(For the record, Driving Sales' Eric Miltsch is the one who tipped me off about Buffer last year)
Hootsuite has been on a tear over the last year. They've picked up a bunch of agreements with the various social media sites. They have a hip interface and a good reputation for quality of service, uptime, and ease of use. I like Hootsuite and use it for many of our accounts, but it's not my primary social post scheduling tool.
I like Buffer. It's lighter and has certain things that make it superior to Hootsuite. Yes, there are drawbacks, but the advantages surpass the shortcomings.
The first thing heavy users will notice is the price: yes, the premium plan is $99 a month versus Hootsuite Pro which is $10 a month. Quite a jump. Quite worth it. Whenever you consider an investment into tools, services, or anything, you should ask yourself how much time can it save you and how much is your time worth. Buffer has proven itself to me to be worth the extra dozens of dollars.
Here are the time-savers that make me use Buffer more:
* Instant Link Shortening - Hootsuite adds a step. It's a very annoying step if you're posting often. To shorten a link, you have to paste it into their link shortener and then push the button. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but when you're doing a lot of posts it can become a major hassle. Buffer can be set to automatically shorten the link once it's pasted in the post box.
* Set Scheduled Times - With Hootsuite, you have two options: autoschedule or manually schedule. This option must be chosen for each individual post. The problem with autoscheduling is that the logic behind it seems a bit wonky and cannot be adjusted. As you can see to the right, some of the posts are scheduled close together (one was scheduled for 5 minutes after the previous posts - I had to manually adjust) while others are spread out more. It's very random. I don't like random. With Buffer, you set the times and the days that you want to post. One could make a very complex posting matrix if they wanted to, splitting up the posts at different times on different days.
* Continued Selection of Account - This one might seem like nitpicking, but again if you're posting often and managing multiple accounts it can be a pain. With every new posts, you must re-select the accounts on which you want to post. This is particularly annoying if you are posting batches.
* Mixing Up The Times Between Accounts - You can select up to 5 accounts on which to post through Hootsuite. Whether you schedule them manually or autoschedule them, they will be set to go at the exact same time. With Buffer, your posts go into the next available slot. If you select 15 accounts on Buffer to post something, they will all go in at different times depending on how you have the scheduling set up.
* Five-Minute Intervals - Some would say that it's an advantage to have limited choices with posting times on Hootsuite. You can post only in 5-minute intervals. On Buffer, you pick the exact time you want it posted. This gives your posts a little more time in most feeds since several programs work with 5-minute intervals; posting off the interval means fewer posts to compete with during "posting time" on Hootsuite and other services. A minor distinction, but worth noting.
* Images Posted On Twitter Are Actually Posted On Twitter - Buffer uploads images directly to Twitter, while Hootsuite loads them to Ow.ly. People have to click the link on Hootsuite posts to see the image, while on Buffer posts they can see the images inline on Twitter itself. An example of each is below.
A Quick Note About Tools
One of the biggest advantages for Hootsuite is that it's a great overall management tool. Buffer is just a posting tool. You cannot manage your followers, respond to interactions, or monitor your feeds from Buffer.
As with any tool, I wholeheartedly argue against the automation concept. Buffer is great to make sure that your posts are ever-flowing at an appropriate rate. It allows you to schedule messages that you feel will be better posted at a different time. It allows you to spread out your posts so that you aren't flooding the feeds during times of exceptional creativity or discovery.
It does not replace engagement.
You must, whether through Hootsuite, other tools, or through the native sites themselves, check what's happening and interact. Just because you have a cool posting tool that allows you to be "active" while you're doing other things does not mean that you don't have to monitor them. In business, social media is much more of a communication tool than a broadcasting tool. The majority of my time spent on social media is listening. In fact, Buffer simply makes it easier for me to listen so I'm not always worried about whether or not my accounts are staying active.
Engage through social media tools (such as Hootsuite) or on the sites themselves. Schedule through Buffer.