Buffer vs. Sprout Social: Everything You Need to Know

Buffer and Sprout Social are some of the leading social media management tools. They both flawlessly do what you’d expect from a social media management platform. So which one is better?

Sprout Social is a more robust tool than Buffer. On top of the basic features offered by Buffer, it has advanced capabilities like social listening, employee advocacy, and chatbot automation and creation. However, Buffer is much easier to use and costs less than Sprout Social.

This post focuses on the similarities and differences between Sprout Social and Buffer. Keep reading to find out which one is best for you.

What is Buffer?

Buffer is a social media management platform that gives users a central point to access all their social interactions. The tool supports Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and many more social media sites.

Benefits of Using Buffer

You can achieve several great things using Buffer. These include:

Scheduling Posts

Consistency is one of the most important pillars of social media marketing. Buffer allows you to schedule all your posts for the month, which ensures they are consistent and well-thought-out.

Social media managers can also use this feature to ensure the posts are uploaded at the page’s peak times. This gives them maximum visibility.

Additionally, scheduling your posts frees your time for other tasks.

Cross-Posting

Buffer Social Media Posting
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Buffer also allows you to post the same image on all your social media pages with different captions. This creates a synergy between your social media accounts and boosts your visibility to your target audience.

It also helps your social media accounts feed off each other. For instance, you can throw in a comment to follow you on Instagram in your Facebook post.

Precision Market Testing

Any good marketer will tell you that a successful marketing strategy focuses on market testing. 

This is because each niche and target audience is unique. Therefore, your audience might enjoy seeing a funny post at 10 a.m. on a workday after they work a little.

You can post memes at different times of the day and analyze the engagements. Perhaps your audience likes to get motivated early in the morning before going to work. Posting a motivational video will let you know exactly how they feel.

Buffer allows you to experiment with different types of posts at different times to learn what works best for your audience.

Analytics

In line with the previous point, Buffer’s analytics tool gives you the answers to your content tests. For some companies, the content’s click-through rate is paramount, while others might prioritize reach. 

Buffer provides you with all this information and lets you make decisions based on your organization’s priorities.

Management Flexibility

Having multiple social media platforms in one place allows for maximum flexibility. It makes batch post approval by brand supervisors quick and the transition between account managers seamless.

This is particularly important for companies that use VAs or similar services to curate their content. Someone with in-depth knowledge of the brand should always have the final say over public-facing social media posts.

What is Sprout Social?

Sprout Social is a cloud-based social media management tool that allows businesses to manage their audience interaction and social media marketing routines.

Benefits of Using Sprout Social

There are several advantages of using Sprout Social to manage your social media apps including:

Uncovering Real-Time Industry Trends

Social media is a business intelligence hub. You’re able to follow real-time conversations between brands and consumers alike. If you’d like to know how a brand is performing, or what consumers are complaining about, it’s all available in the open.

Further, your target audience’s social activity can help you learn new industry trends as they happen. For instance, Instagram hashtags can highlight anything from fashion trends to relevant content creators and influencers in your niche.

Sprout has a trend reporting feature that gives you insight into what consumers are saying about your brand. It allows you to track keywords or hashtags associated with your brand.

This can help you see what aspects of your company are failing to meet customer expectations and re-strategize.

Comprehensive Competitive Analysis

Sprout Social competitor analysis dashboard
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Another important benefit of using Sprout Social is the ability to study your competitors. The platform gives you a competitor analysis tool to help you understand your competitors.

You can see the ads they’re currently uploading, what they’re promoting and how your content strategy differs from theirs.

The tool allows you to conduct social competitive analysis and uncover opportunities to experiment with your own advertising or content. 

For instance, you might notice that your competitors are doing well in Instagram advertising, but their Facebook presence is lacking. In turn, you can try user-generated content or influencer marketing campaigns to stand out.

Better Customer Service for Your Consumers

Great customer service improves your brand authority. Since most people spend a good part of their day on social media, it’s important to incorporate social customer service into your business.

Unlike emails or phone calls, social media interactions are quick, accessible, and to the point. Additionally, it allows you to have meaningful conversations with your customers.

Customers, prospects, and even competitors can all see how you interact with your audience online. Engaging positively with your audience online boosts your brand regardless of your niche.

Ability to Curate Customer Stories and Content Immediately

Sprout Social also allows you to share customer stories and content quickly. Customer photos and success stories are a sure way of improving engagement and conversion rates.

For instance, monitoring your mentions can help you identify important customer interactions that you can share with your audience. Many brands even curate customer photos to use throughout their campaigns.

You can also encourage your customers to tag your branded hashtag in their posts. This will not only help you uncover shareable posts, but also increase your brand’s online presence.

Positioning Power for Your Brand

Having an active social media presence is essential for any brand. Let’s say one of your competitors has a strong Instagram account with tons of customer photos, shares, and sleek pictures of their product.

On the flip side, your Instagram account is dormant with very few posts or pictures, and no customer interactions.

Not a good look for your brand, right?

Sprout Social allows you to monitor all your social media apps and keep them active to strengthen your brand’s positioning power.

Comparing Sprout Social and Buffer

At their core, Sprout Social and Buffer are quite similar. They are both social media management tools and have the same fundamental features. However, there are a few important differences that might help to pick one over the other.

Below, we look at how Sprout Social and Buffer compare as social media management tools.

Sprout Social vs. Buffer Key Features

Both Buffer and Sprout Social have notable features. They have a lot of overlap with some of the core features users have come to expect from social media management apps, but they also have a few unique main features.

Multi-Profile Scheduling and Posting

Multi-Profile Scheduling and Posting
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Both Sprout Social and Buffer allow you to post on multiple accounts. They also allow you to schedule posts a long time in advance. 

However, Sprout Social only lets you schedule posts a year in advance, while you can schedule multiple years in advance with Buffer.

Posting is straightforward, although Buffer makes it simpler by showing multiple times to post each day.

On the other hand, Sprout Social lets you post using the calendar, or the Sprout Queue, which fills in the blank spots on your calendar and posts when your audience shows the most engagement.

Content Calendar View

While both platforms have a calendar feature, Buffer’s is still in beta and is not as polished as Sprout Social’s. That said, Buffer’s calendar is simple and lets you schedule posts as easily as you would in a typical social network management tool.

Sprout Social allows bulk import of posts and lets you drill down by day, week, or month.

Landing Pages

This feature is only available on Buffer. It lets you create a link that directs your customers from social media to a page where you presumably want them to take an action.

Social Listening

Sprout Social allows you to monitor certain topics, keywords, or hashtags across various social media platforms. This can help you stay up-to-date with social trends, or monitor what people (or other brands) are saying about your brand.

Unfortunately, this feature is not available on Buffer.

Interaction Management

Both Buffer and Sprout Social allow you to send messages and comments. Buffer also has a unique feature where it uses machine learning to identify messages that are about sales or customer complaints and bring them to your attention swiftly.

Link Shortening

Both tools allow you to shorten links by either using Bit.ly’s basic shortened links, or your own custom shortened links if you’ve paid for them.

Custom Workflows

Both tools are great for teams because they allow you to create custom workflows and ensure everyone is working together and efficiently. For instance, approval workflows allow posts to go through several stages of approval, with the last person in the chain publishing the content.

In Sprout Social, you can customize workflows using the Tasks feature that comes out of the box. However, you’ll have to use an add-on to get the same features on Buffer.

Employee Advocacy

This Sprout Social feature allows you to give your employees (or anyone else) a way to share curated content to their personal social media profiles. This is a great way to increase your brand reach by using your employees, family, or friends as brand advocates.

However, this feature is not available on Buffer.

Chatbots and Automation Tools

Brand Representative via Sprout Social
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Sprout Social also allows you to create and manage chatbots for Facebook and Twitter. This is a critical tool for large organizations that receive numerous direct messages every day.

This feature is also unavailable on Buffer, which makes it less appealing to larger companies.

Sprout Social vs Buffer Approach to Posting and Scheduling

Buffer’s approach to posting and scheduling is simplistic. First, you select the publishing tab which allows you to choose between queues, campaigns, and the calendar function. From there, it’s up to you how you want to make your schedule.

As previously mentioned, the calendar function is quite straightforward. It’s especially easy to use for people who are experienced with other social media management tools like Hootsuite.

Sprout Social, on the other hand, is much more robust in terms of posting and scheduling. One of its most impressive features is Sprout Queue which lets you queue posts and then uploads them automatically when your target audience is most engaged.

You can use the campaigns feature to monitor all your active campaigns across your social media platforms in a variety of different views.

Sprout Social vs Buffer Reporting and Analytics

Both applications have robust reporting and tools. Therefore, regardless of which platform you choose, you’ll have lots of data on what’s working or not working for your company.

Buffer has a simple interface that lets you choose what social media platform you want information on, and an overview dashboard. You can go into individual posts or get insights into the types of content/ engagement times or days that are working for you.

Sprout Social lets you dive much deeper into the analytics and gives you details on some paid campaigns (e.g. on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter).

While it gives you all the information Buffer does, it goes further and gives you data on your competitors, team performance, inbox feature performance, and some trends and keywords on Twitter.

All in all, Sprout Social is a more robust analytics suite that’s amazing for people who are focusing on social marketing.

Sprout Social analytics tools dashboard
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Buffer vs Sprout Social Ease of Use

Buffer has a simple dashboard that’s easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for. It’s also easy to hop from one feature to another.

However, one downside of the interface is that some features like engagement are drawn from the entire campaign, not individual posts. 

Therefore, if you need to find engagement data for a post, you have to find the analytics or engagement tools and use them.

On the other hand, Sprout Social has a complex dashboard with lots of features. As a result, it takes some getting used to. Many of the features branch out into even more features, which is difficult to wrap your head around. With that said, the interface is still well organized.

Buffer vs Sprout Social Team Management

team management features
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Both Sprout Social and Buffer allow you to add multiple team members and they’re pretty good at it.

However, Buffer requires you to buy the Essentials plan to access team management features. You’ll also need to buy the Team Pack add-on to invite multiple users, set up drafting and approvals, and decide which features each team member can access.

Like other Buffer features, the team management option is pretty straightforward, but it lets you do everything you’d like to do with a team.

In contrast, Sprout Social’s team management feature gets complicated quite quickly. This is partially caused by the smart inbox feature which lets you use a customized tag to divvy out roles to different team members.

You can even see team members reacting to comments and messages in real-time to see if you need to answer the message or not. You can also audit messages to see which team member did what in which thread.

Buffer vs Sprout Social Pricing

Buffer has an amazing free version that’s made for individuals who want to run a few personal social media sites. For anyone who needs serious social media management features, the Essential package at $5 a month is the ideal option.

Buffer also offers a Teams package at $10 a month (billed yearly) with premium features and better team management. In addition, there’s a fully–featured Agency package for $100 a month (billed yearly). 

However, these prices are per social profile, so depending on the size of your organization, they can skyrocket pretty fast.

Sprout Social Pricing

Sprout Social doesn’t have a free version, but it offers a 30-day free trial. It uses a three-tiered approach with the standard package starting at $249 a month, the professional package costing $399 a month, and the Advanced package costing $499 a month. 

Each additional user also costs $199 per month, $299 per month, and $499 per month on the standard, professional, and advanced packages respectively.

There’s also a separate enterprise package with no official pricing. To get a custom quote for your organization, you have to request a demo

Buffer vs Sprout Social Pros and Cons Table

Buffer ProsBuffer ConsSprout Social ProsSprout Social Cons
User-friendly interfaceLimited number of featuresSocial listening featuresComplicated interface for beginners
Has a free versionCan be expensive if you’re managing multiple profilesAutomation and chatbotsCalendar is restricted to one year
Allows you to make landing pagesNo automation toolsAdvanced posting and scheduling featuresNo landing pages
Team management featuresLimited analyticsAdvanced team management features
Easily accessible analyticsAdvanced analytcs
Straightforward posting and scheduling featuresSocial listening feature
Calendar allows you to schedule multiple years aheadLink shortening feature
Multi-profile scheduling featuresCustom workflows

Which Is Better, Buffer or Sprout Social?

There’s no definitive answer to which platform is better between Sprout Social and Buffer. Both tools have impressive social media management features, but they’re suited to different types of users.

Who Should Use Sprout Social?

Sprout Social is excellent for people who have medium to large businesses that need a comprehensive suite of advanced social media management features.

Although it contains all the basic features you’d expect from a social media management tool, it excels at the advanced end of the market. It offers unique features like social listening, chatbot creation and automation, and trend-monitoring tools to help boost your online presence.

That said, all these features come at a premium cost, making it unsuitable for smaller businesses that only require basic features.

Who Should Use Buffer?

Buffer is ideal for small social media teams that can benefit from a feature-packed management tool that is also easy to use. Its features, while basic, give you everything you need to manage your social media networks.

Wrapping Up… 

Buffer and Sprout Social are great social media management tools. They both offer all the basic features you need to run your pages.

However, if you aren’t familiar with social media management applications, Buffer is a great place to start. On the other hand, if you’d like a fully-featured tool to work with a team, Sprout Social might be ideal. 

FAQs

Still need more information? Below are some of the most frequently asked questions on the Buffer vs. Sprout Social debate. 

Is Buffer Better Than Hootsuite?

The simple answer is: Hootsuite is great for large organizations with big social media teams. On the other hand, Buffer is better suited for smaller organizations with small social media teams.

Who Competes With Sprout Social?

While Sprout Social is one of the industry leaders, it competes with companies like facelift, Hootsuite, Leadsift, Yonder, and Sprinklr.

Is Buffer or Sprout Social Better?

Sprout Social is better than Buffer because of its massive amount of features. However, Buffer is much cheaper and simpler to use.

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