Twitter spawned a whole ecosystem of social networking apps, each vying to make it easier to see all of your social networks together, post everywhere, share longer posts, and more. There were so many different social networking web apps for the same set of social networks, it was impossible to keep track of them all.
Then, Twitter started cracking down on how 3rd party apps could use its API. And both Twitter and Facebook started building their own nicer apps and pro tools, crowding alternates out of the market. Where there used to be an overabundance of social networking apps, now most of us are back to using each network’s own apps. But there’s still a few solid apps out there that can make social networking easier and more productive, and one of the the very best is Buffer.
Buffer’s been one of those apps that everyone loved, but I never could get into. It was designed to auto-post stuff on a schedule, and I preferred to post stuff in real-time. But running the social networking for 3 sites and my own personal profiles got to be too much, and I needed an app to help me out. And Buffer turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Here’s how I learned to stop doing social networking manually and embrace the Buffer.
On first bluff, it seemed to me that the only reason you’d use Buffer is if you wanted to Tweet on a schedule rather than posting exactly when you came across a neat site or thought of something witty to say. It seemed to me that you’d end up overwhelming your followers with too many posts, and seem like you were repeating yourself if you re-posted stuff at different times.
Perhaps that is true for personal social networking, but for sites, you want people to see your newest stuff when they’re online, and you can guarantee people aren’t reading through all of your tweets. Thus, using Buffer to post throughout the day isn’t such a bad idea — in fact, it just might boost your traffic, get you more social engagement, and help you save time by letting you put stuff on Twitter when it’s convenient for you.
But Buffer is far more than just that. Sure, it’s main goal is to help you tweet throughout the day on a schedule, but it’ll also now let you schedule a post for a specific time, or just post anything you to all of your networks want immediately. Then, it’ll let you followup and see all the replies, retweets, click stats, and more from each of your posts, right from a combined desktop.
The most important part, though, is the all your social networks part. With a free account, you’ll be able to post simultaneously to one Twitter, App.net, Facebook (on your personal profile or a Page), LinkedIn account, and — just launched — Google+ Page, and store up to 10 posts in your queue to post later. Upgrade to an Awesome plan for $10/month, and you can add up to 12 social networking accounts and post to them all at once (or save an unlimited number of posts in your queue). That suddenly makes it a lot more useful.
With the free account, I was only able to really use Buffer with my personal accounts, but once I upgraded to the Awesome plan and was able to get all of my AppStorm accounts and my personal accounts in one place, Buffer suddenly made a lot more sense. I could post to any of the accounts from one app or share any link to all of the accounts from the browser addon, something I couldn’t do in most other social networking apps. And, here’s where the buffer of tweets idea makes sense: if you come across several interesting links during your news time online, you can queue up posts about them to go out throughout the day, instead of bombarding your readers with them all at once. Yup, that makes sense.
Keep the Conversation Going
If it was just for posting to everywhere together, and scheduling posts for later, it’d be nice but I might feel like I still needed to rely on other social networking apps. Turns out, if you post everything through Buffer, it can actually really be your one-stop social networking solution. Jump over to the analytics tab, and you’ll be able to see how many comments your posts have gotten, and even reply to them right inside Buffer. That’s in addition to seeing quick stats about your post, including how many likes, clicks, retweets, and more it’s gotten.
Sure, you won’t get to read your direct message and @replies that aren’t directed to a particular post, but you’ll at least be able to keep the conversation going about the stuff you posted from Buffer without having to open another app. That’s really helpful.
Then, of course, there’s the schedules in Buffer. You can pick the times you want to post on each social network, and with an Awesome account can set different posting schedules for each day if you like. You’ll have to do the research yourself on what time’s best to post, using an app like Followerwonk to find what time your readers are online, or just pick the times that feel right for you. I’d love to see Buffer include a built-in automatic schedule generator to post on the best times but not be redundant, but this works for now. I’d also love a way to group social networks so you always post to this one set at the same time, but again, it’s not too much trouble having to set it all up individually. Those are my only little complaints; otherwise, I am fully in love with Buffer, and just wish I’d started using it sooner.
A Social Social Networking App
The team behind a product is one of the most important things for its success, and the Buffer team is one of the best. They’re deeply focused on providing the very best support they can, and it shows — you’ll get a personal email reply to questions within 24 hours. I’ve emailed with Leo Widrich, Buffer’s co-founder, for our AppStorm interview with their team and more, so I already had a personal connection with the team. But, when I needed support, I emailed their normal support from a different address, and got the same quick responses.
I’ve been impressed with their team for some time, which made it all the more frustrating that their app didn’t seem to be the app for me. Now that I put my $10 on the line to see if the Awesome account would actually save me enough time to make it worthwhile, though, I’ve come to see it as an indispensable part of my AppStorm workflow.
If posting to all of your social network accounts has become too much work — especially for your work accounts — then you should really give Buffer a try. It’s far better than I thought it would be, and I hope that you’ll find our social network posts on @webappstorm more timely and interesting thanks to my newfound love for Buffer.
UPDATE: Buffer has just launched Google+ Page publishing support, and you can signup for early access at http://bufferapp.com/get-google-plus.
The simplest way to post to all of your social networks and followup on your posts, whether you want to publish in real-time, at a specific time, or on a regular schedule.9
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