Like everything else, the cost for social media management tools is going up. I decided to compare two of them: Buffer vs. Social Champ.
When I decided to look at social media management tools, I had one new requirement. I wanted a tool that could post to Mastodon, one of the newer social platforms out there. So this little battle of Buffer vs. Social Champ involves the two social media management tools that offer that platform as an option.
But depending on how many other platforms you want to post to, the cost between the two can vary drastically.
Since I have several years of experience on one of the two and am new to the other, I decided I’d do a comparison here to document what I like and dislike about each tool.
So why Buffer vs. Social Champ?
I chose these two social media tools for two key reasons. The first is that I’m currently subscribing to both. That will change when the current subscription ends — or sooner — for at least one of them. I’m basing that on the cost of each, the features they offer and the response of each tool’s support team.
The other reason I chose these two particular tools is that they seem to be two of the only big social media management tools to offer support for Mastodon, one of the newest social platforms out there. (I’m on Mastodon, by the way. If you are, be sure to say hello!)
So let’s begin the faceoff: It’s Buffer vs. Social Champ.
I’ve used Buffer for several years now to schedule posts on various social media platforms. Through my Buffer account, I can currently post to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There’s an option to post to an Instagram business account, but I haven’t converted my Instagram to a business account, yet. (The jury’s still out on that one.)
I manage both my work and personal Twitter accounts on Buffer. At the moment, I have a total of nine social media accounts connected to Buffer. But there’s an important reason that this will definitely change.
It recently added support for Mastodon, something it touted on its website. But the extra platform comes with an extra cost that can be quite dramatic.
Ease of Use
Buffer offers a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox (and probably others) that allows you to click an icon and immediately post the article or website you’re viewing to your social accounts. From the popup window, you can either schedule the post, add it to your queue or post it right that second. You also have the option to add a photo in place of the social card. It also shows a nice preview of how the post will look on the platform in question.
You can see scheduled posts and easily reschedule or delete them.
Managing your social accounts is simple: You just give Buffer permission through the individual platform and it’s connected.
For ease of use, it gets an A.
Buffer allows users to set up a regular posting schedule. With that, you can schedule a post in a pre-determined slot. So, for example, if you decide that you want to post every morning at 9 a.m., every afternoon at 2 p.m. and every evening at 8 p.m., you can set up a queue with those times.
The queue page displays each scheduled slot as a gray strip until there’s content placed there.
You can schedule a post into any slot window or just select “Add to Queue” to place it in the next available slot. If you realize a friend’s birthday is Friday, you can go to the queue page and click on the specific slot where you want that post to go, compose the post and schedule it. You can also look at scheduled posts and move them around or even slide them to any available empty slot.
If you wanted to have a specific post go live on your social account but at a time that’s five slots away, you can either post it directly from the queue page, or you can schedule it in the next slot and then simply drag it to the slot you want from the queue page.
Buffer makes managing your schedule of posts and making changes to it just about as simple as it could be.
For managing the post queue, Buffer definitely gets an A.
Buffer offers free support and is quick to respond on social media when there are questions or issues. The team seems receptive and helpful.
To be fair, I haven’t had any issues big enough to require reaching out until I had questions about a new pricing plan. But even then, they were quick to respond, even though they gave me answers I didn’t want to hear.
I have to give them an A there.
The cost is where Buffer falls flat on its face. The tool just recently released a new pricing plan that, for folks like me, may leave you with a bad case of sticker shock.
Buffer does offer a free option that gives you three channels. You can use Twitter with Buffer’s free account, something that some social media management tools don’t allow since Twitter’s price for its API skyrocketed.
For the paid option, like many services, you pay slightly less if you pay for a year at a time rather than monthly. My last bill from Buffer totaled $102. That includes up to 10 social channels — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Business, Shopify, TikTok, or Pinterest.
They recently mentioned that you could now post to Mastodon. But here’s where a nasty wrinkle emerged: to use Mastodon, you have to leave that “Legacy” pricing plan for their new plan which comes with a flat rate of $6 per social channel. I currently have nine channels connected. If I wanted to add Mastodon to that and pay yearly, that would be $5 per channel at 10 channels or $600 per year.
A price of $102 per year is phenomenal. A price of $600 is beyond outrageous. To continue with Buffer and post to Mastodon, I would need to eliminate most of the channels I currently have connected. (Some of my channels are already connected to a social media management tool that my workplace pays for. But it’s inconvenient that I can’t rely on the one tool I’ve been relying on without paying a ridiculous amount of money.)
If I eliminate all but my Twitter account, @patricksplace, and add my Mastodon account, @patricksplace, I’d be paying $120 a year for just two channels. Adding a third one would up the price to $180 a year.
For just three channels? That’s as bad a case of sticker shock as I can imagine.
Buffer’s new pricing plan gets a F. The only good thing I can say about it is that it does scale based on how many channels you want to add.
But to be affordable, it’s too limiting; to use the same number of channels the old plan has, the cost — for individuals and bloggers — is almost certainly prohibitive unless you’re the rare blogger who draws in big money from your site. Most of us aren’t that blogger.
So overall in the first half of this Buffer vs. Social Champ battle, Buffer emerges with a B…but the pricing alone is a tremendous disappointment.
I’m new to Social Champ. I signed up for the first time about a month or so ago. I realized too late that their refund policy only gives you 15 days to cancel. After that, you’re stuck with a bill, and if you’ve paid a year in advance, well, you’re stuck for a year.
Social Champ, on the surface, seems very similar to Buffer. But there are some problems here that make it less convenient.
Ease of use
Social Champ is nearly as easy to use as Buffer. It also offers a web browser extension that allows you to post to social channels through a popup window.
The key difference between the two here is that Social Champ doesn’t give you the level of preview that Buffer does.
Like Buffer, you authorize Social Champ to connect to each account you wish to use. It’s easy to add channels and you have up to 10 to work with.
You can share a post at a specific time or you can use a preset queue that you determine in advance.
For ease of use, I give Social Champ an A.
Just like Buffer, you can specify specific times at which you want to post. Each platform can have a different set of times.
But Social Champ doesn’t show you the blank slots so you can see which slots aren’t already filled (or which ones still need to be).
It simply shows what’s scheduled…and if nothing is, yet, you simply get a message showing that nothing is scheduled. If you click the “Create New” link, you’ll get the post window. Your options (as you see above) are either adding to the queue or posting now.
Here’s where this becomes a problem. Let’s go back to the birthday example: With Social Champ, you can’t schedule to a specific slot on the queue. You can either add something in the next slot or you can add it to the next available slot.
So if you want to make sure the post five slots down is a birthday message, you’d have to schedule five items. Once they’re scheduled, you can click and drag posts to reschedule them. You can move the birthday post to slot #5 once you have all five in place. But you can’t get more precise than that.
Even worse, if you manually schedule the time of the post at, say, noon, and you then start filling your queue, it won’t notice that you already have something scheduled manually at noon. So when you go to queue your fifth item, it’ll go in at noon on your queue. You’ll end up posting two things at the same time! That could adversely affect your social account’s interaction rate.
If you schedule a post to hit at a specific time in advance, your queue is fine up until that point. But it’s then useless until that manually-scheduled post runs unless you go in and manually edit the queue’s hit times to avoid a double post.
That’s an unnecessary inconvenience. I have to give the tool a C for their queue.
That brings me to getting support from them. I first tried the live chat. It was responsive at first, but then after explaining the queue problem, they went silent on me. I asked if the chat was working, thinking that maybe I had lost a connection. But they were just slow to respond.
I then asked for an email address for support and I received one. So I emailed. I received a reply thanking me for “the great feature suggestion,” which was a nice way of saying, “We don’t have a way to do what you want to do.”
“I understand your point, as you previously contacted us on live chat, too,” the rep said in the email.
Why, yes. I sent them an email after the chat rep (I’m assuming it wasn’t a bot) just stopped responding.
“Good news is that is that we are always open to new suggestions and feature revamps- my team is considering and is excited to work on the feature mentioned by you within the Queue,” the email continued. “But it may take some time to push it out and get it going.”
They’re polite…but not as responsive as I’d like and weren’t able to offer a clear answer to the problem.
I have to give them an B there.
When I mentioned on Twitter that I was working on a Buffer vs. Social Champ review, the few responses I received all gave Social Champ the advantage. One suggested their pricing was “super competitive.”
Social Champ does give you the option to use their service for free. Like Buffer’s free option, Social Champ’s gives you up to three channels. But unlike Buffer, Social Champ doesn’t include Twitter in the free plan. So if you want to use Twitter, you’ll have to move to their paid tier.
I have not found that to be so. Granted, they’re better than Buffer’s new pricing structure if you wanted to use 10 social channels. If you have just five channels, Social Champ costs $12 more per year than Buffer. Buffer overtakes Social Champ in cost if you add a sixth channel.
If you have three or less and Twitter is at least one of the three, Social Champ’s free plan won’t work because Twitter isn’t part of their free plan. Buffer’s free plan will get you Twitter, but it won’t get you Mastodon.
Maxed out with channels, Social Champ gives you up to 12 while Buffer only goes to 10. But you’ll pay through the nose for 10 on Buffer at $500 a year while Social Champ’s maximum of 12 channels still costs that flat $312 per year.
Is that “super competitive”? If you want Mastodon and Twitter, it comes down to how many social accounts you need.
Loomly doesn’t connect with Mastodon, but gives you 10 channels at $26 per month, according to its website. That’s the same price as Social Champ when paid yearly. Hootsuite jacked its price up to $99 per month for 10 channels and does not include support for Mastodon. I definitely wouldn’t call them “super-competitive.”
When you look at pricing, Social Champ isn’t the cheapest, but it isn’t the most expensive, either. The fact that they max out at 12 channels when most others max out at 10 gives them a bit of an advantage if you need that many options.
But $26 per month still isn’t cheap and unlike Buffer, if you need five or six channels, you’ll pay the full price as if you wanted 12. Scalability in pricing structure would be nice. Since they seem to be mid-range, I’ll give them a C on pricing.
The issue with their queue and no way to schedule out of order as well as its pricing gives it a C+ over all.
So this battle of Buffer vs. Social Champ ends with Buffer winning with a B over Social Champ’s C+. You might find Social Champ has a definite advantage over Buffer if you need a lot of channels.
But if you want more control over when posts go up, particularly if you schedule them out of chronological order so you can spotlight specific things on specific dates, you’ll find Buffer’s queue to be easier to deal with.
I hope pricing structure revisions won’t become a regular thing whenever a service adds a new social channel option. I’d like to see scheduling support for Post. I see it as a nice alternative to Twitter that tends to bring in more genuine interactions. But I wouldn’t pay more just for that.
Unfortunately, many of us have real jobs to take up our time. We can’t afford to sit in front of a computer all day interacting on social media — at least not our own social media accounts.
You’ll pay a price to manage multiple social channels on one platform. But you should get top service and dependable options when you do. You should also expect to pay a reasonable price. There are social media management tools that cost a lot more than either Buffer or Social Champ.
The customer gets to decide what a reasonable price is and isn’t. When more users decide what they’re no longer willing to spend, perhaps some of the other tools might offer additional pricing tiers.
We can hope, anyway.