Buffer is a great service. Its forte is enabling you to share content directly from where you are reading. Better still, Buffer allows you to set when the posts are published, providing you with a tool to share at optimal times, thus maximise your potential audience.
The team at Buffer have provided a myriad of ways to share out content via their service. Alongside extensions for Chrome and Safari there are integrations with ifttt, an Android app and, of course, an iPhone app. I am going to concentrate on the iPhone app in this review.
Before getting into the detail of the app, it’s worth summarising how to use Buffer.
The Buffer Service
So, we’ve established what Buffer is but how does it work?
Imagine the scenario. You are reading an article in your favourite browser and decide that it’s worthy of sharing with your followers (Buffer provides posting to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn at present, with more to come). If you are in Chrome or Safari, you can share directly from the Buffer extension. You can also share directly from Google Reader via email (or by the clever use of ifttt) or via a bookmarklet in Safari on your iPhone or iPad.
However, it’s early morning and you know that the majority of your followers won’t see the post if you put it out now. You want to put the post out at a time when you know it will reach a maximum audience. Ok, you can copy the link into your Twitter client or compose an email and save to drafts. Then set a reminder to prompt you to post the content at a more suitable time. It would be much easier to post directly from where you are into a service that allows you to schedule (in advance) when the post goes out. This is where Buffer comes in.
Logging in to Buffer via your browser, you can set up a schedule or “Buffering pattern”, allowing your posts to leave your Buffer at predetermined times, reaching your target audience at the optimal time.
Buffer has built in some analytics into the service which can be used to determine when your posts are receiving the most attention. Using the statistics provided (each post is time stamped) you can then tweak your Buffering pattern accordingly. The analytics provided include how many clicks a link has received, what the potential reach was, how may retweets and mentions the post achieved as well as how many times someone added it to their favourites.
So, you have been posting to your Buffer and have established a list of scheduled tweets. You are happy that your Buffering pattern puts out your posts at optimal times.
The iPhone app offers an array of useful features to help you both post content as well as manage the content already in your Buffer.
Opening the app presents your buffer, your list of scheduled posts. From here you have numerous options.
Tapping a post opens it for editing. The edit screen offers up a few options including link shortening (you can use your bit.ly account by entering the details in the web page), a delete button and an icon to push the post out immediately. Tapping the Add button in the top right hand corner adds the post to your buffer.
From the main Buffer screen it is also possible to reorder the posts. Tap the Reorder button in the top left of the screen and you can then simply drag posts up and down the list. Tap save in the top right of the screen when done and your reordered list is ready to post according to your schedule.
Again from the main Buffer screen, tapping on the pen icon in the top right hand corner of the screen opens the compose screen. As mentioned already, there are options to shrink the URL, delete the post, to post it immediately or to add it to your buffer.
Along the bottom of the screen are navigation icons for Analytics and Settings.
The Analytics screen offers a subset of the information that is available on the dashboard of the web interface. A list of posted articles are presented, each individually time stamped, and tapping on a post opens up the statistics screen. The app gives statistics on how many clicks a link has received as well as the potential reach.
The settings screen provides a means to install the bookmarklet in mobile Safari, add your unique Buffer email address to your contacts (this unique address is used to send posts to your Buffer via email), refresh your profiles, logout and invite friends to the service.
The iPhone app provides a great way to manage your Buffer of posts on the move. It allows you to reorder, create or edit existing posts and analyse the popularity of the content you have already put out.
The simplicity of the app makes it easy to use, at no point getting in the way of the core tasks of managing your content. Buffer have kept the app lightweight which means that navigating through menus is quick and easy. Reordering your list, editing posts or creating new posts is very straightforward and the app performs very well
Best of all Buffer is free, including the apps. Of course there are paid options but the fundamental service is free. You can have up to 10 posts in your buffer at any one time and you can link one service (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn).
Could it be improved? I think so. I’d like to be able to see available statistics alongside the posts at the top level of the Analytics screen. This would provide a better comparative view of the posts against the times they were posted. Clicking a post could then lead to more detailed statistics, like those available on the website.
I wouldn’t hesitate in giving the Buffer service 8/10. I would like to see some improvements to the analytics, perhaps a graph of posts over selectable time periods to enable peak times to be identified. Suggested Buffer patterns would also be very welcome.
The iPhone app gets a very worthy 7/10. As mentioned above, a revamp of the analytics screen and the addition of more statistics would push this score up. The Buffer website gives details on the service, pricing and all available extensions, apps and more. The iPhone app is available, for free, from the iTunes app store.