Do you ever worry that your activity on Twitter seems too sporadic? You’re quiet for half the day/week, then jump on and post a handful of great links/thoughts, have a quick chat, then disappear off again? A new service called Buffer has the answer, and I caught up with one of its founders, Leo Widrich, to find out more.
Let me tell you a story…
About 2.5 years ago, I was just starting out with a new consultancy. As such, I hadn’t filled my client roster, and had some free time to network, learn, and promote myself and my business. So I joined Twitter. I monitored it all day, chatted, posted regularly, and manually made sure I was consistent throughout the day.
But of course, as I got busier, this became more and more of a challenge. I began finding the articles I wanted to share during my ‘free’ time, either at the weekends, late evenings, or very early mornings. These are great time to catch up on reading, but probably not the best times to start a work conversation.
So what is Buffer?
Buffer isn’t the first app to offer scheduled tweeting, but it is the smartest solution I’ve come across so far.
Instead of having to manually decide what time each tweet will go out (a la Hootsuite), you just preset some times each day that you’d like to tweet (e.g. 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm) and then drop all the cool stuff you find into your Buffer, where it queues up and posts out throughout the day.
Add more goodies than can fit it in a day – it’ll buffer over into the next day. Decide you want them in a different order – it’s a simple case of drag and drop.
During the day, you’re then free to use what free time you do have to indulge in what Twitter (and all social media) is really all about – conversation.
In Leo’s own words:
“Buffer is a tool that helps you to tweet consistently every day without flooding your followers. It was an idea that came out of Joel’s use of Twitter [ed: Joel Gascoigne is co-creator of Buffer and an experienced developer with an MSc Computer Science]. He wanted to share more of the great articles he was reading, but without all these tweets in a row. Having a ‘Buffer’ which spreads out these tweets seemed to be the optimal solution.
“The heart of Buffer are the browser extensions. Whichever article you are reading on the web, just give it one click on the Buffer icon and add it to your Buffer. What we found is that many people tweet one article and add the rest to their Buffer. This spreads them out and never floods their stream.”
Why might you need Buffer?
Generally speaking, you might like Buffer if a) you don’t use Twitter much, or b) you use Twitter all the time.
Leo: “We are seeing 2 groups of people using Buffer heavily at the moment. The first one is Twitter new comers. People told us they are overwhelmed with Twitter at first and with Buffer they come to gradually use it more and more in a piecemeal process.
“Of course another large percentage of Buffer users are Twitter Pros. So people who are very heavily involved in Twitter and also have a business interest. What many seem to appreciate is that they can save time and be more efficient by Buffering, yet still remain a genuine personality and not turn into an auto-bot.
“What I found for myself is that it is often hard to tweet consistently. Yet, only a consistent appearance, similar to blogging, can build trust and help you stand out from the rest.”
Are the spammers circling?
Leo: “We try to fiercely work against that. Our tagline is “Be Awesome On Twitter” and we aim to help everyone to flood users less.
So we basically try to optimize instead of automate. This means we try not to implement things such as pulling RSS feeds in or tweeting the same tweet multiple times.”
Get the very best from Buffer
I asked Leo what his top tips would be to get the best from the app. For him, it’s all about convenience:
- Bring Buffer to you: “With our browser extension, you can go to Twitter.com and Buffer Retweets from your native Twitter stream.”
- Know the shortcuts: “Press “alt+b” to bring up the Buffer box (again, needs the browser extension)”
- Get jamming: “You can Buffer tweets from inside StrawberryJ.am, a Trend based Tweet aggregator”
- Grab text for tweets: “Highlight some text and then click the Buffer icon and it will be turned into a tweet.”
For me, the ability to add multiple accounts (if you have a pro subscription) and set different times for each is a god send. So what feature is are other users loving the most?
Leo: “What a lot of our professional users are thankful for are the analytics we are providing for all Tweets that are Buffered. [ed: you can link your Bit.ly account into Buffer] It helps a lot to understand about how well your tweets are doing and if you should change your patterns.”
Plans for the future of the app?
Just like any new app, Buffer is promising, but could be more useful. I’d like to see it go truely mobile, for example, and then extend out to LinkedIn and Facebook. So what’s in the pipeline?
Leo: “We really want to built it out further in the future. One main goal is to allow people to Buffer from anywhere they are. We are currently in talks with many different reader and mobile apps as well as Twitter clients. The integration with Strawberryj.am was fantastic and definitely the route we want to pursue in the future.
An iPhone app is high up on our list and Joel is working away on it as we speak.”
A game changer
At the moment, I use Buffer for about five tweets a day per account, usually buffered up that morning. But overall, Buffer is only one of the ways I access and manage Twitter, along with Hootsuite, Twitter for Mac, Twitter for iPhone, Twitter.com and Bit.ly, according to my needs. Of course, Buffer isn’t intended to do everything those clients do, but if it keeps on the promising development path it’s on, that list could reduce.
So, have you tried Buffer? Is it working for you? What improvements would you make?
(Hat tip to Sarah Arrow for first making me aware of Buffer.)