Buffer vs Later: Time to Switch?

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By Ewen Finser

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Ewen Finser

If you are stuck between Buffer and Later, this article is for you.

I’ve used Buffer for years and recently started using Later for specific platforms. Buffer has changed somewhat over the years, but this new breed of social media tools like Later is going deeper into the latest visual platforms.

My ultimate answer is that “it depends” on what you want out of your social campaigns, but I do have some strong opinions about WHO should go with each social media platform.

First, here’s how I’d summarize the core differences right up front…

Main Differences Between Later and Buffer

Here’s how I see the main differences between these two platforms at a high level:

  • Platform Focus: Later is mainly focused on Instagram and also allows you to connect Pinterest, Facebook, and other profiles, whereas Buffer supports a broader range of social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Pinterest, and Mastodon.
  • Content Visualization: Later provides a visual content calendar that lets you drag and drop images to schedule posts and has a strong visual orientation for content planning, whereas Buffer offers a more traditional social media calendar and scheduling tools without the same level of visual planning.
  • Pricing: Later’s plans start at $16.67 per month with a free trial available, whereas Buffer offers a forever free plan for up to 3 channels, with paid plans starting at $6 per month per channel, also including a free trial (however Buffer often ends up MORE expensive due to it’s “per channel” pricing model).
  • Unique Features: Later has a free link tool for Instagram to create a shoppable feed or link to various websites and posts, whereas Buffer provides features like a Hashtag Manager and the ability to schedule a first comment for Instagram and LinkedIn posts.
  • User Base: Later is tailored more towards smaller brands and creators focusing on visual content, whereas Buffer is designed for small businesses and individual creators and is valued for its intuitive and streamlined platform.

An Intro to Later

Later is an all-encompassing social media management platform that enables you to plan, publish, analyze, and enhance your social media content. It is designed to aid in business growth and time management by providing a range of key features, such as:

  • Scheduling
  • Analytics
  • Hashtag performance
  • Content planning and curation
  • Reporting

While Later supports several social media networks like LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok, its primary focus is on Instagram marketing. Its advanced analytics, stories scheduler, and hashtag analyzer are just a few of the Instagram-specific features it offers.

Buffer: Simplifying Social Media Management

Buffer has positioned itself as a user-friendly tool, offering an intuitive layout and design. It’s akin to a well-organized house, making users feel welcome and comfortable. Its open-concept design displays vital information right where users need it.

Buffer’s Posting Process

Buffer follows an organic, step-by-step method for posting:

  1. Drafts
  2. Awaiting Approval
  3. Queue

Users can select a profile, choose the platforms they want to post on, upload their asset, tweak details for each platform, schedule a time, and upload.

Users can then select the most optimal scheduling time for each platform and wait for approval. Once in the queue, the posts are editable, and users can drag them up or down the timeline for rescheduling.

Buffer’s calendar view allows users to see all their posts, switch between clients, and schedule campaigns.

Buffer’s Analytics and Reporting

Buffer’s analytics are easy to comprehend, enabling users to create reports and gauge audience engagement.

Users can customize dates to gain a more accurate understanding and see which posts are performing better than others.

They can also respond to their audience’s comments in the “Engagement” tab and manage products in their shop grid.

Buffer’s Limitations

Despite its strengths, Buffer does have some limitations. The analytics may not always be accurate when compared with the ones directly inside Facebook or Instagram.

Also, Buffer does not integrate with Google Analytics, making it harder to create holistic monthly reports. Furthermore, there’s no way to add more users or channels without upgrading to a higher tier pack.

Later: Innovative and User-friendly

Later, like a custom-made garage, offers a range of detailed features that cater to out-of-the-box thinkers.

Later allows users to see all their platforms on the same calendar, color-coded to prevent confusion.

To upload assets, users can use the Media library, which supports uploads from your device, Google Drive, or Dropbox.

Later’s Editing Tools

Later offers the option to edit your assets like you would on Facebook or Instagram. The editing tools, such as image enhancers, filters, and cropping, are a boon for those simple, on-the-go changes you want to make. You can also easily add links, tag people, or add a location.

One of the standout features of Later is its innovative hashtag suggestions. It provides accurate info on whether a hashtag is performing at a high or medium level and the percentage of its engagement. You also have the option of adding your pre-researched hashtags with a click of the mouse.

Later’s Analytics

Later’s Instagram-focused analytics set it apart from other tools. It allows you to see details of your audience’s engagement, your most successful posts, and your Story performance.

A side note: The level of analytics for Instagram isn’t available for other platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn.

Later’s Limitations

Later is slightly pricier than Buffer, with its basic package starting at $16 per month. Also, on the free version, you cannot post multiple photos within a post, limited the effectiveness of carousels.

Buffer vs Later Pricing

Of course you CAN pay less for Buffer, but the pricing plans are a bit deceiving as there’s a “per channel” consideration as well:

So my main issue with this pricing plan is that Buffer’s strengths are in it’s wide channel integrations and “create it once and automate everywhere” synchronization.

BUT, this is where Later stands out with a simpler (if at first glance slightly more expensive) pricing plan AND better dedicated channel resources for the platforms it does service.

Buffer Vs Later: The Verdict

Choosing between Buffer and Later depends on your specific needs.

Buffer’s simple layout, easy posting method, clear analytics, and relatively low cost make it a versatile tool. However, its analytical accuracy could be improved.

On the other hand, Later’s unique editing tools, hashtag suggestions, and multiple-profile calendar visibility make it an excellent choice for Instagram management.

  • Just need the basics across many channels? If you just need a basic social media automation tool with the widest compatibility across social channels, I’d lean towards buffer as a solid introductory social media platform.
  • Need something more advanced AND suited for visual platforms? If you are looking to go deep on Instagram, TikTok, or Pinterest and need in depth tools and analytics, Later is clearly a step above Buffer for these platforms and my hands-down go-to.

Bottom Line: Later is more suited for businesses that primarily focus on Instagram marketing, while Hootsuite offers a more comprehensive solution suitable for managing multiple social media platforms.

Other Later & Buffer Alternatives Compared

If you still aren’t quite decided, see how both of these social platforms stack against their peers.

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