To create a graphic, all you have to do is search for an image that you like, select it, and enter the text you want to have on the image. Once you’re done, simply click on the share and download. A popup window will appear where you can compose your message, choose the accounts you want the image to be sent and click on Add to queue.
While Pablo isn’t as feature rich as Canva, it does provide an easy way to create effective graphics for any content that you want to share on social media. It’s a handy tool for anyone who wants to use photos but doesn’t have the time or the budget for more robust tools.
2. Buffer Analytics
Buffer doesn’t have the ability to monitor notifications or view details about a particular status update like some of the more advanced tools. However, Buffer does allow you to see the total numbers for these metrics. You can easily see likes, favorites, +1’s, comments, replies, shares and mentions for each status update.
The posts can be sorted by Recent, Most Popular, Least Popular, by type of post (Image, Link, Text) or by a specific date range. Below each post, you can see the activity for it. For tweets you can even see what the potential reach was based on your follower count and the follower count of anyone who shared that particular tweet.
A handy feature in the analytics tab lets you re-Buffer posts that were particularly successful. This means that any post that had a large number of shares, likes or any other activity will be re-added to your queue on one or more social networks.
If you have the Buffer for Business plan, you can also access the Analysis and Insights tabs.
The Analysis tab lets you see how many posts per day were posted for that social profile during a 30-day period and how many clicks those posts got. The Insights tab lets you monitor your follower growth, see trends in activity levels, and whether or not your publishing activity has any impact on follower count.
3. Buffer Apps
Buffer has apps for both Android and iOS devices and it comes with a handy browser extension which lets you share content from anywhere on the web. However, Buffer’s extension lets you do a few other things as well:
- Highlight text on any website, right click, and send that text along with a link to the page straight to Buffer. This is especially handy for sharing quotes.
- Right click on any image to send it to your Buffer to be shared.
- Turn on Buffer integration with Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest so that a Buffer link or option is added to the default share options.
- Turn on image overlay so that a Buffer share button appears on any image when you mouse over it.
Buffer is a Practical Social Media Management Solution
Social media management is easy when you have the right tools to help you. Buffer is a great way to get familiar with managing your social media as it offers just the right amount of features for business owners with multiple social media accounts.
If you’re looking for a social media management tool that lets you have more control over scheduling your status updates as well as gives you access that lets you easily track engagement, give Buffer a try.
Find more social media management tools and develop your social strategy with our multi-part Guide to Getting Started With Social Media for Small Business.