Navigating between—and keeping up with—several different social media accounts can prove to be a Herculean task. As a social media management tool, Buffer provides an all-in-one solution, creating a more efficient way to maintain multiple accounts without flipping back and forth between them.
How does Buffer work? It allows you to create, schedule, and share posts; respond to user comments; and track the performance of your social campaigns—across all of your social media channels.
In this tutorial, we'll show you how to use Buffer. Click to any of the sections below, or keep reading for the full guide on how Buffer works.
Buffer Pricing: Buffer offers a free subscription with limited functionality. Paid plans start at $15/month for up to eight social accounts, 100 scheduled posts, and one user.
Connect Buffer to 1,500+ other apps with Buffer's Zapier Integration.
How to Get Started with Buffer
If this is your first time using Buffer, you'll need to create an account to get started. Once that's taken care of, you'll need to connect Buffer with your social media accounts. Click Connect your social accounts, and you'll see a list of social media options.
Keep in mind that Buffer currently only connects with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. There are also limitations within each network. For example, you can't connect Buffer with a Facebook Profile, but you can connect it with a Facebook Page or Group. Conveniently, the list you see during setup shows the scope of what Buffer can connect to.
Select which type of social account you want to connect to.
Once you select the account type, you'll be asked to authorize the app via the OAuth 2.0 protocol. If you're currently logged in to that social media account, you'll receive a Continue as [user] message. Otherwise, you'll be asked to sign in to the account.
Depending on which social media platform you selected, you'll either be finished connecting your account, or you'll be asked to choose which pages or groups you'd like to use with Buffer. The options that appear are the pages or groups you manage with the social account you signed in with.
If applicable, select the pages or groups by checking the respective box, then select Next.
You'll be asked a few more questions—things about what Buffer is allowed to do with your account—and then you're done. All you have to do is repeat these steps until you've connected each social media account you plan to manage with Buffer.
How to Create a Post in Buffer
Buffer is made up of three parts: Buffer Publish, Buffer Analyze, and Buffer Reply. To plan, create, schedule, and publish posts, you'll be using Buffer Publish.
In the left sidebar, you'll find a list of all your connected accounts. Each account will be wearing its respective logo, allowing you to distinguish between the different social media platforms you've connected, even if they all have the same name.
Select the account you want to post to. Once selected, click the text box under the Queue tab.
Once you click into that box, a new window will appear.
Here, you do a few things:
You'll have the option to select (or deselect) additional accounts where you'd like to share the post. You can select as many accounts as you like, and the accounts that aren't selected will be grayed out.
This is also where you'll create the post itself. In the status box, you can add images, text, links, or any combination of the three. When you add a link, it will automatically be shortened to
https://buff.ly/[auto-generated]. This is particularly useful for social accounts like Twitter that have character limits. If you don't want to use the shortened link, hover your cursor over the link and select Unshorten.
Click Customize for each network at the bottom-right, and you'll be able to customize the post to be different for each social media account.
At this point, you should be at a window that shows a short preview of the post, any links, an image thumbnail, and each account it will be shared to. Additionally, if there are any issues with your post, you'll see an exclamation point at the beginning of the status, signaling that something is awry.
Select the box next to the logo of the account you'd like to customize. Once selected, the editor will expand, showing a complete preview of the post. Now you can completely customize the post for this specific account. For example, you might add extra media or shorten the post if it exceeds the character count.
If you've included a link, you'll also notice a Suggested media at the bottom. By default, the post will use the linked article's featured image in the preview. If you'd rather use a different image, select the box to the left of the Suggested media section, then select the image file you'd like to use.
After you've finished customizing the post, you're ready to publish it. If you want to publish it immediately, select the arrow next to Add to Queue to bring down a menu, then select Share Now.
If you'd rather schedule the post to be sent out later, continue reading.
How to Schedule a Post on Buffer
Proper timing is critical for a post. One of the biggest benefits of using Buffer to manage your accounts is the ability to schedule posts.
Back at the dropdown menu, you'll see two other options in addition to Share Now. Selecting Share Next will add the post to your queue, putting it next in line for publication at a default time (more on that below). Selecting Schedule Post, which gives you complete control of the publication time and date, brings up a calendar. Once you've set your time and date, click Schedule.
Alternatively, you can simply click the Add to Queue option, which will put the post in the next available slot in the post queue.
Once you've scheduled your post, you'll be brought back to the Buffer Publish homepage. There, you'll see all of your scheduled posts in the _Queue _tab.
How Does the Buffer Queue Work?
The Buffer Queue is where you'll see all of your scheduled posts. Each social media network comes with several predefined times in the queue. It also only offers a certain number of predefined queue slots depending on the account you're using; for example, Facebook and LinkedIn have two per day, while Twitter has four.
If you want to change the times that you post to each account, click on the Settings tab.
Once selected, you'll be in the General sub-tab. (Here, you can remove the link shortening function, add a Google Analytics campaign tracking code, or even shuffle up to your first 200 posts in your queue.) For our purposes, you'll want to click into the Posting Schedule sub-tab.
There are three sections to make note of:
Timezone. This is where you'll select the timezone you want to target.
Add a new posting time. This is where you can add a default posting time for your queue.
Posting times. This is where you can edit the default posting times that already exist.
Using these settings, you can completely customize the timing of your posts to match your specific requirements. Only do this if you know for sure that your selections are better for your audience—otherwise, stick with Buffer's suggestions.
You can also create a post directly from the Queue. Pick the next available slot on the Queue, and you'll be able to create the post from there.
Note: Depending on your settings, posts added by non-account owners may have their posts placed in Draft until they're ready for approval. If you're an account owner, you can find and approve those posts in the Awaiting Approval tab.
How to View Analytics on Buffer
Buffer is currently working on a product called Buffer Analyze. While the product isn't officially launched, you can sign up for early access. But even without Buffer Analyze, there's a way to check your overall social performance on Buffer.
From Buffer Publish, select the Analytics tab. You'll also want to select the account that you want data for, located in the left sidebar.
Once selected, you'll see each post made within that account, along with its performance. This includes comments, likes, clicks, reach, and shares.
If you want a deeper breakdown of the data, head over to the Overview tab. Here, you'll find detailed performance data for your account within a specified time range. To export this data, select the arrow next to Export as…, then select the export method from the dropdown menu.
With this data in hand, you'll be able to see which posts performed the best (and worst!) and use that information to improve future posts.
How to Reply to Posts Using Buffer
Creating your initial social media post is only a small part of the process. After a post is shared, engagement from your followers is likely only seconds away—and you need to engage back. Buffer provides a service specifically for this, appropriately named Buffer Reply.
To use Buffer Reply, you'll need to go through the exact same process of connecting your accounts as you did with Buffer Publish (see above if you skipped that part), with an additional step of adding team members. Once you get to the part about adding team members, enter their email addresses (separated by commas) in the box, then click Finish Strong. Alternatively, select Or skip this step if you'd like to save this bit for later.
Once the setup is complete, you'll be back at the Buffer Reply homepage. On the left sidebar, you'll see a short list of options to choose from:
Team Inbox. This is where all unassigned conversations live.
Mine. This contains all the conversations that are currently assigned to you.
Assigned. This contains all the conversations that are currently assigned to others on your team.
Closed. This is where closed conversations live.
Spam. Buffer provides a feature that allows you to mute certain contacts. Those messages appear here.
Above the composer, you'll find several conversation actions. Properly utilizing these options allows you to prioritize messages and streamline your response time. Here's what you need to know:
Tag. Adding tags helps you organize and keep track of related conversations.
Move. This allows you to move any conversation to the desired folder.
Status. This allows you to change the status of a conversation to Open, Closed, or Pending.
Assign. This allows you to assign a conversation to another team member.
To reply to a message, go to the relevant folder, select the message, and type your reply. It's just as easy as it sounds.
You can also tell Buffer which types of messages you want to receive. To do so, select the tiny dropdown arrow next to your account image at the top-right and click Preferences.
In the window that appears, select the Notifications tab. This is where you're able to dictate which types of messages you want (and don't want) to receive. To turn a message type on or off, toggle the slider to the right or left, respectively.
If you want to track how well you and your team are doing, you can select the Reports option, found at the bottom of the left sidebar. This will give you an overview of the average time it takes to send the first reply, the amount of new conversations you have, and the number of conversations replied to within the selected time frame.
Now that you know the basics, learn how you can automate your Buffer workflows by taking advantage of Zapier's Buffer integrations. Still on the fence about Buffer? See how it stacks up against Hootsuite.