This topic is the reason I made NaNoWriMo about writing NF instead of writing fiction. I’ve wanted to write this article for something like 18 months, but I never had time. Now I have, in NaNFWriMo, a Get Out of Guilt Free card. (“I’ll make dinner in a minute. I have to finish this article!“) Score.
Buffer is a Web tool which resides at https://buffer.com/. It allows you to schedule posts across a variety of networks, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. I’ve been a paying customer since 2012 and I love it. (There is a a free level, but the “Awesome Plan”, for $102 a year, allows you to connect more social media accounts, schedule more posts, etc.)
… and I want to make that clear up front because this article covers five things about Buffer which grind my nerves. I’ll keep using Buffer even if these things are never fixed, but if they are fixed, Buffer will become better than cheese fries. Or ice cream. Or beer. Or whatever your favorite indulgence is.
(And if there’s anything in here that has been fixed, correct my ignorance and leave a comment. Thanks!)
1) UNWANTED DOMAIN NAME SHORTENING
Buffer handily shortens all links you put in your posts. This is so you don’t use too much space in a Twitter post and so Buffer can track the clicks on your links. URL-shortening can be turned off if you like (or, if you do use it, there are additional options to choose a shortening service or if you’re using Google Analytics.)
I leave the shortening feature on; I need as much space as possible in my tweets. Unfortunately Buffer shortens all URLs. Even if it doesn’t have www or htt at the beginning. This is irritating when you want to refer to Amazon.com or any other site with a .com in its name. You end up typing it with a space.
It would be great if Buffer only shortened URLs that started with htt, or at least gave you an option to not shorten URLs unless they begin with htt or www.
2) CHANGING PROFILE PICTURES
By default, Buffer uses the profile picture that comes with your Facebook page, and to the best of my knowledge it isn’t changeable. So if you’re responsible for doing Facebook fan page posts for a few different branches of the same retail store chain, and they all use the same company logo — well, you end up guessing a lot.
I would prefer the option to either edit the profile picture or edit the name that Buffer uses to display that particular profile.
3) TAGGING FACEBOOK USERS
If you’re using Buffer with Twitter, you can tag Twitter users in a scheduled post. To the best of my knowledge you can’t do the same thing with Facebook friends. If you’re friends with me on Facebook you know I tag people a lot. I’d Buffer those posts if possible.
This may be a limitation of the Facebook API and not something Buffer can change, but wow, I wish I could tag Facebook friends when buffering something for Facebook.
4) SKIPPING A STATUS UPDATE (OR TWO)
Buffer allows you to custom-schedule posts, but by default you set up several times you want to post/tweet/whatever per day. As you add items to Buffer, it puts them in a queue to go out at your next scheduled time. For example, I have a dozen scheduled times per day for my Twitter account. The first one’s at 1:08 AM and the last one’s at 10:12 PM.
But perhaps there’s an event going on at a particular time that I don’t want my Tweet to compete with. Maybe a game of the World Series or a political debate. I want none of my tweets going out during that event because nobody will read them.
To the best of my knowledge you can’t just skip a scheduled time. You can remove it entirely but there’s nothing you can put in the queue that says, “Skip the 7:54pm and the 8:15pm update on this day because Twitter will be full of political snark.”
It would be so useful if there was a special code or character string available to make Buffer skip a scheduled status update.
5) SHOWING ARTICLE THUMBNAILS
When you put an URL in a Buffer post with URL shortening turned on, the URL instantly gets shortened. That’s fine if you’re buffering something for Facebook or Google+ — a thumbnail of the article will show up below your post.
But if you’re buffering something for Twitter only, you won’t get any kind of article thumbnail at all, just an URL. And if you do a lot of copying and pasting, you might wonder if you pasted the correct URL. Which means you might click through the URL to make absolutely sure you’re tweeting the right thing and not, say, the news story about the lady who stole an entire table of Halloween candy.
It would save me a lot of time if Buffer showed article thumbnails with every post, not just for networks which themselves will show them. Or, failing that, showing a shortened URL’s page title on mouseover would also do the trick.
Buffer is one of my essential tools for getting ResearchBuzz done, and I’m more than happy to be a paying customer. But it could be so much better with a little tweaking!