Social media is the lifeblood of modern marketing efforts. What’s not to love about a trend where people voluntarily enter into a marketing platform?
It’s often said that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. People commonly assume that we should take a similar view of computer programs.
In that case it’d mean that we should focus on functionality rather than presentation. But user experience, or UX, is an important field of software engineering.
UX encompasses a wide variety of subjects. But the most easily recognizable ux feature is a program’s user interface.
User interfaces are often thought of as analogous to a book’s cover. And it’s true that visual elements are a strong part of user interfaces.
However, we need to put emphasis on the “user” portion of user interfaces. Book covers are a passive element.
User interfaces are both passive and active depending on our situation. Basically, we’re meant to actively interact with a user interface.
This is what makes it such an important part of a program.
This is especially important for programs like these which deal with multiple platforms and a myriad of different functions within them.
Helping us understand multiple ongoing processes at the same time isn’t an easy task. However, a well designed user interface will allow us to do so.
So how well do the two programs stand up to ux analysis?
Both platforms provide a well designed user interface. But one shared point in particular deserves special attention.
The two programs use vertically nested menu structures for some functions.
This design choice makes it far easier to navigate complex procedures. In a traditional menu system we’d need to first select an item.
After that we’d need to open up the menu again to reach a submenu. It’s only at this point that we’d be able to find what we were looking for.
In a nested system we can use smaller icons to navigate one or two categories down from the main point of origin.
Both platforms also do a good job of making proper use of the available screen real estate.
For example, the user interface will typically use a flowing layout for smaller posts which maximizes what we’re able to see on screen.
The organization used by both programs is equally intuitive. The most effective multitasking comes from categorization.
Organizing multiple points within categories makes it more an issue of working with those categories than the items contained within them.
This too is handled equivently well by both programs.
However, Buffer wins by a narrow margin simply by working with more data.
The program’s larger data set includes items such as analytic data. Integrating those items is both a more difficult task and one which they’ve managed to accomplish with considerable elegance.
Social media management and automation platforms make it easier to use any given social platform.
However, one of their most important functions is an ability to integrate different social networks into a singular whole.
The goal of each program is to ensure it feels like we’re using one individual program rather than accessing myriad social networks.
How does each of our two software suites live up to that goal?
Buffer provides full support for facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest and instagram. This is a fantastic range of services which covers most of the bigger players in social networking.
It’s true that there are some missing services. Given the number of social networking options out there it’s impossible to fully support everything.
But in general the company is doing a great job of focusing on the largest options which have the most opportunities for financial or brand growth.
It’s an unfortunate oversight as Pinterest has been rapidly growing in commercial relevance.
A platform which was once solely for hobbyists has turned into a fantastic option for marketing. What’s more, the user base tends to be quite passionate.
It’s exactly the type of market we want to reach when creating an online presence or persona.
We’ve seen that the two programs are very closely matched.
However, SocialBee support for such an important social networking system gives it just enough of an edge to win within this category.
Building Bridges Between Software Suites
We’ve touched on a number of features which are handled differently by the two platforms. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could simply add in new features as needed?
That’s actually more realistic than we might assume. Both platforms provide something called integrations.
As the name suggests an integration gives us the ability to integrate 3rd party systems into the base program.
For example, imagine if we wanted to use shortened URLs. We might normally do so with bit.ly.
But the amount of time needed to manually work with that service for every URL builds up pretty quickly.
Instead of just loading the site up we could use a bit.ly integration to automatically shorten URLs.
This is just one example of course. But this also raises the obvious question. Which of the two platforms does a better job with integrations?
One of the most important points is that both services offer a zapier integration. Zapier can be thought of as a universal language which allows applications to exchange information.
It’s basically an integration which supports other integrations. The good part about zapier is that it works with over 400 different applications.
The bad is that zapier is somewhat limited in what information it can work with. Zapier based integrations are often quite useful.
However, zapier integrations are often lacking when compared to an integration specifically written for a single platform.
However, SocialBee integrations tend to focus on fairly simple functions. In particular they offer a lot of options for url shortening.
Pricing and Tiers
Of course it’s also important to make sure that we’re getting our money’s worth out of any service.
We’ve seen how much power each platform can provide. But how much are we going to pay for those services?
Buffer offers four payment tiers. These are free, pro, premium and business plans. Each time users go up a tier they’ll gain more social channels, scheduled posts and number of users.
In addition to the free plan each payment tier also has a free trial period. This is an ideal way of testing out the waters and finding out which plan is the best match for our needs.
The resource scaling is fairly similar as well. Bootstrap and pro users essentially have the same features. What differs is the number, frequency or overall power inherent to those tiers.
It’s worth noting that this type of plan is fairly uncommon in any type of automated marketing system.
But it makes it far easier to really understand what we need and if it’s important to upgrade or not.
With all that said, the Buffer setup wins out in the end. The main reason simply comes down to the fact that they offer a fully free plan.
Most users will want to upgrade from the free plan as their needs grow. But the fact that we can use a free plan to build our brand or online presence is extremely important.
Analytics are an important part of any online campaign. They provide the basic metrics which can help us determine how effective any given action or choice might be.
Both platforms provide analytic services.
However, it’s best to keep expectations fairly low. Analytic data on both platforms is lacking when compared to what we’d find in, say, a top-tier sales funnel suite.
This does help keep each platform’s unique features under observation. However, we’ll soon see that there are better ways to go about that process.
The analytic dashboard gives us the ability to examine different time periods, audience status, activity status and similar data points.
It’s functional, but tends to just live up to expectations rather than surpassing them.
However, the Buffer analytic design is generally the more intuitive.
The extension will also integrate itself into some of the more popular online discussion services. This includes Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Hacker News.
It’s worth noting that SocialBee offers an impressive level of flexibility for different usage scenarios.
For example, the same person might run two seperate businesses. In that case he’d be able to easily separate the two with SocialBee.
This makes it especially useful for people who need to juggle multiple companies and campaigns.
SocialBee Pros and Cons
SocialBee was first released in 2016 to help deploy evergreen content. Since then it’s expanded to meet the needs of people all over the world.
- Supports Instagram.
- Supports Zapier integrations
- Offers a free trial for every tier
- Provides workspaces and roles to account for multiple users, businesses and campaigns
- No social media inbox system.
- Subpar analytics.
Buffer Pros and Cons
Buffer was created in 2010 to help users work with the Twitter platform. In the following decade it’d grow to the powerful multi-network software suite we know it as today.
- Highly focused on scheduled posting.
- Features to empower team coordination.
- Powerful automation support.
- Provides auto-reply.
- Supported platforms on the basic plan might be disappointing to some users.
- Analytics are fairly barebones.
Use SocialBee if:
- You want to target the highest number of social platforms.
- You want some extra help keeping multiple companies and campaigns separate.
- You don’t have much need for integrations.
- You want some extra options for pricing tiers.
If you’d like to see for yourself then you can get started in minutes by signing up for an account.
Use Buffer if:
- You want the most integrations.
- You want a unified analytics panel.
- You want the option of a free account.
- You want to use the system with a browser extension.
Buffer proves just how powerful it is. Getting started couldn’t be any easier thanks to their generous payment tiers.
With all that in mind it’s worth trying this very minute for anyone who’s interested in getting the most out of social media.