Buffer, Social Media Automation, and How a Skeptic Became a Fan

Here’s a confession: I loathe almost all variants of social media automation. It makes me cringe when I see it grossly misused out in the open and it’d be an understatement to say that historically my stance has been uncompromisingly negative. Why? Because automation I thought was for the lazy and the ignorant, those who wanted a quick fix and didn’t want to put in the sweat equity that social media – in particular relationship building and inbound marketing – so often requires. Don’t get me wrong; automation, the act of simplifying a work process to run by itself, when used appropriately can do wonders. Using automation to improve work flow within HR, sales, and lead generation can be a smart choice. A recent Software Advice article mentions Email automation as another great example, however when it comes to social media marketing I’ve always rallied for the use of putting real people behind the face of the brand.

Given all these reasons amongst others I assumed I’d be able to quickly write off Buffer, a web app that pushes timed updates out to Twitter and Facebook, but after a month of use I was pleasantly surprised to feel the opposite. Buffer is the real deal and is as genuine as they come. Part of the company’s manifesto from the start has been honesty and authenticity, two words that don’t always come to mind when thinking of social media automation services.

Buffer lets users schedule updates within a web browser, Google reader, inside Twitter, or via the Buffer iPhone or Android app and then publishes them at predetermined times throughout the day. Using Buffer one can load up Tweets and not have to worry about the distribution cycle. It’s useful for those of us who aren’t connected 24/7 or for anyone who wants to reduce the amount of time spent updating their accounts. The posting frequency and publishing time are left up to the discretion of the user. A built in set of analytics later reveal the reach and response to each post.

With great utility also comes great responsibility, and the team at Buffer has intelligently decided to address the potential for misuse head on. The company’s philosophy is stated as such:We genuinely want to help you create an authentic and honest appearance on social media because we believe that there are no “short-cuts” to succeeding on a platform where engagement is so crucial. We know that Buffer is one solution amongst many out there. You will often find us recommending a variety of tools on our Twitter account or on our blog. We believe that providing the best value for your particular situation is far more important than a quick sale of our product.

It’s a nice way of saying that Buffer is indeed a useful tool, but one should be careful not to abuse it. A little bit of help is fine, but it’s a big mistake to try and take the human element out of social media. Buffer isn’t an all in one solution, but it wasn’t designed to be. By using it strategically with other publishing / listening services and without compromising on basic common sense, Buffer would be a valuable addition to almost any toolkit.

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