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There was a recent post about a local technology company in Vancouver, BC known as Hootsuite that received another round of $60M in funding — after previously receiving $250M in financing.

Given that this recent success has created much attention for Hootsuite, I am not going to review their solution design at this time.  I actually have decided to educate myself more about their competitors.

First, in the interests of full disclosure… I am Hootsuite Professional Certified and do not have any personal or professional connections with the company at the time of this posting.



From a design perspective, I am going to look at one platform — Buffer.  Why only one competitor you ask?  There must be more?  You are correct, there are… in fact some include:

  • Radian6 from SalesForce,
  • SocialOomph,
  • SocialFlow,
  • SproutSocial,
  • and others.

I will get back to why I am only looking at Buffer in a moment.

Buffer is very simple.  The first page of the website is a simple page that is guiding the viewer to sign-in with various existing social media platforms — Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  There is an option to sign-up with email and this is purposely set to take less of your intention.  I would suspect this in the interests of discovering more about their potential clients through their agreement to disclose their social media information on sign-up.


I do like how simple this is and it does follow the design theory of ensuring the space is used to attract the attention of the user to the most critical components that Buffer is trying to guide the user towards.

However, I do believe more effort could be given to showcasing some of the “wow-factor” or why I want to use this product.  In fact, the only reason why I decided to sign-up was to review this as a competitor to Hootsuite.  Had I stumbled upon this, I likely would have moved on.

An example of how to do this is with their competitor, Hootsuite, that has a very similar splash page but a simple scroll down does describe some of the key features that holds my interests as a user enough to sign-up to see what it is all about.  Another example is Radian6 where the website has videos and other media to show key features.  There is a key aspect to this second example that calls for a richer media experience than Hootsuite — and I will also touch on this later.

I decided to sign with my Twitter account and this is what I saw…


Simple is a common theme here with Buffer.  I love simple.  I believe in the Jony Ive theory that simple is beautiful and Einstein that said simple is genius.  From a feature perspective the Hootsuite platform looks to blow this out of the water.  However, this is not a vendor comparison post.

From a design perspective, this simple platform speaks well to the user that is starting in social media management.  Quickly I can see that I can post content, add new social networks, add some quick content to my queue, schedule future posts, add a team, and do analysis on my posts.  The latter-most point requires a business account to use — which I did not upgrade to at this point.

I have to say that I do like this.  I am a technical type person and I appreciate a lot of options, toggles, and ability to create highly customized experiences.  However, I also like getting things done and this is where I can see Buffer coming across well.  It gets you up and running quickly on some key features.  It is easy for a user to navigate and understand.

It would appear that Buffer is looking to target a consumer based on the above — someone looking to quickly get up with social media management.  Likely a marketer with limited technical experience.  This design will achieve this.  I would recommend providing a more rich experience.  For example, if I sign-up with Twitter, show my current feed or some quick analysis in a new way.  A blank canvas makes me have to do something to get value versus trying to provide me with some initial value.  A bit of a wow factor.  Or perhaps a guided tutorial experience so I can get some value and learn at the same time to get going.

Why didn’t I look at more competitors?

Simple, and this is the key point I mentioned twice earlier.  It is the business model that pushed me only to review Buffer.  That is a freemium model.

All I had to do in order to check out Hootsuite or Buffer is sign-in with my Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn account (some have more social media login options).  Within seconds, I am presented with a platform that I can get immediate value for and be given an option to pay for higher value services.

All the other competitors looked like they had a lot of high value features, but all required me to sign-up for a demo or have some existing account.  I personally am not interested in harassing phone calls to setup a demo and would rather see the product for myself.  It is 2014, it is called SaaS, I don’t need to wait for a sales person to let me see a product for myself.

This is a design into itself — the user experience of freemium to gain instant reward for simply signing up with my social media account.

I wish I could have reviewed the design of other competitors.  If you are aware of any that offer a freemium model so I can gain access in a modern SaaS way, please post a comment and I will check them out.


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