Hootsuite vs. Buffer: Which is Best for Your Small Business?

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While social media is no longer the new kid on the block, many small-to-midsize (SMB) business owners still struggle to use their social presence to its full potential. From limited knowledge and expertise to a sheer lack of time, it’s easy to understand why SMBs struggle to foster the level of social media engagement that their larger peers do. According to a study from Salesforce, 66% of SMB owners are personally responsible for three or more of the following areas of their business: operations, finance, sales, marketing, human resources, customer service, product development, or IT. The result? Quite often, marketing (and, therefore, social media) gets pushed to the backburner. But from increased web traffic and leads, broader PR reach, and the chance to better understand and connect with customers, the SMB sector can no longer afford to treat social media management as an afterthought.

If you’re ready to boost your social media presence and grow your business in 2020 and beyond, having the right social media management platform to help you stay organized is the first key to success. But with so many available options, how can you choose the right tool for your business? In this blog post, we’ll compare two of the most popular platforms for small business owners--Hootsuite and Buffer. We’ll examine the pros, cons, and features of each tool, cover costs, and share a few other tools you may want to consider adding to your digital marketing arsenal. Yes, social media takes time. No, it doesn’t have to be a burden. Keep reading for the insight you need to make the right decision for your SMB.

Overview: What is Hootsuite? What is Buffer?

Before we get into the differences, similarities, pros, and cons, we’ll start with the basics. Both Hootsuite and Buffer are forms of social media management software (SMMS), which, according to TrustRadius, “is a suite of tools designed for managing and analyzing social interactions. SMMS products typically provide a single dashboard that covers multiple accounts. This is helpful for companies that need to manage their own brand presence on different platforms.”

Are you strapped for time? Need to share the workload? Having a single dashboard is highly valuable. And having a central place to plan, schedule, and analyze posts is a game-changer. So, what’s the elevator pitch for Buffer? For Hootsuite?

Hootsuite, which is a popular option for the enterprise, hails itself as “the most widely used social media management platform, trusted by more than 18 million people and employees at 80% of the Fortune 1000. Hootsuite's unparalleled expertise, customer insights at scale, and collaborative ecosystem, uniquely help people and organizations to succeed with social.”

What are the costs associated with using Hootsuite? Plans range from $29-$599 per month. They also offer a limited free plan, which includes three social profiles, 30 scheduled messages at a time, and one user.

Buffer, which is widely used by freelancers and entrepreneurs, describes itself this way: “Buffer is a suite of social media products made for modern, online brands, providing them with the tools they need for visual marketing, audience engagement, and analytics. Our suite of tools helps more than 75,000 brands stand out online and drive meaningful engagement and measurable results.”

Buffer’s paid business plans range from $15-$99 per month. They also offer a free version for single users, which is an excellent option for trial runs or soloprenuers.

Which tool is the right fit for your small business? Let’s dive into the pros and cons, starting with Buffer.

Buffer as a Social Media Management Software for Small Business: The Pros and Cons

Having used Buffer myself, I can attest to its simplicity. When I work with entrepreneurs who are new to social media or marketing, I often suggest they dip their toes into social media scheduling by trying Buffer. It’s hard to beat the simplicity of the platform, and there’s hardly any learning curve. For enterprises looking for more comprehensive reporting, analytics, and tracking, Buffer may not be the best buy. But for smaller organizations, the platform is well worth considering. What are some of the biggest pros and cons? Based on user reviews, we’ve compiled a few key strengths and weaknesses to consider as you’re evaluating software options against your needs. Let’s start with the positives.

Pros:

  • The Pricing is competitive, and at only $15/month, the Pro Plan is a viable option for small business owners just getting started with social media management. At this price point, notable features include the ability to schedule posts for up to eight different accounts and integrate directly with more than 60 applications, including IFTTT and Feedly--both of which make social media management even more of a breeze. Analytics and the ability to respond to messages are also available with pro plans, meaning this option offers most anything a small team would need to handle both community-building and customer service.
  • The user-reviews are quite positive, with more than 900 reviews and an average rating of 4.54 / 5 on Software Advice, and 775 reviews on g2, garnering an average rating of 4.3 out of 5.
  • Buffer is an official Instagram and Facebook partner, making it very easy to run social media contests directly through its platform. This feature does require a paid subscription.
  • The interface is clean, intuitive, and simple to use. Publishing and scheduling posts is a breeze, and it’s easy to have a quick view of the posts in the queue. Bonus: Buffer automatically pulls in any open-graph data, suggesting images to use with the posts you’re scheduling, optimized for size based on the network they’ll be posted to.

Cons:

    • Analytics are limited to paid plans only. If you’re using the free version, you have to rely on in-platform analytics provided by each individual social network. Compiling this data can be quite time-consuming.
    • Facebook functionality is somewhat limited beyond basic posting. Some users have lamented the lack of ability to tag other pages, for example.
    • As of now, English is the only option Buffer supports. Small businesses supporting customers via multiple languages will need to explore other options or third-party integrations to use in conjunction with Buffer.
    • Several users have reported bugs that resulted in some of their scheduled posts not going live.

    How does Hootsuite compare to Buffer? Let’s explore some of the main features, pros, and cons of the platform.

    Hootsuite as a Social Media Management Software for Small Business: The Pros and Cons

    Hootsuite has been a major player in the SMMS space for more than a decade now. As an early innovator in the industry, Hootsuite is widely used by well-known brands, including Dominos and Marketo. Particularly popular among enterprises, more than 80% of Fortune 1000 companies use Hootsuite as part of their social media management strategy. With a variety of robust features and plans, there’s no denying the capabilities. But is Hootsuite right for your small business? Here are a few pros and cons to consider.

    Pros:

    • Most customers rate Hootsuite favorably. With a 4.1 on g2 and a 4.3 on Capterra, the feedback from current and former Hootsuite customers is mostly positive--especially given the high number of reviews. (More than 2,000 on each review site)
    • The interface is intuitive. Most of the customer reviews of Hootsuite mention ease of use as a top benefit of the tool. Having used Hootsuite, I agree. In my last role, our team used Hootsuite, and team members with varying levels of tech literacy did so with ease. Setup and onboarding are quick and easy, too.
    • Their analytics offerings are robust and comprehensive. Hootsuite does a lot of things well, but one of the most notable features is its analytics. Their platform allows you to create and automate customized reporting that tracks a variety of metrics. The report automating is a massive timesaver for time-strapped business owners and marketing leaders. And the robust data means you can go beyond basic scheduling, and make real-time adjustments to improve social media engagement and boost ROI.
    • Their professional plan is priced competitively. At only $29/month, this plan offers impressive features. Though limited to one-user, it's a good option for entrepreneurs. With the ability to schedule unlimited messages across up to ten social media profiles, this plan also integrates with RSS feeds and includes powerful analytics and reporting. Smaller businesses that can't afford the pricier team plans (which start at more than $100 month) will find most of the features they need in the $29 plan.

    Cons:

    • Some users complain about the lack of ability to leverage more interactive forms of posting. For example, there’s no ability to schedule Twitter or Facebook polls in-platform, which requires users to switch between Hootsuite and the native networks to leverage these features.
    • In general, many users feel the features are more heavily Twitter-focused. While Hootsuite offers capabilities for a variety of other social media networks--Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, to name a few, several customers mention that they find themselves leaving Hootsuite to post natively to apps other than Twitter.
    • Teams wanting to add more than one user will need to invest more, which can sometimes prove cost-prohibitive for start-ups and growing teams. The most affordable team plan, which offers seats for three users, costs $129/month. Business plans, which enable 5+ users, and advanced data exports start at $599/month.
    • Many users wish it were easier to duplicate/reschedule older content. In multiple user reviews, customers indicated this was a pain point. Some suggested that the process was quite manual, particularly as it relates to resizing and uploading new images to suit each network.

    All in all, both Hootsuite and Buffer are viable options for SMB leaders looking to invest in SMMS this year. Wondering if there are other solutions that deserve a look, too? We have compiled a shortlist of other SMMS tools to review, along with some free or low-cost tools that can help you improve your levels on social media engagement, regardless of the software you choose.

    Other Options Worth Considering

    While Hootsuite and Buffer are both viable options for SMB owners to consider, here are a few other tools worth a look. Some are traditional social media management dashboards/platforms, and others are tools you can use to level-up your social media strategy.

    TweetDeck: If you’re primarily looking for a scheduling dashboard--and one that enables you to collaborate with several different team members, it’s hard to beat TweetDeck. While not as robust of an option as Buffer or Hootsuite, and lacking in analytics, it’s one of the easiest tools on the market to use for following hashtags and scheduling posts. A fan favorite of Twitter chat participants, this tool is 100% free. One downside for Apple users, it’s no longer available in the app store, which means you’ll need to download and use the platform on your laptop or use it in the Chrome browser on your iPhone or iPad.

    Sprout: If your team has the budget to cover a more robust tool, and you're looking for an option that has similar reporting, analytics, and scheduling features as Hootsuite and Buffer, Sprout Social is well worth the look. While plans start at around $50/month, the features included are quite impressive. Higher-level plans offer some of the best analytics in the industry, and the option to build out asset libraries for ease-of-use in attaching brand-approved images to posts. Sprout is a particularly popular option for customer support, as it offers advanced listening features and the opportunity to tag users in support inquiries for escalation.

    Sprinklr: Much like Sprout, Sprinklr is a competitor that often goes head to head with the likes of Hootsuite. Another popular option for customer support teams, Sprinklr has also had plenty of fans in the marketing world. While it may not make the most sense for brand-new startups or teams of one, it’s well worth the look for small-to-midsize businesses looking to increase the effectiveness of social media campaigns and scale programs across departments.

    Canva: While not a tool for scheduling, analyzing, or optimizing social posts, Canva is undoubtedly a tool worth considering as you beef-up your arsenal of social media management tools. Want to include compelling, on-brand images in your social media posts? Strapped for design resources? Enter, Canva. For around $10 each month, you can secure a pro account, granting you access to a library of stock photography, thousands of design templates, and the option to store your brand colors and fonts. Bonus: benefits extend far beyond social media. You can use Canva to create presentations, infographics, blog headers, business cards, and much more.

    Biteable: According to Social Media Today, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it through video. And social media messages containing video outperform other types of content in terms of engagement. The good news? You don’t need a ton of fancy equipment, a dedicated team, or expensive editing software to make video a part of your social media strategy. Affordable, easy-to-use video creation tools like Biteable allow you to quickly turn any sort of content into videos that are optimized to share across social media networks. To get started, you can use their free version. Paid plans start at $15 per month.

    Bringing it All Together

    Deciding which SMMS is right for your business is a personal decision, but hopefully, the unbiased advice presented in this article will help you evaluate your options. Running a small business is both uniquely stressful and rewarding, which makes having the right set of tools all the more critical. Here at 8x8, we’re committed to serving the SMB community, both through our products, like 8x8 Express, and through our content. Have a topic you’d like to see covered in a future blog post? Be sure to let us know. You can connect with us on Twitter: @8x8.

    In the meantime, check out these posts that we hope you’ll find useful:

    Erica Marois

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    A passionate connector of people, Erica is a customer and employee experience enthusiast who loves helping others find unique solutions to their biggest challenges. She has 12+ years of experience in content creation and community building and volunteers as a facilitator for CX Accelerator. Erica works from home in Richmond, VA, where she lives with her husband and their lab-mix, Quinn. Outside of work, she loves cooking, traveling [...] Read More >

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