How to automate social media posting with Buffer

Step by step guides show how to use automation tools to post to social networks

Buffer is a brilliant web service that enables you to automate posting updates to several social media services. It offers both free and paid accounts and it saves time and effort when sharing updates.

What does Buffer do?

Buffer is a web service that enables you to create posts for the most popular social media accounts and to schedule them to be posted on a specific date and time. Posting is automatic and you do not need to be around when it happens.

Instead of visiting each social media service in turn and creating a separate post, you create one post and click one button to post across multiple services.

This saves a lot of time and effort, and duplication of worth when you want to share something across several social networks.

Posts are added to a queue and are posted according to the schedule. A free plan has a queue maximum of 10 posts, but paid accounts can queue up to 2,000 posts.

A free plan enables you to connect:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Instagram

A paid account adds Pinterest too.

With a free account, one post can be shared to 5 social media accounts and you can queue 10 posts, so that is 50 social media shares. All scheduled to be posted automatically.

One of the best features of Buffer is its simplicity. It just does the basics very well. It is quick and easy to use and gets the job done without overloading you with features.

How much does Buffer cost?

Buffer has five accounts and the cheapest of these is Free! There are five social networks and you can create one connection with each (Facebook for example, supports home accounts, pages and groups and you can connect just one).

Another limitation of Free is that you can schedule only 10 posts. However, this is better than it sounds because 1 post can be shared with up to 5 social networks, whereas some services would count it as 5 posts.

The Awesome plan is the best value and it costs $10 as month for 10 social connections and 100 scheduled posts.

 

1 Sign up to Buffer

Go to the Buffer website (buffer.com), click Pricing in the navigation bar at the top and then click the Get Started button under the Free plan.

Sign up to Buffer at the website

There are options to sign in with Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, or to use an email address and password. It is up to you.

Create a free account at buffer.com

 

2 Connect to social networks

The first time you create an account at Buffer and log in, you are presented with a screen like this.

Connect to a social media account at Buffer

Choose a social network and click one of the buttons below. Notice that you can connect different things within a social media account. For example, you can connect your Facebook profile (your home page), a page (such as a company/product/service/fan page), or a group. The options depend on the social media.

Click one of the buttons and authorise Buffer so that it can access your account to post updates. You might need to enter your username and password.

Connecting Buffer doesn’t give it full access, just enough to post. It’s not like you are handing over full control of your account.

After adding one social media account, add another and another. At any time you can return to this screen by clicking the plus button next to Accounts at the top of the sidebar on the left.

 

3 Set a schedule

It is possible to post to social media accounts immediately after creating a post. It is also possible to schedule it for later. However, the best option is to set an automatic schedule. It saves the most time and effort.

Select the Schedule tab.

Select each social media account in the sidebar and choose what time every day you want to post.

Set a schedule for posting social media updates at the Buffer website

A different time can be set for each social media account. This enables you to choose the best time for each one. You might get the best response from Twitter followers posting at 2PM and from Facebook followers at 6PM for example.

The Add Posting Time button enables you to post two, three or more times a day.

You can also choose which days to power and which not to post, such as Saturday and Sunday. Maybe your followers aren’t around at the weekend and posting has little benefit. Create the schedule works best for you.

 

4 Post an update using Buffer

Select the Content tab and the Queue tab below it. The queue lists all the posts you have created that are waiting to be published. Let’s create a post. Click in the box.

Add items to Buffer's post queue

The box expands and you can enter the text and links for the post.

Create a post in Buffer at the website

  1. Type in or paste a URL to share. Make sure it is the first thing you enter. This is because Buffer will then do two things. It shortens the link, and it fetches the preview shown below.
  2. Buffer creates great posts in Facebook and other social media using a photo and text description pulled from the URL you are share (enter it first). The arrows overlaying the image enable you to step through the images extracted from the page and choose the one you want.
  3. After inserting the URL, add text before or after it, such as a description of the post or URL being shared.
  4. Select the social media accounts you want to share this post with using the icons at the top of the box.
  5. Remember that Twitter posts must be less than 140 characters. As you type, this number shows how many characters are remaining. If Twitter is included in the social accounts, make sure you don’t go over the limit (less than zero left).
  6. Click the camera icon to upload a photo from the computer’s disk.
  7. Click Add to Queue to save it. It will automatically be posted on the schedule you created earlier.

 

5 Posting options

Click the arrow at the right side of the Add to Queue button for more options

Posting options at the Buffer website

You can share it now, share it next or schedule the post.

Schedule a social media post at the Buffer website

Scheduling the post is different to the automatic schedule created earlier. This is a manual schedule and you can select the date and time to post the item.

Adding the post to the queue is the option that requires the least effort. It goes out on the daily schedule, but you can manually schedule if you prefer.

6 Analyse the performance of posts

There are plenty more features in Buffer, but mostly they require paid subscriptions. One feature that works for free is analytics. Select the Analytics tab and then the Posts tab below.

Analyse the performance of your posts

For Twitter it shows the number of retweets, likes, mentions, and clicks. For Google+ it also shows the +1s, for Facebook it shows the reach and so on.

Different statistics are available for each social media account, so select each account in the sidebar on the left and check out the performance of your posts. This is a great way to see how well they are doing, which was the best and so on.

7 Re-Buffer posts

Go to Analytics > Posts and you can see your previous posts. Next to each one is a Re-Buffer button. Click this to share a post again. It is added to the queue.

This is a great way of re-sharing evergreen content. Just browse the previous posts and ReBuffer them.

 

Action Points

  • Sign up for a free Buffer account
  • Add your social media networks
  • Edit the posting schedule for each social account
  • Create posts for sharing on social networks
  • Build up the posting queue

 

 

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